From the moment the plane touched ground at Tallinn Airport I was in love. We’d been serenaded by a flight attendant on the way over and landed to an eruption of cheers and laughter. Looking out the plane window, all you could see was white – there was no denying that we’d landed in a real winter wonderland.
From the airport, Henry and I got a taxi to the AirBnb we were staying at in the subdistrict of Kadriorg. If we’d ever doubted the idea of love at first sight before, Tallinn was definitely proving how real this notion was. The taxi fare from the airport to our apartment was only €8, and the front door of our room was decorated with a love-heart shaped chalkboard reading ‘Welcome Kachina and Friend’ …. I don’t think that anything other than ‘aawwww’ can perfectly describe our reaction to our warm welcome to Estonia’s capital.
Upon wandering the streets of Tallinn in the early evening, it became very apparent to us that a) it was VERY cold (it was meant to be -10c, but due to a Siberian cold front, it was a very crisp -25c!) and b) the only tourists that scattered the cobbled streets of the Old Town were Russian. It surprised us to learn that Estonia was still a much-kept secret on the tourist map. While we were only there for 5 days, Tallinn is definitely somewhere I not only plan to return to one day, but somewhere I’d highly recommend visiting!
Stuck for ideas on what to do? I’ve got you covered 😉
Tallinn Population: 444, 085
Estonia Population: 1.325 million
Language: Estonian, but most people speak English very well
Fun Facts: – Free wifi is basically a human right in the capital of Tallinn, so almost everywhere you go, you’ll have access to free, unlimited (fast!) wifi.
– Due to high IT infrastructure, Tallinn has a large and very supportive start-up scene – big e-commerce names like Skype have offices in the capital city!
If you’re in the city around Christmas time, the Markets are not to be missed. Whilst similar to many of the other Christmas Markets that adorn Europe during the festive season, Tallinn with it’s fluffy white blanket of snow make for a real fairy-tale. There’s no such thing as Bah-humbug when snow-covered cobbled streets, market stalls, glögg and plenty of singing and cheer surround you!
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an Orthodox cathedral in Tallinn. The building was designed during the Russian Revival, which explains the architectural feats.
Not far from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Toompea Hill; a popular spot for getting photos of both the Old Town and the CBD.
Kalamaja is a cool, little artsy district, located West of the Old Town. An ideal place to put the map away and get lost in the art-filled streets.
Frenchy, Telliskivi 60A
If the name didn’t already give it away, Frenchy is a French bistro located in the Telliskivi Centre. One of the many great things about Estonia is the comparably low cost of living prices. A 3-Course dinner with wine for two at Frenchy (and most eateries in Tallinn) only set us back about €20-30. It’s totally worth it! The food at Frenchy was exquisite! All of our meals were served in quick time, presented beautifully and tasted amazing!
Torokse Talupood-Kohvik, Soo 26
Blink and you’ll miss this quaint eatery. Nestled in the basement of one of the many Soviet-style buildings that line the streets of suburban Tallinn in Torokse Talupood-Kohvik, a small trattoria style eatery that serves traditional Estonian food in a Plat-du-jour kind of fashion. Historically, Estonian food is fairly bland; the purpose of food 100 years ago was to keep one warm and full, so quite often it was potatoes and meat for dinner. Now however, Estonians are upping the anti on their local cuisine and adding spices and other amazing products to create really tasty food!
Nop Café and Shop
Nop is a very popular café amongst locals and travellers alike! Located in the charming, woody neighborhood of Kadriorg, Nop is an organic café in a traditional wooden building, with a garden out back to envy! Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is definitely something for everyone here!
The Telliskivi Creative City is a creative hotspot just outside of Tallinn’s Old Town. The centre hosts several small creative companies, as well as eateries, studios, NGO’s and start-ups. To really make the most of the area, the best part of a day is needed. Hours are so easily lost as you traipse around the cute boutique style creative stores, sip on coffee in one of the many cafes or enjoy a meal at one of the great restaurants on site. In addition to what’s inside, outside is decorated with lots of street art and public art spaces – a visit to the Telliskivi Centre is not just a must-do, but also an experience!
