Tag Archives: Tallinn

Tallinn sightseeing, with tips on places to visit in Tallinn, Tallinn museums and hotels.

Olde Hansa restaurant, Tallinn: Touristy but good

When I go on holiday, I like a bit of a mix. I love going off the usual track. I adore exploring new places and I will choose somewhere that isn’t ‘the norm’. But I also love being a tourist. And I hate the snobbery around it. Things become touristy because they’re good. They’re interesting. There’s something to look at. Call me boring if you must, but I want to go and see those places. Not all of them (usually the free ones), but what’s the harm in doing the popular stuff if you want to go?

Olde Hansa Tallinn

Which brings me to Olde Hansa in Tallinn. One of the most popular restaurants in the city. And without a doubt, the most touristy. It’s a traditional restaurant, medieval in style and they go to town on the theme. And despite the fact that it’s rammed with tourists (like me), it’s excellent. Once you get past the method acting from the waitresses anyway.

The food is different. The decor beautiful. Yes, I do want to sit in a gorgeous old building by candlelight (although a little more would have been helpful). Would we like to try traditional root beer? Yes please! And everything will be tasty and different and the bulgar wheat dish will be amazing? OK then. Go for the meat dishes. And don’t be put off by the prices. The main courses come with all sorts of tasty goodies (even a little mini pie with beans) so you’re paying around £15 for your dinner with drinks.

Olde Hansa is an experience, without being tacky. Sure it’s packed so service was a bit slow, but it’s worth it. The traditional spiced wine we tried the next day was excellent. Yes, it was so good we went back. I’d recommend sitting outside if it’s sunny – old buildings and lack of air-con are not fun.

This won’t be the best restaurant you’ll ever eat in. But it’s really very good and the experience is worthwhile. Some tourist places are worth putting snootiness aside for. This one is a real treat.

More Tips on Things to Do in Tallinn

You’ll find more tips in our Tallinn guide.

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Tallinn’s hidden gem – Gloria Wine Bar

In London, we have the beloved Gordon’s Wine Bar. We adore Gordon’s, and rightly so. It’s a fabulous little spot, one of my favourites in London, despite it being a victim of its own success (and a well-timed Time Out article). But on a recent trip to Tallinn, I found myself in Gloria on Müürivahe. And it might just have pushed Gordon’s off the top of my ‘favourite wine bar’ list. Or, my favourite bars EVER list. It really is that special and it’s my top tip for visiting Estonia.

Gloria itself is actually all manner of things. It’s a fancy restaurant, with a teeny little guesthouse of only six rooms. There’s also a cigar bar. That’s a strange thing about Tallinn (or Estonia in general? I’m not sure). You can’t smoke in bars, but they do have designated cigar bars for that purpose, which is interesting. But, we were here for the bar. Which means going through the shop in the cellar.

And it’s a fabulous shop. If you didn’t know there was a wine bar behind it, you might never find it. And there’s something exciting about that, isn’t there? But we knew it was there, so we heading right for the little archway, not really sure what to expect.

What you get is rather special. Like finding a secret that no one knows about (we were the only ones in there, save for the waitress). There is not bar as such, well not that we found. Just a little maze of beautifully decorated rooms. Old photos, everywhere, lots of wood, lots of candle light. Tiny tables, little secret corners. Perfect for romancing. Or telling ghost stories.

The wine? Fantastic. Excellent glasses too, as you can see from that photo. The spirit glasses are beautiful. There are pricey options, but you can get a decent glass of red for under a fiver. You can get food here as well, but the menu is small. That said, they do use the same kitchen as the fancy restaurant, and it’s certainly much cheaper. The only downside is that the bar is closed on a Sunday (like a lot of bars in Tallinn), meaning I only got to come here once on my weekend away.

More Tips on Things to Do in Tallinn

You’ll find more tips in our Tallinn guide.

Click here for the lowest prices on Tallinn hotels

Kalev Chocolate Museum calls me back to Estonia

Tallinn view

The beautiful Estonian capital of Tallinn has long been one of my favourite cities, and I’ve just come across a reason to return for my third visit: the Kalev Chocolate Museum.

Open in the inner city since 2003, the museum documents the history of the Kalev sweets manufacturers since 1806, and since that time includes the Soviet era, there is much of interest to see. For example, the museum includes different labels and packaging from throughout this era, a lot of it politically motivated. It’s also interesting to note that the USSR only authorised the Kalev company to produce chewing gum – a most controversial product throughout Soviet times.

Kalev Chocolate

Chocolate picture via Creative Commons from idhren

I can only assume that, like any good chocolate museum, there are a few samples around for visitors to try. If not, there is definitely a shop attached where you can buy chocolates and candies produced by Kalev, and that’s enough to get me there. Visiting the museum is free and it is open daily from 10am to 5.30pm, but closing at 4pm on Sundays.

More Tips on Things to Do in Tallinn

You’ll find more tips in our Tallinn guide.

Click here for the lowest prices on Tallinn hotels

More on European Museums

Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.

Exploring Medieval Tallinn

Last we I mentioned Tallinn as a great day trip from Helsinki.  But what to do when you get there?  As Estonia’s largest city, there are plenty of options — my favourite is the old town centre, but there are a few hidden secrets to be found as well.  Let’s explore.

tallinn, estonia

photo by Jurvetson

Roam the Streets of the Old City

The medieval streets and architecture of the old city of Tallinn were built in the 15th-17th century and are well preseved.  Wandering these cobblestone lanes on foot, you’ll get a fantastic sense for the Estonian vibe.  Some complain that globalisation is destorying Tallinn, but I think compared to many other places it’s doing just fine.   Two structures which are a can’t-miss photo opportunity are the Russian-inspired domes of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Toomkirik, which I believe is the oldest church in Tallinn.  And if you’re hungry after all that sightseeing, the area near the town hall (‘Raekoja plats’) has plenty of restaurants that are quite tasty – if you’re on a budget, just have a drink here and go elsewhere, but to be honest the meals are fairly good value for money regardless.

Explore the Expansive Grounds of Kadriorg Palace

Kadriorg is a huge park just east of the city centre.  You’ll find the lavish and well-manicured grounds of Kadriorg palace wonderful to explore, or just admire all the great architecture, from old wooden buildings to fabulous art deco styled work.  It is said that Tallinn’s rise as a popular destination for rich Russians started from the building of Kadriorg Palace for Tsar Peter the Great.

See the remains of Modern History

Tallin has seen plenty of world history recently.  Two places you can see for yourself include the Museum of Occupations and the Patarei Sea-fortress. Extreme KGB tactics, secret prisons, and espionage worth of a new James Bond film all await you.

More Tips on Things to Do in Tallinn

You’ll find more tips in our Tallinn guide.

Click here for the lowest prices on Tallinn hotels