This is a public service announcement to anyone who thinks they’ve ticked all of the best European city breaks off their travel bucket list: if you haven’t yet been to Tallinn, there’s still at least one to cross off.
The pretty pastel capital of Estonia – a country currently celebrating its 100th year of independence – has a buzz in the air, and it’s time to get there to experience it before everyone else beats you to it.
A three-hour flight from London, Tallinn’s airport instantly sets the tone for what’s to come – there’s a library where passengers exchange books to read on their journeys, a piano frequented by talented passers by, and even a free-to-use gym. The welcome couldn’t be warmer; the transfer time of just 15 minutes into the city centre, meanwhile, couldn’t be more convenient.
As for what to do in Tallinn when you’ve arrived? Here’s our ultimate guide to eating, drinking, sightseeing and staying in the city:
What to see in Tallinn
Just walking around the cobbled streets of Tallinn is a tourist attraction in itself – the buildings come in a palette of colours straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, with the architecture a blend of the area’s medieval roots, and its ongoing thoroughly modern makeover.
Tallinn is often described as a ‘fairytale city’, and nowhere is this more true than in the Unesco-listed Old Town, where attractions include the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, St Olav’s Church, and the 800-year old city walls. Organise a walking tour if you want to do history by the book – there’s plenty to explore, and it can all be done on foot.
Once you’ve exhausted the charms of the traditional, venture to the hip district of Telliskivi, where flea markets, street art, galleries and designer stores await, or the Rotermann Quarter, where old industrial buildings have been given a lease of new life as contemporary shops, bars and restaurants. Don’t miss the sugar hit at the Kalev candy store while you’re in the latter – the truly sweet of tooth can even book a class in the art of marzipan sculpting.
For a family-friendly adventure, had to the coast and marvel at the cavernous structure of the Seaplane Harbour Museum – its the most popular one in the city, and offers a rich, varied tour through Estonia’s maritime and military past, plus the chance to step inside a real submarine.
Where to eat in Tallinn
Estonia has yet to earn its first Michelin star, but it’s not for lack of talent or innovation. The food and drink scene here is thriving, with the only question remaining how you’ll possibly fit so many dishes into a relatively flying visit.
If you’re after cheap eats, head to Kaja Pizza Kook, and get there early – only 100 of the slow-risen sourdough pizzas, which start from €5, are baked in the oven every day, so the crowds flock thick and fast.
Trendy new opening Ülo also offers dishes for fish and meat eaters, but its focus is on providing vegetarian and vegan options that everyone can enjoy. Sfäär is another tasty lunch spot serving up plates like lentil curry and grilled sea bass.
For something a little more upscale, try the delights of Ore, where you’ll find a creative tasting menu for just €45 a head (well, there’s a reason Tallinn was voted Lonely Planet’s best value destination this year).
Other truly wow-factor meals at a higher price point can be found at 180 Degrees, a multi-sensory fine dining restaurant located in historical Port Noblessner, and Restoran Jurr, where Nordic food gets a seasonal, organic focus.
Moon is the place to go to experience the area’s Russian influence – think dishes like handmade dumplings, hot buckwheat blinis and borsch soup, all washed down with a generous glug of vodka.
And speaking of drinks, be sure to visit cosy Botaanik (and ask for the famous truffle negroni), and achingly cool speakeasy Whisper Sister, which whizzes everything from Marmite and Earl Grey syrup to seabuckthorn-infused condensed milk into its quirky menu.
Where to stay in Tallinn
Hotel Telegraff, a former post office turned luxury hotel, is an extremely comfortable, convenient base for your trip. The basement also houses its own Elemis spa, where you can unwind after all of that eating.
Stays at Hotel Telegraff start from £106, per room per night, based on two sharing on a room on bed and breakfast basis. To book, visit www.telegraafhotel.com. EasyJet flies to Tallinn from £61.00 including taxes/fees/carrier charges. For more information, head to visitestonia.com.