Tallinn: Dipping into the European Capital of Culture 2011

There’s so much more to this gorgeous city than stag dos and hen nights – it’s packed with beautiful buildings, top-rate entertainment and superb eateries…  

 The Old Town Square is the historic hub of Tallinn, where the action unfurls in a swathe of cobbles laced with pavement bars and cafes. Home to the city’s tallest spire, which stretches into the heavens above the Old Town Hall, it’s a glorious sight when floodlit at night.

And then there's Toompea Hill, rising above the square, which offers respite from the busy bars below. This castle district towers above the largely flat city, offering views of the winding streets of the old town and out over the Baltic Sea. During the last few years a lot of money has gone into touching up Toompea’s graceful buildings and making it more visitor-friendly with signposts, scenic lookouts and shops selling the work of local artists.

World-class culture
It's easy to see why culture vultures flock to Tallinn – and that's even when it is not the European Capital of Culture. Cerebral attractions include the City Museum, with myriad exhibits that delve into the city’s rich history. Then there is the Maritime Museum, the Old Town Hall’s exhibition space and more esoteric sights like the Doll Museum, Bank of Estonia Museum and even Pinocchio’s Grave, a poignant war memorial and not as it sounds the last resting place of the fabled wooden boy. 

There are half a dozen concert halls and theatre venues aside from the world-class Estonian National Opera in the city centre, all part of a lively cultural scene that managed to survive decades of Soviet suppression. Many small bars host live music and it is not uncommon to hear the sounds of a violin wafting out of a window.

Everyone knows your name…
While budget airlines have made Tallinn into a bit of a stag and hen party zone, there's a lot more on offer if you look for it. Traditional bar culture in these northern climes is an integral part of local life in a way that the Irish theme pubs and stag parties are not. Drink Estonian beer with the locals at the no nonsense Vaali Bar (Muurivahe 14) or savour authentic Estonian food and drink for next to nothing at Karja Kelder (Vaike-Karja 1), the city’s oldest beer hall, while the raucous stag parties stumble by oblivious outside.

The city's compact size is part of the charm as all its main attractions are within easy walking distance. Make sure you give yourself enough time to simply amble around the streets, drifting through the layers of history that peel back at every turn, with Russian Orthodox churches and Dominican monasteries sharing the streets with old merchant houses.

Estonia was kept under the somewhat iron Soviet rule until 1991, but since it broke free in the ‘Singing Revolution’, when the local people started to show their defiance through communal singing, the country has made up for lost time, switching seamlessly from communism to capitalism.

Anyone arriving in Tallinn with anachronistic images of what an old Soviet Bloc city looks like will be impressed by its new skyline and also by the medieval old core, graced with lofty church spires, orange tiled rooftops and narrow cobbled streets.

Words: Robin McKelvie

Cultural dates to note: Tallinn is hosting around 7,000 events as part of the European Capital of Culture festivities (tallinn2011.ee):

Tallinn Music Week. New Estonian music, March 24-26.tallinnmusicweek.ee

Youth Song and Dance festival

July 1-3, laulupidu.ee

Tallinn Maritime Days. July 15-17, tallinnamerepaevad.ee

Song of Freedom – Song Festival Grounds, August 20

Black Nights Film Festival (Pöff), various venues, Nov to Dec 18, poff.ee

Foodie fare

Pork, potatoes and vegetables play a big part in the cuisine. Estonia’s main culinary influence is Germany.

Typical foods:Leib (black bread); Kartulid (potatoes) introduced in the 1700s, they’re essential; Kotlet (hamburger patty, onions); Verivorst (blood sausage); Sült (jellied eel);

Kohupiim (cottage cheese-like)

Kringel (sweet bread). Other favourites include: pancakes, beet salad, honey, herring, pickled pumpkin and crayfish

Visit: balticsworldwide,com


Getting there: Easyjet (easyjet.com) offers regular direct flights to Tallinn from London Stansted.

Getting around: Tallinn is easily navigable on foot, trolleybus or by bus

Cost of a pint: About £2

Visas: Those on SA passports need a visa, or a Schengen visa but EU passport holders do not to get a visa for Estonia.

Accommodation: A hostel bed will cost you around £15, a bed in a three star hotel £50pppn.

Visit: tourism.tallinn.ee




cnfaaaou upnphbtz

Tallin's old town is

Tallin's old town is beautiful which belongs to UNESCO's cultural heritage..You can spend much your time in Tallinn by walking up and down the streets of the Old Town, by watching beautiful old building passing by both sides of streets and stopping occasionally for coffee and cake ..If offers tourist many churches, gateways, a huge town hall and wide open town hall square etc..A amazing tourist destination but little expensive..