If you have only two days to visit a new beautiful city, don’t run,trying to visit every place from the guide-book.
Enjoy the city. Taste it like a good drink, chat with strangers, live it’s life.
What to do in Tallinn to make it a little yours? Here is my own list.
To Climb the Bell Tower of the Church of St. Olaf (Oleviste).
In the 16th century the St. Olaf Church Bell Tower with a Spire was considered to be the tallest building in the world. Before the fire of 1625 the height of the tower with a Spire was 159 meters. Today what has remained from the tower is 123.7 meters high, but it is still the tallest building in Tallinn.
For a long time tower has served as a lighthouse for ships. Lovers of extreme sports did exist in the Middle ages. In 1547 some performers have stretched the rope between the tower and the fortress-wall. Their famous gig even got to the Town -Chronicle.
Today it is unlikely to be allowed, but for 3€ you will be welcomed to the observation deck under the Spire. The stairs are very narrow, twisted, and instead of the rails you will hold on the ropes. By the end of the climb, having overpower 232 steps, you will surely get tired. But as a reward for this sport you’ll get a spectacular view of the entire old city.
Address: Lai tn50 (but you’ll find it anyway, just look where the tallest tower is)
Opening hours: from 10 to 18, from April to October, there are always a lot of people, so you better come early.
Tickets: 3€ for adults. Discounts for children. To enter the church itself is no charge.
Enjoy free walking tour
Free walking tours through the old town start from the «tourist information» (Niguliste 2). Tours are in English, wear comfortable shoes and go! Tours are conducted by volunteers, but they are held at a high professional level.
The green-haired girl took us to the 2-hours trip along the streets of the upper and lower town. Of course, you can find all historical information in the Wikipedia. But volunteer guides will provide you with much more information — from the local anecdotes to the tips where to «eat-buy-see».
For example, our group has learned that:
— Estonians are madly fond of singing. Don’t be surprised of the number of karaoke clubs. Even the revolution they had was «the singing revolution» (1987-1991).
-Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a former President of Estonia loved to DJ’eing at nightclubs and recorded few disks while in the Office. Since then the Estonians joke that if you have no luck with a DJ career you can always go for the Presidency.
-Another Toomas — a symbol and guardian of the city — is mounted on top of the Town Hall, and is actually Toomas the Тhird. Previous Toomases affected by fires and time are stored at the museums.
—The most expensive square of Estonia does not look that expensive at all... Or all of us (including the city residents) understand nothing in the city design.
— There is a monument of former Russian President Yeltsin in Tallinn. Some tourists spit at it, others bring flowers. Once someone has left there his favorite drink of vodka.
To Try Vana Tallinn.
Famous Estonian liqueur, to which I’ll dedicate a separate post in my «wine blog».
It is almost impossible to buy it in Russia, especially outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Original drink is based on rum, citrus and spices. Full recipe is known only to the few specialists of the Vana Tallin company. It is quite strong (35 to 50 Proof).
It is not similar to any other liqueurs such as Egermaister, Limonchello, Amaretto and other famous spirits well known in Russia. You immediately feel exotica in aroma and taste. So before you buy a large bottle you’d better ask a barmen at any restaurant to pour you a shot of classic «Vana Tallinn» — just to try. (There are options similar to Baileys but you can easily find and drink Baileys at home). I am almost sure that you will like it. Drink it slowly. Feel like it warms you and makes you happier with each sip. It is exactly what you need after hours of wandering around under the Baltic breeze.
To live in the heart of the old town.
I really recommend you to rent a place in the Old Town, and then kill your feet by walking without rest through the fabulous streets of Tallin. You can save money on anything but if you have only a couple of days to visit Tallinn (as any other beautiful ancient city), stay at the historic center, and you won’t regret it. As a bonus you will have the bells singing to you in the morning, medieval towers in the window, and your coffee, for example, at the oldest Cafe in Tallinn » Maiasmokk «, UL. Pikk, 16
Staying at the old Tallinn is not necessarily expensive. There are not only hotels not far from the main square, but also hostels and apartments. I was renting a tiny cozy apartment on Pikk Street.
Tallinn, unlike many other historic cities, is «flat». Here you don’t have to repeatedly climb up as somewhere in the Italian region of Marche. Tallinn- is not Rome. If you want you can go through every street of the old town in a couple of hours. But why the rush? Nobody here is in a hurry. And that is great! You are in Tallinn to enjoy life.
To eat a lot of sweets with marzipan
By the way Estonians claim to be marzipan inventors. Germans disagree, of course. But we are not in Germany.
So, go either to the market near the train station, or to a stylish quarter Rotermanni (Rotermanni tn 3, Tallinn), both are a five-minute walk from the ancient walls.
Look for the store named «Kalev». You can buy, of course, any sweets and marzipan figures made by this Estonian chocolate factory in the old town, but at the company stores they are cheaper and you will have a better variety of products . Just be careful. It is very easy for those with a sweet tooth to fall into ecstasy looking at this Marzipan Paradise!.. But, of course, there are not only marzipan candies there, but also sweets with rum, as well as candies with other alcoholic fillings are also delicious. Even vodka can become a chocolate candy there, not to mentioned the divine Vana Tallinn liqueur.
My choice, though, is still chocolate covered marzipan.
Dine at the market-place
Market is located just behind the railway station. I’m sure that the best way to study the city is to visit local markets.
Tallinn’s market is small and very neat, even-stylish. Stop by one of the beautiful pavilions, buy a pie with spinach and a large glass of tea sit down at a small counter and enjoy.
At the market you can also try and buy fresh cheeses from the neighboring Holland (your chance to eat real «Hollander cheese»), but since we are in Estonia — ask for local Estonian varieties and you will not be disappointed.
