Tallinn is an underrated city that may not be on everyone’s travel radar. Perhaps the capital of Estonia is less well-known when compared to its European counterparts. But I am very sure that will change soon enough. If Nokia was what propelled Finland onto the world stage, then Skype is the catalyst for Estonia. Together with Latvia and Lithuania, the Baltic nations are rapidly being recognized as countries with high-tech innovations. Tallinn is conveniently linked to Helsinki via a frequent ferry network. So I hopped on to one and chillaxed throughout the seamless 2.5 hours’ ride across the Gulf of Finland.
I head straight towards the medieval old town upon arrival. Some of the old town’s distinctive towers can be seen from the harbourside too.
Tallinn Old Town
There are distinctive differences between the two capital cities. Helsinki has a more modern appearance while Tallinn appeals with an old-world charm. So I find myself wandering around a medieval town surrounded by stone walls and towers. It did not take me long to locate Meriton Old Town Garden Hotel along one of the cobblestone paths.
There is this Sisehoov Courtyard nearby where interesting art pieces are being displayed.
The Holy Spirit Church (Puhavaimu Kirik) near to Town Hall Square has this large goldish clock. The nicely decorated interior is worth a visit too.
Town Hall Square
Tallinn Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats) is a lively place packed with cafes and restaurants. It is very well preserved despite its turbulent history. Tallinn was once fiercely contested and had fallen into the hands of foreign ruling powers like the Danes, Swedes, Russians, and Nazis. But once Estonia regained its independence after the collapse of Soviets, they picked themselves up rather than dwelling on the past. It’s impressive how the Estonians had turned these odds around. Unlike some peers who are still stuck in the post-Soviet era.
Presiding over the square is the Town Hall building with the unique dragon drain pipes.
I paid a small entrance fee and climbed the narrow staircase to the top of Town Hall’s gothic Tower. The panoramic view is great indeed! That makes the climb on the uneven steps worthwhile.
The square plays host to a market when I was back here next morning. There were stalls selling traditional Estonian stuff and souvenirs. It’s a pleasant atmosphere and the stall owners are one friendly bunch!
One of the many shops that sell Amber souvenirs. Which technically, not a local product since the yellow stones are mostly found in Latvia and Lithuania. I must admit it’s really nice to look at but I did not buy any.
Toompea, Alexander Nevsky and Dome Church
Toompea Hill is a limestone hill that has always been synonymous with power. It’s also known as ‘Upper Old Town’ where the ruling powers used as a stronghold in Toompea Castle. The Castle holds its importance to date where it houses the Parliament of Estonia and Government offices.
Right across from Toompea Castle is the distinctive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Aleksander Nevski) in typical Russian Orthodox style. The impressive onion-domed Cathedral was built to assert Russian cultural influence. Hence, it’s often seen as a symbol of oppression and disliked by the locals. I am not sure how much of that sentiment still remains in the Estonians’ mind.
Nevertheless, the Cathedral is really stunning. The interior is nicely decorated with mosaics but it’s a pity that photo taking is not allowed inside.
Around the center of Toompea is where the oldest medieval church in Estonia is situated. Church of St Mary’s or more commonly known as the Dome Church (Toomkirik). The interior is filled with many interesting-looking Coats of Arms belonging to the nobles.
Another main square at the Southern part of the Old Town is Freedom Square (Vabaduse Valjak). It’s a stark contrast to Town Hall Square with its modern look. The centerpiece here is the towering War of Independence Victory Column.
Defensive Walls of Tallinn
The medieval walls and towers were built as part of the city’s defense system. Many of which are still standing today and some can be visited and climb up inside.
Von Krahli Aed and Café Maiasmokk
Von Krahli Aed was highly recommended by the hotel staff and so I heed her advice. And she’s damn right about it! The food I had were tasty and of high quality. The restaurant’s interior décor is nice too.
I stumbled upon Café Maiasmokk which literally means ‘Sweet Tooth’. Ok, I am not exactly a fan of dessert but I was attracted by its traditional kind of interior. So, I ended up with some cakes and to soak up the nostalgic atmosphere. Only got to know later on that Café Maiasmokk is, in fact, the oldest operating café in Estonia!
STAY: Meriton Old Town Garden Hotell
Meriton Old Town Garden Hotel is situated in the middle of the Old Town which is excellent. It’s a good base being just a short walk from Town Hall Square. The room was clean and comfortable but I think the room size was too smallish. I will probably try staying in another hotel if I am back in Tallinn.