User:(WT-en) Maj/Sandbox/Tallinn

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Guard tower in the city wall

Tallinn [1], the capital of Estonia, is truly one of the gems of Northern Europe. The city lies on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, only 70 km (43 mi) south of Helsinki. At the historical heart of the city is the hill of Toompea, covered in cobbled streets and filled with medieval houses and alleyways. The lower town spreads out from the foot of the hill, still protected by the remnants of a city wall. Around the city wall is a series of well-maintained green parks, great for strolling.

While the old town has been astonishingly well preserved and is now in better shape than ever, with the bigger roads converted into fashionable shopping streets reminiscent of Zürich or Geneva, the new town sprawling all around is largely built in typical concrete Soviet style. The new center of town is Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square) at the edge of the old town, and nearby is the giant matchbox of Hotel Viru, the former Intourist flagship and notorious den of Cold War intrigue (every room was tapped and monitored by the KGB!). Recently, Tallinn has received a boom in tourism, especially by daytrippers which visit it from its sister city across the Baltic Sea, Helsinki.


Tallinn is a historical city dating back from the medieval times and first mentioned in 1154, although the first fortress was built on Toompea in 1050. In 1219, the city was conquered by Valdemar II of Denmark, but it was soon sold to the Hanseatic League in 1285. The city -- known as Reval at the time -- prospered as a trading town in the 14th century, and much of Tallinn's historic center was built at this time.

Tallinn then became a pawn in the geopolitical games of its big neighbors, passing into Swedish hands in 1561 and then to Russia under Peter the Great in 1710. By World War I and the ensuing brief Estonian independence (starting 1918) Tallinn's population had reached 150,000.

Estonia was eventually annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, only to be conquered by Nazi Germany (1941-44) and then retaken by the Soviets. In World War II, the city was quite extensively bombed, even though luckily the medieval town remains. The Soviet Union undertook a program of Russification, and just over 40% of Tallinn's current inhabitants are Russian (compared to an average of 28% for the entire country). On August 20, 1991, Estonia declared independence and Tallinn became its capital once again.

Today, Tallinn is a bustling, gleaming metropolis of 400,000 people, undoubtedly the most modern city in the Baltics. However, among the tall glassy buildings and corporate headquarters, Tallinn retains an inner charm rarely found anywhere else. Estonia considers itself a Northern European country (i.e. nearly Scandinavian) and, if you have had Scandinavian travel experiences before, you will understand Tallinn well.

Get in[edit]

By catamaran or ferry[edit]

As in other parts of Baltic Europe and Scandinavia, sea is the easiest and most common way of reaching Tallinn.

The most common ferry shuttle route is the short journey from Helsinki in Finland to Tallinn. The basic choice is between fast hydrofoil or catamaran, which complete the trip in 1.5 hours but cost more (€22-38 one way) and are susceptible to poor weather, and slow ferries, which plod for 3.5 hours in rain or shine for half the price (starting at €12). Exact pricing depends on operator, season (summer costs more), day of week (Fri/Sat costs more) and even time of departure (to Tallinn in the morning and back in the evening is popular and hence more expensive).

As of 2004, the list of operators is:

Note that large catamarans and all ferries can also carry cars. There are also several ferry options to Stockholm, St. Petersburg and even some ports in Germany.

All ferries except Linda Line dock at Reisisadam port, to the north of the center. From here, there is a direct bus to both the city center and the airport; alternatively, just walk for a leisurely 15 minutes, first east to Mere pst and then down to Viru Square. The journey from the port to the city center is not all that impressive but don't be shocked - this isn't the real Tallinn!

By plane[edit]

Tallinn Airport (TLL), about 5 km from the city center, is increasingly becoming an airport hub of the Baltics. Nordica provides good quality services to a series of European cities, including London, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Riga, Vilnius, Kiev and Moscow. If you live in or near these cities, air travel is the best way to get to Tallinn. Fares are also fairly cheap - Amsterdam to Tallinn is from 67 Euro. In a code-share agreement with SAS Scandinavian Airlines, there are now a whopping 18 flights per week to Copenhagen and Stockholm. Another Estonian carrier, Finnair-owned Aero Airlines, operates 8 aircraft and offers 48 flights a week (7 a day on weekdays) to Helsinki, from where they have very good and flexible connections to 36 destinations all over Europe and to 10 destinations in Asia. Since 2004 the newest major air carrier EasyJet offers connections to London and Berlin at low prices. Detailed information is available from Tallinn Airport timetable.

