Tallinn feels like so long ago already, and I was still there this time last week! Time did that flying thing. What better way to relive it than through a ridiculously long blog post though, right? There’s something v v exciting about visiting a new part of the world, and having never been to a Baltic country before, safe to say I was v v excited for this trip with Visit Tallinn. I wasn’t disappointed. 🙂
I actually ummed and ahhed for a while over what angle to take for this post, whether to make some kind of list, or favourite moments, or something along those lines. Wanted to do Tallinn justice, you know? Much umming and ahhing later I decided just to write it in a good ‘ol diary kinda way, with hopefully some informative aspects and a few subheadings thrown in there for good measure. I learnt lots so I’ll do my best!
Refueling at Leib Resto ja Aed
After an early start at Gatwick and dropping our knitwear-stuffed suitcases off at our hotel (more on that later) we headed to stop no.1 – Leib Resto. No.1 thing I learned? Estonians absolutely nail cosy! Outdoors might be on the nippy side – as in, not above zero the whole time we were there – but indoors is all kinds of toasty. I know Hygge is a Danish thing but you can really see (feel? sense?) it here too.
Much black bread was consumed. Black bread = good bread. Bread is such a ‘thing’ that this restaurant was actually called ‘Leib’, aka bread in Estonian. Can restaurants serve this before every meal at home please yeah? After the black bread and a very tasty perch meal (I guessed a port city would do good fishy dishes – I was not wrong) we actually turned down dessert because we’d be eating later, but were surprised with a mini dessert anyway. Couldn’t say no of course! A dessert of dried egg yolk with cherry cream and yoghurt sorbet. Yes dried egg yolk. Yes that sounds weird. Yes it tasted incredibly (if strangely) good. Can’t say I’ve had that combo before anyway!
Reval Denim Guild
Couldn’t have really picked something more perfect for my itinerary! Having already scoped out their Instagram page (which is hella pretty) I already knew the jeans especially would be right up my alley. So naturally after having a good nosy, chitchat about the brand, and textiles geek freakout over the linings and piping, I set about trying half the store on. Of course! Whilst the two tone ‘Visionary Pants’ are their signature piece, I think the superrrrr high waited skinnies (Rathaus Walking Pants if I remember correctly) are my faves. They were actually high-waisted on me!!! That never happens!!! Appreciate my enthusiasm please. You can’t see too well here in this pic but the main detail I liked was the zip up the back, which seems like such a good idea – who wants unnecessary layers and fabric adding inches at the front when you could have a neat tidy zip nipping in at the back? Need me a pair ASAP.
Old Town at Night
The entrance to Reval Denim Guild was tucked away near one of the busiest viewing platforms, which gives you a pretty-similar-but-just-a-bit-different view over Old Town Tallinn. Which is a pretty idyllic view, to say the least! Even if this tower lit up looks a bit other worldly. I’ll apologise now for photos being on the grainy side – with very few daylight hours to work with the ISO has to be cranked up, sob. I tried my best. 🙂
Dinner at Restaurant Tchaikovsky
OK so what an experience this was! To be perfectly honest I had no idea we’d be eating somewhere so fancy, as the itinerary had been tweaked a little and I hadn’t checked everything out. Cue Lily making a slight idiot of herself turning up to a beautiful restaurant in jeans and a jumper and a bad case of hat hair. Smooth! Attire aside I had a wonderful evening, and it really was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments to throw all the clichés at once. Needless to say the food was beyond tasty and we were treated amazingly. With live music from a trio in the corner, very grand chandeliers and what appeared to be many celebrations happening. According to a local Tchaikovsky is apparently very much a treat place, and I can see why! So yeah, if a luxurious foodie treat is on your plan for Tallinn, look no further.
(P.S. Russian cocktails are hella good cocktails)
Just to show you what jumpers, hat hair, and very good cocktails look like! Note the very happy Lily nonetheless.
