A two hours ferry ride across the Baltic sea from Helsinki to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a must if you are in Finland.
Tallinn is another classic, medieval town, where time has stood still. It may not be as vibrant as Bruges or Hallstatt but is equally photogenic with its walled, cobble-stoned Old Town, a 15th-century defensive tower, ancient churches, medieval streetscapes, well preserved merchants’ gild houses, a market square and a town hall; Tallinn has an allure of its own.
A former USSR constituent, Estonia has seen so many ups and downs in its history. There is so much to say about this city – from being an important trading post on the Baltic for centuries and thriving merchants with their huge Hellenistic houses to medieval tales of executioners walking the streets, Tallinn has been a playground of the Danish, Swedish, Polish, German and Soviet.
A brisk 10-15 minutes’ walk from the port or a five-minute bus ride through modern Tallinn drops you right in front of the old town that you can identify by two ancient towers at the entrance. The old town is small and pretty with cobblestoned streets that you can easily walk through visiting most of the historic buildings and places that have frozen in time.
As you walk straight ahead past McDonald’s (yes, its everywhere!), a deviation into a right side lane takes you along the walls of the 15th Century fort and its tower and then on to beautiful 13th Century St. Nikolas Church and St. Olav’s church. Don’t miss the majestic looking building nearby that used to be the old KGB headquarters. You will soon end up at the lively massive open square, where the Town Hall and the merchants’ guild houses are. Draw up a chair from one of the alfresco cafes and take in the lively scene at the square – a great place for people-watch.
While you are still at the square, do not miss the III Draakon (3 Dragons) pub and restaurant within the Town Hall building. This mediaeval restaurant is dim-lit with candles/lanterns and offers a traditional Nordic menu of elk soup that you drink straight off (no spoons), grilled game sausages, ribs and meat pies. Beer and wine are served in large clay jugs! The staff clad in traditional Estonian attire complete the classic picture. If you want to go back in time and experience an authentic Medieval milieu, a visit to 3 dragons is a must.
Up on the small hill is the Toompea Castle that has always been the seat of power in Estonia for centuries, offering a bird’s eye view of the town and some beautiful Nordic landscape.
Tallinn is pretty, peaceful and photogenic that takes you back in time.