The Estonian capital of Tallinn is a relatively recent find, a city that was pretty much hidden from our travelling radar during the years of the Soviet Union. But when the Cold War ended it certainly sprang to life very quickly and became a hit with tourists, for many reasons – it’s an attractive city with lovely architecture, there are both interesting and unusual things to do. We’ve collated our tops tips into a Tallinn guide to help you plan you visit. Tallin is featured in our best European cities to visit post.
It’s Tallinn Week on Europe a la Carte from 27 June to 3 July 2011. This month it’s the Estonian capital of Tallinn in the spotlight. You’ll find lots of ideas for things to do in Tallinn on Europe a la Carte. My husband Demetrius visited Tallinn on a city break in March 2011, staying at the 4 star Barons Hotel in the Old Town.
Gate in Tallinn’s Old Town
On the Europe a la Carte Blog
Please leave a comment below with your recommendations for what to do in Tallinn.
On the Europe a la Carte facebook page
If you click “Like” on the Europe a la Carte facebook page, you can post a post a link to your favourite blog post, photo or video about Tallinn. I’ll “like” the links to the most interesting Tallinn posts.
We visited the Estonian Open Air Museum, one of my “Ten Things to Do in Tallinn” when we were in the city in March 2011, staying at the Barons Hotel in the old town. From the hotel, it was a 15 minute walk mostly through the old town to the main train station, where we caught bus no21 (1.6 Euro each way). The bus journey lasted 20 minutes and we were dropped off at the entry point. The bus does a circular journey, meaning you pick it up at the same spot.
Estonia Open Air Museum map
The Open Air Museum entry ticket costs 3 euro. There are excellent directions and the good path takes you through mixed woodland and past typically Estonian houses from bygone ages, which were brought here from all over the country and reconstructed on site.
Typical Estonian countryside building re-erected at the museum
There are also other types of traditional buildings like barns, fishermen’s net storage huts, saunas and several unusual windmills all through the Park.
Stone construction Estonian building
The Park is on Kopli Bay, meaning you also get great sea views and there are good picnic spots.
Classic Estonia type windmill at the museum
You can also go around the Park on a (very friendly) horse buggy, driven by a member of staff dressed in traditional clothing. On the day we visited there was snow and the buggy was on skis.
Friendly horses taking visitors on trips through open air the museum on their break
The Park is a good size and walking shoes are recommended.
Most buildings were padlocked, but there was one where a lady in traditional dress was baking some type of scones and you could visit the interior. This house was from the early 1900s and the interior decor looked somewhat Victorian.
Interior of typical 1930’s house at the museum
Unfortunately we weren’t offered any scones, although to be fair it wasn’t clear if they were ready at that time.
Model dwelling exterior
There is also a charming little gift shop near the area you buy the tickets.
Souvenir dolls at the museum
There are several toilets throughout the Park and although it’s fenced off, it is also patrolled by private security.
Another Estonia-style windmill at the museum
This is a very straightforward and pleasant day trip from Tallinn that won’t require early/late journeys as the Park’s nearby, or break the bank.The bus journey to the Estonian Open Air Museum also goes through some interesting Estonian-style modern housing estates.
We visited the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn, part of the Art Museum of Estonia, when we visited Estonia inÂ March 2011, staying at the Barons Hotel in the Old Town. The museum is one of our recommended “Ten Things to Do in Tallinn“. This fascinating modern building isÂ best reached by a 40 minute walk from the Old Town which takes you through charming Kadriorg (Catherineâ€™s Valley) Park, where the magnificent palace and art museum can also be seen and/or visited.
Kumu Art Museum exterior
The Kumu Art Museum is an unashamedly huge 5-year old ultra-modernÂ building, which fills its vast spaces with a unique mixture of pure Estonian art from various stages in its history and currently-themed temporary exhibitions.
Tallinn Art Museum posters from various exhibitions
We initially experienced the ‘For Love Not Money’ 15th Tallinn Print Triennial, featuring artistic takes on issues like family, politics, religion, fetishes, sex, yearning and dependency.
