Thanks to no-frills airlines the city of Tallinn is now synonymous with boozy stag dos, but spend a weekend in the historic Old Town and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Although geographically Baltic, and occupied by Russia until 1991, it feels surprisingly Scandinavian – albeit without the offputting prices.
And as the pound-euro rate plumbs new depths, now is a great time to get some Estonian kroon and take a city break here.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
10.00 Roll with romance
Grab a map and hotfoot it to the fairytale Old Town, entering via the town wall’s Viru Gates, alongside ‘kissing hill’. Romantics will love the park benches covered in padlocks left by just-married Estonian couples as a symbol of their betrothal.
10.30 Go Latin
Swing up Müürivahe Street alongside the town wall and check out the market stalls before taking a left into the Latin Quarter, a former enclave of Dominican monks. Gain an insight into their way of life by visiting the monastery and museum.
11.00 Get crafty
Wander through St Catherine’s Passage and watch craftsmen at work in their open studios.
From patchwork quilts to hats and glassware, it’s the perfect place to buy gifts and the Master’s Courtyard is a hidden gem. Be sure to taste the divine creations of the Chocolaterie Cafe.
11.30 Square up
Stroll to the city’s focal point, Town Hall Square, historically the scene of celebrations and, at one time, executions. In summer it’s bustling with outdoor cafes, fairs and markets. Climb up the town hall’s gothic tower for a great view of the city.
12.00 Tuck into a medieval meal
Feeling peckish? Olde Hansa, just off Town Hall Square, is one of Tallinn’s most famous restaurants – the menu, candlelit interior, period costumes and even the toilets transport you back to the city’s ‘golden age’. Choose from rabbit, wild boar, elk and bear, washed down with a tasty jug of honey or cinnamon beer.
13.00 Take it up a notch
Step up to the Upper Town area, where you can visit the Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin.
Alternatively, take a tour of Toompea Castle, built on a steep limestone cliff 50 metres above sea level, or head for the viewing platforms on Toompea Hill for stunning panoramas of the city.
14.00 Merchants, monocles and marzipan…
Stroll along nearby Pikk Street to see the medieval guild houses once the centre of merchants’ and craftsmens’ political and social lives.
Look out for the sculpture of a monocled ‘peeping Tom’ on top of the Russian embassy, and marvel at the intricate creations of the historic Kalev Marzipan shop. Many guilds now house museums and concert halls – check out the Estonian History Museum, or the highly acclaimed Tallinn City Museum.
15.00 To Russia with love
For a taste of Tallinn’s soviet legacy, head outside the Old Town to the Kadriorg district, influenced by the high society of Russian Tsar and former Estonian president Peter the Great. Visit the baroque Kadriorg Palace, which houses Estonia’s largest collection of foreign art.
17.00 Go modern
Check out the Kumu Art Museum and you’ll see more than just pretty pictures – it’s a great way to gain a moving insight into Estonia’s troubled political past.
19.30 Dine on the divine
Treat your palate to an evening of fine dining while feasting your eyes on fabulous views of the Old Town at the stylish and funky Horisont Restaurant and Cigar Lounge, on the 30th floor of the five-star Swissotel.
21.30 Take to the tiles
Head into town for local beers, bands and buzz. Choose from traditional, such as the not-as-scary-as-it-sounds Hell Hunt and Kolumbus Kristomus, to the Irish-themed Pub with No Name, or trendy Stereo Lounge.
Wine buffs should head to the candlelight Gloria Veinikelder or the den-like Kolme Näoga Mees (man with three faces). Still energetic? Head to Bon Bon or Bonnie and Clyde to throw some shapes on the dancefloor.
Photos of Tallinn
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