Discover the top 5 must-see attractions in Tallinn... a city which has a very special place in our life since here is where the story of TrovenTrip started!
Founding members Paul and Sneha took the trip with some friends in early March 2020 while working in Finland. And with plans to spend the following couple of months working and travelling around the Nordic region, we made plans to write lots of blogs about our upcoming adventures!
As we boarded the ferry to Tallinn full of excitement for the weekend ahead, little did we know that this would actually be our last trip abroad for over a year… less than two weeks later we’d be back in the UK, in lockdown, and staying at home and social distancing would become the new norm!
Ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn
The trip doesn’t get off to the best start either… it almost doesn’t happen at all, when after a day of sight-seeing in Helsinki, we’re sat waiting for the ferry at the wrong harbour and only make it in time for the ferry with the help of a speedy taxi driver!
It soon becomes clear why the ferry isn’t leaving from the small harbour at Helsinki Market Square as we enter the port terminal though… think more international airport rather than harbour jetty. And as we make our way aboard, we’re all amazed by the size of the ship, which only adds to our excitement!
We wave goodbye to Helsinki as we leave port and stay out on the deck for as long as we can before the cold gets too much and forces us inside to explore what else the ferry has to offer (lots of shops and bars). It was our first time on the big ferry and hence we were super thrilled to explore all possible corridors and relate every aspect to the ‘Titanic’ movie! ?
When we reach Tallinn we disembark, and after walking through the coronavirus thermal image screening area, we get a taxi and head to our hotel. Check-in is quick and we venture off to find a restaurant at almost 11pm on Saturday night… and we really struggle to find somewhere open!
After trying what feels like every closed restaurant in the city by following Google, we give up on technology and follow our senses instead… and within a few minutes we see lights and more and more people around, and alas we find a street packed with pubs and restaurants full of revellers enjoying their Saturday night out!
We end up in Tabac, a bar / restaurant still serving food, and we’re ushered through the crowded bar to a quiet spot at the back… perfect! Even in the super tired state, we still have the zeal to try the most exotic local dish on the menu as always! And this times pick is the local dish Eel with some sea bass and other dishes to share. The food is ok, but the local beer which washes it down is very nice! If we weren’t all so tired after our day sight-seeing in Helsinki and an early start planned tomorrow, I’m sure many more beers would have followed!
Vanalinn and Toompea Castle
We get up early, have a heavy breakfast and as we wait for our friends, we start locating the places on the map and read about the fort towers, the medieval defensive walls of this UNESCO World Heritage Site which makes us all the more thrilled to explore the historic beauty of the place! We start by retracing our steps from last night to Vanalinn (the Old Town), the historic centre.
The Old Town of Estonia is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, and one of the sights we walked past last night (and didn’t appreciate while in the search of food) was Pikk Hermann… the medieval tower on top of Toompea Castle. The tower was originally built in 1371 and there’s been a stronghold here on Toompea Hill since the 9th Century, with the old Castle walls now housing the Estonian Parliament buildings.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
As we walk past Pikk Harmann and turn left to enter Vanalinn and Lossi plats, the 18th century Baroque parliament building comes into view. But to be honest, it’s a little overshadowed by the imposing Alexander Nevsky Cathedral towering over it on the opposite side of the square.
The Cathedral is clearly from a time when Tallinn and Estonia were under Russian rule… the 19th century architecture wouldn’t look out of place next to the Kremlin!
It is really impressive from the outside, but unfortunately with it being Sunday morning we can’t go inside for a look around.
After mooching around the Cathedral, Lossi plats and the Toompea Castle gardens for a while, we follow the small cobbled street to the next cathedral we can see towering in the distance.
Toomkirik Cathedral may not look quite as impressive than the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral does, but it does have more history being the oldest Cathedral in the city, dating back to the 13th Century. The door here is also cracked open a little, and although it’s a lovely and bright sunny morning, it’s still the Baltics in late Winter and we’re all getting pretty cold by now!
We step inside for some respite but are quickly met by someone who apologies and says there is a service going on, so we’re tossed out back into the cold!
Our saviour comes in a different form as we make our way around the side of the Cathedral to Kiriku plats though… a market stall selling hot mulled wine! I’m not sure if it has any alcohol in but the hot wine does the job of warming us up… and even if it was alcoholic and it still being early Sunday morning, we’re on our holidays right?! ?
As we sip the wine to warm up, we wander around the entirety of the Cathedral and reach Piiskopi viewing platform, which as the name suggests, offers great views out over the more modern areas of the city. Oh yeah and we almost forgot to mention about the seagull who stood brave among all tourists to have its selfie taken! ?
A small souvenir shop on the edge of the square also offers some shelter from the cold for a while as we browse the huge range of gifts and trinkets on show, with Sneha thanking the shop keeper by buying some traditional Matryoshka Dolls.
Kiek in de Kök Museum and Bastion Tunnels
Once we’re fully warmed up and all gifts bought, we head back in the direction of Toompea Castle to Tallitorn Tower, the City Walls, and the Kiek in de Kök Museum and Bastion Tunnels hidden beyond.
Tallitorn Tower is one of three towers standing in this section of the City Walls, all of which are accessible with tickets to the museum along with the Bastion Tunnels and Carved Stone Museum. And it sure looked pretty spooky with some dementors of the guard!
TrovenTripper Tip: we found buying tickets online on Expedia was cheaper than they were for sale at the box office, and we were able to get immediate access to the museum (after having to go outside of the stone castle walls to get phone signal!)
Both the towers and tunnels were interesting to explore… the towers offering some great views over the Old Town, with the walkways in-between and the underground tunnels providing information on the history of the city with some interactive video displays. We wondered if the tunnels were actually a hiding place at the time of war as it had almost everything that is required in a hidden away refuge camp! Well worth the entry fee!
Raekoja plats and Tallinna raekoda
Leaving Toompea Hill we walk downhill past St. Nicholas’ Church on our way to Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square).
Standing pride of place in the centre of the square and dominating the view is the impressive Tallinna raekoda (Tallinn Town Hall), which is another ancient building being over 600 years old!
The other buildings around the edge of the square housing restaurants and shops are almost as ancient and pretty too. Opposite to the town hall, there stood Raeapteek – the oldest pharmacy dated from 15th Century and is still operational. Again, as it was a Sunday, it was closed but would be worth a visit I guess when you plan your trip.
By now we’re all starting to feel a little tired and hungry, and with not much time left before we need to get the ferry back to Helsinki, we start a slow walk in the direction of the port and do the last of our sight-seeing on the way.
We pass by St. Olaf’s Church and the Estonian Maritime Museum, before we stumble across a doorway cut into the ground. What’s that I ask Sneha… and we go over to have a look. Going inside we’re met with some pretty cool things in the doorway, and although I first think it’s a bar, it turns out the be Bunker Gallery, a cold war and WWII museum housed in an old bomb shelter. Unfortunately we don’t have enough time to go inside and have a proper look around though, but it looks like it would be a good memorabilia place.
We again struggle to find somewhere to eat and make it all the way back to the port, so make do with a Burger King on the ferry on the way back to Helsinki. The journey here last night was in complete darkness but with the earlier return time, we’re treated to a beautiful sunset as we stand out on the deck and enjoy the fresh (i.e. freezing!) sea breeze.
A great way to end a short but very enjoyable trip to Tallinn!
- Walk through Tallinn Old Town and enjoy the jumbled 14th & 15th century architectures with needling spires, medieval limestone walls and twisting cobblestone streets
- Enjoy the sunset from the Ferry