During our last Baltic cruise, we had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful city of Tallinn, Estonia. It wasn’t a port we knew much about prior to arrival, but we were delighted to explore all that we could in a day. In this tourist guide, we’ll give you a brief overview of what a typical day visitor might enjoy, just as we did.
Arriving by Cruise Ship
If you are arriving this way, you will be able to take a walk in to the Old Town without any difficulty. The walk it’s self is flat and well paved, so pushing buggies or wheelchairs is easy. It’s also very clearly signposted, so no need to pay for an escort or buy any maps. The walk it’s self took us around 10 minutes.
Old Town – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
As soon as you reach the entrance to the Old Town, you will feel as though you have stepped back in time. This part of the city has been so perfectly preserved, you can’t help but be transported to a time-gone-by. The cobbled streets are lined with higgledy piggledy houses and unusual shop fronts, and each twist and turn beckons you in further. As you might imagine, this was where we spent most of our day! It’s worth noting that some parts of the Old Town are not very wheelchair friendly, with cobbles and some quite substantial hills.
Town Hall Square
After a while, you will inevitably reach the centre of the Old Town – the Town Hall Square. This quaint little market place is laden with stalls selling all sorts of local handicrafts and clothing – ideal for picking up a few souvenirs (whilst doing your bit for the local economy, or course). Must-have souvenirs include clothing made from sheep’s wool and homewares made of natural wood. If the market is not there when you visit, there are still plenty of shops around the Old Town selling locally made crafts and gifts, so don’t be disheartened.
Cafes & Bistros
Lining the square are many cafes and bistros, and there is something to suit every budget and taste. Believe it or not, there is an Irish Pub amongst other things! But if you fancy putting your feet up with a coffee and cake, there are plenty of outdoor seating areas (sheltered from the elements and with blankets provided when weather requires it) allowing you to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a spot of people-watching. If you fancy something quieter, take a wander away from the main square and see where the locals are hanging out. We visited Maiasmokk – a fanciful bustling bistro, brimming with delicious little sandwiches, cakes and pastries. It always had a queue, but with additional seating upstairs, it was well worth the wait! You can read all about it on my TripAdvisor review.
Churches & Monuments
Tallinn is saturated in religious buildings and monuments, but one of the most iconic landmarks is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Sat atop Toompea Hill, this jaw-dropping cathedral is worth the walk. Take your time and pop in to one or two of the shops on the way – you’ll barely break into a sweat! Also at the top is Toompea Castle, a magnificent structure steeped in history and currently home to the Estonian Parliament. It’s so peaceful, it is easy to forget this is the capital city of a European country! As you continue to explore the area, you will find other smaller churches, such as St Olav’s Church, which features a 405-foot bell tower which is now also used as a viewing platform. Joe did brave this busy, narrow staircase up to the tiny walkway to take pictures in the rain, but I opted to explore the heart of the church below. There is a small fee to visit St. Olav’s Church, however it’s a couple of Euros well spent, and it all goes towards the upkeep of this historic gem. Other notable churches include St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral and The Church Of The Holy Spirit.
Despite the vast number of religious structures, there is a lot more to be seen of Tallinn’s creative and devoted residents of yore. Since medieval times, many of the houses would have been home to wealthy merchants from all across Europe, and this is reflected in every detail. As you look around, the strangest things will catch your eye (if you don’t catch their’s first)… There are faces on many of the walls, some pretty, others terrifying! That being said, to take the time to decorate your house in this elaborate way must have meant you loved living here, and you can certainly feel it’s a place of magic, whimsy and charm.
You may have deduced by now, a lot of this city is steeped in layers of history, but if you step outside of the Old Town, there are a lot of modern marvels too. Although we did not have time to explore these on this whirlwind day visit, rest assured we will be back to explore Telliskivi Creative City (the modern cultural hub of the city, bursting with vibrancy) and the Tallinn Bay area of the Kalamaja district (a former fishing village lined with well-preserved wooden houses).
Have you visited this Baltic Gem? What surprised you? Let us know in the comments!