Kalma Sauna, Vana Kalamja 9A Sauna, Tallinn
Walking past the building of the Kalma Sauna, you wouldn’t think that there was anything very special inside. The exterior is very much so Soviet, but the interior, well that’s a whole new story! If you want a really authentic Estonian experience without any tourists, this is the place to go! The saunas are traditional wood-fire saunas, so they get VERY hot – if you’re not used to high temperatures, you’ve been warned! Women and men are separated into separate rooms. You strip off (sauna-ing naked is how they do it here!), and step foot in the sauna room, where you switch between shower, sauna and plunge pool. I was the only Westerner there when I visited, and I must admit, it was quite thrilling! If getting in the nude with strangers isn’t really your thing, there are also private saunas. But they aren’t nearly as fun (I went back a second time so that I could try both).
Throw away the map you won’t need it here! Tallinn is such a great city, and is relatively small, so easy to navigate around. When we were venturing around the city (sans map), we came across some amazing cafes and Soviet-time antique shops that we wouldn’t have necessarily found had we stuck to the typical tourist route. If the thought of going cold turkey on Google Maps gives you anxiety, you can rest easy knowing that free wifi is basically a human right in all of Estonia. So if you find yourself totally and utterly lost, switch the wifi on your phone and you’ll be reachable in no time!
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Wow, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is nice.
Christmas is my favorite time of the year regardless, but I would love to be here on Christmas to experience those markets! Everything looks beautiful and the food is making me hungry!
I love Christmas time anywhere as well! haha. Definitely recommend Tallinn.. just make sure you have the right clothes! haha
Wonderful read. I loved my visit to Tallinn and want to go back one day. I remember I dsicovered the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral by chance without any giudebook and was really impressed. Interesting to know that there is also a picturesque christmas market.
Awesome blog. Still haven’t been to Estonia but hopefully I will be there this year. By the sounds of it I will fall in love since non-tourist trap locations are my favourite. Thanks for the tips I’ll come back to this when I plan my Tallinn trip ???
You will absolutely LOVE it!
Love that Christmas market scene! Some excellent tips here, I’ll file this post for when I travel to Estonia!
Oh, it was seriously cold! Was it hard to visit, to go around in that temperature? Loved your photos, it sure sounds like a place to visit. In summer, though, hehehe. 🙂
Haha the temperature wasn’t easy. We would be outside for a little while and then go into a cafe for hot chocolates and to thaw out lol. Although, for some reason we didn’t really feel the cold so much after going to the sauna’s.
Thanks for sharing the wifi facts! That’s always great to know 🙂 Sorry you caught such cold weather!! I don’t know if I could have stepped outside, haha.
Tallin is actually in my TOP3 when it comes to fav cities in Europe… When it comes to Eastern Europe it beats even Prague 😀
I’ve never visited anywhere like it – so beautiful! I definitely would love to travel throughout more of Eastern Europe though, I feel like there’d be a lot of hidden gems around that area 🙂
I was so close to booking flights to Tallinn this winter! They are so cheap on the Ryanair website and I can never resist. Ended up going to Riga instead (amazing city) but still want to see Tallinn someday, and you’ve highlighted what I’ve missed!! Thanks for the tips, I’ll save this post for my future trip!
Oh man, that’s why we went! haha, we saw that RyanAir was only charging €50 one way from London and went for it! I bet Riga was amazing! I’d love to travel the Baltics!
I can’t get over that airplane window view! You truly did land in a winter wonderland. And HOW FREAKING CUTE is your air b&b host for putting your name in a heart on the door. I also LOVE the last capture with the sun peeking through the bare trees at Riigikogu. It looks like you had a blast! Those Christmas markets under snow couldn’t be any more perfect. I’ve been dying to visit Estonia and you did nothing but fuel my wanderlust.
Haha I think you DEFINITELY need to go then! 😉 😉
I love Tallinn, it’s one of my favourite cities! If you go back again, then I thoroughly recommend Kompressor (it’s the best pancake restaurant in the world in my opinion) it has more of a student vibe, but the portions are huge and the flavours are perfect!
It’s such a unique city! Oooh ok, I’ll definitely check that out the next time I’m there!
Oh yes! I’m planning on going there at the end of this year, perfect timing for your post 🙂 Thanks for all the information! Although I’m a bit scared of the cold now! 😀
Haha you’ll be fine, just pack the right gear (thermals and lots of layers! haha). You’ll absolutely love it 🙂