As part of our trip to Helsinki, Finland and Europe in January 2016, we had the opportunity to take a day trip from there to Tallinn, Estonia. If you’ve never heard of Tallinn, I don’t blame you – I hadn’t either. What I soon learned was just how close Tallinn is to Helsinki! It’s right across the Gulf of Finland, and a mere 2 hour day cruise there.
We woke up early and jumped on a ferry over to another country.
For around $65, we picked up a ticket on the Tallink without a private room. The short trip over is a short enough time that spending it in a bar, or a restaurant isn’t too bad. The ferry we were on had a large bar area that we were able to claim some large benches on and get a little more morning sleep.
Getting To Town
Being from Florida, I’m not sure if blizzard is the right word, but snow was coming down. Luckily the wind wasn’t pounding, but it was enough to make us move a little faster. We made the half mile walk down to town!
Each street was covered in so much snow, with more coming down every minute, that everything was white.
Along the way, we walked along the Tallinn waterfront. Being January, the marina was unusable – with a layer of ice.
Tallinn is a medieval city with a wall surrounding the old city. One of the guard posts offered a beautiful, and ancient entrance. Unfortunately, there was a McDonalds immediately next to it.
III Draakon Pub
After some wandering around, we stumbled into the III Draakon, a old themed pub in a medieval castle. This place was amazing – somehow seeming authentic for the era it was attempting to portray while still feeling organic.
The menu of this place was small: light beer, dark beer, gloggi (warm wine) elk soup, pickles and sausage. Normally I wouldn’t start drinking at 9am, but it just seemed so right. The elk soup was provided in a bowl without utensils – just drank from the rustic bowls.
The inside was so dark that is was difficult to take much in the way of photos, but the experience was one of the most memorable from our trip to Tallinn.
Just outside of the III Draakon was the center of town – still decorated for Christmas.
Wandering Around Town
Much of the day was spent wandering around town exploring and taking in the views. Since none of us have an interest in kitschy souvenir stores, most of time was spent building up an appetite, or getting warm with coffee.
Climbing to the Top
There is an overlook above the city atop a nearby hill, that acts as the west side of the city wall. It looked much farther off than it seemed. Within only a few minutes of walking we were already at the top and admiring the views of the city.
Views From the Top
Danielle, our friend and tour guide, mentioned that the time she was there previously (when the weather wasn’t as blistery) these overlooks were crowded with groups taking photos. When we were there we ran into handful of people total.
We admired the view as long as we could stay still without being too cold and needing to warm up.
Marilyn in Snow
On a roped off street, Marilyn jumped in and without a moments noticed decided to make a snow angel. :)
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
One of the more impressive buildings we walked by was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a unique silhouette across the skyline. We didn’t end up going inside, only admiring it from afar.
Past the cathedral was the city park, awash with welcoming snow. We decided we had to see how high we could run up the side without slipping. I think the real winner here was Danielle, who was smart enough to not run up and instead stay warm. We later found a sign that made us realize how we were flirting with death.
We ended up having lunch at Farm a farm to table style restaurant specializing in Estonian cuisine. At this point all of us were feeling beat down by added work of exploring in snow, but somehow our appetites hadn’t grown to match. We didn’t let that stop us from ordering everything on the menu that looked interesting and having a hearty meal.
Views From the Wall
Just outside of Farm, we spotted something unexpected – a place where you could go up into a part of the city wall. For only 3€, we were allowed to walk up top and get a feeling for what life must have been like 500 years ago.
Inside the Wall
Inside the wall, the entire city vanished. The stone structure blocked all wind and was warm inside.
Tallinn is a great place for a day trip. The variety of food and uniqueness of experiences, made for a day much different than exploring a metropolitan city. Having never been to a medieval city, that was a new experience for me too.
If you’re thinking about heading to Tallinn, I’d recommend taking the 5pm ferry home, rather than staying too late. After an entire day of walking, we were dead on our feet by that time. With sunset around 4-5pm, staying until 7 means that much longer exploring at night.