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Tallinn Old City – One of the Most Beautiful Cities in the World!

Author: arzu altinay
Date of Trip: April 2017

Day 1: Tallinn amazed us incredibly with its historical charm! It was a three day visit to the capital of Estonia which is the shining star of Northern Europe. Weather was still cold with lots of wind but we had the sun every day.

The small restaurants around the main town square were getting ready for the season which would be April to October. They put sun terraces for visitors to enjoy and relax at the end of a touring day.

This small Baltic city has the Medieval Old Town at its heart: an area of cobblestone streets, gabled houses, churches and squares all in one compact space.

Tallinn boomed as a key Hanseatic commercial hub from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Old Town has long been the main draw for newcomers – in fact it’s so unique that UNESCO added it to its World Heritage List in 1997. Tallinn was the capital of culture in 2011.

Other regions of the city reflect different ages, from the romantic, Tsarist-era Kadriorg Park to the unforgettable, early 20th-century wooden house district of Kalamaja. A modern shopping and business district in the city centre completes the tableau, making Tallinn an amazing blend of old and new.

Ever since the days of Viking traders Tallinn has been a meeting point for various cultures and nations, so visitors coming from any direction are bound to find something familiar, and something exotic, when they explore the city.

Estonia’s various rulers – Danish, Livonian, German, Swedish and Russian – have each left their mark on Tallinn’s landscape, and their influence can be found reflected in the city’s architecture, art and even its restaurant cuisine.

Our first day we walked around the Old Town on our own and ended up at the Peppersack restaurant which had a very Medieval decor with wooden tables, high chairs and even the waiters dressed accordingly! We enjoyed good, dark Estonian beer with the local black bread made of rye and molasses.

At 8 pm every night, they also do a sword fight which was a pleasant surprise!

Tallinn was easy to reach; we were on a Turkish Air flight and the journey took 3 hours from Istanbul. Once we arrived, finding a taxi was very easy and getting into town was a snap. It cost only 8 Euros in a comfortable and modern vehicle.

Lennart Meri International Airport is only 4 km from the city centre, putting it just ten minutes away from the downtown hotels.

Thanks to its small size and compact layout, Tallinn is easy to explore on foot, eliminating the headaches of bus transfers and taxi rides.

Day 2:

We found that walking around Tallinn is a joy. Now that we covered the Old Town on our own ,we wanted to discover some of the other neighbourhoods around in our second day.

Tallinn has a great seaside walk from the Old Town until Kalamaja… it’s called the Culture Kilometre although it’s a bit longer around 2 km.

It’s a special walk with plenty of historical and industrial vibes from different eras along the seaside. It gave us a completely different perspective away from the old town’s touristy atmosphere. Although most of it has changed after 2011 when Amazing Tallinn was the Culture Capital of Europe, the Culture Kilometre is still worth the time to walk and discover. Today only a small part of the original walkway exists as the seaside area is undergoing major redevelopment.

The official starting point of Tallinn Culture Kilometre is located by Linnahall car park right at the harbour. It’s only a 5 minute walk down from the Old Town in front of the Tallinnk Spa Hotel.

Keep going until you reach the Patarei Prison and Sea Fortress on the right. This imposing seaside complex is a good place to peek into the Soviet era prison life in all its misery, although now they do not let people in anymore.

Patarei Prison Culture Kilometre walk Tallinn
Originally opened as a sea fortress in 1840, later functioning as Russian army barracks, and from 1920 onwards as a high security prison under several regimes until 2004, the place has been left practically untouched since.

If you are into cinema and enjoy movies of Tarkovsky, it’s good to note that he shot some of the scenes from Stalker around these sites.

At Sea Plane Harbour (Lennusadam), the exhibitions in the historical seaplane hangars are exciting to see and the outdoor exhibition area with all the wind in your hair, accommodates icebreakers, ships and canons. You can still see the Tallinn ice breaker ship. The museum has a good a café with maritime books.

Lennusadam Tallinn Culture Kilometre walk
Once we saw the Kalamaja Cemetery Park (Kalmistupark), on our left we were ready for a break. This park is a former cemetery and today a large public park with children and families having fun and enjoying the sun.

Day 3:

We used Segways to discover a very charming neighbourhood named Kalamaja. It was my first time and was worried a bit at the beginning although I have to admit it is absolutely very easy to ride.

Tallinn Kalamaja wooden houses

Leaving the seaside, we rode our Segways into Kalamaja neighbourhood, famous with its wooden houses and bohemian charm. ‘Kalamaja’ literally means ‘fish house’ in Estonian, and starting from the 14th century the area was traditionally dominated by fishermen, fishmongers and boat wrights.

The wooden houses built to accommodate these workers became Kalamaja’s architectural legacy and are now what gives neighbourhood its unforgettable charm.

Recently the area has taken on a bohemian atmosphere, becoming the residence of choice for young, creative types. Clever use of space and dedicated use of local produce makes the local restaurant-cafés an integral part of the Kalamaja atmosphere.

A good way to experience Kalamaja is to visit the Telliskivi which is a collection of factory buildings that slowly transformed into a popular hangout for those who enjoy off-beat restaurants, art expos, craft beer, antiques shopping, alternative theatre and clubbing.

It is Estonia’s biggest creative economic enterprise centre, bringing together a diverse range of activities and businesses. For example, there is a 160-seat eatery, a childcare centre, a printing shop, a furniture shop, a theatre and an antique books store. Dance evenings are held on Tuesday evenings, Saturdays bring a flea market.

More than anything, the hub is a bohemian place for relaxation and business that encourages people with similar interests to get together.

We had a coffee-break in Telliskivi at the famous F-Hoone before we ended our tour at the Old City.

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