This exhibition was over two floors, the 2nd and 5th, and a good mix of artists was represented. Keeping in with the Estonian/Russian/Baltic themes, one of the exhibits featured a woman’s memories through 80 years of political change in the form of a cartoon character looking at a life-long collection of cards, while another featured allegories through sexual life, experiences and birth. Print shape co-mingling with context was explored in several, most unexpected, forms.
Sculptures amongst paintings at Kumu art Museum
The ‘Difficult choices’ permanent exhibition of Estonian Art from 1945-1991, covering the Soviet occupation era, struck several chords and familiar faces like the Russian Marxist revolutionary, economic theorist, political philosopher, author and lawyer Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as well as the head of the Politburo Stalin were amongst Estonian notables in the form of either a painting or bust.
The oppression of Estonians and their agony and spirit of fight and despair comes through clearly in these artistic representations, some of the most vivid and disturbing of the paintigs being life-size. As there was little/no influence from the West during this era, some of the works also rerpresented most unusual departures.
Some of the busts in a discrete area containing over 100
The Treasury permanent exhibition covered earlier Estonian art, approximately 18th century to 1945, and it was fascinating to note the similarities, influences and differences between it and styles predominating in the West during the same time period.
Exhibits with local character at the Kumu
‘The Colours of Light’ exhibition on the 3rd floor examined the functions of these elements as classic forms of expression in painting, as well as interpretations by Estonian artists during the pre-WW2 period.
Modern sculptures at the Kumu
The 5.5 Euro charge covered cloakroom facilities.
Some of the posters exhibited at the Kumu
A charming modern little cafe at the 1st floor by the auditorium, with lovely views over the grounds and Kadriorg Park, completed the rich experience.
Model of the Kumu Art Museum and its grounds
In my opinion, the Kumu Art Museum is a ‘must see‘ Tallinn museum during a visit to the city. I’d recommend that you leave at least 3 hours in order to take in the experience.
Summary: A characterful, great value hotel right in the heart of the Tallinn Old Town.
We stayed at the restored 4 star Barons Hotel in Tallinn Old Town for five nights in March 2011.Â Karen found the best rate through the HotelsCombined price comparison site on the Thomas Cook site for Â£67.40 per night for a twin room for 2 guests (as Thomas Cook had a Â£30 off bookings over Â£300 at that time). The price included buffet breakfast, afternoon coffee with pastries, buffet dinner and free wifi.
It was easy to reach the hotel from the airport (5 kms distance), or by bus followed by a five minute walk. The lobby and public areas were beautifully presented and the staff courteous and helpful. There are several interesting spaces in the hotel, like a cigar and cognac room reached by spiral staircase. The hotel and rooms were immaculately clean, beautifully and tastefully lit and decorated. There was free wireless internet in the lobby.
Cigar room Barons hotel, Tallinn
Our room was clean and nice and warm, considering the -2C temperature outside. There was adequate storage space, two desks and a mini-bar fridge. Ample hangers, soap and shampoo were provided, some nice touches (eg slippers and bathrobes) were present and the room’s own wireless access internet point was great. No password was needed, so traffic might have not been encrypted. The room was small (but high ceilinged), just adequate for 2 adults. The twin bed mattresses were somewhat on the soft side. There was a little outside noise and you could also hear some noise from the rooms next door as well as water running. The curtains did shut most of the outside light away.
The buffet-type food was included in the price of the room on a half-board basis. It was served in a very cosy restaurant on the 2nd floor with views of old city buildings all round and unique glass partitions with frost-effect figures.
View from Barons Hotel Restaurant
The breakfast was wonderful for choice, care and quality.
The dinner was variable, with a choice of at least two main courses and free drinking water was provided. The breakfast hours (7-11am weekdays, 8-11am Sundays) were fine but dinner hours (6-8pm except Thursdays, 7-9pm) were restrictive. On one of the days we were offered an a la carte menu, both for breakfast and dinner, which was fine. In addition, there were speciality teas, coffee and cake included for guests 1-4pm in the lobby.
