A WINTER ADVENTURE IN TALLINN: TRAVEL GUIDE

FEBURARY 2020

An unexpecting fairytale. I had heard whispers and stories about the magical Tallinn, and after yet another quick google search (which seems to be how I decide all of my trips now), I decided that Estonia was the perfect winter wonderland escape for a cold February. Located right on the Baltic Sea, Estonia's capital is known as one of Europe's tech hubs, however you could never guess that by looking at it. The walled, cobblestoned Old Town holds so much charm and beauty, I fell in love almost instantly. The centre of the city is small and you can easily explore it all in a day, however after spending three nights here I easily could have easily spent a few more. Tallinn is such a picturesque city and although it isn't a city packed with activities to do, it is breathtakingly beautiful to explore.

I had already booked a flight to Copenhagen for £13 one way, so I thought seeing as I was already in the North of Europe I could make a little detour over to Estonia. My flight from Copenhagen to Tallinn was €68 one way with AirBaltic and ended up being a small propeller plane with myself and 12 other people on board (the flight was virtually empty). The flight took just under an hour and a half and as the plane descended I saw the thick blanket of snow covering the streets as fresh snow trickled down. I was told by some of the Estonians I had spoken to that their winter had been very mild with next to no snow, so I was very lucky to have had a fresh snow fall the day before I arrived and even better is the glorious blue sky and sunshine which made the snow glisten in the light during my days there.

1 DESTINATION

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2 - 4 DAYS

TALLINN

A fairytale destination with cobbled streets and fortified city walls. One of the dreamiest cities in Europe for a visit.

CURRENCY

Euros

DAILY BUDGET

Estonia is definitely in the Eastern Europe field when it comes to a daily budget, especially after flying from Denmark where everything cost double what it should, everything seemed very reasonably priced. While I've heard its not as cheap as countries like Latvia and Lithuania, you could definitely get away with only spending €30 - €45 a day (including accomodation), and probably more like €25 - €35 if you don't eat out. 

HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT

Getting from the airport into to the Old Town is very straightforward. Once you walk out of the main terminal there is a tram stop right outside and you can either catch the 2 or 4 tram which will take you to the outside of the Old Town. Tallinn centre is small so it is easy to navigate your way to where ever you are staying however initially it does feel like a bit of a maze so make sure you have a map downloaded to help you find your way to your accomodation!

WHERE TO STAY

While I was in Tallinn I stayed at Tallinn Backpackers. It was located right in the heart of the Old Town and had a really homely feel, which I liked. For three nights in February I paid €22.50 for an 8 bed dorm, which I thought was incredibly cheap for a nice hostel. The hostel didn't seem like it had a heap of rooms so I would definitely recommend booking in advance if you plan on visiting in the summer months when it's busier. It had a kitchen and a common area that people sat and drank and mingled throughout the day and you also had the option to buy beers at the reception. I've heard Tallinn is quite a wild party city in the summer especially!

When I travel I like to keep my costs to a minimum and I found Tallinn was an easy city to spend minimal expenses. As I said before, everything was very reasonably priced and although eating out wasn't wildly expensive, I found myself cooking for myself two out of the three nights I was staying at the hostel. The prices did rival Budapest and Bratislava (you can read my blog post about my trip here), but not as cheap as North Macedonia (you can read my blog post here), and I found groceries in particular to be very cheap, so cooking for myself only cost €20 - €30 for two lunches and two dinners. There was a small grocery shop called Vanalinna Rimi express, which was less than a 5 minute walk from Tallinn Backpackers. It had everything you would need to cook in the hostel/accomodation and also a salad bar where you could make your own salad, which is what I opted to eat for my second dinner (for a large salad and a few bread rolls I paid €4.50). 

 

I found that Tallinn was a very picturesque city and I really enjoyed just sitting in different spots and people watching. There definitely aren't a lot of activities to do like some other European cities, for example Barcelona has endless things to do and a lot of paid attractions (you can read about my trip to Barcelona and Valencia here) however I quite liked the change of pace found Estonia (and Estonians) are very relaxed. You'll probably hear me say this a lot throughout this post, but Tallinn was so charming all by itself that I didn't mind not doing anything else except wandering around, taking photos and eating. 

 

WHAT TO DO IN TALLINN

 

KOHTUOTSA VIEWING PLATFORM

The Kohtuotsa viewing platform is one of the most popular spots in Tallinn for stunning views of the city. It provides a great spot to look out over the Old Town and was one of my favourite spots for photos. I ended up visiting twice in one day, firstly at around 8am on a gloomy morning for photos and thankfully had the whole lookout to myself. I ended up going back a few hours later as I wandered around the city (everything is so close together in the Old Town, you can easily do a few laps in one day), it was slightly busier during the day.

PATKULI VIEWING PLATFORM

Patkuli Viewing Platform is a 2 minute walk away from Kohtuotsa and is situated in one of the most ancient parts of the Old Town. It has perfect views across the city and its walls, all the way down to the port. You can access the platform by walking from Kohtuotsa or up the 157 steps down to Toompark, which is one of Tallinn's parks. I personally preferred this view more than Kohtuotsa, however it's hard to pick when the whole city is picture perfect. 

I spent around 15 - 30 minutes at each lookout taking photos and enjoying the view. 

