Getting There: Now I call Tallinn cheap, considering it neighbors the costly countries of Scandinavia. The best evidence of this price difference can be seen when taking the Tallink Silja Line ferry from Finland to Estonia- a journey I’ve nicknamed, “the budget booze cruise!” 🍾 ⛴️You see, because of Estonia’s cheap liquor prices, Finns frequently make the journey on this ferry as a round-trip booze cruise. They come on board, purchase cheap, duty-free alcohol by the shopping cart-full, and in return, get the pleasure of partying the night away on this budget-style cruise boat. The ferry has cabins available for sleeping, and they provide plenty of entertainment, like karaoke, live music, and a gambling casino. After some liquid courage, you could see that everyone was having a good ol’ time! 🍷🍺🍸🎵
The most popular Estonian liquor is Vana Tallin, a rum-based liquor, with notes of cinnamon, toffee and citrus, that is often bottled with a sweet cream.
Cost: 21 Euro for the four-hour, one-way trip.
Anyway, after taking this unexpectedly fun and entertaining ferry ride to Tallinn, I walked from the ferry port to my hostel, to tuck in for the night.
What to Do in Tallinn:
To learn a few facts about Estonia, my first activity was a free walking tour in Tallinn’s historic city center.
Estonia is a small country, with a population of only 1.3 million people.
Fun fact: More tourists visit Estonia each year than its total population! 😲Fun fact: Although there are many gorgeous cathedrals and churches in Tallinn, Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world.
Aside from admiring the small details, to get the best birds-eye view of this city, head to the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform.
Now aside from its medieval history, Estonia has a long history of Nazi and Soviet rule, which persisted through most of the 20th century, and ended in 1991.
Fun fact: The country declared independence twice from the Soviet Union; therefore, they have two Independence Days. Their break from Soviet Rule was also called the “Singing Revolution”, since they sang traditional folk songs during many of their peaceful protests.
Now to learn more about the harsh Soviet Rule in Estonia, it’s possible to visit the old KGB prison cells.
Personally, I went to visit the Patarei Prison, which was used to victimize people during Nazi and communist rule. It’s no longer possible to enter the complex, but it’s still nice to walk around the exterior of this abandoned site, with a rather cruel and twisted history.
Anyway, one great thing about Tallinn is that there are numerous informative plaques around the city, which describe most of the historic sites and important historical events. Self-guided sightseeing at its best!
It’s really an ideal place to feel festive this time of year!
As for shopping in Tallinn, you’ll find many souvenir shops selling handmade outfits and crafts, antique shops selling cool Soviet artifacts, and oodles of quaint and charming cafes.
One of my favorite spots to warm up was the historic Maiasmokk Café. The smell of sugar and holiday spices from the cafe wafted into the streets, and rightfully beckoned my call.Not only are they the oldest cafe in Tallinn, but they make delicious, strong cappuccinos, and they also serve homemade pastries and marzipan. ☕
For a cheap meal in Tallin, I visited Ill Drakon, a traditional medieval-themed tavern.I highly recommended the elk soup, mushroom pastry, and my personal favorite, homemade pickles. Yum!You can even spear them yourself! Just make sure to clean up after yourself before you leave. 😉
On my second day, I wandered a bit off-beaten-path. I visited Kalamaja, an old fisherman’s village, which has some traditional wooden homes that are unlike the standard Soviet-style housing in most of Tallinn.I also visited the hip and trendy Telliskivi District, which has lots of funky restaurants and pop-up shops.
Overall, it looks like a super fun place to hang out in the summer, but maybe not in the winter, when the weather is quite harsh, and most people are trying to escape the cold.
Fun fact: Estonia would also be a great place to visit in summer, considering half of the country is covered in forest. A hiker’s paradise! 🌲
Also, en route to Telliskivi, I found some cool street art. My favorite piece was this colorful rendition of Estonian legend, Koit & Hämarik, which depicts an epic Viking love story. 💙💜
Wandering over here, outside of the historic city center, also gave me a better look at modern Estonian housing. It’s nice to see how normal people live now-a-days. Obviously the medieval times are long gone!
Anyway, that wraps up my two-day journey through Tallinn. Up next I headed to Riga, Latvia. Stay tuned to hear all about it! Until then!
Where to Stay:
While in Tallinn, I stayed at Alur Old Town Hostel. The staff was friendly and they had clean facilities, plus they offer a great value for your money! Cost: 10 Euro/night