Day 1. Exploring Tallinn’s old town

Linda Line Ferry

We spend each summer in Finland and usually take a trip over to Tallinn in Estonia.  This year was no exception, we booked tickets with Linda Line on their morning ferry which takes only 90 minutes between Helsinki and Tallinn across the Gulf of Finland.   Landing in Tallinn, the ferry terminal is only a 10 minute walk from the city walls which are one of the most impressive features of the Old Town.  The fortified city walls have been well preserved and at least 80% of the original stone walls and turrets remain intact today.

Tallinn old town

Walking through the walled archway we were transported back to medieval times.  The Old Town is a charming jumble of cobbled streets with pastel coloured shops and houses.  Soon we arrived at the main square, Raekoja Plats, with its perfectly restored medieval architecture.

The main square, Tallinn

Three sides of the square are lined with attractive restaurant terraces each bedecked with brightly coloured plants.  On the fourth side of the square lies the impressive Town Hall.  The square was full of life, today a craft market was taking place and in the far corner an outdoor stage had been erected and, as we passed by, an Estonian folk concert was taking place.  I loved the hustle and bustle of this central area and, as we enjoyed glasses of the local beer sitting in one of the outdoor cafes we took in the picture postcard scene of well preserved Estonian life.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Continuing, we climbed the steep cobblestone lane to the top of Toompea Hill to visit the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  Wandering a little further we came to the Kohtu viewing platform,  from here we looked over the wall to views of red roof tops, grey towers, gleaming spires, the skyline of the new town and the Baltic Sea in the distance, it really was a photographer’s paradise.

Old Hansa Restaurant, Tallinn

We make our way down the hill and checked into our hotel which was located just outside the city walls.    After a little rest we ate dinner in Old Haansa, just off the main square which is a tastefully ‘themed’ Estonian restaurant where waiters and waitresses wear national costumes.  The traditional meal tasted delicious,  accompanied with spelt bread and cinnamon beer served in earthenware mugs.   A long walk along the waterfront was then required to walk off our hearty meal.



Day 2. Folk Dancing at Tallinn’s Open Air Museum

Estonian Open Air Museum
After eating breakfast in our hotel, we caught a trolley bus out to Kopli Bay,  a 30 minute ride away to the home of the Estonian Open Air Museum.  It’s located overlooking the bay and occupying a large site providing an insight into old Estonian life.  A rural village has been re-constructed within a forest park, 12 farms, a school house, fire station, windmills, a watermill and church can be visited.  On our visit, the weather was perfect and local dance troupes were performing, adding to the charm.
Traditional Estonian costumes at the Open Air Museum
Sitting on a bench, we watched the dancers perform in their national costumes before being persuaded to join in!  Somehow, I managed to dance the Polka, instructed by an Estonian dancer,  and although initially reluctant to do so, enjoyed the experience tremendously!   Before leaving the museum, we sampled traditional Estonian thick pea soup served with spelt bread and herb butter in the museum cafe, delicious and very reasonably priced.
Kadriorg Park, Tallinn
Returning to the city centre we decided to explore Tallinn’s new town and its Viru shopping centre.  We didn’t linger very long there as it could be a shopping centre anywhere, functional but nothing special.   The real charm of Tallinn, as with so many cities, lies in the old town.

As it was such a lovely,  warm, sunny afternoon we took a short tram ride to Kadriorg Park, an urban park and also the home of the Kadriog Palace, built by Peter the Great and now housing the Estonian Art Museum.  We sat and rested awhile under the shade of some lilac trees admiring the small, wooden houses on the edge of the park with their pretty, pastel coloured walls.

Hell Hunt restaurant, Tallinn
Feeling hungry, we headed back to the Old Town for dinner, dining at ‘Hell Hunt’ a gastro-pub that we have eaten in on previous visits.  As it was still quite warm, we ate out on the terrace with drinks from their own micro brewery.

Before taking the Linda Line high speed ferry back to Helsinki we stocked up on wine and beer from one of the cash and carry stores near the ferry terminal as the prices there are considerably lower than in Finland.  Back on the ferry, we soon took a short nap before disembarking in our beloved Helsinki.

Restaurant terrace, Tallinn
To summarize, Tallinn makes a delightful short city break, with its medieval architecture, inviting restaurants and low prices, it’s quite compact so two or three days should suffice.  Come and enjoy!

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