I had no idea what to expect from Estonia. At first it was just a stop on the way to St. Petersburg, Russia, but it turned out to be one of my favorite experiences! As I stepped foot on the cobblestone walkways and through the city wall, I felt transported to the middle ages. Tallinn allowed my imagination to stir and dream up a what a lifetime many years before ours would be like.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia that sits on the Baltic sea. A beautiful tucked away gem in Europe, Old Town Tallinn is fortified, stony, and enchanting in every sense of the word. It’s a relatively small town that is good for exploring on a day trip, but you could just as easily spend more time here and still enjoy it! I was only here on a cruise ship stop, but the city won my heart. Here are the things I recommended to see and do in Tallinn:
Eat and Drink at Raekoja Plats (Town Square)
This was our first stop after we disembarked our Baltic cruise ship and made our way through the stoned walls and streets of the city. We were tired and low on fuel, so this was the perfect first stop to grab a bite to eat and quick pint of beer to restore our spirits! The Tallinn Town Hall is in this square and it is the oldest town hall in the Baltics and Scandinavia dating back to 1322. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops to explore and in the summer time there is even markets and festivals! Old Town Tallinn is actually a UNESCO world heritage site, and although it is a little touristy – it’s worth it to see such a well preserved medieval town!
Toompea Hill and Castle
After eating, enjoy a nice uphill walk to the Toompea Hill and Castle. It is a bit steep, but once you reach the top you will be able to take in spectacular views over Tallinn – worth it! Many of the buildings in Toompea date back to the 18th century, so it is exhilarating to look out and imagine the history these buildings and homes have endured.
St. Alexander Cathedral
St. Alexander Cathedral gave us a little tease before seeing the beautiful Russian cathedrals and architecture. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built in Tallinn, Old Town in typical Russian Revival style. It has gorgeous black domes, colorful mosaics, and a detailed interior as well.
This 14th century tower transports you right back to medieval times!To get there you have to climb a series of dark, narrow steps (a mini adventure, if you will) and along the way you are greeted by street performers dressed in 13th century outfits. You can sit along the tower wall, and sip on coffee or hot wine, and/or you can enjoy the museum inside. We loved looking out over the wall and learning about the mulled wine they make there.
This is a fun and more modern place to stop for food and beer! They brew their own beer here, and offer flight samples and ridiculously large mugs of beer. The interior is decorated in the style of that of a German or Austrian beer house, with long wooden tables and private bavarian styled rooms.
Although this is last on my list, it was definitely the highlight of my day in Tallinn! I know I’ve been going on about feeling medieval but this spot takes the cake. We stumbled upon this tavern walking through the town square. Draakon is a old-styled medieval themed pub in a dark cellar. When you enter, the first thing you notice is how dark it is. Staying true to the medieval theme, the bar is lit only by old lanterns and candles. The servers are dressed in traditional 13th century clothing, and the cups and bowls are made out of clay. We tried Elk Soup, which was definitely a first… but let me say it was DELICIOUS. You can aslo nibble on some elk jerky, and although this bar is aimed at tourists – it is reasonably priced!
If you do happen to make your way to Tallinn, Estonia – whether as a day stop or a full trip, don’t forget to let your imagination lead the way! The best way to get into the spirit of the town is to appreciate the history and how well preserved the Old Town is. I personally love to envision how my life would be if I was born in another place and time, this is one of the most magical parts of exploring Europe.