I took a brief trip to Tallinn several years ago with some friends, and while we only got to see a glimpse of Estonia, I was very impressed with what it had to offer. While it’s a small country, it has no shortage of things to see and do!
We took an early morning ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn and arrived a bit groggy, with only some strong Finnish coffee to keep us going. Shortly after arriving at the Port of Tallinn, we walked through an adjacent park and were greeted by “Fat Margaret,” the name locals have given to a large, round cannon tower (Paks Margareeta).
Tallinn is ringed by a series of scenic parks with cafes and small restaurants scattered nearby. The downtown area is fairly compact and best explored on foot. The Tallinn Town Hall dominates the city center, which is a hub of social activity. I enjoyed having lunch at Hell Hunt pub — a famous downtown spot that’s popular with tourists and locals alike.
Nearby at the well-preserved 14th Century old city walls (Nunnatorn ja linnamüüri platvorm), which have museums and viewing platforms over the city. It’s a bit of dizzying climb up to the top of the circular staircase, but it’s worth the trip up! It’s also possible to get great city views from the Patkuli viewing platform. Another highlight of Tallinn is Freedom Square, a large plaza topped with a Cross commemorating the 1918-1920 War of Independence.
Soviet history fans won’t want to miss the KGB museum, housed in an old hotel featuring Communist memorabilia, artifacts, spy gear, as well as an officer’s room that has been preserved since the hotel’s closure. Also, adjacent to the Freedom Square is the Vabamu Museum of Occupations with artifacts from the German and Soviet occupation periods.
There are plenty of great food options in Tallinn and the restaurant scene is always changing, but many restaurants featured wild game options. I especially enjoyed trying bear stew at a restaurant downtown, as well as fried rabbit croquettes in a rich garlic aioli sauce. There’s also the Museum of Estonian Drinking Culture, which I didn’t visit but it sounds intriguing. Lastly, Tallinn has great nightlife and plenty of clubs that stay open through the night.
Estonia also has a remarkably good craft beer scene. I’d like to visit the Puhaste and Puhajala taphouses in particular. In addition to the taphouse in Tallinn, it looks like it’s possible to visit the Puhaste brewery in Tartu.
Something for Next Time: There’s still plenty I need to see in Estonia. Next time, I hope to get to Tartu and check out the old city, including the wooden houses along the Emajõgi River. I’d also like to get to the Narva and Rakvere Castles, as well as the Kuressaare Castle on Saaremaa Island. If anyone has recommendations for places along the coast — I’m all ears!