Bus line 2 comes right in front of the airport and goes to the city center in just a few minutes. Be careful! Line no. 2 buses also go to the Mõigu area from the same stop. In the city centre, get off in stop A.Laikmaa, which deposits you smack dab in the middle of the city next to Hotel Tallink and the Viru Center shopping mall.

By helicopter[edit]

Alternatively, if you're in a very big hurry to get to or from Helsinki, Copterline operates an hourly helicopter service between the city centres. Flights take 20 minutes and the list price is a steep €198, although last-minute one-way ticket can be had for for €69. There are also a number of discounts and packages are available, notably €110 for Silja's catamaran one way and a helicopter ride back.

By train[edit]

Train travel in the Baltics has considerably decreased in recent years, and today, Estonian rail is a cocktail of private companies and subcontractors that makes it fairly hard to get around by train. There are limited train services to Latvia, Lithuania and Russia (Moscow by EVRekspress ). Therefore, train is not a good option to get into Estonia. If you're visiting from Russia, take the plane; if you're in Latvia or Lithuania, consider the bus. If in Poland, fly to a European hub and transfer to Tallinn, or catch a bus.

By bus[edit]

There are a series of fairly frequent bus routes that radiate out from Tallinn and serve other countries. These particularly go to Riga in Latvia and Vilnius in Lithuania, as well as other parts of Estonia. Even though not always the best of comfort, they are much better (usually) than the train if you live in one of Estonia's neighbouring countries. Increasingly, the buses are also servicing Russia, Germany and Poland

Get around[edit]

The Old City is best navigated on foot, not that you have much choice. A network of buses, trams and trolleybuses covers the rest of the city, and there is an abundance of (relatively) cheap taxis.

Public transport[edit]

Buses, trolleys and trams operate regularly between 6AM and 11PM. Make sure that you have a valid ticket when driving. You can buy tickets from newsstands or from drivers. For ticket prices go to .The Tallinn Card holders may use unlimited public transportation free.


The bus network covers the whole city from southeast to northwest. One time ticket from newsstand costs 10 EEK(from driver 15 EEK). Ticket has to be punched right after entering.


The tram network is covering the city centre. There are 4 lines and they all meet at Viru Center, at stop Hobujaama. About 15 vehicles are with a lowered middle-section, which makes trams wheelchair-accessible. Tickets also 10 or 15 EEK.


All trolley lines have a direction to south or west. There are 8 lines, 1-7 and 9. Trolley no. 8 was closed in 2000 and replaced with bus no. 22. The fleet is relatively new, though there are some old Škoda-s. Tickets 10 or 15 EEK.


If possible, always order taxi by phone and for example don't use the ones standing in Tallinn Port taxi stop. They are being called "the sleeve-taxis", cause usually they have extortionate prices and the taximeter seems to go a bit faster than normal. Legal taxi companies operating in Tallinn can be found at

By car[edit]

Like every other large-ish city, Tallinn has its fair share of traffic jams and therefore is not for the faint-hearted. Their road rules and driving style make sense only to themselves. The one and two way roads seem to change all the time and often you have to go around a barely-there signposted diversion to get into a road on your left. That being said, traffic jams in Tallinn clear very quickly and if you are from a large city, they will seem like speed-humps rather than headaches.

Speed limit in Tallinn is 50 km/h, except some bigger streets like Laagna tee, Pirita tee, Pärnu mnt., Paldiski mnt., Peterburi tee etc., which have the speed limit of 70 km/h.

If you are Melbourner (Melbournite if you are from Sydney), then this next rule will be familiar to you: if a tram picking up passengers, stop. They stop very frequently in the city centre so be wary of them. On the note of trams: do not do hook turns. It is very bad form - and from personal experience - the Estonians will hate you for it. Instead, the correct thing to do (if possible, without blocking the path of a tram) is to make a normal left turn from the lane closest to the centre.

