Located in the north of Europe, between Russia and Latvia, the Baltic nation of Estonia still remains undiscovered by most. Its capital, Tallinn, is one of the most beautiful cities in the region. Filled with medieval walls, tall church towers, cobblestone streets, and picturesque squares, there are lots of reasons to visit Tallinn.
This hidden gem features Scandinavian, Russian and Eastern European influences, and is the perfect quiet Europen getaway. The city has something to offer everyone, from history buffs to artists. Here are 6 reasons to visit Tallinn this year:
1Tallinn Old Town
Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe. Its narrow streets are full of unique architecture and culture. It is surrounded by the original 14th-century medieval walls that cover almost 2 kilometres. You can enter through the Viru Gate, and explore the many beautiful buildings, restaurants, and cafes. Don’t miss the stunning Town Hall Square, a bustling marketplace, especially during Christmastime when it hosts a fabulous Christmas market. Keep a lookout for Europe’s oldest operating pharmacy, opened in 1422, and for the free walking tours where you can explore the Old Town’s history and myths.
2Delicious Estonian food
Estonia has lots of delicious traditional dishes you have to try, such as leivasupp (or “bread soup”), mannavaht (a cream with semolina and fruit), and black rye bread. However, one of the best reasons to visit Tallinn is the many exciting restaurants. Boasting some of the best restaurants in the Baltic States, you can get everything from Nordic food and traditional fare to Indian and Mexican. One of the best areas in the city for foodies is the Kalamaja District. The city is also full of bars and nightclubs.
Toompea Hill is one of the best areas to visit in Tallinn. It is home to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform, which provides amazing views of the city and the harbour. Nearby is the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Built in 1900, the black onion domes of this Russian Orthodox Church dominate the city’s skyline. You can also visit the 18th-century Toompea Castle and the Kiek in de Kök cannon tower which is the starting point of a hidden system of tunnels that runs through Toompea Hill.
Apart from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, like so many other European cities, is home to lots of fascinating churches and cathedrals. One of the most important is St. Olaf’s Church, the city’s largest medieval building. Built in the 13th-century, its towers offer spectacular views over Tallinn’s Old Town. Almost from that era is the Oleviste Church, once the tallest building in medieval Europe, and Gothic St Mary’s Cathedral, the country’s oldest cathedral. You can also visit the iconic and magnificent 19th-century St. Nicholas’ Orthodox Church.
5Beautiful parks and Artistic districts
Tallinn’s biggest park, Kadriorg Park, is also one of the biggest and most beautiful in Europe. Dating back to 1718, it surrounds the Kadriorg palace that was built by the Russian Czar, Peter the Great. The park is now home to several museums, including the Kadriorg Art Museum housed in the palace, and the Russalka Memorial. Art lovers can also visit the Telliskivi Creative City to explore the creative side of Tallinn. Here, old warehouses have been turned into boutiques, restaurants, live music venues, and cafés, all decorated with unique street art.
Tallinn is also known for its many museums that explore Estonian history and culture. Among these are the splendid Estonian History Museum located in the 15th-century Great Guild Hall, which has exhibits dating back to prehistoric times, and the Estonian Open Air Museum devoted to the everyday lives of villagers between the 18th and 20th century. Art lovers also have much to see. Apart from the Kadriorg Art Museum, the city is also home to the Kunstimuuseum the largest art museum in the Baltic States which houses many old masterpieces, and the Kumu Art Museum, for a more modern take on art. You can also visit the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour marine museum and the KGB Museum to explore military and spy equipment and history.
With the country celebrating its 100th anniversary this year (it became an independent state in 1918), and its introduction of new year-long visas, now is the perfect time to visit Estonia.