(As featured in Cosmopolitan Middle East Magazine, July 2017)
Historical Tallinn’s Old Town may be small in size but it packs in a punch with its diverse music, festivals, food and art offerings.
The 13th century fairytale medieval town Old Town Tallinn, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Town in 1997, is best known for its twisting cobblestone alleyways, half hidden lanes filled with ornate doorways, medieval courtyards, art galleries, festivals, buzzing nightlife and restaurants galore.
The Estonian capital, which is holding the presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2017 underwent a cultural revolution some 25 years ago after the USSR left and it also happens to be the birthplace of Skype making it a tech-savvy country where WiFi is mostly free. Tallinn’s new town is also worth exploring but only if you have a week to spend in this alluring and romantic city.
Elegant five-star Hotel St. Petersbourg in the heart of Tallinn, the Baltic Sea coast’s oldest capital, is the perfect place to explore this enchanting town from. It’s the oldest operating hotel in Estonia since 1850. The building, however, dates back even further to the 14th century. Built in the style of a Russian merchant house, the property dotted with exquisite artworks was fully restored in 2013, including an interiors overhaul by award-winning design agency Andrew Martin. The well-equipped spacious Executive Room decorated in an imperial style is the one to book and be sure to request a room on a higher floor for a view of Rataskaevu Street.
WHERE TO EAT
If you only have time for one meal in Tallinn, dine at multi-award winning fine dining Noa Chef’s Hall by the seaside. Choose from a five or seven course degustation menu using the regions fi nest ingredients. Book well in advance and request a face-to-face table to see how the Executive Chef works during service. Ribe, a favourite amongst chefs and foodies in the city offers Nordic-style dishes using French techniques while Rataskaevu (across from Hotel St. Petersbourg) serves a contemporary take on classic Estonian dishes like freshly salted salmon, dried elk meat and Baltic herring. Go to Tchaikovsky for great music and an excellent fine dining meal made using Russian traditions and Estonian ingredients. Enjoy delectable Asian cuisine at Chedi, in collaboration with Chef Alan Yau of Hakkasan fame. Also by the same group is Bocca, a modern Italian restaurant that is a local-favourite. The best places in the city for coffee and dessert are Björn Espresso Bar, Røst and Maiasmokk (which has been around since 1864).
Two great spots for a nightcap are Whisper Sister, Tallinn’s brand new speakeasy and Radisson Blu Sky Hotel on the 24th floor for a drink with a view. Wherever you dine, try the homemade Black Estonian rye bread with a smear of freshly whipped salted butter – it’s so worth the calories.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
As they say in Old Town Tallinn, nothing is more than a five minute walk away. Admire the bright rooftops, the Baltic Sea, spires and narrow winding lanes of this medieval town from the top of Toompea Hill. Toompea Castle and Tall Hermann Tower are perched on a limestone cliff towering over the city and worth a quick walk around. On a clear day the Tallinn TV Tower offers sweeping views of the city and beyond from 170metres above and you can even walk on the edge of the tower after being attached to a safety harness of course. Feel like you’re in a fairytale when you visit Tallinn Town Hall Square which has pretty coloured houses all in a row, flanked by cosy restaurants as well as the oldest pharmacy in Europe, Town Hall Pharmacy dating back to 1422. Also, don’t forget to buy some sugar-roasted almonds made using a recipe from the Middle Ages. Hang out at a café and people-watch on Sauna Street, which is always known as a party street in the summer, shop tax-free on Viru Street and if you are an antique collector, Idla Antiik is the store to visit. Step back in time with a stroll through St Catherine’s Passage which is lined with tombstones and is one the prettiest walkways in Old Town. Museum lovers should visit Kadriorg Palace and gardens built by Russia’s Peter the Great for his wife Catherine, the neighbouring Art Museum which displays some of Estonia’s and the world’s best artwork from the 16th to 20th century and the very unique maritime museum Seaplane Harbour.
HOW TO GET THERE
Tallinn is easily accessible by ferry from Helsinki, Stockholm and St Petersburg as well as trains from across Europe. Most major European cities offer flights directly into Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport. Driving by car is also a hassle-free option depending on where you are visiting from.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Travelling passionately in search of exquisite food, hot new hotels and unique experiences across the globe, Vibha Dania-Dhawan is the founder and editor of luxury food, travel and lifestyle website Voyageur Chic. She is also a luxury travel consultant and can help plan your next unique adventure.