TALLINN Jan 4 You could easily lose yourself
while exploring the Estonian capital's well-preserved medieval
Old Town or become absorbed in Tallinn's gritty Soviet and
Whatever your interests, local correspondents show you how
to make the most of 48 hours in Tallinn.
5 p.m. - Arrival and check in. There are many good hotels in
the Old Town or near by, including the spa Hotel Telegraaf
(www.telegraafhotel.com), where European central bankers stay,
or boutique hotels The Three Sisters (www.threesistershotel.com)
and Schlossle (www.schloesslehotel.com).
If you like a good view, try the Raddisson Blu, Swissotel or
the Soviet-built, now modernised, Sokos Viru.
6 p.m. - Plunge straight into the heart of the Old Town by
heading for Town Hall Square. Tallinn is a Hanseatic
architecture-lover's dream and is protected by UNESCO.
The small city of half a million people bills itself as the
most intact medieval city in Europe. It still has the original
street system (from 13th to 15th century) and most of the 14th
and 15th century houses in their original size and form. In
addition to the numerous houses, barns and warehouses of the
general population and traders, all of the main
representative/governmental buildings and churches are still
The town hall is the last surviving Gothic town hall in
northern Europe. (veeb.tallinn.ee/raekoda). Tours are possible
in winter if booked in advance.
Tallinn has a distinctly Germanic feel. It was established
by Danes more than 800 years ago and has been ruled by Germans
and Russians. In the Soviet period it was under Moscow's direct
control. Estonia was independent between 1918 and the start of
Soviet rule in 1940 and became a sovereign nation again in 1991.
7 p.m. - If you are keen to try traditional Estonian food
head from Town Hall Square up Dunkri street to Kuldse Notsu
korts (the Golden Piglet Inn). Don't forget to try some of
Estonia's dark and heavy porter, which seems to suit snowy
If you want to try the kind of food Europeans ate before
they discovered the potato and you enjoy pulses and grains, then
look for the medieval-style restaurants, such as Olde Hansa, or
the Pepper Sack.
Another option is to head to Vana Viru street, towards the
old Viru city inner gates and hit the largest cocktail lounge in
the country, the Butterfly Lounge (www.kokteilibaar.ee/en)
9 p.m. - Head for an evening of Jazz at Clazz
(www.clazz.ee), just a couple of hundred metres away at Vana
turg, or try any of the clubs and lounges in the Old Town.
9 a.m. - If Tallinn's history takes your fancy, then head up
the hill to the look-out spots on Toompea
(www.tourism.tallinn.ee/eng), the upper part of the Old Town.
That involves a walk up a street called Luhike jalg (short leg)
and through the gate in the wall between the upper and lower
halves of the town. The gates were locked in the old days,
especially when the upper town's rulers and lower town's traders
were at war with each other.
There are several fine lookouts spaced around the walls of
the upper town giving a panoramic view of the city, with its mix
of medieval, baroque and modern architecture.
Interesting buildings in the upper town include the 19th
century Russian Orthodox cathedral, a pink building which houses
the country's parliament, as well as the cathedral, for which
Toompea is named.
A taste of the Soviet past can be found in the lower half of
the city, just outside the Old Town gates at the Sokos Viru
This Finnish-built hotel from the 1980s has a museum devoted
to the work of the KGB secret police and on Soviet life and a
tour can be booked.
The hotel had several rooms which served as a communication
relay station for radio traffic between Helsinki and Moscow.
Some of the rooms were also bugged by the KGB.
The hotel also has a hard currency bar, which recreates the
experience of bars which existed where only people with dollars
or other hard currencies, mainly foreigners, could visit. Its
nostalgic atmosphere is complemented by Soviet-style drinks and
music from the 1970s and 1980s - maybe some retired KGB officers
are listening in.
The Soviet trail can be followed back up to the Old Town and
the former KGB headquarters at 49 Lai street. This building was
said to have the best view in Tallinn - all the way to Siberia.
For a complete picture of life under the Soviets, and when
Estonia was occupied by Nazi German forces during World War Two,
walk down from Toompea to the Occupation
12 p.m - Elswhere outside the Old Town you can visit the old
fortress-prison called the Patarei (www.patarei.org). On the way
out of the Old Town you will pass one of the maritime museums at
Paks Margereta (Fat Margaret) tower (www.meremuuseum.ee).
You can also head underground via the old Swedish-made
defensive tunnels at Kiek in de Kok tower
(linnamuuseum.ee/kok/en/) close to Toompea, or tour many of the
The tunnels were built by the Swedish rulers during the
Great Northern War to defend the city from the Russians.
Afterwards, head down Viru Gate for a walk along the Old Town
wall at the Hellemann Tower, on Muurivahe street.
The tower dates from the 14th century and the wall walk
covers 200 metres.
1 p.m. - Lunch.
If you ended up near the Patarei on the western side of the
old town down by the harbour it is worth trying the cafes Moon
(www.kohvikmoon.ee) and Klause Kohvik in the Estonian design
building (www.klauskohvik.ee) near Kalasadam. This is where the
locals also hang out on the weekend.
Another option is to head over to the cafe at the Seaplane
Harbour (www.lennusadam.eu). Its hangars are the world's first
reinforced concrete shell structures designed and built by a
Danish firm, Christiani & Nielsen, in 1916 (think of the Sydney
opera house). The building has been transformed into a stylish
modern museum covering both war and peace time and houses the
world's only surviving British-made mine-laying submarine of its
series from the 1930s, the Lembit.
3 p.m. - If coffee and chocolates take your fancy, try
Chocolats de Pierre (www.pierre.ee) in the master's passage off
Vene street, which makes its own chocolates. Or you can visit
the Marzipan Museum (Pikk tn 16) and Marzipan Room, downstairs
is one of the oldest operating cafes in the city.
5 p.m. - Don't forget to check out what might be on offer
for culture vultures at the Estonia concert hall, or the opera
house. There may well be concerts and performances in many of
the churches and halls about the old town and they often start
around 7 p.m. For a list (www.visitestonia.com/en/articles/81)
7 p.m. - For dinner, try the Neh on Lootsi 4 down by the
harbour (www.neh.ee), a seasonal kitchen that moves between a
manor house on Muhu island in the west of the country and
Tallinn and specialises in the food of the Nordic Islands. Neh's
chefs have won Estonia's best restaurant title for the last
three years running.
If you are still in the Old Town you might try Leib Resto
ja Aed (www.leibresto.ee) on Uus street.
9 a.m. - Today you could continue to explore the Old Town
and its galleries. A must-see is the craft alley at Kateriina
Kaik off Vene street with its collection of craftswomen from hat
makers to glass blowers and everything in between.
Another option is to head out to Kadriorg Park and the
national art gallery (www.kadriorupark.ee). You can take a taxi
or the Kadriorg tram from the stop just north of the Viru Hotel.
Kadriorg Park is lined with baroque palaces, one of which is
the president's official residence. A little further up the road
is the newest national art gallery in the Nordic and Baltic
region, Kumu (kumu.ee/en).
11 a.m. - If art is not your thing, walk over to Peter the
Great's summer cottage (linnamuuseum.ee/peetrimaja/en) and
consider the life of one of the, quite literally, big men of
1 p.m. - At the edge of Kadriorg are several cafes and
restaurants, including the Park Cafe (www.park-cafe.ee).
Another option is to take a taxi down to the Pirita
district, perhaps to the Pirita Hotel, and then walk back to the
centre along the bayside, where you get great views of the Old
Town from a different perspective and can also see the many
ferry boats sailing between Tallinn and Finnish capital
(Editing by Paul Casciato)