As in other major cities, there is an abundance of parking if you are willing to pay for it. However, you might notice a lack of ticket machines or obvious methods to pay for your parking - one would logically think that you can park for free anywhere in the city. But, no such luck - you still have to pay for it. To compound the problem, they are not very clearly signposted either. To ensure you don't get fined, follow these steps:

  1. Each rental car should come with a plastic clock, visible on the dashboard. Every car in Tallinn gets 15 minutes free parking in paid parking areas. Indicate the time of your arrival, e.g. if you park at 15:30, your plastic clock should show 15:30 and you will have free parking until 15:45. Display this clock prominently on your dashboard so that it is visible from the outside.
  2. Find a fluro-vested parking inspector. Go to the person and ask: "Palun, üks parkimispilet" (One parking ticket please). You'll have to use a combination of sign language and a phrasebook if your Estonian is limited or non-existant to negotiate what type of parking ticket to get. There are several types of parking tickets - take the 24EEK parking ticket to be safe.
  3. Scratch the correct date and length. When you get your parking ticket, it will look more like a lottery ticket. The ticket is split into sections - fortunately, the tickets are in Estonian and English. Scratch off the date of usage. Then scratch off the time you wish the ticket to start. Make sure it is clearly visible next to the clock on the dashboard.
  4. Mobile phone payment [3] is very popular, but you have to have local mobile contract to use it.


The Old City[edit]

Tallinn's prime attraction is the excellently preserved Old City [4], built in the 15-17th centuries. The compact area is best explored on foot. In addition to the few spots listed below check out the city's Official Tourism site [5] where detailed and colourful sightseeing overview is provided.

  • Start your walk from Viru Gate [6], the entrance to the street of the same name, which is now Tallinn's trendiest shopping drag.
  • Head up to Raekoja plats, the square in the heart of the Old City, ringed with cafes and restaurants. The Raekoda (Town Hall) itself, built in 1371, dominates the square.
  • From the square, continue up the hill along Pikk street and Pikk jalg through the gate tower (1380) to Toompea, the site of the Danish castle that founded the city in 1219. Rebuilt in the 18th century, part of the castle now houses the Riigikogu, Estonia's Parliament. Other notable buildings in the area include the distinctive Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Lutheran Toomkirik, the oldest church in Tallinn.

Outside the Old City[edit]

  • Occupation Museum [7] featuring the life conditions under Soviet and Nazi regimes. Toompea str. 8
  • Tallinn Zoo [8] is enormous land area holding among its live exhibits "World's best collections of mountain goats and sheep", which means there's a lot of them. Tallinn Zoo is truly defying the realities of a relative modest town, featuring all the elephants and crocodiles a visitor would expect to see in a big city's zoo as well as breathtaking maze of lake-size ponds hosting birds in summertime.
    • Paldiski mnt. 145, stop "Zoo".
      • Bus 22 and 46 from Vabaduse väljak
      • Bus 21 and trolley 7 from Balti jaam(where the trains arrive)
      • Trolley 6 from Kaubamaja.
  • The Kadriorg Palace is simply an Emperial Russian Summer Residence [9] built by Italian architect Niccolo Michetti for tsar Peter the Great in 1718 and is situated in a 90 ha (222 acre) park in the eastern part of the city. The tsar himself - a typical mysterious Russian soul - preferred to stay in a modest house nearby. This event signified the beginning of Tallinn's fame as a summer resourt for noble and rich of Russia for most part of the 18th and 19th centuries. Currently the palace is housing some painting collections and other art. A part of the complex is nowadays occupied by the Office of the President and is out of reach. Weizenbergi 37
  • Open Air Museum [10] showing 72 buildings of, as the official site describes, "Estonian vernacular architecture and village milieu" of the tsarist time in a dark, dense forest. Get a picture about the life and its hardship in the old times...
    • Vabaõhumuuseumi str. 12, stop Rocca al Mare
      • Bus 21/21B from Balti jaam(where the trains arrive)
      • Bus 21A from Väike-Õismäe.
  • Holy Birgitta Monastery [11], situated in picturesque Pirita beach area, some 5 km (3 mi) from the city centre is a monastery (and a guesthouse operated by the nuns) of Scandinavian female saint as well as a landmark of 16th century catacombs and ruins.
  • Battery Prison [12], is the most recent and not yet well-developed historical attraction. Both a cannon fortress built around 1840 to protect the city from the sea-born attacks and notorious USSR prison, which ceazed operations only in 2004. Currently is offering "jail tours" up to 5 hours in length, which include single and torture cells, prison meal and, of course, execution. Kalaranna 2
  • KUMU [13] or National Art Museum, opened in February 2006. Not much known about the content, which almost 50,000 m² (538,196 ft²) complex will be holding, but in the enterior a cyclopic house, partly cut out of limestone rock, is highly visible. Weizenbergi 37/Valge 1


Tallinn Official Sightseeing Tour with multiple daily departures is available by Reisiekspert.

