Highlights of Tallinn

Tallinn Old Town

Post written by Laura

Throwback Thursday 

Date visited: July 2006

This post covers part 2 of a mini Baltic backpacking trip with an itinerary consisting of 3 capital cities:

  • Riga (Latvia)
  • Tallinn (Estonia)
  • Helsinki (Finland)

I’m continuing with the bus journey as we travelled from Riga, through the Estonian countryside and towards Tallinn. Estonia, like Latvia was also very green although there seemed to be more green open spaces and less trees and forests.

The weather was warm and sunny again and I was in high spirits looking forward to more outdoor cafes and bars in little cobbled squares similar to those I had enjoyed so much in historic Riga.

The bus was only about a third full.The music being played on the bus was questionable… with the exception of one Kylie Minogue track I didn’t recognise any of the other lively Estonian pop music blaring out.

I consumed ‘breakfast’ on the bus which consisted of a packet of crisps, a cake bar and a packet of Fruitellas. This wasn’t exactly healthy but it wasn’t easy to find much in a tiny shop near the hostel last night which fitted my criteria of nothing that needed chilling, cooking, opening with a tin opener, messy or needed any preparation!

Tallinn seemed to appear quite suddenly and at first it seemed like any big city as we drove through on the bus. The bus dropped my companion and I off at the main bus station at about 11.15 am from where we took a taxi to the hostel which was only 5 minutes away.  

City Guest House in Tallinn

The hostel, or actually City Guesthouse as it was called was located on the 4th floor of a large town house building. I thought that most of the hostels and guesthouses I had stayed are often quite unique and can sometimes be a bit quirky and totally unlike the standard Holiday Inn type rooms I stay in for example for work. This makes them much more exciting and memorable as you never know quite what you are going to get.  

On this occasion, up on the 4th floor, the room with its wooden floor and minimal decor seemed huge and airy with all of the windows open and thin curtains gently billowing in the small amount of breeze. I left them open while we set off to explore Tallinn…

As we made our way for the short distance towards the Old Town I felt the familiar buzz of excitement and anticipation bubbling inside. The weather was perfect, probably about 26 degrees which was just right and after a few minutes of walking we soon came to the old town square.

I couldn’t believe how picturesque it was – just like stepping into a fairy tale! 

Within a few minutes we were climbing the steep and narrow steps up to the top of the church tower at the old town. The views were fantastic, you could see right across the old town with the spires and rooftops and to the dark blue sea in the distance. 

We had been given a map by the hostel receptionist so we spent the next couple of hours walking round the old town locating each of the 16 recommended sights. During this time we had a glass of Chardonay in a gorgeous outside bar just off the old town square, then a bit later went inside what we thought was a chocolate shop that was in fact a bakery selling lovely cakes.

This diversion resulted in a delicious cake covered in cream and with chocolate and meringue together with a coffee. The cost was only 65 EEK or about £3 for both of us.

Following coffee and cake we came to the twin gatehouse towers of the walled old town and made our way towards the new town. 

Tallinn Old Town (from the top of the hotel)
Tallinn New Town

We shortly came across a large hotel, similar to the one we went up in Riga the previous day. Hoping we might find a sky bar we took the lift to the top floor. We were not too disappointed not to find a bar as we found we could open doors to a couple of balconies on different sides of the hotel and see more of the wonderful views of the old town and beyond.

Tallinn from the top floor of the hotel

We walked through a shopping centre under the hotel and had a browse in a couple of shops. More importantly we had discovered there is a ferry between Tallinn and Helsinki! This hadn’t been part of our Tallinn itinerary but this was about to change!

View towards the port

We had decided to go to Helsinki the following day and fortunately found the ticket office nearby. The price however was about £50 each return! This was a lot more than we had anticipated so we decided to think about it. We walked back to the large hotel at the shopping centre and over a glass of wine and some nachos it didn’t take long to make a decision to go to Helsinki! 

We walked back to the Tallink booking office where we were pleased to be informed that if we were to come back on a later ferry it would be cheaper at around £37 each instead.

Having purchased our tickets, we walked across the road to a bank and changed our leftover Latvian Lats to Euros ready for Helsinki. The bank was quite different to English banks in that you walk in and get a ticket and await for your number to be called. There was about 20 desks all located in circular fashion around the perimeter with no reinforced plastic or glass for the bank person to sit behind. There was also a café in there! 

Tallinn Town Hall
Tallinn Old Wall

In the early evening we made our way for the short distance to the Old Town, wandered around again until we found a bar.

There was such a lovely relaxed atmosphere in the old town with people of all different ages and nationalities just milling around enjoying themselves. 

For dinner we found a French open air restaurant right on the square where I enjoyed French onion soup for starters and pork done in a roll with some kind of stuffing wrapped round and bacon in a mustard sauce, with pan fried potatoes with stilton style cheese on top with a tangy tomato salsa too. The presentation was excellent, the service was excellent and together with a bottle of Merlot and the beautiful setting in the old square it was a wonderful experience. 

Tallinn Gate House
Ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki


We took a taxi to the port and boarded the 8:00 am ferry bound for Helsinki… and this will be covered in a separate post to be published next Thursday.

The ferry was not huge but had cafes and a duty free shop on board. It had been a while since I had been on a ferry and I had forgotten how much freedom you get compared with being strapped into a tiny plane seat. 


Back from Helsinki!

We arrived in Tallinn on the return ferry and after quickly going through passport control and customs we took a taxi straight to the Old Town. By now it was getting on for 10 pm and we both fancied a snack rather than a meal.

After wandering around for a short time we went to Tallinn Beer House! All of the beer sold there is brewed within the premises and there were large display windows from the outside showing the several large containers.

The temperature was a bit cooler tonight so we decided to sit inside. We were both surprised at the size of the place which was much larger inside than we thought it would be. It was like a big barn with wooden galleries and lots of large wooden tables with benches to sit on. It was quite busy but we found table and sat at the end of it. 

We ordered a cheese plate to share for starters then a pizza to share for main course. Both were excellent and plenty for two. 

The following morning we had breakfast in the guesthouse which was included in the price. This was basic but a little less basic than the hostel breakfast we had in Riga as it consisted of cheese, ham, bread, jam, coffee, cereals and orange juice. 

As this was the last day of our short backpacking trip we checked out and spent more time exploring the Old Town. To be honest you can see Tallinn in a day and I would suggest you don’t need anymore than a couple of nights to see the highlights.

After lunch we got a taxi to the airport. I had booked the flight tickets with Estonian Air and we had to collect the tickets from the ticket office at the airport first, then check in. Unlike budget flights we were able to choose our seats so asked to sit at the front of the plane.

Next destination was Stansted Airport.


Since I was a teenager I had dreamed of extensive global backpacking trips, working in countries around the world or at the very least having a month of Inter-rail around Europe. For a number of reasons this didn’t happen. I took the path of my life off in a separate direction and had the best ever experience of having a wonderful family.

As my children were growing up I was passionate about giving them the opportunity to experience as many holidays and countries as I could possibly afford. From the early years of family holidays to the Balearic and Canary Islands, a holiday to St Lucia when they were age 7 and 5 and onto our family backpacking trip when, in 2008 we had our own mini backpacking trip to Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy!

Back to Tallinn and what a wonderful place to visit! I was very fortunate to have had perfect weather which enabled me to see the quaint and charming old town at its best. Although… another great time to visit maybe in December as I’m guessing Tallinn would have its very own Christmas market…


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