St. Olav Hotel
Food and pretty city talk will resume shortly! Firstly I have to share our hotel. Never have I ever stayed in a medieval place before (I think). Never have I ever stayed in a medieval hotel with loads of old details and nooks and crannies but with A* wifi, underfloor heating and a shower so powerful it almost hurt (in a good way), that’s for sure. Now that is quite the combination. 😀 Location-wise the St. Olav Hotel quite literally couldn’t have been better, as one street away from the town square was far enough to not be noisy, but near enough to feel central and be able to nip back to the hotel for the loo during the day. I think the maze-like quirkiness of this hotel will show better in my vlog than in photos.
A morning explore with snow!!! (A little bit)
Tallinn in December felt mighty cold to me, even if this amount of snow and temperatures of around -4 are apparently pretty mild. Not gonna lie, I’d have loved to wake up to a white blanket, but was more than happy with this scattering on the cobbles.
Huge holes in these favourite handknit socks suddenly appeared after walking around for half an hour. RIP socks.
Tallinn most definitely wins at doors. And possibly pastel buildings, but that’s a tough call with Ljubljana. From my knowledge anyway!
Tour of Old Town Tallinn
Happy as I would have been to meander aimlessly around Tallinn, having a super chatty and friendly tour guide show me around all the best spots made it even better. I love that you can learn and talk about the more unusual things that way, as well as the history of the buildings and whatnot. Like the ice roads that form in winter between Tallinn and the islands, which sound like a death wish to me but cool (literally har har) nonetheless! Estonia has had such a complicated history that I won’t even attempt to relay a history lesson – the fact that the people just talk of ‘oh that time we were taken over by the Soviets or invaded by the Germans’ so casually speaks volumes in itself about the upbeat attitude.
But of course necessary stops at pretty buildings were made too. 🙂 Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, you’re rather an impressive one! Peeped inside the Russian Orthodox church and listened (cameras weren’t allowed) and admired from the outside too. It’s a pretty perfect example of how Estonia’s been influenced by cultures storming in from all over.
149 spiral stone steps later and this spot was one of my favourites! The view from St. Olav’s church viewing platform was pretty special, and entrance is one of the many things included with a TallinnCard in the city.
(Sidenote: easier to climb up steps than down when you can’t see where you’d fall)
Also learnt that Tallinn has its very own celebrity seagulls, don’t you know.
Yay for more Christmas markets! Can’t get enough of these this winter, can you tell? Tallinn’s main markets quite literally look like a picture postcard or a Christmas jigsaw scene. So. Damn. Cute. Just like Tallinn itself they’re pretty small scale, but lovely and authentic feeling. With lots of knitwear. I noticed the general theme that Estonia’s a good country to be for knitters! Was tempted to pick up a handmade item myself (whilst wearing my own handmade items, naturally) but I restrained myself since I probably won’t have *that* much use for an earflap hat in England lol.
Judging by the food on the Christmas markets and what I saw available around Tallinn, I’d say it’s probably not the top destination for vegans (meat is a pretty important part of the diet here!)
Glögi gets its very own subheading. Blueberry flavour is the best!
Lunch at F-Hoone
Once my walking tour was over I met the guys again for lunch at F-Hoone, a really casual/cool/funky restaurant with a totally different vibe to the day before. Still cosy, but in a different way. And goodness me I’ve learnt that I could eat dumplings every damn day. They come in either a 15 or 25 portion, and I’m glad I only went for 15 oh my. And that’s my appetite we’re talking about! Those things are damn rich.
I can see why it’s necessary to book a table for any time of day here at weekends – definitely felt like the hip and happening place to be where all the cool kids hang out. And eat nice cake.
I’ll say now whilst I remember that the waiters and waitresses in every restaurant were all super nice and friendly.
Telliskivi Creative City
Google Tallinn and photos of the Old Town are pretty much all you’ll see for a good few scrolls at least. But there’s a whole ‘nother side becoming popular too, both with young people living in Tallinn and tourists. Telliskivi Creative City is a difficult one to describe, so bear with! It’s basically an area of former railway buildings and industrial wasteland that’s been majorly revamped into a creative hub for startup businesses and artists. In a sentence. One of the most impressive parts was definitely the interactive green screen theatre, but I gotta say the shopping and food downstairs was A+ too!