There is not only a private trade taking place at the market, but also a large supermarket. And you’ll find upstairs a «flea — market», where you can buy vintage stuff, glass and paintings, and also pass by an multi-brand mini-outlet, and I got lucky to hunt out a classical black trench by Esprit there.
To get warm by eating medieval soup at the «Third Dragon»
“III Draakon” is located directly in the Town Hall, under the tower. It calls itself a «Tavern». The hostesses of the tavern are really beautiful in their medieval clothes and are artistically rude in all languages of the world:
- What about a spoon? How do I know where you have left your spoon?! May be you put it in your boot?
After that different «signiori» and «monsigniors» do not dare to ask about forks and knives.
So you will have to drink from a heavy ceramic bowls this rich and incredibly delicious soup. Order also some pies with different fillings. The meat you’ll have to eat using big knife and your hands.
— Well, you have wished to experience some medieval life, right? You are welcome.
Finally, don’t forget, that you can catch some pickled cucumbers from the wooden barrel at no charge!
What a restaurant!! It’s dark, intriguing, interesting, very tasty and inexpensive. All food is 1-3€ . For 3.5€ I had Moose meat soup (local «specialty» warmly recommended by the owner of my apartment) and my favorite pie with spinach.
On a cold spring day and after a long journey this meal made me instantly feel at home in the beautiful Tallinn. And even more — rescued me from getting cold.
Address: Raekoja Plats 1 | Raekoja plats 1, Tallinn, 10114.
It’s open: daily from 9:00 to 24:00
To drink beer with hipsters in the Rotermanni quarter
Or not to drink. On the day of my arrival beer tasting took place at one of the restaurants of this beautiful area. There were DJs, bearded young men in butterfly-ties and some bottles on ice (still unknown to me and that’s why highly intriguing).
To my disappointment, it turned out that although the participation in this festival was free of charge all available tables and other spaces were completely booked in advance.
My conclusion: when you are getting ready for the journey — check out the calendar of events in advance..
But even without organized tastings you can always get something to try and explore at this former industrial and now very creative space.
Drop by the cheese boutique (Lord, how many varieties of cheeses there are on the Estonian earth!), go to already mentioned Kalev’s chocoholic paradise and do not forget about boutiques of designer’s clothes.
Or you can just walk around trying to imagine past life of this fashionable block of red brick buildings, where not so long ago there were only factory workers around instead of hipsters, lawyers and, of course, tourists.
To make a picnic on the beach.
Go to the Pyrita from the city center by public transport. There is a passenger terminal in the basement of the Viru shopping mall. You can go to Pyrita by buses 1A, 4A, and 38. Bus 8 runs from the Baltic railway station. Get off the bus at the Pirita-stop, cross the road and stroll to the sea.
It should be very nice here in summer: Pine-grove, a long strip of sandy beach, the sea. But Baltik sea is not the Indian Ocean so it was not possible to swim in May. Still for me the sea is beautiful at any time of the year.
Basket of strawberries, Estonian cheese with herbs and nuts, great Tallinn bread and white wine – that’s all what was needed there for complete happiness. Sitting on sand, breathing fresh sea air, understanding how much everything is just the fuss in comparison with the infinity of the waves. That’s why you have to be there, at Pyrita.
You can walk back to the old town from the sea passing by the huge majestic ruins of the Brigit Monastery and the monument to the Russian ship «Mermaid” (sank on September 7, 1893. Well,
«Mermaid «is really a wrong name for the vessel.)
Also it would be great to have the rollers or bicycle to stroll along the Pyrita-promenade. Next time I’ll rent one or the other.
To dream of a quiet life in Kalamaya
Tallinn, even filled with buzzing tourists in the Old Town, and pretty loud in its pubs and karaoke bars, still gives you a sense of calm. Especially, in contrast to Russian megapolises. But the absolute calm, harmony of colors and its wood architecture, cosines and silence – you will find at Kalamaya. Russians often go there to look for traces of Sergey Dovlatov, famous writer who spent nearly three years there.
Kalamaya was a fishing settlement near Rewel (Tallinn). The village «in the neighborhood of old Tallinn» begins actually right behind the Baltic station, nowdays it is an urban district.
Life here does not stop, it continues. They say the area attracts bearded youth and creatives. But the streets of wooden two-storied buildings and old courtyards seem haven’t changed. Everything is clean, neat and tidy, and looks exactly the same as many years ago.
If the old town is made up of hotels, bars, souvenir shops and flats for rent, Kalamaya is a living piece of history, it is a real Tallinn as it was in the past.
It’s a great place to come and stay. With an easel or typewriter. To settle in some colored two-storied building in autumn. With nowhere to run and rush it will be easy to quit all that writing and painting, and still feel like an Artist every minute of your life
To find yourself suddenly at karaoke
At first, I didn’t realize it was a karaoke bar. I just wanted to enjoy a glass of wine after a day of wild admiring of everything. I was surprised that the singer behind the counter was not that beautifully dressed and good looking, but her voice was great. And only after a second song I realized that the girl just came there to sing karaoke. She sang and left the bar.
Her turn was confidently taken by few young guys from the next table, to follow with noticeably drunk Italians. I met this happy bunch earlier on the veranda of the famous Old Hansa restaurant. They seemed to be quite decent at 11 AM. They have told me that they were celebrating «the beginning of celibacy» of one of their companions: he was getting married. By the evening the groom and his friends already acquired tinsel and silly hats, slightly shaky on their feet they still managed to complete a song in bad English.
There are many Nightclubs in Tallinn, and who could think that almost every second of them is a karaoke-club. Tourists there were rather random, mostly there were the locals who performed all night long, and that was much more interesting this way.