Afternoon coffee in the lobby at Barons Hotel Tallinn
Our stay was over 5 nights, during which we felt that the hotel occupied a very central position, ideal for the old and new city, port, art museums and galleries, shopping, bars and restaurants as well as buses and trains all within walking distance. These and the generally very polite staff, coupled with the reasonable prices made us feel we had obtained excellent value for money. I’d recommend the Barons Hotel for a short stay in Tallinn.
Click here to check out availability and prices at the Barons Hotels for your trip to Tallinn.
Here are ten tips for things to do in Tallinn, based on our five day visit to the Estonian capital at the end of March 2011.Â We stayed at the Barons Hotel in the Old Town which I’d recommend it for its central location, the value for money half board option and free wifi.
And then another, possibly a third and fourth. So, it may be worth splitting it in quadrants if you have the time. The point is that the Old Town of Tallinn, which is very much a living, breathing entity for locals and not just preserved for tourists, is both very beautiful and fascinating. It features an excellent mix of churches, palatial houses, sprawling parks with gardens and green areas plus well-preserved walls and towers, covering an historic period of several hundreds of years. It is also a great cultural and night life hub, with locals and visitors making full use of its charming and eclectic mix of eating and drinking establishments.
Tallinn Old Town Gate
Visit Kardriog Park and the Kumu Art Museum
We walked past the beautiful Kardriog Palace Museum on our way to the Kumu Art Museum.
Kardriog Palace and Museum
We spent four great hours going in the Kumu Art Museum with its fascinating mix of old, modern and traditional.
Exterior of Kumu Art Museum of Tallinn
Visit the Estonian Open Air Museum
Located at Kopli Bay, traditional buildings from all around Estonia have been lovingly reconstructed within a lovely natural setting at this open air museum.
Estonian Open Air Museum at Kopli Bay
Do some Tasting at the Beer House
Go for a selection of house-brewed beers and excellent food to the German-style Beer House and microbrewery of Tallinn’sÂ Old Town.
Particularly amazing in the winter as you effortlessly and majestically cut through the ice.Â Helsinki is famous for beautiful, open spaces, museums and a great music scene. The journey takes around two hours each way and cost 42 Euro return (in March 2011) departing Tallinn at 07.30 and arriving back in the evening.
Ferry in Tallinn
Visit the Viru Keskus shopping complex, the easiest modern building in town to find as it’s the tallest. There the shopping experience is unrivalled, with 5 floors of different types of quality goods sold by independent retailers. There are also several other shopping complexes, both in and out of town.
A modern shopping centre interior in Tallinn
Visit Olevieste (St Olaf’s) Church
It has the tallest/thinnest one spire the Old Town. Take in panoramic views of Tallinn from the top. Public concerts sometimes take place here, particularly before Lent and Christmas.
Tallinn skyline with St Olaf’s Church having the highest spire
There was at least one ice rink in the old town near Olevieste Church, with an entry fee of 5 euro per hour for adults plus a small fee for shoes hire. For those that cannot ice skate, helper frames are provided, so everyone can have fun. Great for families too, as many locals bring their kids here at the weekend.
There is a step-wise ascent about 1km to the left of the ferry port, at what seems to be some type of abandoned grand public concrete park – it’s difficult to miss. The views from here are amazing particularly in the winter, when you can see the Tallinn-Helsinki ferries slicing effortlessly through the ice.
Tallinn edifice, ascent to viewing platform with ferry port to the right
Get Connected to the Free Wifi at Tallinn Airport
Tallin Airport offers travellers free wifi, so you can pass the time waiting for your flight online, without spending a cent. If only all other airports would offer this free service.
We’re looking for tips for things to do in Tallin, the capital of Estonia and 2011 European Capital of Culture. My husband Demetrius and our son Simon will be taking a trip to Tallin at the end of March 2011. To help them get the most from their city break, I requested readers’ recommendations for must-see Tallinn attractions and day trips.
Mishi Dulwich Morath – Without a doubt the Occupations Museum. And there’s a small bar called Depeche Mode….dedicated to the old band of the same name!
Melodie – I was in Tallinn only for 2 days so I spent them walking around the old town, having coffee here and there. But I spent about 6 days in Helsinki, just 2 hours away by ferry from Tallinn. That might be an idea for a day-trip.
