While we were in Finland, Sam and I couldn’t resist the urge to take a trip to yet another new European country. Just a two hour ferry ride across the Baltic Sea, we could hear a medieval city calling our name, and so we took a little day trip over to…Tallinn, Estonia!
It was love at first sight.
Here are just a few of the things I enjoyed about this place:
A quirky mix of architecture
Tallinn’s architecture will keep your head turning. The Old Town’s fortifications are decidedly medieval, the churches are Gothic in style, there are trails of Baroque and Rococo, and splashes of Art Nouveau that leap out at you from the building’s facades.
On one side of the street you get a taste of history by looking at the crumbling stone walls and buildings that have been boarded up since they are no longer structurally sound, and on the other side you have graffiti and stencils which catapult the city to modern times. It’s a really interesting mix and it’s the kind of place where you can spend hours just walking around and admiring it all.
A medieval dining experience
Our first order of business after docking in the city was to find some lunch. While flipping through a brochure, a medieval inspired restaurant caught my attention, and so fuelled by our appetite we set off to find Olde Hansa in the maze that is Tallinn.
I knew I was going to like this place from the minute I spotted it in the distance – servers dressed in medieval clothes, ceramic mugs bigger than your face, musical performances using instruments from times long gone, and then the food!
The meals were hearty and came in generous portions. I ordered Neptune’s Feast (pictured below) and it was ah-mazing! My giant platter had fresh bread from the oven, quail eggs, hummus with caviar, and a variety of fish to sample. I liked it so much that I came back for dinner. (I’m quick to form habits.)
Cakes and chocolate shops galore
It would be fair to say that aside from doing a little bit of sightseeing, Sam and I spent the whole afternoon in Tallinn cafe hopping…but I mean, can you blame me when they serve hot chocolates that look like this? Plus it’s really difficult to resist several rounds of dessert when the window displays have cheesecakes and hand-crafted chocolate bonbons trying to lure you in.
Warm blankets to wrap yourself in
Tallinn was warm and sunny during the day, but since it’s located in Northern Europe, the evenings can be a bit cooler. What I liked about many of the cafes and restaurants in Tallinn is that they offer wool blankets that you can wrap around your shoulders. It was nice being able to enjoy the patios a bit longer even after the sun had started to set. Add a frothy latte or a nice liquor to warm your insides, and you are set.
The buzz of the place
Oh, Tallinn is lively!
There were outdoor performances, young people starting their own impromptu dance parties in the middle of the cobbled streets, brides-to-be in nautical getups enjoying their girls getaway by getting men to hand over their phone number. There was loud laughter and random singing, merry men walking down the street and friends drinking beers on rooftops.
And of course, there was a trail of empty champagne bottles from the previous night’s festivities. What can I say, Tallinn is young, fresh, and looking to have some fun.
How to get there:
If you are in Helsinki, planning a day trip to Tallinn (or perhaps a longer visit!) is very easy, plus the 2 hour journey from port to port goes by very quickly.
We travelled with Tallink Silja Line which has a very flexible and convenient schedule. The ferry line offers 7 daily departures from each port (or 14 total), which means you can get into the city really early in the day and then take the ferry back late in the evening.
There is no assigned seating in the Star Class which means you can sit on the deck if it’s a sunny day, hang out at one of the many bars and restaurants, do a little shopping, or even play the slot machines (which appeared to be a very popular pass time). There is even the option of booking a private cabin if you really need some rest.
We travelled in the Star Class on the way over, and then returned late in the evening in the Comfort Class (pictured above). The nice thing about the Comfort Class is that you can go into a separate lounge, watch some television, and munch on some snacks which are included in the ticket price.
There was a lot of seating space so it was nice to stretch out on the long couches and take a little nap after a long day of walking around the city. If you are going to be returning late in the day, it’s worth the small splurge to travel in Comfort Class.
The journey is quite affordable with one way prices starting at 19 Euros (if you book in advance) – not bad for a visit to a different country!