When you start planning for a trip Tallinn might not be the first city that comes to your mind as a travel destination. However, this city can offer a lot that makes it attractive for a short visit. Old town from the Middle Ages, industrial settlement and its ‘hipster’ street, houses decorated with wooden ornaments built around the park and the Soviet era concrete block of flats make a city of Tallinn, with a population of around 426,000, interesting and divergent.
Seasons in Tallinn also differ: very harsh, snowy winter when a temperature reaches -30 degrees and blooming, green summer when you can enjoy picnic with your friends on the beach full of dunes.
The old town of Tallinn is full of narrow, cobblestone streets and houses covered with red roof tiles. Their facades keep old relief and frescoes in a neat and orderly manner. It seems that they have carried out conservation works in a way that differentiating old from new is quite an easy task.
There is a square in the centre of the old town that reminds a lot of tourists of Prague. Unlike the capital cities of other Baltic states, Tallinn is richer in hills, thus there are more viewpoints that look down the city. The best time to visit Tallinn is winter when the whole city plunges into snow and its residents start preparing for Christmas. The streets are decorated with Christmas trees and shiny lights, they set Christmas markets and the city turns into a scene of a Christmas movie. You can warm up with the cinnamon flavored hot drinks and walk around the city in half an hour.
Regarding the industrial part of the city, it is better to visit during other time. On a sunny weather the residents of Tallinn come out in the street to expose their blonde figures to the sun. Some people ride bikes, whereas others skateboard in the sub-district of ‘Kalamaja’. This place is regarded to be resided mostly by artists and designers. There you can also find a Telliskivi street which ten years ago was ‘adopted’ by artists and as usual in other countries, it started to attract the attention of both small and large businesses.
At first, only a small circle of friends started to gather around the abandoned factory to listen to music and ride their skateboards. It was followed by opening of a café called ‘F-Hoone’ which up until now has been regarded to be one of the best places for meeting up. Soon after, around the area of Telliskivi, thousands of new studios, shops, clubs and cafes popped up like mushrooms. Most of the street art is also likely to be spotted around this area. They organize arts festivals, startup conferences, hackathons and live gigs. If you enjoy listening to electronic music you should look for ‘underground’ clubs in ‘Kalamaja’ too.
‘Kalamaja’ is situated on one side of the old town being opposite to the district that is something completely different. Kadriorg Park is the biggest park in Tallinn where picnics and strolls are very much admired. The park is bordering old, wooden houses decorated with Estonian style ornaments. You can enjoy coffee and pastry in tiny cafes and vegan places.
If you follow the park and the weather is also nice you will end up on the shores of the Baltic Sea! A few kilometers from the Kadriorg Park, at the edge of a small forest, there is a ‘Pirita’ beach. Despite water being quite cold and mossy getting suntanned there, after the gloomy winter, is a thing to do. There are other beaches apart from ‘Pirita’ but they are much wilder. One more sight that needs to be mentioned is a port of Tallinn which greets the ships, packed with Finns craving for alcohol, on Friday and says farewell to them on Sunday.
As in every post-Soviet cities, in Tallinn’s boroughs of ‘Mustamäe’ and ‘Lasnamäe’ you can see a lot of concrete, tall blocks of flat that are mostly resided with Estonian Russians, low-budget Estonians and students. However, it also needs to be mentioned that Soviet aesthetics is quite attractive and interesting for students from Western Europe, Asia and Africa. It is very likely that you spot a foreigner carrying a photo camera who, with a pride being an utmost astonishment for me, snaps these moody buildings.
Despite the diversity of the city it is quite compact and you can find almost everything on a walking distance. You can even take a walk to the city centre from the airport and visit various lakes on the way. The best period to visit Tallinn is Christmas time, late spring/summer and early fall because you can enjoy a wonderful, snowy city as well as colorful streets; sometimes, if you are lucky, you can even spot northern lights too.
Author: Masho Margishvili