City guide #3: Tallinn

Tallinn Old Town Square

My most ambitious city guide to date and also the one I’m most frightened about posting because I have a whole host of pals in Tallinn who might have something to say about my take on the city! Here’s hoping the feedback will be good.

Tallinn is an utter treat. The Old Town is arguably the cutest among the three Baltic capitals aided by the geographical advantage of both a hilly terrain and seaside.

Tallinn at night

We all like to make fun of slow Estonians but these days that’s more than a bit ironic considering factors like the country’s excellent WiFi coverage that lets you browse away wherever you may be in Tallinn for free.

To stay: Unfortunately I have no advice on this… I’m a lucky gal to have such accommodating friends living smack bang in the centre of the city. But no matter where I go, I always trust Hostelworld, and the local Couchsurfing community seems to be quite active.

To eat: Leib or Bread in English is a brilliant new restaurant in quite possibly the most serene courtyard in Tallinn. If you’re lucky enough to get seated outside (there are patio heaters for the chilly autumn months), you’ll get to smell the mouthwatering fumes from the open grill where your order is cooked to perfection right in front of your eyes. The trout was excellent as were the desserts like blueberry soup and crème brulèe. Service was oh so much better than the Baltic standard.

Boheem is the ultimate choice for brunch (and I’m a bit of a brunch snob). Its location just outside the centre makes it ever the more appealing as it’s tucked away from most tourist hotspots. Serving up delicious big portions of pancakes, wraps and other goodies, you’ll be full up fast without breaking the bank. The cafe seems to be a favourite among locals. Very pretty décor too.

Kehrwieder is the place to head to for a glorious afternoon tea. You’ll be well impressed with the selection of cakes, teas and coffees. The prices may be a bit steep but you get great service, good quality and seats in either the vaulted indoor area or quaint outdoor courtyard all centrally located on Town Hall Square.

F-Hoone Tallinn

F-hoone is stunning design-wise. Situated in an old warehouse, the architects have made sure to keep the best of the industrial features intact and highlight them with funky lighting and furniture. The food is unbelievably cheap for such a trendy place, and so tasty. The gazpacho was excellent as was the oven-baked camembert cheese with bread sticks and lingonberry jam. It seems like the place to be seen at this season.

To go out: Telliskivi Loomelinnak is a redeveloped old factory complex that now serves as the city’s artsy area. Hosting exhibitions, parties and shows, check out the website for what’s on when you’re in town. I got to experience ”Mutant Disko”, a party with live bands and DJs that gathered quite the crowd. Only downer was the drinks prices that came in at around 5 a pop.

Unusually for a Baltic capital, Tallinn has a buzzing gay nightlife and some of the most fun I’ve had in the city has been late night dancing at one of the numerous gay clubs. Cheesy pop and pole dancing make for an awesome night out and epic memories… Head to Kapp for a slightly more upmarket experience or G Spot for less glam but a more mixed crowd.

Hoov is quite a new addition to the city’s night scene. The name translates into courtyard and a courtyard it is. Located just off Town Hall Square, it’s a pleasant alternative to the Old Town’s many touristy Irish pubs and alike.

To do: Fankadelik vintage store is simply beautiful. Situated in a second floor flat, you have to ring the buzzer to be let in – how cute is that? You can instantly tell the pieces on sale have been selected extra carefully and no one item is an impulsive choice. If you browse for long enough, the owner will even offer you a cup of tea. Unlike many salespeople, they’ll let you try on the most expensive designer gear even though they know you won’t be buying it. Be warned, the clothes are exquisite and so tempting.

KUMU TallinnKumu Art Museum is a must for any visitor to the city, whether a fan of modern art or not. The architecture of the museum building itself is epic. Stay around for a little while after enjoying the exhibitions and have a coffee on the terrace cafe overlooking the leafy Kadrioru Park. If that doesn’t make you love Tallinn, I don’t know what will.

Pirita is a small town, essentially a suburb of Tallinn right on the seaside. It’s pretty for a walk and some fun in the sun and you can ogle at the stunning modern houses where the local rich reside.

The Rottermani area in town is trendy to say the least. A reconstructed old industrial and trade centre, it’s now been regenerated as a business and commercial zone with shops and hip cafes to while away the hours in. There’s also a funky Soviet Life Exhibition worth seeing that provides lots of legendary photo ops.

I’ve heard good things about the Museum of Estonian Architecture across the street from it too.

Patarei Prison, Tallinn

Spend an afternoon wandering along the Culture Kilometre down by the water. It starts next to the old concert hall Linnahall, which is worth a visit itself for the views across the bay. You’ll find the impressive Patarei Prison complex along the way that you can tour for a mere €2. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, the prison hasn’t been touched since its closure in 2002 and maintains a lot of its old Soviet attributes and daunting atmosphere.

(Much of the credit for this post has to go to my dear Estonian friends who’ve introduced me to some of the coolest places in town. You know who you are – cheers!)

– Miss Red


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