A few years ago, we took a Baltic cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse. One of our ports was Tallin, Estonia.
Tallinn is a fascinating city. The old town is on a hill and is an easy walk from the cruise terminal. Most cruise lines offer busses for a fee, if you prefer to save the walking for the town. Even though Tallinn was founded in 1248, the earliest human settlements are over 5,000 years old, which makes it one of the oldest capital cities of Northern Europe. Due to its strategic location on the Baltic Sea, the city became a major trade hub. It grew in importance as part of the Hanseatic League from the 14th to the 16th century.
Tallinn’s number one attraction is without a doubt the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town. Here you will find medieval ambience with an exceptionally well-preserved street network and city walls. Stroll along the narrow, cobble stone streets, admire the centuries-old architecture, climb towers, and peek into mysterious courtyards and archways – some hide romantic cafés, cute shops, or secret gardens.
In the heart of the Old Town is the Town Hall Square. The square has been a marketplace and the center of this old Hanseatic town since the Middle Ages. Now, it is a main venue for a variety of events, from the Old Town Days in summer to the fairy-tale Christmas Market and a popular meeting place for the townspeople. Incidentally, the world’s first public Christmas tree was erected here in 1441 by the Brotherhood of the Blackheads.
The Town Hall Square is named after the Gothic Town Hall, which stands on the edge of the square and offers beautiful views from the tower. At the other end of the square is the Raeapteek, one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe and the oldest in Tallinn. Next to the pharmacy is a museum, where you can learn about the history and medieval healing methods. You can also take a guided tour and workshops are held in the basement.
Toompea Castle, with its late Baroque façade, was built between 1767 and 1773 on the foundations of a crumbling eastern wing of a fortress dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Today the castle is home to the Riigikogu (the Estonian parliament). The national flag can be seen flying on top of the 45.6-metre Tall Hermann tower. Free tours of the castle for visitors takes place every day Monday to Friday, if booked ahead of time. https://www.riigikogu.ee/en/visit-us/ Sessions of parliament can be watched from the public gallery.
The Seaplane Harbor and Estonian Maritime Museum is built in a unique seaplane hangar. This exciting maritime museum is located in the Seaplane Harbor and is the most impressive maritime museum in the region. With approx. 200 authentic items on display, you will find a submarine called Lembit, a century-old icebreaker Suur Tõll, a seaplane called Short 184, remains of the oldest ship found in Estonia and much more. If you are traveling with children, they will enjoy having their picture taken in a navy uniform, an aquarium, simulators, throwing paper airplanes and a children’s corner with drawing tools, building blocks, an authentic sailboat, and an outdoor playground.
Walking and exploring can make one hungry. Tallinn is steadily becoming a foodie destination with more restaurants, gastro pubs, and cafés than sometimes seem possible. Here you will find everything from high-end Nordic cuisine to cheap, local favorites. The Old Town has it all, even the historic foods.
You will probably not see many locals in the restaurants, especially in the summer. It’s not because they don’t like them or there are too many tourists, it’s just that eating out in the Old Town is usually reserved for special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays. Here you will find various local fare from wild boar to bear and barley sausage. The unusual flavors are novel but really good and the unique experience makes for a treasured memory.
You can also take a food tour with a guide. This gives you the opportunity to explore Estonian foods with someone who can explain all of the dishes while you eat them. https://foodsightseeing.ee/en
Enjoy wandering this beautiful medieval town….explore the nooks and crannies, walk down the pathways, climb the towers, eat some local food. And be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!
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