Off the Beaten Path: 24 Hours in Tallinn
Have an upcoming business trip in Europe? Why not use it as a chance to explore a little further. Extend your work trip and tack on a personal weekend adventure. You’ve probably been to the popular destinations like London, Paris and Rome. Or you’ve at least heard of the long lines and touristy crowds that haunt these cities. When you’ve already had a busy work trip, the last thing you need is to push past the hoards or waste time in a line. Instead, opt for a quick and relaxing stop off the beaten path.
Tallinn is like the less expensive little brother to Scandinavian destinations like Stockholm. Cafes and bakeries abound, but the price tag on that cup of coffee isn’t quite so shocking. There’s a vibrant selection of restaurants, plenty of history, and a nice blend of Scandinavian and Russian culture and architecture. You can stop to grab a bag of warm toasted, candied almonds from one of the many street carts and wander the cobblestone streets taking it all in.
Begin your morning with breakfast at one of the many adorable and delicious cafes around Old Town. Kohvik August has an amazing selection of healthy breakfast eats and a great matcha latte. Try the yogurt bowl topped with muesli and grilled nectarines for a fun treat.
Must Puudel has a cozy atmosphere that is perfect to duck into on a rainy day, and an outdoor courtyard perfect for sunny days. There menu is equally enticing for lunch. For something more fancy, you can stop in to grab breakfast at Rukis. They’re famous for their desserts though so make sure to finish off your coffee with a honey cake or a Vastlakukkel.
A walking tour is a great way to get out of your hotel and start exploring. It will help you get your bearings and add a little context to the city. In Tallinn, a young group of students volunteers to lead walking tours from the Tourist Info Center everyday at 10 AM, 12 PM, and 3 PM.
You’ll learn about things like Estonia’s history as a part of the USSR, the time Russia funded the city’s request to rebuild a church but only if it was built as a museum of atheism, how Tallinn has become a tech capital of the world, why certain buildings sit at the top of the hill and how Estonian is one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world.
Lunch on Telliskivi Street
After your tour, head over to Telliskivi street. There’s a section of old Soviet warehouses that have been converted into shops and restaurants. It’s the hipster area of Tallinn, and it has some wonderful food options. Sit down at F-Hoone and start with a selection of the bruschettas. The spicy coconut soup is out of this world and pairs well with a salad for lunch.
Views of the City
Unlike many other medieval cities, much of the Old City wall still remains intact in Tallinn. You can walk along the wall to take in sights of the city from every angle or head up to Kohtuotsa viewing platform for a famous view overlooking the city. Not too far away, you can also find the Patkuli viewing platform which looks out in the direction of St. Olaf’s church.
Next, for just a few euros, climb the 232 steps up to the viewing platform that wraps around the steeple of St. Olaf’s church. From this perspective you can see the clear distinction between the higher parts of Old Town that sit atop the hill and the lower parts of town.
Walked Down Lai and Pikk Streets
For a truly transporting taste of Tallin, walk down Lai Street and then back up Pikk Street. Both are wide cobblestone streets lined with pastel houses and old shops selling artists’ works, antiques and relics. Somehow, even when the center of Old Town is bustling for a few hours with the cruise crowds, these streets maintain a quiet and calm atmosphere.
Dinner in Tallin’s Old Town
In the evening enjoy dinner at Chakra. Chef Venkat moved to Estonia from India in the early 1990’s and spent years cooking for the famous Maharaja Restaurant in Town Hall square before opening up his own spot. Make sure to get a reservation, the place fills up fast. While they offer prefixe options, you can easily mix and match a variety of dishes for less money and plenty of food.
Alternatively, you could grab a more locally-inspired dinner at one of the delicious restaurants on Rataskaevu. Vegan Restoran V serves, you guessed it, a creative vegan menu that just about anyone would enjoy. Restaurant Vanaema Juures next door aptly translates to ‘Grandma’s Place’ and serves dishes that are reminiscent of an amazing home-cooked meal. And Von Krahli Aed serves a modern twist on traditional Estonian fare.