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Tallinn Travel Guide

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Tallinn Travel Guide: A Rising Star of Eastern Europe

Written by Paul on 11 Aug 2010 about a trip in Jun 2010.
Trip was for a friends on short break. Paul would probably visit again.

About Tallinn

One of the best preserved medieval cities in Eastern Europe, Tallinn was founded during the 12th Century and sits on the coast of Estonia overlooking the Gulf of Finland and Scandinavia, bordering Latvia and Russia.

Although conquered by the Danes in the 13th Century, Tallinn, formerly known as Revalia, still managed to keep its unique identity, namely due to Toompea Castle built around the early 11th Century, which acted as a stronghold to protect the harbour and nearby market.

Nowadays, Tallinn is a bustling harbour town divided into two unique sections, The Old Town and the new city. Since gaining independence in 1920, Estoniaís economy began to grow and today the new city has seen a rapid development in the business and tourism sectors. Many high rise buildings have sprouted up during the last few years, resulting in a new found interest for tourism as well as growth in the textiles, food and services industry.

Now becoming increasingly more modernised, Tallinnís new city houses an array of recognisable shops, restaurants, hotels and facilities and now provides strong transport links for travelling around.

Tallinnís Old Town is where the true medieval heritage can be found however. Now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Townís medieval buildings and streets are practically fully preserved and act as a wonderful throw back to the cities former days under Danish rule.

Narrow cobbled lanes and alleyways weave in and out of old buildings, now used to house excellent restaurants and inviting bars. The beautiful St Olavís Church sits within the citadel walls along with the cities most prestigious bastion, Kiek in de Kok, where visitors can delve inside the ancient fortress and learn how the town was guarded with a military exhibition on display inside.

Due to the influx of tourism of the years, predominantly European, a number of bars and clubs have emerged in the Old Town, making for a lively party scene during the weekends while a number of art galleries, exhibitions and small boutiques have helped to reinforce Tallinnís cultural development.

Getting to Tallinn

The Lennart Meri Airport is the easiest option in terms of getting to Tallinn and is the largest Airport in Estonia. Home to Estonia Air, the countries own commercial airline, the Lennart Meri Airport sits just four kilometres outside of Tallinn on the bank of the Lake Ulemiste.

From the airport a minibus is on hand to meet every flight and takes passengers into Tallinn for just 20EEK, which equates to just over £1. Alternatively, a bus can be picked up from outside the airport which runs from 7am to midnight, calling at Tallinn city centre and the harbour every 20 minutes for as little as 10EEK.

From the railway station, tram numbers 1, 2 and 5 go directly into Tallinn or alternatively walking will take no more than ten minutes. There are good international rail links from Tallinn to Moscow and St Petersburg from the central railway station thatís situated near the Old Town and harbour.

The best way to discover what Tallinn has to offer is on foot. The Old Town offers an extremely pleasant walking experience and many of its narrow lanes are too small to accommodate vehicles. Itís worthwhile spending the days exploring on foot, as there will be more opportunity to discover the many medieval buildings and iconography that remains in Tallinn to this day. Most attractions are relatively close knit too, so it wonít be an exhausting experience either.

Public transport in Tallinn comes courtesy of trams and taxis, both of which are low cost and simple options. The tram service operates around the new section of Tallinn and tickets for this as well as the bus service can be purchased from newsstands anywhere in town. Itís usually more expensive to purchase tickets directly from the tram or bus driver upon boarding than from the newsstands on the streets; however, those with a Tallinn Card can gain unlimited access to public transport for free.

Taxis are another affordable method of getting around Tallinn and a number of cab ranks are situated around the city on main roads and outside the larger hotels. Base fares are usually around 30-40EEK, although this is up to the drivers own discretion so its better to agree on the total cost of the journey with the driver in advance so no complications arise.

Velotaxiís, or bicycle taxiís, are a fun alternative to the usual mode of transport and can be picked up at cab ranks or hailed in the street just like regular taxiís. Generally starting at around 35EEK per person, Velotaxiís are a surprisingly inexpensive me

Tallinn attractions

Tallinn is blessed with numerable things to keep visitors entertained all year round, so whether your visit is during the summer season or just in time for Christmas and the New Year, there will never be a shortage of things to do.

Perhaps the most impressive highlight of Tallinn is the medieval Toompea Castle. Erected in around the early 11th century, Toompea Castle sits on a large limestone hill in the centre of Tallinn and was once used to defend the city from invading forces from Scandinavia. When the Danes eventually conquered Estonia in the 13th century, they took over Toompea Castle until the middle of the 14th century before Russian rule set in.

Today, Toompea Castle is home to the Estonian Parliament and sits alongside the Lutheran Cathedral. While most buildings around Toompea date back to the 18th century, it is here that Tallinnís unique medieval architecture can be most admired. Views from the top of Toompea look down across the Old Town and span out towards the new high rise buildings of the new city, making this spot one of Tallinnís premier destinations.

Tallinnís beautiful Town Hall Square is the focal point of the city and is home to the main hub of tourist activity. The Town Hall Square is the cultural epicentre of Tallinn, with many open fronted cafes, restaurants and bars circling its perimeter, resulting in a lively but laid back ambience. Throughout the year traditional markets and open air music concerts are held here, creating an opportunity for locals and visitors to enjoy some of Tallinnís best attractions in one place.

Tallinn nightlife

There are a number of pubs, bars and clubs where music ranges from rock to dance and hip-hop. The Old Town has a variety of small and inviting pubs where visitors can enjoy a quiet drink plus sophisticated bars for the more discerning clientele. Hollywood, one of Tallinnís most popular night clubs is situated in the Old Town and attracts large crowds on both the weekend and in the week.

The new part of the city contains the majority of large clubs and hotel bars, with Club Venus being one of the townís top destinations, offering a variety of music and live dancers over two floors.

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