Going somewhere that isn't on your bucket list is always interesting, but it's the best when it turns out to be a perfect hidden gem. For us, that was Tallinn, a beautiful northern city in Estonia, located between Finland and Russia with influences from both. Estonia has an interesting history, as it's only been independent from the USSR for over 20 years, but its technology and culture are booming — they even invented Skype! Tyler's lived there twice for work, so when I got the opportunity to visit him (also twice!) while he was living there, it was a double treat — reuniting with my love in a foreign city. Who could ask for more!
Tyler always raved about Tallinn and how he wished we could go back there someday, so when I had the chance to visit him, I had pretty high expectations. The city lived up to its charm, with its incredibly intact medieval old town filled with historic touches that blended perfectly with the cozy modern restaurants and shops that have popped up throughout.
We spent most of our time in the old town, which is maintained inside the city's old medieval wall, but the city has a lot to offer, with a booming creative city near the old lumber district, Kalamaja, in the west and modern technology, public transportation and shopping areas speckled throughout.
Even if you've never heard of Estonia, it's well worth the visit. The city of Tallinn has great influences from all of Scandinavia, as well as Russia and Germany, from all of their occupations there. However, it's uniquely its own, and is the perfect mix of old and new to visit.
WHAT WE DID:
- Got "on a boat" at the Estonian Maritime Museum: Tyler really wanted to go to a museum while we were in Tallinn, and with the cold weather, I couldn't help but oblige. I wasn't really ~that~ excited to go into this museum (the seaplane harbor version, not to be confused with "Fat Margaret" downtown", about like, naval history and ships, but I was totally in love with it by the time we left. The museum is in an old hangar that hosts many boats, including an entire submarine you can walk inside and tour. Price of admission also includes a tour of the boats in the harbor. After checking out the submarine, we enjoyed the many incredibly interactive parts of the museum, like trying on old naval costumes and flying a seaplane, and also enjoyed the temporary vikings exhibit.
- Remembered what Mexican food tasted like at La Tabla: After I spotted this restaurant right next to Telliskivi, with its colorful Mexican decor, I had it high on my list and I'm glad we finally made it over. The food was great and the menu was simple but inventive. We got the trio of nachos, a margarita and a lemonade (Tyler was driving), the pork quesadilla, soup and chicken tacos. Everything was amazing.
- Got in character at III Draakon: This restaurant is a must-do in Tallinn, as it sits right on the square in Old Town and the soup is totally cheap — around 3€. It can look packed when you walk in, but there's a back dining room. It's definitely worth a stop, with the hilarious woman serving up soup in the front in traditional medieval character, and the fantastic traditional decor. It's a tourist-y experience, but not one to miss.
MORE OF WHAT WE DID:
- Went old school at the Peppersack: Though we definitely liked Old Hansa, and you should go if you can, we really preferred the Peppersack, mostly for the same fare at lower prices. We had an easy, cheap lunch with soup and salad and ~amazing~ bread with similar, old-timey atmosphere to Old Hansa.
- Guarded the old town city wall: For the low price of 2€ for adults, you can walk the old city walls and get a great perspective of the Old Town of Tallinn. It's a must-do activity, if only for the great views of the city.
- Picked up some wool goods at the Christmas market: If you're there at the right time of year, the Christmas market is small in the old square is small but adorable. The market starts on 18 November, and features plenty of great booths with traditional Estonian wool goods, amber jewelry and of course, the Christmas market staple of glögg. We just missed the ice rink opening, but a few blocks away, you can have a romantic outdoor skate!
- Grabbed some Thai food at Krua: We were literally walking by this place while discussing what to eat for dinner. Thai food is one of my favorite types of food, with pad see ew as my favorite dish, so when we happened upon it and saw that on the menu, it felt like magic. Totally affordable and delicious.
EVEN MORE OF WHAT WE DID:
- Grabbed an Old Fashioned at Frank’s Bar: I'm a big cocktail lover (as you might know), so when my husband found this mid-century themed bar that looks like somewhere Don Draper would've hung out, I was totally stoked. The decor is on point, their drinks perfect and Instagrammable and they've got food, too!
- View of the city from above: For some great vantage points of the city, definitely climb up to the Patkuli and Kohutuotsa viewing platforms. They provide beautiful panoramic views of the city, with its Scandinavian and Russian influences, with a great mix of old and new architecture.
- Found beautiful design at Telliskivi: This creative collective in the middle of the old lumber district is well worth the visit, and is a very young, up-and-coming area in Tallinn. The building is broken up into different shops and cafes, most of them very trendy and artsy. We had a fun time shopping and eating breakfast here.
- Stayed in some cute Airbnbs!: I had a lot of fun picking places out in Tallinn. A lot of the options were afforable and those Estonians sture have a great sense of style. We stayed in this place in the old lumber district and this one right in the middle of the Old Town.
- Took a free tour of Europe's first pharmacy: While looking for things to do, we came across Raeapteek, the oldest continually-operating pharmacy in Europe. Now, that might not sound so exciting, but it's free to enter and right on the square, with some cool displays inside — plus, it's a great place to step out of the cold!
Photos and text © Katie Currid, 2016. All rights reserved.