Having fallen in love with Poland in 2012 my travel buddy and I chose to explore Eastern Europe a little more in 2014. After trawling through photos of the beautiful old town, we got our hearts set on Tallinn and embarked on a four day, four night adventure.
We found cheap flights with RyanAir from Manchester to Tallinn. Unfortunately, it seems Ryanair no longer fly this route. You can, however, fly with RyanAir from London Stanstead several times per week. While in Tallinn we explored the entire city by foot and were able to see all the sights we wanted to this way.
We stayed in the Metropol Hotel which offers easy access to both the old town and new town by foot. The hotel offers fairly basic, no frills accommodation but with prices at around £40 for a double room including breakfast, we couldn’t grumble. The hotel was clean which is always my main priority along with a good location.
My best piece of advice when it comes to eating in Tallinn – don’t go home without sampling the hot chocolate and cake in Maiasmokk Café. The oldest café in Estonia offers gorgeous sweet treats in an incredible building. I’m a little ashamed to say we didn’t just have a pit stop here the once (or even twice!!).
It is probably worth noting that for those of you that aren’t familiar with my blog; I’m vegetarian which can make travelling challenging at times. However, I must say that our eating in Tallinn was a huge success. On the first night we opted for Balthasar garlic restaurant having seen it raved about in our guide book. This traditional Estonian restaurant just off the market square is full of character and offers reasonably priced, tasty food. On our second night we went to the highly recommended African Kitchen – a little off the beaten-track but worth the detour. The African Kitchen is a quirky restaurant offering tasty, authentic African food.
Vegan Restoran V – what a great find this was. I am vegetarian, not vegan, and my friend is a meat-eater. However, we had an absolutely fantastic meal in this place. They were so creative with ingredients and flavours and this was the highlight of our culinary experience in Tallinn for both of us. Our final evening was spent eating Italian food and drinking wine in Trattoria La Bottega. While a little more on the pricey side, this restaurant offered a lovely experience for our last evening. It’s clearly popular with the Estonian rich and famous – some important looking people were being ushered into the private dining room by several men wearing ear pieces during our visit!
One of our favourite things we did in Tallinn was to walk the old city walls. For a small admission fee you can climb the old concrete steps to experience stunning views of the old town.
While we’re on the topic of stunning views – be sure to make a trip to the Patkuli viewing platform on Toompea hill where you can take in staggering views of the city. You can have a wander around Toompea Castle and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral while you’re there. Unfortunately, the latter was difficult to photograph due to scaffolding while we were there but I did manage to find one good angle!
My lovely friend Caroline will never let me live this next part down. Prior to arriving in Tallinn I had come across rave reviews of Patarei Sea Fortress Prison. This was interestingly left of the guidebooks, perhaps due to its troubling history. I dragged my poor friend off the beaten track to the site of the fortress where we bought two tickets from a very unofficial looking lady in a caravan. We opted to go in alone instead of waiting for a tour. Patarei is a former soviet prison which was abandoned in 2004 when Estonia joined the EU. The prison remains totally untouched; left in the state it was abandoned. Stepping over broken glass and barbed wire surrounded by prisoners’ clothing and possessions is an eerie experience. Our first mistake – going it alone. We saw a couple of other people during our walk round but the site is so huge that we were totally alone for the most part.
You are able to walk around whatever parts of the prison you can safely access, including the guard rooms, cells, medical room and even the hanging room. The site is so untouched that there was even blood still visible on the floor of the medical room.
Despite it being 30 degrees C, Patarei was bitterly cold. My view on ghosts has definitely changed since visiting this place. The final straw was when Caroline went to take a picture of the shoes below and the camera became fuzzy, making a high pitched noise. I don’t think either of us has ever moved so fast and as silly as it sounds now, we ran from the building with a few screams.
We left without exploring huge parts of the prison as, quite frankly, we were genuinely petrified. You’ll have to visit Patarei yourself to understand the truly haunting feeling it gives you; pictures can’t portray the feel this place has. Despite the subsequent nightmares, I am glad we visited the former prison (I think!). If you’re into eerie, abandoned places then this is definitely one for you.
Tallinn is a reasonably priced city to visit. £150 lasted me four days, including lunch and dinner out each day, admission to attractions, drinks and snacks and a lovely amber ring from a market stall. We didn’t scrimp too much while in Tallinn and as you can see from above we ate in some lovely restaurants. If you wanted to, I feel you could easily do Tallinn even cheaper.
We took a guidebook each to Tallinn – the Berlitz Pocket Guide and the Eyewitness: Top 10 Tallinn. The latter was definitely the best of the two and started my love affair with this series. I’d recommend purchasing this before your trip.
I enjoyed my time in Tallinn and am glad we visited but I must say it doesn’t quite cut it as one of my favourite places. There isn’t a huge amount to do in the city so I think two or three days may have been better than four. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I think if I could go back, I would have done two days in Tallinn and then got the ferry to Helsinki for two days. We live and learn!