Nat – I live in Tallinn and I love this city!! I would suggest you going on the 24th floor of Radisson Blue Hotel, an awesome view on town from there. Then, not really sure if it’s gonna be open for visitors by the end of March, but you could also climb the tower of Oleviste church. Terrific!! Some other places: Open Air Museum (Vabaohumuuseum), a walk along Pirita promenade, Kalev SPA (swimming pool & saunas – love it!!), Keila-joa and Jagala waterfalls are on the outskirts of Tallinn. Beer House and Olde Hansa are definitely the best places to eat.
Kaspar – I suggest to check out the European Capital of Culture Tallinn 2011 event calendar first. Link: http://www.tallinn2011.ee/eng I also suggest to go outside the walls of old town. Yes, old town is really amazing as most tourist traps are in the world, but that is just one part of Tallinn. Rent a car and make a trip around whole Tallinn and pay a visit also to Tartu or PÃ¤rnu. Estonia is a small country and every corner of the country is only few hours drive. There are many different manors (link: http://www.mois.ee/english/) and castles. Near Kohtla-JÃ¤rve, there is a oil-shale museum (link: http://www.kaevanduspark.ee/eng/index.htm), 2here people are taken undergorund into the mines and can try oil-shale mining with their own hands. Saaremaa and Hiiumaa are two largest islands, and it is also worth to take a little ferry trip over there. Traffic is mostly calm (except rush-hours in Tallinn maybe) and all car rentals offer cars with gps devices. But when you are certain not to leave from Tallinn, then it will be worth to visit kiek in the KÃ¶k (link: http://linnamuuseum.ee/kok/en/) where you can find time train and underground passages. You can find everything from here: http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/
Taavi – I also live in Tallinn. I will recommend also platforms in Toompea Hill (Kohtuotsa and Patkuli) where is also a cool view. In Old Town Square is a funky little cafe called Kehrwieder ( link: http://www.kohvik.ee/). Hope You will have lot of fun in Tallinn :)
Last week I highlighted one of the two European Culture Capitals, Turku, who is throwing a blow-out bash next year. Â Most years there are at least two culture capitals, and this year’s otherÂ capital of culture is the charming little town of Tallinn.
But those things are there anytime. Â What can you expect for the European City of Culture festivities? Â The official website suggest a few interesting things going on, including:
Stories of the Seashore: a forum where writers from all of Europe and globally can share stories
Rooftop Cinema: Â sounds great – bet the stars are beautiful at night up thr!
52 Surprises & Ideas: a weekly arts and cultural event
Maritime Days: Â a festival in July celebrating harbour culture
A few other things sound interesting – such as the “60 seconds of Solitude in Year Zero,” but unfortunately much of the content isn’t available in English so I can’t tell you more. Â But I can tell you that, European Capital of Culture or not, you’ll love it here.
Of all the places that I visited in Tallinn on my recent trip to Estonia, Chocolaterie Pierre (just off Vene), has stolen my heart and it’ll probably remain with them until I can make hot chocolate as perfect as it was here. I would WALK across Europe for another one. Actually, I’d rather they gave me the recipe at the end, that’s a heck of a walk. But it’s honestly the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. And it just so happens that the rest of the cafe it pretty wonderful too.
If this cafe existed in London, it would be a horrible victim of it’s own success. It would be packed, queues would be out the door, and you’d never get any hot chocolate. Here, it’s easy. Quite enough to nab a table (albeit one with a broken chair bottom) but busy enough to catch snippets of conversation. You see, it’s very dark, and dark makes people whisper, and whispering makes you think everyone is having much more interesting conversations than you. Everything is red, extravagant, velvet, falling apart, vintage, old, fancy. Beautiful. All those things, and more. Like somewhere that has grown for years and years and more pretty things have been added over time.
If the pretty cafe wasn’t enough, there’s the courtyard. The downside with this is if it’s warm enough to sit outside, you’re not going to want hot chocolate. And if you don’t have hot chocolate you’re really doing it wrong. But, they have a quartet playing under a tiny little bandstand so that’s a really nice touch.
