1. Town Square, 2. Back streets of the town
A brief history:
There has been a long history of Russian’s attempting to conquer Estonia, beginning in the 11thcentury. In recent history (I’ve always though that was a paradox), in 1917 after years under the Russian rule a revolution broke out. The Tsar abdicated and the Estonians demanded independence. To which the Russians were unwilling to give complete independence. However, they were willing to grant some autonomy and the governments met in July 1917. Although, by November 1917, the Communists had seized power and were not willing to give Estonians any autonomy.
However, by the end of 1917 the Russian army was collapsing and the Germans were advancing. By February 1918 the Germans had reached Estonia and on the 24 February 1918, the Estonian parliament declared Estonia independent. Unfortunately, much to the dismay of every Estonian I met whilst on my travels, the Germans entered Tallinn the next day and occupied Estonia until the end of the war. On the 3 January 1920 the Russian’s agreed to a ceasefire and signed the Treaty of Tartu, recognising Estonia as an independent country.
Horror struck for Estonia when the Russians invaded yet again on the 17 June 1940. It was not long before a Communist regime was imposed. Shortly after this the Germans invaded Russia and then quickly captured Estonia until 1944 when the Russians invaded Estonia and ruled Estonia under the communist regime. By the late 1980s the tyranny began to unravel. The Soviet leader, Gorbachev introduced policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reconstruction), leading to the wanting of Estonian independence once again. In March 1991 majority of the Estonian population voted in favour of independence in the referendum. On 20 August of that year, Estonia declared its independence. Information gathered from here.
3. Town Square, 4. Nevsky Cathedral, 5. Toompea Hill view
Things to do:
- Free walking tour- a free walking tour is one of my favourite things to do when I first arrive in a new city for a few reasons. The first is to get my bearings for where I am. The second is for the history and information you learn about the place you are visiting. The third is it’s an excellent way to talk to new people, which is especially nice if you are travelling alone or if you want to talk to someone other than your travel companions for a few hours. The walking tour I went on was this English speaking tour that commences at 10:30am everyday in front of the freedom monument in Freedom Square for a duration of two hours. I could not recommend partaking in this tour enough. Our tour guide Kadri was the sweetest and most informative tour guide we had the whole trip. She really made our first day in Tallinn very special, and helped us fall completely in love with the city.
- Kadriorg Park- began construction in 1718 and now elements of the parks design are from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Enjoy a pleasant stroll around Kadriorg Palace and the impressive gardens. Kadriorg is also the perfect place for all art lovers as it houses Kadriorg Art Museum, KUMU and the Mikkeli Museum. My personal favourite aspect of Kadriorg was the perfectly planted and groomed palace garden. Allow half a day for travelling to/from Tallin to Kadriorg, to explore the park and all it has to offer at a leisurely pace.
- KUMU (Art Museum of Estonia)- is the largest exhibition venue in Estonia. This museum is relatively new, having opened its doors on 17 February 2006. In 2008, the museum received the European Museum of the Year Award. The museum carries both local and international art works. I always enjoy a well curated art gallery and this definitely makes the cut. Allow 1.5 hours to peruse this gallery.
- Kiek in de Kök and Bastion Tunnels- this exhibition begins in 1219 and offers widespread information and entertainment as you travel through the tower. The tower is very high and the steps are quite steep and narrow, so if you have bad knees/are claustrophobic you may not enjoy this tourist activity. The tower offered a lot of various information, which I unfortunately did not have time to read every single plaque which I usually try to do. I do believe that if you come to Tallinn, it is a must to go up the Kiek in de Kök, although, in all honesty it was probably my least favourite activity I did in Tallinn. Allow 1-2 hours to go up the tower and make sure you book in a time to do the Bastion Tunnels (I missed out because of this). The museum is closed on Mondays and public holidays. From March-October, Tuesday-Sunday the museum is open from 10:30am-6:00pm, and from November-February, Tuesday-Sunday it is open 10:00am-5:30pm.
