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Find information on Tallinn in our Travel Guide covering sights, foods and nightlife plus more...
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a beautiful city with a well preserved medieval heart. It lies on the Gulf of Finland and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its long history portrays a city that has been constantly ruled by foreign states. Established by the Danes in the thirteenth century, it has been under German, Swedish and Russian political control until the break up of the Soviet Union, after which it gained independence. Tallinn’s medieval centre contrasts sharply with the thriving modern port, the luxury hotels, the smart shopping centres and the international restaurants. There is much to see in Tallinn as its narrow cobbled streets and squares hold many architectural treasures. Tallinn is the jewel in Estonia’s crown and should be included in any Balkans tour. It makes an ideal city break.
Tallinn is a superb example of a medieval township which is compact enough to explore on foot. Apart from the old town and the modern city you can enjoy a relaxing day on the beach at Pirita which is only six kilometres from the centre. While there, the botanical gardens are worth visiting.
Tallinn is popular as a city break and therefore attracts couples and groups of adults rather than families with children. Those with an interest in history or architecture will enjoy the abundance of churches, museums and public buildings. Groups of young adults are attracted by the availability of budget accommodation and a lively nightlife.
Tallinn summer season lasts from April until October when temperatures range from the low twenties to the low thirties. Located at a far northern latitude, Tallinn enjoys long days with no real darkness around the middle of June.
Tallinn is a fairly small capital city with a population of a little over four hundred thousand. Its wonderful old town richly deserves its world heritage status as its state of preservation is remarkable. It is divided into the Lower Town where the town hall and the Church of St. Olaf are located and the Upper Town with the Castle, two cathedrals and Hermann’s Tower. Until the late nineteenth century these two were separate towns. The upper town, Toompea, was where the aristocracy lived and is now the seat of the present government. Its fine dwellings house many embassies. Some of the most popular tourist attractions lie in the lower Old Town with its large square containing the town hall and the church of St. Olav whose spire dominates the skyline. Two miles east of the centre is a baroque palace used as a summer residence for Tsar Peter the Great, now a museum of modern art. Tallinn has many fine museums dedicated to art, history, photography and antique artefacts. There is also a dolls museum. Make use of the Tallinn City card which gives entry into the museums and full use of public transport. Other benefits include discounts in certain shops and restaurants. Visit the Rocca-al-Mare Open Air Museum where you will see traditional rural Estonian taverns, windmills and watermills.
Once you have explored the cultural centre of Tallinn, your can take a trip to the beach, only six kilometres from the city centre. The coastline is very pretty with many islands scattered along the shore. While here you can visit the botanical gardens which contain hundreds of herbs and spices.
Tallinn nightlife has something for everyone. There are delightful restaurants where you can enjoy a romantic meal for two, traditional cafes and bars where you can savour your drink in pleasant company, and lively bars and clubs where you can dance the night away. The choice is yours.
Tallinn shopping will satisfy even the most avaricious of shoppers as there is everything from large department stores to exclusive boutiques and from small craft shops to market stalls. Local craftsmen and artists can be seen producing their goods. Hand knitted goods, glassware, ceramics and leather goods are popular purchases. There are also a number of fascinating antique shops where religious icons feature prominently.
Estonia has had a difficult history where hardship and hunger were frequent visitors. Traditional food is reflected in this history where meat was in short supply and every bit of the beast was utilised. This explains why much of the meat is encased in jelly, why blood sausages and tongue are commonly eaten and why the cheapest vegetable, cabbage, appears on every plate. However fussy eaters need not worry as Tallinn’s modern restaurants serve a variety of international cuisine that satisfies most tastes.