The other available tours are listed on the Tallinn Tourism site [14]



Estonia has become a hive of activity in IT. CV Online [15] has a lot of advertisements for speakers of Estonian or English in this field. Jobs for non Estonian speakers are less common in other fields.

English language teachers are also in demand, and if you have a TEFL certificate or equivalent you ought to be able to find a job.


For heavy-duty shopping check out the Kaubamaja [16] and Stockmann [17] department stores, off Vabaduse väljak. The area near the port has also sprouted an ever-increasing array of minimarkets, supermarkets and hypermarkets catering to the tax-free alcohol brigade.

For boutiques and souvenirs, your best choice is Viru street in the Old City and its side streets. There are many stalls selling traditional items like woolen pullovers and crystal; prepare to bargain.


The Old City is packed with restaurants claiming to offer authentic Estonian food, particularly on and around Raekoja plats. Prices are steep by Estonian standards, but still much cheaper than neighboring Helsinki -- which explains why on weekends they're always packed with daytripping Finns. Once again, the official site has a list [18] of the dining and drinking places sorted by type.

  • Olde Hansa [19] is the ruling king among Tallinn's restaurants with some of them trying to copy its style. The place is simply medieval, not just in terms of food but also in the sense of performance - no electricity, no music except live and authentic, no modern inventions. House special is bear meat "marinated in rare spices and cooked over a fire in honour of Waldemar II, the brave King of Denmark" costing no less than 40 EUR.
  • Troika. Raekoja plats 15, [20]. One of the better options in the area, offering generous portions of not Estonian but Russian food. In summer, people watch on the terrace; in winter, head down to the warm cellar. To fill up, get a misnamed "small" zakuski appetizer plate big enough for 3 (61 kr), then dip your pelmeni dumplings (49 kr) in smetana or the other sauces provided and wash it down with a shot of vodka (20+ kr).
  • Mauruse Pubi [21]. Near the city library. A great local pub, featuring cheap food with hearty portions.
  • Kohvik Moskva (Moscow Café) [22]. Vabaduse Plats. A more upscale coffee shop playing with the nostalgy of the "good old" Soviet times. A same name café existed at the spot during the Soviet period.
  • Kompressor Rataskaevu 3, just few minutes walk from Raekoja plats. This place offers huge and delicious pancakes of many kinds. Good deal.
  • Vanaema Juures Rataskaevu 10/12. Translates as "Grandma's Place" which gives you an idea of the warmest welcome you can expect here. Friendly and attentive staff are happy to explain the traditonal dishes. Excellent value for money. Booking essential in high season (tel. 626 90 80)


Tallinn's nightlife is extensive enough to be notorious. Exercise some caution in choosing your venue, as some strip clubs and such make their money by fleecing tourists who come in for a drink. Drinking is still cheap in Tallinn, you can get a beer in a bar for 2€.

  • Dekoltee, [23]. Ahtri 10. Claims to be the largest nightclub in the Baltics. Service is poor. Clientelle is predominantly Russian-speaking.
  • Vibe, [24]. Their techno parties are legendary, using venues like abandoned Soviet chemical factories. Scheduling is random, keep an eye on the website and be sure to attend if one is coming up.
  • DM bar, [25]. A small bar, only plays Depeche Mode.
  • Von Krahli, [26]. An avant-garde theatre/bar .
  • Kuku klubi, [27]. Founded 1935 by local art community and claims having had the best accessible cuisine in whole former USSR since 1958 till the end. Fortunately, this cannot be verified anymore.



