I was born in Tallinn and lived there until 2011, when I moved to Birmingham. Since then I have been travelling back and forth and on average have stayed there for a week. As there are constantly new thing popping up what to do and to see, then I will try to keep this guide updated as I go along and also consider suggestions and personal recommendations. Please note, that this is not an official travel guide, rather my personal suggestions for people who are curious and want to travel to Tallinn.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, located on the North coast of the country. Estonia itself is a tiny country located just south of Finland and is one of the three Baltic Countries. South from Estonia is Latvia and then Lithuania. On the East, Estonia is bordering with Russia. Estonian population is 1.3 million. For a comparison, the population of Birmingham is 819,000. According to Wikipedia, the area of Estonia is 45,227 km2 or 17,462 sq mi, which is about twice the size of Wales. Tallinn is the largest city with the population of 395,000 people.
We speak Estonian, which doesn’t sound anything like Russian, because the language has totally different roots (Fenno-Ugri) and is similar to the Finnish language instead. Due to the fact that no one else, besides Estonians, speak Estonian, we have to know other languages, therefore the majority of people know at least English and/or Russian. So not to worry, in Tallinn City Centre, you can easily communicate with locals in English.
Plugs – make sure you are prepared with the European plug as the ones we use in the UK will not fit in anywhere. You can purchase those easily in any airport.
Currency – Euros. Majority of shops in Tallinn accept card payments, regardless, I would advise having a bit of change with you. However, keep an eye on the exchange rate.
Weather – it is as moody as in Birmingham, therefore keep an eye on the link here.
I used to fly via Ryanair from London. Although it is a direct flight, I find it quite challenging to get to London airports in the first place as the flights are early in the morning which means that I have to go by a coach. However, National Express coaches are direct ones to all London airports. My preferred flight is with Lufthansa from Birmingham Airport with the change either in Frankfurt or Amsterdam. Check with Skyscanner to find a suitable flight for you.
Tallinn Airport is a small, but very lovely (not biased here at all…). The airport is located in the city itself, therefore it doesn’t take a long time to reach the city centre. Public transport is quite convenient with tram and buses departing from the airport. The timetable for tram no 4 is here. The timetable for bus no 2 is here. ‘Airport’ in Estonian is Lennujaam and that is the name of the stop. You can purchase the ticket from the driver and a single ticket is 2 EUR.
If you want to take a taxi from the airport, then I would not advise you to take the yellow cabs outside the airport doors as they are quite expensive. You can always call UBER via app or my favourite is Bongo Taxi(Yes, I know how it sounds, but they are very affordable) on +372 6615157. Just let them know where you want the taxi and if you are paying in cash or by card. Once the taxi is there, then you say where you want to go.
This is where I am a bit struggling as I have never actually stayed in paid accommodation in Tallinn. My mum would not be happy if I would not stay with her, plus I get all the mummy pampering, so frankly why would I stay somewhere else. However, as I do organise art events and host artists, then I would advise looking for Air Bnb opportunities, or hotels.com has good options as well. If you book well in advance, then you can get a room for even 45 EUR/night. Good areas to look for are Old Town (fairly expensive), Kalamaja (hipster area) or Pelgulinn.
To do and see
This section will be very much art and culture related for obvious reasons, but as this is all work in progress, I will be updating it as I go along.
This year, 2018, Estonia celebrates its centenary since the first independence in 1918, before the Soviet Union. After the collapse of Soviet Union, Estonia regained its independence in 1991 and has been independently growing and developing since then. You will see a lot of Eesti 100 wording around the city. This to celebrate that event and of course, there are a lot of cultural activities taking place in Tallinn around that topic.
If the weather is great, then I would advise you to have a bit of a walk around in the Old Town to see the medieval buildings from the 14th Century. Tallinn is one of the only cities in Europe which still have those buildings left, so definitely worth for a walk. Plus there are a lot of lovely coffee shops around the Town Hall Square.
Galleries and museums:
Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM), city centre. EKKM hosts a variety of contemporary and critically acclaimed shows during the year (it is closed during winter months, though). Today, EKKM hosts the main exhibition of the 17th Tallinn Print Triennial ‘Cloudbusters: Intensity vs. Intention’, curated by Margit Säde. As part of the Foundation Tallinn Print Triennial, I am also one of the organisers of the event. Graphic designers Laura Pappa and Elisabeth Klement.
Haus Gallery, Old Town
Temnikova & Kasela Gallery, city centre
Metropol Gallery in Kalamaja is the quirkiest locations of the selection. The gallery is located in an old wooden building which is an artist community. Make sure to look up the opening times and see what is on, but once you are there, you enter the smallest art gallery in the city – 6 m2. Enjoying art in such a small environment is quite an experience, but definitely worth it.
Kumu Art Museum in Kadriorg is the headquarters of the Art Museum of Estonia and is the largest exhibition venue in Estonia. It hosts a permanent exhibition about Estonian historic art as well as temporary exhibitions. For obvious reasons, I will promote the exhibition of the history of Tallinn Print Triennials ‘Puzzling Over the Labyrinth. 50 Years of the Tallinn Print Triennial’, curated by Elnara Taidre and Eha Komissarov and organised by the Foundation Tallinn Print Triennial.
Vaal Gallery, Ülemiste district
Tallinn as a port city has quite a few markets. There are a lot of pure tourist orientated locations, but I would like to point out two of them. One is Balti Jaama Market (Balti Jaama turg), which is located next to the train station (Balti Jaam, meaning Balti station). It used to be an authentic mainly Russian speaking market, but it went through a massive redevelopment and now it is made to a multifunctional, multilevel centre. Still worth for a visit though.
The second on is Central Market (Keskturg) which is closer to the Airport and has maintained its authentic historic vibe.
Telliskivi Creative City (Telliskivi Loomelinnak)
Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel)
Viru Centre (Viru Keskus)
Solaris Centre (Solaris Keskus)
To eat and drink
F-Hoone – located in one of the creative hub mentioned, Telliskivi Creative City. F-hoone was one of the first food places which appear there about 8 years ago and has still been going strong.
Korsaar – located in the Old Town, this is quite a quirky place. If you are a fan of Pirates of the Carribean, then this is your place.
St Vitus – a this bar is located just around the corner from Telliskivi Creative City and offers a great selection of beers.
Boheem – also, close by from St Vitus and Telliskivi Creative City as well as almost opposite from the Balti Market. Boheem offers a great selection of pancakes.
As mentioned before, this is work in progress list and I will be developing as I go along. Suggestions are very welcome, but my main aim is to have it as a subjective guide to the curious ones who want to visit Tallinn and get a great experience.