VISITING A HUSKY PARK

 

The second day I was in Estonia I got invited by Prangli Travel to visit a husky farm in Kõrvemaa, about 45 minutes away from Tallinn. Originally I was meant to dogsled with the huskies, however seeing as the country didn't have a lot of snow fall over the winter I would be walking the dogs through the countryside instead. I could not have asked for a more perfect day. There had been a fresh snow fall the night before so everything was beautifully white and crisp, while the sun was glistening and beaming down making for a perfect sunny day. Once arriving to the husky park I was greeted by 4 huskies before being introduced to the other 21 huskies individually.

On the tour there was only myself and an older Dutch couple. We each got allocated 1 - 2 dogs (you could choose how many you wanted). The dogs were then attached to us by a waist harness and we set off walking through the countryside. The huskies pretty much pull you along as you do a 3km loop through the stunning forest, and I ended up falling over a dozen times because of the slippy snow and force of these two 20kg huskies. The dutch couple ended up turning back half way through because it was a guessing game of where to step without falling over so it ended up just being myself, the Prangli guide and the husky park owner. Once we returned from the hike we were introduced to the resident alpacas that also lived on the farm before we were then given some pastries and tea to warm up. The tour is only about 5 - 6 hours but I was pretty exhausted by the end of it and nearly fell asleep on the drive back to Tallinn. I would definitely go back to cuddle the huskies again though.

You can check out the tour I did here.

ALEXANDER NEVSKY CATHEDRAL

This spectacular onion domed is located on Toompea Hill and can be seen from nearly every point across Old Town. It's Estonia's main Russian Orthodox Cathedral and is by far the most opulent church in Tallinn. Built in 1900 the church is a symbol of the Tsarist Russian Empire's religious and political dominance over the unruly baltic region. Nowadays the church is a stunning piece of architecture which is a must to visit. All roads seem to lead up to Toompea Hill so it's easy to find and is also the perfect spot to sit and relax if the weather allows it. 

TORNIDE VÄLJAK (TOWER'S SQUARE) 

Tallinn is one of Europe's best preserved Medieval Fortifications with nearly 2km of its original city walls surrounding the Old Town. Tower's Square is located right next to some of the city walls and provides stunning views of the watch towers. The park is relatively big and is a great spot for a walk or a picnic (probably not a picnic in the snow), I particularly loved this spot for photos as you can line up four of the watch towers and snap a great shot of them!

TOWN HALL SQUARE

In the heart of the Old Town lies Town Hall Square, the hub of the city. Here you can find a variety of different restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, currency exchanges, etc. It has been a market place for Tallinn since the 13th and 14th century and is always bustling with people. It plays an important role for the Old Town, with outdoor seating for the summer months and traditional Christmas festivities, including Christmas markets, during December. The multicoloured pastel buildings make you feel like you're in a fairytale, especially with the dusting of snow covering the rooftops.

If you do plan on eating in or around the Square you'll probably be paying 'tourist prices', so just be cautious when you're hunting for a spot to eat! The Old Town is small enough that you can easily wander a few minutes and find something slightly more reasonably priced if you are on a tight budget.

DANISH KING'S GARDEN

The Danish King's Garden holds a lot of stories and legends and is home to the three faceless monks, Ambrosiy the waiting monk, Claudius the watching monk and Bartholomeus the praying monk. The old legend is that the Danish flag was born here after it descended from the sky during the Danish invasion and helped King Valdemar II (the Danish King) win the battle. 

The garden is a great place to sit and relax for a bit and during the summer months they even have some tables and chairs for a few restaurants that are dotted around the area. The monks do seem a bit ominous however I was quite fond of them - definitely one of the unique selling points of the city. 

WHERE TO EAT

KARU TALU ŠOKOLAAD

Kara Talu Šokolaad (chocolate) is a family run vegan chocolate shop located right in the heart of Tallinn's city centre. When you walk in to the little shop your senses are overwhelmed with the smell of cocoa, which is made fresh every day by the Estonian mother and daughter who own the shop. There are dozens of different chocolate flavours to choose from, including some more obscure choices like mustard. I opted for peppermint and salted caramel, and they were absolutely delicious. 

CHAKRA 

I am a sucker for a good Indian and Chakra was perfect as it was located super close to Tallinn Backpackers. On my last night in the city I ended up treating myself to a meal out by myself. I find Indian is a super safe option for vegans and vegetarians as you'll always find they will have some kind of veggie curry and it's hard to go wrong with that (Chakra's menu was pretty extensive too). My meal cost around €13 and I would definitely go back for seconds next time I'm visiting!

 

LISANNA VEGAN COFFEE SHOP

Lisanna was a beautiful little find thanks to HappyCow (one of my favourite apps for finding vegan spots in new cities). It is situated right by Tornide Väljak (Tower's Square) and is the perfect little spot to hide away for something light to eat. I went two days in a row for some coffee and a toastie (I paid €4 for a avocado, tomato, pesto, vegan cheese toastie, it was definitely worth it), which was a great way to hide away from the cold and relax for a bit. The cafe is completely vegan and offers a range of different options like toasties and sandwiches, cakes and smoothies. 

My time Estonia was nothing short of amazing and I can't wait to visit some time in the future. I wasn't really sure about Tallinn as it doesn't seem to be one of the 'classic' tourist spots, however after visiting and experiencing the magic myself, I can easily say the city has become one of my favourite European destinations. It definitely holds a lot of charm and history which is very unique to the area and I think Estonia should be on everyone's list of places to visit because it certainly is a very special country. 

The Baltic countries seem to be relatively untouched by the mass of tourists and I look forward to going back to explore the region more, I've got Lithuania on the list next! If you find yourself with some spare time and are looking for a city escape, Tallinn should definitely be on your radar, I know you'll love it!

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