  • NovoStay Budget Apartment-Hotel, ph. +372 6 440 880, GSM +372 56 213 213, email:, 13 centrally located studio apartments at residential building in Jõe Street 5/7 + several 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. You do not have to worry about how to get to the apartment – we will pick you up and bring you to the desired destination. NovoStay Apartments are more than just affordable – they include all amenities for enjoyable vacation or successful business trip beginning with fully equipped kitchen and ending with internet connection in every apartment. Prices from 45 EUR/night.
  • Vana Tom youth hostel, Vaike-Karja 1, +372 6313252 (fax: +372 6120611), [29]. Very centrally situated in the Old Town, so can be a little noisy. Situated in the same building as a strip club. A breakfast of a ham/cheese baguette, egg, fruit juice and piece of fruit is included. Clean, comfortable dorms. 235 EEK for a triple-decker dorm bed.
  • Tallinn Backpackers, Lai 10, +372 58106697 (E-mail:, [30]. Located in a medieval apartment in the center of the Old Town, this hostel feels just like being at home! Ideal for individual travelers with true backpackers spirit, Tallinn Backpackers has everything, even a minigolf course and a sauna! Deffinitely one of the nicest hostels in Tallinn. 175 EEK (€12).


Apartment rental is a viable option.

  • Apartments for rent in Tallinn & Riga by RED Group Apartments, more than 40 comfortable and fully furnished apartments in Old Town and centre for short and long stay. Expect more - apartment is a great alternative to hotel to feel like at home on your business trip or vacation. Private and cosy. See apartments for rent in Tallinn or apartments for rent in Riga. RED Group Apartments ph. +372 6 440 880 (Mon-Fri 9AM-6PM), GSM +372 56 213 213,,
  • Apartments, Aasa 2, Tallinn, 10122, Estonia, +372 5045444, Brokers a wide selection of budget priced apartments in Tallinn, from 29€ a night.


  • Merchants House Hotel, Dunkri 4/6, tel +372 6977 500, [31]. The hotel is located only yards from the Town Hall Square and has 31 rooms and 6 suites. The hotel is a small complex of 14th and 16th century building with rooms all looking in on the central courtyard. The historic buildings contrast with the luxurious designer interiors of the rooms.
  • Sokos Hotel Viru, Viru väljak 4, tel. +372-6809300, [32]. A giant matchbox of a building, for a long time the tallest modern building in Tallinn, very centrally located at the edge of the Old Town. In the Soviet days, when Tallinn was a hotbed of espionage, Viru was the city's premier hotel in and every single room was famously bugged by the KGB. Today it's just a very good Finnish-run business hotel, and even the gray facade has been whitewashed.
  • Townhouse Apartments, 11 comfortable apartments with overall facilities for rent at one of the main streets of Tallinn Old Town. Excellent view to the old town of Tallinn.Townhouse Apartments homepage


Stay safe[edit]

In some of the shadier bits of Tallinn's nightlife Mafia presence remains heavy, but much less visible and violent than it used to be. Overall, Tallinn is a safe town if you don't go out of your way to court trouble. Thefts and robberies still happen even in the most popular city centre.


Get out[edit]

[[Image:Pirita_hotel.jpg|thumb|Pirita Top Spa Hotel]]

  • Pirita was the venue for the yachting at the Moscow Olympic Games. Find bizarre Soviet architecture and Olympic ruins. 5 km (3 mi), walk or take the bus 1A, 8, 34A or 38.


  • There is also a big and wide sand beach at Pirita, full of locals and tourists in the summer.
  • Stroomi beach is at Northern Tallinn, big and popular place to visit. The water is clean and warm.
  • Harku lake is in West Tallinn. It's a small lake with lots of people, though the lake gets dirtier every year and it's not recommended to swim there.
  • Kakumäe beach is one of the youngest beaches in Tallinn. The water is almost the purest of all Tallinn beaches. Bus 21 from Balti jaam(where the trains arrive), bus 21A from Väike-Õismäe. Stop Kakumäe tee. Walk back to the city until you see a sign that shows a swimming area.
  • Pikakari beach is the newest in Tallinn, opened in May 2006. The water quality isn't very good, so t's not advised to go swimming there. The results of purity will come in next year.
  • REMEMBER - there is a flag system. Green flag means you can swim, it's safe; Yellow flag means you can swim, but it isn't recommended; Red flag means swimming is unadvised, go in at your own risk.