Why is Tallinn so popular?
Travelling to Estonia and its capital, Tallinn, is easy. There are direct flights from Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Helsinki, Kiev, London, Milan, Minsk, Moscow, Munich, Oslo, Prague, Riga, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna, Vilnius and Warsaw to Tallinn. About 25 ferries, hydrofoils and catamarans cross between Helsinki and Tallinn daily. You can catch a ferry from Stockholm to Tallinn or arrive by coach from many European cities.
So why is Tallinn so ‘connected’ and why has this tiny Baltic city become such a popular travel destination?
It’s unfortunate that Tallinn’s reputation as a travel destination has been tainted by stag nights, drunken marauding soccer crowds and its nightclub and steamy strip club scenes. Whilst cheap flights, cheap alcohol and the raging nightclub scene have brought masses of young Europeans to Tallinn, this World Heritage city and the rest of Estonia has a lot more to offer travellers and culture seekers.
Most tourists who visit Estonia arrive first in Tallinn, the capital and business centre. This city has so much to offer and its major cultural events each month such as concerts, operas and jazz festivals can be experienced against a medieval Hanseatic backdrop. It is a very popular weekend destination for Finns who can get here from Helsinki by ferry in about 2½ to 3½ hours or by hydrofoil in just over an hour. The cost of living is much lower here than in Scandinavian countries, making dining out a more affordable activity.
Tallinn’s Old Town centre is dominated by the soaring steeple of its 14th to 15th century medieval Town Hall which is the oldest in northern Europe. More than two-thirds of the original City Wall still stands. From the Toompea Castle, situated on top of a cliff, you will have an amazing view of the narrow streets, the gabled roofs and the towers and spires of old Tallinn. Then there’s Kadriorg Park which contains the palace built for Peter the Great and is a favorite recreation area. And, if you’d like to see what rural life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries, visit the Open Air Museum.
Special Events in Tallinn include:
- Tallinn Jazz Festival – celebrates the arrival of Spring (April)
- Admiralty Sea Days – a maritime-themed event at the city’s passenger port (May)
- Old Town Days – a medieval-themed festival in the Old Town which is popular with locals (June)
- Midsummer’s Night Celebration – to mark the longest day. This must be some celebration with bonfires and all things pagan in a medieval city (June 21)
- Beer Festival – the biggest beer festival in the Baltic. Be prepared for lashings of beer (July)
- New Year’s Eve Celebration – celebrations in the city to welcome in the New Year in style (Dec 31)
Of course, Estonia is more than just Tallinn:
Although it takes just four to five hours to travel from one end of the country to the other, there is variety in its landscapes, flora, seasons and weather. It’s rich tapestry of medieval architecture, ancient monuments, romantic fishing villages, unspoiled national parks, etc., make this a fascinating destination. Some of the interesting places outside of Tallinn include:
Haapsalu, a small town on the west coast, has been a well-known resort since the 19th century. If you’re looking to get away from the city, this is the ideal place, with its romantic wooden houses and tree-lined avenues.
Pärnu is about two hours’ drive from Tallinn. It is a small town situated on the banks of the Pärnu River and was established in the 13th century. Pärnu is well known as a seaport and a health resort. Its long sandy beaches are very popular with Estonians.
Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city, is situated along the Emajõgi River and is approximately 176km from Tallinn. Tartu is an old university town with a bohemian-academic ambience. Its other attractions include the Vyshgorod Cathedral (13th to 15th centuries), the Town Hall (18th century) and the university’s Botanical Garden.
Narva is one of the oldest towns in Estonia. Situated on the western banks of the River Narva, it was first mentioned in the chronicle of Novgorod. The Herman Castle is the oldest architectural monument. Well worth seeing is the city museum, which is situated in the castle.
Saaremaa and Hiimuaa are the largest and second largest islands in Estonia, respectively. On these two islands you’ll see old windmills, stone churches, fishing villages and a restored Episcopal castle dating back to the 13th century.
Mustvee is the site of the only functioning convent in Estonia and is also well worth a visit. It is situated on the shores of the scenic and vast Lake Peipsi and Kuremäe.Your Turn: Do you have any advice you would like to share? What tips would you like to add? Please comment below.