Go back in time with a trip to Tallinn. This Estonian capital city feels straight out of a fairy-tale with its Gothic Town Hall, medieval squares, noble merchant houses and wood-panelled interiors. It’s a short jaunt across the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki, but this Baltic Sea destination has a charm all its own. Hike up Toompea Hill for a photo op across the city below, sample local pastries in a tucked-away café, or sip a coffee next to a roaring fireplace. The highlight of Tallinn is its beautifully preserved Old Town, though today’s city is a hub for the high-tech industry.
Tallinn’s Old Town is the star of the show, boasting extremely well-preserved medieval architecture that makes it feel like a living museum in places. The district’s divided into the Upper and Lower towns, respectively home to the nobility and merchant classes. Explore Toompea Castle with its distinctive pink parliament house, and see visible remnants of Russian culture in destinations like the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Palace Square. It’s not all historic monuments here – see the modern side to Tallinn along Viru Street with its chic boutiques and modern art galleries, or visit the newly constructed Seaplane Harbour maritime museum.
Most cruise line operate their own shuttle buses to ferry passengers between the Old Town and the pier, but if you want to go it alone you’ll easily be able to take a taxi from the terminal. These usually accept both euros and USD; but be sure to agree on a price before you set off. Another great option is the Tallinn City Tour bus, which allows you to hop in and out as you please. The Old Town itself is easy to explore on foot, and in fact many streets are pedestrian-only so there’s no other way to get about!
There’s public parking available in the harbour area, but some areas are prohibited so take care to follow the signs! You can access the short-term parking area for quick drop-offs or pick-ups at the Terminal A for up to 15 minutes without charge. The official Terminal A parking lot is located right next to the Harbour Market and Old City marina, with daily parking charges of roughly 9 euros. There’s a second parking lot right next to Terminal D, with daily parking for 6 euros or longer-term monthly passes for frequent visitors. Mobile payments are accepted in both.
If Town Hall Square seems like an ideal meeting place, that’s because it has served as one since it was first built around 1400. It’s also notable for holding the world’s first decorated Christmas tree, according to locals!
There are plenty of museums to explore in Tallinn, like the National Museum of Art with its seven floors of exhibitions. If you prefer, you could take a short trip out of town to visit the fascinating Estonian Open Air Museum. Here you can have a wander through historic homes, wood mills and parkland dating back to the 17th century. Art lovers won’t want to miss a visit to Tsarina Catherine’s former residence, Kadriorg, now used to house Baroque art.
Shop until you drop on Viru Street, lined with art galleries, antique shops and designer boutiques. Be sure to pick up some handcrafted linens and other unique souvenirs!
Tallinn’s variety of restaurants give you the chance to sample traditional Estonian fare, which includes hearty dishes like blood sausage and elk soup as well as sweet confectionery loaded with marzipan! Kuldse Notsu is a top choice for traditional recipes, or you could taste something a bit more unusual at Balthasar, which serves garlic ice cream. Wash it all down with a perfectly brewed local beer!