So why is the hot chocolate so good? Well I’m pretty sure there’s no milk in for a start. It’s basically melted chocolate, cream and rum. With a mix of raisins and chilli which all sink to the bottom and a gooey pile of tastiness. This is not a speedy drink. You could sit for ages drinking the same drink, and eating Sachertorte. The cakes are excellent too. You’ll pay about Â£5-7 for a drink and some cake. Not cheap, granted. But worth every single of your pennies. I told you, I’d walk back for the recipe.
The only thing not so great? The chocolates they sell. They’re super expensive, and I was really disappointed when I got home and found that they weren’t that nice at all. Not unpleasant, just no where near as good as the hot chocolate. But, you live and learn. Come, drink the hot chocolate, have a nose around and leave very very happy.
And make sure you don’t go on a Sunday. Like most cafes in Tallinn, they’re closed then. Shame, because we’d have loved to treat ourselves just one more time before leaving. If you’re in Tallinn, you really shouldn’t leave without coming here.
I hate generic hotels. Hate them. Unless they’re very swish indeed, I don’t want to stay somewhere that looks like a car park. I want somewhere with a story, with a bit of history, or something different about it. It’s so important to me, that often the hotel is decided on before the destination.
That was certainly the case with the Merchant’s House Hotel in Tallinn on my recent trip to Estonia. In fact, the hotel was picked even before the country.
I get excited about unique hotels. This Tallinn hotel, in an old merchant’s house (surprisingly) was rather lovely indeed. It’s perfectly positioned on Dunkiri, just off the town square in Old Town. Perfect for exploring. The welcome is warm, the reception is pretty and you’re made to feel at home as soon as you arrive. So homely I want to stay a really really, really long time. Little cubby holes, exposed brickwork, wooden beams, smiling (English speaking) staff. All of those things make for a good mini break.
The Merchant’s House Hotel bedrooms look over a small courtyard, and our room also had a communal balcony, perfect for book reading. Our room wasn’t anything overly special, but it was a good size and the bathroom was lovely. The maids were excellent. They weren’t those annoying ones who ignore the ‘do not disturb’ signs so we had peaceful afternoon naps. And we got to watch old episodes of Poirot on the TV – a lot of the channels were English, or had subtitles.
The service was always really fantastic. Breakfast was included in the price of the room, and it’s a continental and fried buffet. My travelling companion got excited about salmon and scrambled eggs and of course, we ignored all of the fruit in favour of pastries. The breakfast room is underground, and I imagine would be much cosier in winter. It’s a shame there’s no way to serve breakfast in the courtyard during summer. But, as long as I have unlimited bacon, I’ll sit anywhere.
There’s a (tiny) bar, which is worth a look in. They serve shots in ice glasses, which sounds great, but as the rest of the bar is room temperature they melt too quickly and you get Vana Tallinn all over your nice new dress so stick to normal glasses. There’s also a spa, which was a tad too pricey for us. â‚¬46 for a pedicure is very expensive, and especially so when you consider what good value Estonia is. We didn’t try the restaurant in the evening, but they have outside seating should you want to.
Anything that wasn’t great about the Merchant’s House Hotel? Wi-fi didn’t work in the room. I didn’t want to spend all weekend on my laptop, but I had lugged it with me ‘just in case’ and there was no need. I know it’s a problem with old buildings, but I don’t think it should be advertised as standard if this isn’t the case. And the rooms were so hot that sleeping wasn’t easy. Even with two fans it was sweltering. I guess old buildings and air-con don’t work together either. And room service was very pricey – our room didn’t have a kettle and we paid nearly 4 quid for a cup of tea. Ouch. Good tea though.
That wouldn’t stop me coming back though.Â I reckon it’s one of the best Tallinn hotels. At â‚¬250 for three nights, it’s a bargain. I’d recommend the Merchant’s House Hotel. You should go there immediately. Really, stop working and hop on a plane. Merchant’s House is a beautiful, good value base to explore Tallinn and I’d go back tomorrow if I could.