- Town Square- a completely obvious must-do. Grab something to eat at the plentiful amount of restaurants around the outside of the Town Square and watch as the amazing little world passes you by. It is a beautiful, fairy-like Town Square and I seriously never wanted to leave. It took my breathe away the first time I saw it.
- Toompea Hill- go here for the best look out in Tallinn, looking down onto the many buildings below. Address is Toompea, 10130 Tallinn, Estonia (or ask one of the locals to point you in the right direction)
- If time permits other things worth seeing- Museum of Occupation.
6. Back streets of the town, 7. Back streets of the town, 8. Toompea Hill view
The accommodation I stayed in Tallinn was perfect. The location was just outside the Town Square, surrounded by restaurants but escaped the hustle and bustle of the tourists. Just outside of my window I was looking onto a calm beer garden. The best part of the location meant we could go back to the apartment in the afternoon for a siesta when we got tired before dinner. The décor of the apartment was so beautifully rustic and European, you felt just like a local. My absolute favourite part was when I heard the faint sounds of panting outside and when I looked I saw a HUGE white dog! I didn’t get a good look so I can’t recall what breed it was but boy it was big and fluffy. So if you do stay here, keep a look out for your soft neighbour.
9. Pretty doors, 10. Kiek in de Kök, 11. Cute markets in the town
- Getting to Tallinn- I arrived to Tallinn, Estonia by boat from Helsinki, Finland which is probably the most cost effective, quickest and most popular mode of transport between the two countries. The boat ride took 2 hours, and you only needed to arrive half an hour or so earlier to board on time. On the boat you received on board entertainment by a band (to which people enjoyed a dance or two), a cosmetic store (to which I spent 1.5 hours perusing and buying make-up) and a cafeteria. There is plenty of room to walk around and chairs for sitting, so you don’t feel claustrophobic like you would on a plane. I travelled with this company, and I would definitely recommend it if you want to travel the Baltic countries, but fly into Finland first (as I don’t think many/if any planes fly directly from Sydney, Australia where I am from to Tallinn, Estonia).
- Getting to Kadriorg Park- this was an adventure. In Tallinn the trams stop in the middle of the road, to which we did not know and it stopped some 5 metres in front of us, so we had to run to catch it. Once we got on, it was easy enough and the tram should announce your stop at Kadriorg Park (if not, majority of people on the bus will be getting off here, so maybe ask a fellow commuter than follow suit). When travelling home, just go back to the spot you disembarked, but on the other side of the road and take it directly back to town.
- Getting to Riga, Latvia- travelling to the next Baltic country, Latvia, can be done in a multitude of ways. We opted to take the one-day bus trip from Tallinn to Riga, which is complete with stops in the towns of Viljandi, Cesis and Sigulda, allowing you to see the Estonian and Latvian countryside (lots of green grass). It was an excellent day with a very knowledgeable and warming tour guide, Triin. Some people may not want to spend a whole day travelling from Tallinn to Riga, and want to get there quicker so perhaps the 4-hour bus would be a better option for you if time is of the essence. But if you have the time and want the longer adventure and to learn something on the way, then this would be a good trip for you. The bus only holds 8 seats, so it’s a small tour, which is always nice. This is a 12 hour adventure, starting at 9am in Tallinn and arriving at 9pm in Riga, where you will depart from your tour guide.
- Deciding which Baltic country to start in- I opted to start in Estonia, then travel onwards to Latvia, then Lithuania. I chose this option because there were more flights travelling from Sydney, Australia to Helsinki, Finland and this was the easiest mode of travel for me. However, depending where you are travelling from you can do it the opposite way; Lithuania-Latvia-Estonia. Check out my post and travel tips on Latvia here.
12. Kadriorg Palace, 13. Kadriorg Palace garden
Estonia was the most expensive Baltic country, which is still very cheap compared to many other European countries.I think travelling to the Baltic countries is great for anyone, but especially those who are trying to spread out their funds and want to explore beautiful cities, learn about the history, eat delicious food and just see something a little different.