Tallinn, capital of Estonia, is definitely a destination to consider for a 2/3-day weekend visit.
What comes to mind when you think about the Baltic countries? A significant number of European citizens have absolutely no idea about these countries. Moreover often people mix up the three Baltic countries and their capitals. The Baltic states are however worth discovering and can provide you with another perspective on Europe.
Although Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius are all very interesting capital cities with an interesting Eastern architecture, I think the Estonian capital is certainly the most beautiful and surprising one. The Lithuanian and Latvian capitals are quite similar, while Tallinn is quite different with a Scandinavian influence. This city will surely surprise you.
The first and only obstacle: how to get there? Even if you think Estonia holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU might mean that flight connections would be quite good during this period, this is not exactly true. Direct flights are quite rare and you probably have to stop in Riga, Helsinki or Frankfurt.
Once there, good news! If you do not know where the cab should take you, you can easily have a look on the Internet with your smartphone. Internet access is a constitutional matter and a human right in Estonia. Tallinn is therefore very well covered with Wi-Fi. How many Western European countries have implemented such policies? None.
The first stop is surely the city centre. It is small and medieval. Most of the touristic attractions are related to the Middle-Age period. The main square, Raekojat plats, pictures the old town well. The houses are very colourful, as well as the pedestrian paved streets which make you feel very comfortable for a 1 or 2-hour walk. After a coffee or drink on the there (if you are not afraid of cold), pass by the Town Hall Pharmacy. Although you probably do not travel to purchase medicines, the Town Hall Pharmacy has opened in 1422 and is one of the oldest running pharmacies across Europe. It was run by the same family for more than three centuries.
Should you aim to have a walk around the city centre, then you can follow the fortifications. As many cities in the past, Tallinn was fortified to protect its residents against enemies. You can have access to mysterious passages with a guide. Two trains can take you either on a tour to the year 2219 or back to the 17th century. After this excursion both to the past and the future, you might be hungry. Just go back to the main square, which will take you about five minutes, and have a look at Olde Hansa. Polyglot waitresses and waiters will welcome you with medieval costumes and you can eat food from the Middle-ages. Olde Hansa is a bit more expensive than other restaurants in Tallinn, but it is super friendly.
If you like view points, it is worth going up in the city centre. Follow the stairs and you will firstly reach the Prime Minister’s office and the orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Then a short walk will take you to two terraces from where you can have a view over the Old town and the Baltic Sea.
After a first day of visits, enjoy the Tallinn nightlife, which is very friendly if you like craft beers and vodka. I recommend having some drinks in Kalamaja district, which is a recent hipster place in Tallinn where you have the feeling to be in a village.
Should you need a more relaxing day on Sunday, why wouldn’t go to a market? Balti Jaam Market is a Russian one, where you can find thousands of products. Estonia got independent from Russia more than 25 years ago. Although Estonia has been very sceptical about Russia and protecting political positions, the Russian influence is still a reality. After having fun at the markets, you could have a walk on the seaport and along the Baltic Sea. During wintertime, you never know what can happen and you might have the opportunity to literally walk on the sea if it’s frozen.
In case you have planned a 3-day trip in Estonia, you could also visit Tartu, the student city, for a day after you have visited Tallinn. Another suggestion is to have an excursion in Helsinki for a couple of hours, as it is quickly accessible by ferry. Tallinn is a great choice if you want both to travel and relax. It’s not a big city, the atmosphere is quiet, and it’s very affordable.