I mentioned this rooftop experience on Instagram on the day, but feel it deserves another mention! Since we were shown around by Jaanus, the founder of Telliskivi Loomelinnak, we had sneaky access to places that aren’t open yet. As in, buildings that were left unfinished by the Soviets in the 80s and are just flights of concrete stairs in an empty building with no lights. Ever so slightly creepy and would make a good thriller movie opening scene, but not creepy at all once you’re on the roof and looking back over Old Town Tallinn from afar. Windy, yes. Creepy, no. One of the standout moments from the trip for sure!
Seaplane Harbour Museum
We rounded off our day of learning as much as humanly possible about Tallinn with a trip to the Seaplane Harbour museum on the… harbour. I learnt that ice yacht racing sounds bloody speedy and terrifying, and the big submarine on exhibit was built in Barrow in Furness, about an hour away from where I live in England. Small world.
Icebreaker at night
Just a quick nosy around the icebreaker ship before heading to the hotel to recharge! I’m pretty proud of the fact that I successfully managed to walk on the icy deck in Baltic winds without well… decking it.
Dinner at Restaurant Mekk
Urgh should not be writing this part whilst hungry. Foolish move. I kept to the fishy theme and enjoyed the crispy pike perch with a G&T on the side for good measure. One thing I noticed in every restaurant in Tallinn was how exceptionally friendly and just so nice all the waiters and waitresses were – way to go, people!
Christmas markets at night
Aka perfect time to play with long exposures on the walk home and turn alive and kicking humans into ghosts. Can’t decide whether I prefer the markets in daylight or nighttime!
Perfect morning lighting all day
Sunday had been left blank on the itinerary for us to explore by ourselves, and Piers and I had already planned to attack Tallinn with cameras and take as many cool shots as we could. As luck would have it the light was unbelievably beautiful that day, so I’ve restricted the number of pics here to a few favourites!
Never seen a midday shadow so long. High latitude = low sun = beaut light all day.
For a capital city Tallinn was pretty quiet (save for around the markets) so I felt really relaxed about just enjoying it.
Said enjoyment in my face! This spot behind the freedom memorial was particularly quiet, snowy, photogenic, and with views over new and old Tallinn. So I just stood there for a while on my own and stared around me contemplating life/looking like I was in a trance. I love it when places make you do that and lose track of passing minutes.
Portrait photos around Tallinn
You know me, I’ll happily volunteer as subject. 😛 Tallinn had way too many impressive backdrops to pass up the chance, so the very talented Piers took a few of me.
Coffee in an old train carriage
Piers and I fancied heading back to Telliskivi for another mooch around, and couldn’t pass up a coffee stop at Peatus as we walked past. What is it with the novelty factor of eating/drinking somewhere that wasn’t made for eating/drinking in huh?
Last morning of exploring the Old Town
Since the sun only shows its face properly around 9:30am in Estonia in December we didn’t have a great deal of daylight to enjoy on our final day, so set about finding the areas of the old town we hadn’t yet seen. Namely around the Viru gates area, but to be honest we just turned down whichever little alleyways looked interesting.
Looks like Hagrid stole my bobble hat. Damn hair.
Since the light was pretty dull and I’d already taken a bajillion photos of buildings, I spent the final hour or so taking daft selfies with as many coloured doors and walls I could find. Like any mature person. Tallinn in walls, doors and bad selfies here!
If you’ve made it to here you deserve a medal and celebratory Glogi. Fancying hopping on a plane to Tallinn yet? I think you are. 🙂
A humongous thank you once again to Visit Tallinn for having me and making this trip so much fun!
lily kate x
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This trip was kindly hosted by Visit Tallinn, but all words and opinions are 100% my own.
Paula Kinsella12th December 2016 at 1:56 pm
Great post..have always wondered about Tallinn and now I have a much clearer picture. Need to see when i can fit in a trip here! And good to know about the Tallinn card I would not have known about this!
