An ancient city on the Baltic coastline may not be everyone’s choice for a short break in November – but it turned out to be a great trip! I thought it would be cold – but it was really cold. Minus four and constant snowfall. Tallinn is used to that kind of weather though and it doesn’t slow it down one bit.
We started off by exploring the old medieval city known as Old Town. Surrounded by walls and with cobbled streets it is obviously a tourist hot spot. There is plenty to look at and explore though. There are a load of the usual tacky bars and restaurants aimed at tourists but again we steered clear and found some more hidden spots. There is clearly a big craft beer culture in the town – and British options regularly featured on menus.
We were staying west of the old town in a pretty cool area. Clearly it used to be fairly industrial but now the buildings have been redeveloped. There were a bunch of cool bars and restaurants in old warehouses which had been done up. The area had a young and vibrant atmosphere. Young Estonians seem to be great at speaking English too – which makes life easy.
The Seaplane Harbour is one of the major attractions – an impressive building and well designed museum. The highlight is the Lembit – a UK built submarine which served the Estonian and Soviet Navies. You can go inside this and see the conditions the crew had to live in. The beds were tiny and there was no privacy or personal space for anyone but the captain. It used to have around 30 people onboard – that is hard to imagine!
As you walk around the coastline from the Seaplane Harbour back to Tallinn you go through the grounds of Patarei Sea Fortress – a derelict fort come Soviet Prison. A grim looking place with an even more grim history but an interesting spot to take photos.
It was snowing pretty hard as we walked along the coastal path back towards the city. Occasional elements of colour would break the white and grey.
As you continue along the coast you come to Linnahall. You would assume this concrete monstrosity was some kind of Navy bunker built by the Russians a long time ago but you would be wrong. It was built as a sailing venue for the Moscow Olympics in the 1980. It was then turned into a concert and sport venue afterwards but is now derelict. An interesting place to explore! The graffiti adds some colour!
On the east side of town there is a totally different vibe – this area is all about modern developments and posh refurbished buildings. There is some pretty cool architecture here. There is also the Viru hotel – famous as the first high rise in Tallinn and the hotel that all foreign visitors stayed in. It was a state of its own behind the Iron Curtain – luxurious and the only place where food was plentiful. It was also famous for having an unofficial 23rd floor which housed a KGB listening radio station and 60 rooms which were full of microphones – this is where suspicious guests stayed. There are some good views from the top too.
It is a small city, we walked everywhere covering about 10 miles a day. A lot of that was just wandering about – it took a while to dial in our sense of direction. It is easy to imagine how bleak it once was here. Not anymore though! This night shot was taken from Fat Margaret’s Tower – another part of the Estonian Maritime Museum (same as the Seaplane Harbour).
All in all a great trip! A city well worth a visit at any time of year with plenty to offer. I would happily spend more time in Tallinn. Snow and wind does’t slow Tallinn down!