Happy New Year blog, I appreciate the posts have been a little on the quiet front over the festive period but once again I have been prioritising other activities. Mostly due to the fact that I have been away in none other than Tallinn, Estonia. We flew out on the 27th December and returned on 30th, and what a time we had. I’ve travelled a fair amount through Europe and I have to say it genuinely stood out as one of the best places I’ve ever been. A truly magical city that combines the best parts of old historic architecture with modern coffee shops and food spots.
So, first off, why Tallinn? My girlfriend and I decided we wanted to visit somewhere somewhat festive and appropriate for the time of year. Our other criteria being a visit to a country neither of us had been too. I’d seen a YouTube vlog a few years ago of Ben Brown and Dan Carter visiting Tallinn, they visit some hip looking coffee spots, wonder the old town and go 4×4 driving across the winter forests, it had me really intrigued by Estonia. Whilst scanning Kayak.co.uk on the ‘explore’ page, I noticed Tallinn flights were relatively cheap and a couple of clicks later our flights were booked. We chose a centrally located Air BnB that was in the Rotermani area, a stone’s throw from the old town and an easy walk away from everything we visited.
There seems to be quite a few spots in Tallinn that are worth visiting and I’m intrigued to find out what other people have done whilst there but below is the itinerary of how we spent our 3 days.
We caught a 5:55am flight from Stanstead which meant we arrived at 10:30am (2-hour time difference). Despite the 3am alarm to get to the airport, it was an easy and stress-free flight and I would recommend it as it meant we got a nice full day. It’s a 10-minute taxi ride from the airport to the city centre and cost about 8 euros.
Our first stop was brunch; we walked straight into old town and went to a place called August. It served the most stand out porridge, worthy of any food-blog Instagram image that was as tasty as it looked. The coffee was on point and I also indulged in the chorizo omelette because athlete life means I need all the food.
We had missed the free guided walk around old town that leaves every day at 12pm from the tourist information, so chose to take the self-guided tour map and walk around on our tour. Old Town Tallinn is a step into a fairy-tale-like toy town, full of medieval architecture and little hidden courtyards. There’s art galleries, quaint cafes, look out points and everywhere you turn is a photograph desperate to be taken. We spent the rest of the day wondering the streets, taking pictures and exploring the different buildings. The Christmas market boasted an incredible tree and atmosphere to match, I can only imagine what the lead up to Christmas day is like there.
For dinner, we explored the Rotermanni area due it being outside our accommodation. We ate at a place called Platz that had a relaxed modern feel, I had some of the best tasting seafood opting for it due to Tallinn being a coastal city. I would highly recommend it. In the evening following, we walked back up around old town to experience the views in the dark with all the Christmas lights shining through the mist.
Daylight hours in Tallinn’s winter are short, it gets light at about 9:15am and is dark by 3:30pm. I went out for a morning run at about 7:30am and returned in the dark, something to get used to but the city is well equipped with efficient street lighting. Once it was light we went on a nice morning walk to explore some of the harbour, walking along the Linnahall which was originally built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics and held the sailing event. It is now an eerie abandoned-looking piece of architecture that makes from great photography. It was very quiet and made for a lovely but somewhat creepy morning walk.
We got another standout breakfast at a place called Carmen Café, about a 2-minute walk from our Air BnB. I had the Carmen Breakfast which was a refreshingly healthy cooked breakfast. Another highly recommended spot from me. We decided we’d carry on getting our step count’s up and spend the day walking the coastline. We walked up to the Seaplane Harbour and went to the Maritime Museum, which contained a full-sized submarine that was used in World War 2. The museum was relatively inexpensive to get in and contained lots of interactive activities which was a nice touch due to a lot of museums just having exhibits and not much else. I would definitely recommend checking it out, you even get to go onto the submarine and have look inside.
We then had a coast line excursion all the way down to Pirita, as we’d heard great things about the beach. However, due to construction sites and weather, there was not much beach to see. It was a nice walk but would probably be better done in the summer and when they’ve finished building the apartments that are currently under construction. We walked into the Kadriorg Park and had a little wonder about the museums. There’s plenty here to look at but the exhibitions at the various art galleries and museums didn’t intrigue us much so we just headed back, satisfied with the time on our feet.
Due to having such a good meal the night before, we decided to challenge ourselves to use our tiny little kitchen facilities to cook a meal. The seafood I’d had the night before was such a stand out meal that I decided to try and recreate it. Safe to say, I seemed to do a good job and cooked one of the best meals I’ve ever done with a tiny pot and pan on a two-pan hob. Due to not being party/late night people, we had a lovely night in eating ice cream and Toblerone!
Laura and I needed our fitness fix so we headed to the Sports Hall of Tallinn for an early morning swim. The pool was very quiet and a reasonable 4 euros to enter. We managed an easy 2-mile swim in a lane to ourselves, great way to start the day. As a birthday gift, Laura booked us to go dog sledging with Huskies but due to there not being enough snow, it was changed to a hike with Huskies. We were picked up at noon after some delicious pastries from Supelsaksad which bakes them fresh daily, the most stand out being the Cardamom sugar swirl, which I ended up having two of.
We spent the day out of the city, visiting Tallinn’s highest waterfall “Jägala” and then walking Huskies around the fields of Estonia. Indulging in yet more pastries as part of the Husky walking experience. The drive to and from where we were was only an hour or so and the whole experience was a great way to find out a bit more about Estonia from the locals themselves. I think it’s important to speak to people from the country when you visit somewhere, local knowledge is far more valuable and I find it teaches me more about a place than anything I read or look up.
Once we arrived back in Tallinn, we’d booked ourselves dinner at the highly rated “Pull” restaurant which served some artisan foods that were delicious. A little pricey but you have to treat yourself every now and then and when you’re going to go all in it may as well be food. I had a seafood paella and Laura had an incredible looking salmon steak. Then for dessert, we headed back to Old Town to the Chocolate Café or Pierre De Chocolat for the most epic looking Sundae, I would recommend it with no guilt attached because it was 10 out of 10. As an ice cream enthusiast, I can say it was some of the freshest and most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had and I’ve had a lot of ice cream. Full of sugary goodness, we headed back to our air bnb for an epic food educed coma of a sleep.
Our flight back home was at 12pm, before catching our taxi back to the airport we quickly stopped back into Supelsaksad for another pastry to fuel the journey home. I would highly recommend Tallinn for a winter city break to anyone and would definitely recommend all the food spots we hit up. I’m not sure what it would be like in the summer but I imagine the atmosphere is just as good and the long daylight hours would make for a different but equally good experience.
If you are going to take our word’s and go to Tallinn, I would say be aware of the short daylight hours and due to the lack of light, most things in Tallinn open later than you’d expect (think 10am earliest, if not 11/11:30am). I would say there is little reason to not add this to your list of places to go.
Happy 2019 y’all. Go explore the world this year!