It is incredibly easy to travel from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry. No wonder that visiting Estonia has been part of Finnish culture since the fall of the Soviet Union. Tallinn has been the place to get cheaper alcohol but more recently the city has built its reputation around great restaurants and amazing food culture. Right after Christmas I and my Swedish friend took a 2-hour ferry to Tallinn. We had one day and night to explore the capital of Estonia. What did we manage to do on a rainy foggy day?
Tallinn Christmas Market
Tallinn Christmas market is a must-see place for both a first-time visitor as for more experienced one. You can’t miss a massive Christmas tree on the market – actually the Estonians were the first ones in Europe to have a Christmas tree put out publicly in 1441. The Christmas market is relying on traditions also in other ways. You can buy mulled wine and decorated gingerbread, as well as handicrafts. Whereas in Finland you have to enjoy your alcohol glühwine inside a certain area (because of our strict alcohol legislation), in Tallinn, you can walk freely with your streaming hot glögg.
Toompea (Cathedral Hill) is a popular place for tourists. During the medieval times, Toompea was a center of provincial authority but the area has had inhabitants for 5000–6000 years. There are some great lookout points but unfortunately, the weather was so foggy that we had hardly any visibility. However, just walking around marveling colorful buildings was enough to get us impressed.
Located just a few meters from the Christmas market, Cafe Maiasmokk calls itself as the oldest still working cafe in Tallinn. It has been operating in the same premises since 1864, and I guess the decor has stayed pretty much the same. The clientele is very international, and the staff is fluent at least in four languages (Russian, Estonian, Finnish and English). My mom was visiting Tallinn too (we booked the trip without knowing of each other), and I met her there over a cup of coffee. I must say that the coffee was the best I have had in Tallinn, and the cakes and pastries are not to be missed either.
Dinner time but no reservations
Around noon I realised that we should eat something for dinner. Because of the Christmas days, I had totally forgotten what day it was. Well, it was Friday and I figured that we should book a table just in case. I really wanted to try Rataskaevu 16 but the waitresses were just shaking their heads when asking for any free tables for lunch or dinner. We got the same at the next place. Luckily, we were able to book a table at the third place. The reservation was at 4 pm. Not optimal at all, but we didn’t get anything better.
Our restaurant was Von Krahli Aed. The interior was really charming. Light yellow walls and dim lights created a perfect cozy atmosphere. The service was friendly, a notably better than it is on average in Estonia. It might be because most customers seemed to be tourists and probably they are leaving more tips. We decided to go for a seasonal Christmas menu (25 € per person) that consisted of a starter, main and dessert.
The flavors were not super “out of this world” delicious but interesting and new. I think the main with pork, raisins, and pumpkin was the most traditional, whereas the dessert was full of new foresty flavors with every bite. All in all, the food was great quality for the price. No wonder that this place has great reviews on Tripadvisor. A reservation really is a must. Every five minutes the waiter turned customer groups back to the street because the restaurant was fully booked.
Tallinn never disappoints
All in all, Tallinn didn’t disappoint us. My main goal was just to get a first-timer to know the main attractions of the city, and I think we managed just that. Personally next time I would like to head to some other Estonian town, for example to Pärnu or Tartto. Or I could also rent a car and drive to Eastern Estonia and visit some of the towns with Russian-speaking population. Capital is always a capital with tourists, chain stores and same old attractions. Estonia is a great, versatile country, and it is a shame that so many travelers just stay in Tallinn. Of course, I can’t blame them. Tallinn is a great town full of history, superb restaurants, cute cafes, and beautiful colorful houses. No wonder that the average Finn visits Tallinn once a year or so.
Have you already been in Tallinn?