Just a quick blog post today to tell you a little bit about my Christmas trip to the Estonian capital Tallinn and why I recommend it for a short festive city break.
Estonia is just a night-time ferry ride away from Stockholm or Helsinki, so it’s worth tacking on to your Nordic experience. This tiny ex-Soviet capital might not be one of your first thoughts for a city break, but I think it’s one of the nicest European cities around this time.
Estonia is where Scandinavia meets Eastern Europe, combining the charms of these two different cultures. The architecture is quite Eastern European with a hefty Russian influence (and in fact a large Russian population that leaves its mark on the language and culture) and there are noticeable hangovers from the Soviet period, but there’s still a hint of the Nordic that comes from the easy overseas links especially with Finland, whose language is also very similar to Estonian.
The currency is the Euro and people speak reasonable English so it’s quite a convenient place to visit. It’s also a must-visit for budget-conscious travellers. It’s not as cheap as Prague, Poland or Ukraine, but it’s definitely among the cheaper European capitals. It’s especially easy to find a good, cheap accommodation here, and food and drink is reasonably priced.
There’s really quite a lot to visit in Tallinn considering its size. Unfortunately a lot of the main museums and attractions were shut for Christmas, but we still managed to do quite a bit.
Some recommendations are:
Go up the city walls – for 3 euro you can climb up onto the ancient city walls for a beautiful view and a peek inside the old defensive towers.
Climb Toompea hill for gorgeous views of the old town. There are also several beautiful churches on top of the hill, and the area feels a bit like a mini Prague.
The Christmas market. Of course this isn’t here all year, but during the Christmas period there is a nice and fairly tasteful market in the central square where you can get a mulled wine for around 3 euro.
The KGB museum. This was the only museum that was open on Christmas eve (of the ones we tried) but is definitely worth a visit. It’s actually quite a strange museum located on the top of the Viru Hotel (it’s not signalled really, so just go in and ask at reception). There’s not so much to see, but the hour-long guided tour is funny and informative, and you’ll learn all about how the hotel was a centre for spying by the KGB during Soviet times.
Eat some Estonian food. Yes of course I recommend avoiding the centre of the old town when looking for cheap restaurants, but we found a pretty good one advertising Estonian cuisine on the way up the hill, so we gave it a try anyway and were not disappointed. Estonian food is pretty much what you’d expect from Eastern European cuisine – meat, especially sausages, a lot of sauerkraut and potatoes with good beer. We had a selection of Estonian sausages with potatoes, salad and various sauces for 25 euro between two. Beer here is quite affordable at around 3-4 euro for a half litre. Outside the centre you can easily find a three course meal with a drink for around 10 euro.
You can find more information about the famous sights here and a few ideas about cheap restaurants here. I recommend Must Puudel which has a cool hipster vibe and great food for decent prices (we ate there in two, with coffee, beer and dessert for 22 GBP).
Have you visited Tallinn or would you like to go? Tell me below!