During our trip to Finland, we had found out that Tallinn, the capital of Estonia was a short ferry ride away, so we decided that we would do an overnight there. Now you may be thinking, Estonia? Is that the country where vampires are from? Oh wait that’s Transylvania. Or is it where the Flintstones are from? Hmmm…. Estonia is obviously not as well known as many of the other countries in Europe such as England, France or Italy, but it’s actually a very interesting country. The small country, once part of the Soviet Union, has a population of less than 1.5 million people and is now part of the European Union (EU). Although Estonia is small, it is very technologically advanced; so much so that it was the very first country that adopted online voting for elections! It is often called the “Silicon Valley” of Europe, who knew right? Now that I’ve really piqued your interest in this small nation, here are some things you should know before you go as well as some places you might want to visit while you’re there.
1.Getting to Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia is only a short 2 hour ferry ride away from Helsinki and easily accessible from other countries on the Baltic Sea. Purchasing ferry tickets from Helsinki is very easy, first visit Direct Ferries to see which times work best for your departure and return trip. Afterwards go directly to the Tallink Silja, Viking Line, or Eckero Line and reserve and pay for your ticket. For our trip to Tallinn, we used the Tallink Silja Ferry.
On your day of departure, ensure that you check in at least 1 hour ahead of time as boarding starts 40 minutes before departure. Also, keep in mind that there are no lockers at the T2 station, only at T1, so if you are looking for somewhere to leave your luggage, plan ahead. We were able to get easily to the T2 station via the tram. Once we arrived, we went into the terminal to check in get our physical tickets.
I was surprised how large the ferry terminal was and how large the ferry was! It was honestly more like a cruise ship; it had 8 floors, cabins, duty free, restaurants and shops. We travelled on both the Megastar and the Star and both were very clean and spacious. The Megastar was a much newer boat and the decor was much more modern, but both were extremely comfortable. It was one of the nicest 2 hour boat rides I have ever been on. There really isn’t much need to rent a cabin, as the ride is so short, just get on and find a spot (there was plenty of seating throughout the boat) and we just relaxed until we arrived in Tallinn. Compared to many other tourist places we’ve seen, the drink prices were pretty affordable. Food was pretty pricey though; a hotdog was €12, fish and chips €16!
Tallinn can also be reached via plane. They have a small International airport and you can find flights quite easily and affordably from neighboring European cities, many connect through Helsinki.
United States citizens are authorized up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa upon landing (as Estonia is a party to the Schengen Agreement).
Since Tallinn is such a petite city, you really can’t go too wrong with a location. We stayed near Old Town, which was very convenient for sight seeing as well as close to dining options. There are also large and small hotels and many airbnbs conveniently located throughout the city, so there is definitely something to fit your budget and mood.
4. Getting around Tallinn
Tallinn being the modern and hip city that it is, has embraced ride sharing, you can easily locate an Uber or Taxify vehicle via their apps. With Tallinn being such a small city, we were easily able to walk to our destination or easily catch an affordable ride via a taxi, Uber or Taxify.
As of 1/26/2018, $1 is equal to about €0.80.
Estonia is part of the European Union and uses the Euro, which is really handy if you are visiting a lot of the other European countries. Don’t be concerned about exchanging too much cash as you are able to use your credit card almost everywhere (restaurants, tours, souvenirs).
5. Things to See
City HallLeading up to city hall are giant staircases; surprisingly the fanfare is for nothing as the building as been abandoned for quite some time now. Originally built by Moscow in 1980 for the Summer Olympics, now it is covered it graffiti and closed up behind chain link fence. I would be careful exploring during winter, as many of the stairways were covered in snow, so you had no idea where a drop might be! But it made for some great photos and fun!
The views of the city and the waterfront are quite nice, so I would recommend going up there for a peek.
We also ended up taking a break in our sight seeing to have a very rousing snowball fight up there!
Tallinn, namely Old Town, is known for being the best preserved medieval city in Northern Europe and in 1997 was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you reach the gates to Old Town, you will see the charming cobblestone streets and medieval architecture. Old Town is full of restaurants, bars, cafes and artisan shops. If you’re not really into any of that, just take a stroll down the street and admire the beautiful architecture. I was amazed at how well maintained this very historic area of town was.
Tallinn Town Hall
As you make your way down the cobbled streets of Old Town, you will find yourself at the historic Tallinn Town Hall, located in the middle of the market square. The building has some impressive gothic arches and is the oldest town hall in Northern Europe, dating back to 1404.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
At the top of the hill of Toompea, you will find this lovely orthodox cathedral. As you approach you will see the iconic onion shaped domes of Russia, but no you’re still in Tallinn. The cathedral was built in the late 19th century when Estonia was part of the Russian empire. This was definitely the most ornate and beautiful building we saw during our trip to Tallinn, and definitely don’t forget to go inside for a peek.
Danish Kings Garden
The moment you walk up the steps to the Danish Kings Garden, you will be greeted by some rather large and foreboding statues of 3 monks.
To me, the garden seems really spooky and I want to say it’s got to be haunted, but I can’t say that for certain. Regardless of the chilling vibe, the garden is a great place to view old town from above and admire the medieval city walls. You’ll have a nice vantage point of St. Nicholas Church.
6. Things to eat
There are plenty of dining options in Tallinn, and there is definitely something for everyone. As I say that I laugh, because when we were there, we saw this restaurant, an homage to TEXAS! Apparently the owner loves Texas and wanted to bring those tex-men flavors to Estonia. We were very amused.
But most likely, I’m guessing you didn’t go all the way to Tallinn to eat tex-mex…or did you? Whether this floats your boat or if you are looking for more of a fine dining experience, peruse the many options and you’re sure to find something tasty.
Our visit to Tallinn was a welcome addition to our trip, and we were all so happy that we decided to take the time to visit. As you make your way through the city, you will feel like you went back in time. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to make it to Estonia again and to visit another one of their lovely cities!