Your guide to Tallinn.
Few cities in the world are as diverse as Tallinn. One of Europe’s most historic capitals, its picturesque old town is populated with medieval buildings that have earned UNESCO status. Indeed, walking through old Tallinn offers a direct link to the past but having only regained its independence in 1991, Estonia’s recent history is equally enthralling. Beyond the Old Town’s cobbled streets and towering buildings you’ll find hip cafés, independent galleries and small boutiques in the footprint of former warehouses. While venturing to the city’s outskirts offers a chance to explore colorful baroque palaces and exquisite sandy beaches.
The undoubted highlight of Tallinn is its UNESCO Old Town. This menagerie of medieval merchant’s houses is a must-see attraction, offering a link into the past rarely experienced outside a museum. Toompea Castle, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Town Square are all worth seeking out, but it’s the far-reaching views across Tallinn’s terracotta rooftops from its panoramas that truly dazzle. For an altogether different side to the city, pay a visit to a district known as Kalamaja. Located just outside the Old Town this former fisherman’s neighborhood is now one of Tallinn’s trendiest areas, with attractions including the Maritime Museum and the Fotografiska Tallinn gallery.
Eating and drinking.
You don’t have to look far (or spend much) to enjoy an excellent meal in Tallinn. The city enjoys a progressive and innovative food scene, bolstered by young chefs who’ve borrowed influences from Nordic and Scandinavian cuisine. Veganism is also boldly embraced in Tallinn and you’ll find many meat, dairy and fish-free options on menus, as well as entire restaurants dedicated to plant-based cooking. The Old Town offers a variety of highly celebrated dining options, housed in ambient medieval buildings while in Kalamaja you’ll find the Balti Jaam covered market, offering street food to eat-in as well as grab and go options.
Tallinn is filled with stylish souvenir shops, artists’ workshops and independent Estonian brands. You’ll find the former scattered throughout the Old Town’s characterful buildings, their windows temptingly decorated with ornamental displays featuring the wares you’ll find within. Small clay models of Tallinn’s iconic Old Town buildings make a lovely memento to take home, as does a glazed bowl or hand-blown glass from one of the city’s many makers. Fans of vintage fashion will find their haven in the thrift stores on the second floor of the Balti Jaam market, while the independent shops of Telliskivi Creative City are the place to seek out a uniquely Estonian keepsake.
Sandy beaches might not be the first thing you associate with Estonia, but this is precisely what you’ll find in the suburb of Pirita, just outside central Tallinn. With golden sands to rival the Mediterranean, the mile-long beach is a favorite sunbathing spot for city-dwellers in the summertime, beloved for its picturesque setting and close proximity to town. The baroque palace of Kadriorg is an equally enchanting excursion beyond Tallinn’s Old Town. Set in a 250-acre park, this stately home is one of the finest in Estonia, offering sublime baroque design along with private collections of Russian, Chinese and Western European art.