Lily Kate France13th December 2016 at 7:33 pm
Thank you Paula! It’s not the most well known of European cities but definitely worth a trip.
City cards are such a good way to simplify things when you’re not in a place for very long, I’d highly recommend!
Mellissa Williams12th December 2016 at 2:25 pm
Tallin looks so beautiful, your photos really make me want to go now! Your dinner at Restaurant Tchaikovsky sounds fabulous and the cathedral is stunning
Lily Kate France13th December 2016 at 7:35 pm
It sure was beautiful! Dinner at Tchaikovsky was just something else. 😀
Max12th December 2016 at 3:41 pm
Yes! I want to go for sure! Wow! You have been travelling a lot this fall.
Lily Kate France13th December 2016 at 7:42 pm
Objective achieved then! I’ve been very lucky, just taking as many opportunities to travel as possible these days!
Bob12th December 2016 at 4:41 pm
I have heard a lot of good things about Tallinn. I love spending time just walking around and exploring and this looks like a good place to do that. I like the Tallinn Card idea I wish ore places did this.
Lily Kate France13th December 2016 at 7:43 pm
It deserves all the good things! Small cities like this are great to explore on foot. More cities are catching on to the city card idea I think, it works really well!
Lucy12th December 2016 at 4:45 pm
Looks like you’ve been on some amazing travels recently 🙂 Tallinn is gorgeous! Both yours and Piers’ photos are incredible and I love the wintry light. 25 dumplings sounds like quite a challenge! I know you said it’s not a good place for vegans but did you notice many veggie options at all? xxx
Lucy @ La Lingua | Life, Travel, Italy
Lily Kate France13th December 2016 at 7:46 pm
It’s definitely been a good few months travel wise! Thank you about the photos 😀 We did our best with the daylight hours and working with the low light!
Most places did have at least one veggie option (some had more, particularly in F-Hoone and the more young/funkier places) so it wouldn’t be too difficult to find something. Just compared to other cities with vegan/gluten free eateries on every corner, the options were more limited!
Martyn15th December 2016 at 9:09 pm
I would heartily recommend the Vegan restaurant V (Rataskaevu 12, http://www.veganrestoran.ee/), located just off the old town square, for vegans and vegetarians alike. I’ve eaten there many times despite not being a vegan but I still thoroughly enjoy my visits. They offer raw and gluten-free food also, along with great cakes and interesting smoothies. Book ahead as it can be rather popular.
tobijs Goluss12th December 2016 at 5:23 pm
Makes me want to travel eastern Europe. My grandparents are from Latvia, so only next door! Well done.
Lily Kate France13th December 2016 at 7:50 pm
I can’t say I’ve seen too much of Eastern Europe (only Budapest and Estonia in the Baltics) but I’ve loved it so far! Latvia looks great too 🙂
Laura12th December 2016 at 8:13 pm
Your photos are so beautiful! Tallinn looks great. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral looks SO awesome! And Christmas markets are always worth a visit Lovely post!
Lily Kate France13th December 2016 at 7:51 pm
Thank you so much Laura! My camera remained firmly in my gloved hands for the whole trip 😀
Christmas markets are so lovely, even just for the atmosphere!
Gerli Anderson18th December 2016 at 7:37 pm
Estonia is Northern Europe
Abhinav Singh13th December 2016 at 8:44 am
I didn’t even know about Tallinn until I stumbled upon this blog. Winters are my favourite time of traveling. Especially winters in my country India are romantic, pleasant and offer great food.
Lily Kate France13th December 2016 at 7:52 pm
I hope I painted a good picture of Tallinn for you then! I imagine winters in India are beautiful 🙂
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erx18th December 2016 at 3:03 pm
Nice pictures! It makes me feel fortunate to live here 🙂 I hope you enjoyed it and I wish you a wonderful forthcoming trips!
Turner22nd August 2017 at 4:09 am
Impressive photos. I have been to Tallinn several times but never experienced it during the winter. Looks magical.
lily kate3rd September 2017 at 6:20 pm
Thank you! It’s so beautiful in winter, I’d love to visit in summer too though.
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