4 Highlights of Estonia
We began the second part of our Baltic trip by entering Estonia and the World Heritage site of Tallinn via the Gulf of Finland by a high-speed hydrofoil which covered the 85 km in less than 2 hours at a cost of 20€ each. Tallinn is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and this was apparent with the cobble-stoned alleyways and picturesque buildings we saw as we entered Tallinn Old Town.
The old town is no doubt touristy with its pristine streets and many “traditional” restaurants, but it is beautiful nonetheless. There are sprinklings of the new and hip with modern culture graffiti and retro cool Soviet style cafes such as Kohvik Must Prudel facing ornate orthodox churches and historic residential buildings.
The Home of Marzipan?
Tallinn Old Town exudes a Disney-like nostalgia of the past. We got sucked into the atmosphere and stepped into the Marzipan Gallery, a shop filled with the sweet treat in all kinds of wonderful shapes and designs – but that’s not all it is.
Downstairs you will find a gallery full of marzipan sculptures of people and characters such as Marilyn Monroe and Shrek. If you still don’t have an appreciation for this almondy goodness, you soon will after you try your hand at sculpting your own. In the shop area there are tables and chairs and everything you need to fashion your own work of art. Cost is 4€ pp and takes about 30 minutes. Staff will package up your marzipan delight for you to take home and save.
You will find marzipan everywhere in Tallinn as it is claimed by many that marzipan was invented there, but the residents of Lubeck Germany may dispute this!
Tallinn Tours – By Bike and For Food
The next day we did two little Tallinn city tours, firstly a guided bike tour with City Bike that took us around Tallinn Old Town, the regal district of Kadriorg, and the hipster district of Kalamaja. In the evening we created our own food tour allowing us to sample a bit of everything.
If you are short on time, a great way to see any city is by bike; City Bike run great tours in and around Tallinn. We had booked in for one of their Tallinn City rides and since there was just the two of us we were lucky enough to be taken on a combination of their Welcome to Tallinn and Other Side of Tallinn Tours costing us 19€ per person.
There were a couple of uphill climbs but otherwise it was an easy ride. Particular places of interest were Kadriorg Palace and Park, Lauluvaljak Song Festival Grounds, Patarei Prison and Seaplane Harbour.
It was a fantastic way to take in the sights of districts other than the old town and gave us the chance to view a few of the remaining controversial Soviet monuments that have survived the Estonian legislation of removing Soviet symbols. Our guide gave us loads of interesting info along the way, showed us the must-sees and a few hidden gems.
Tallinn is like a medieval theme park for adults, and we loved it! It has the right balance of old and new, and the same goes for its food. We decided to do our own little food tour, and sample a bit of everything. Often this is a great way to get to know a city and its culinary culture instead of dinning at a single place.
There are loads of medieval themed restaurants in Tallinn providing banquets and performance table service so you can really immerse yourself into the experience. We on the other hand were after a taste of medievalness as opposed to a whole evening of it and III Draakon suited us perfectly. It’s a little pub selling drinks and snacks all between 1-3€, served within a medieval setting. We had a couple of delicious pasties, ox meat sausages, some complimentary giant gherkins; which Steve fished out of a big barrel, and yummy cider to drink. The place had just the right amount of tourist cheesiness without it being overkill.
Our next stop was on to Kompressor for a taste of their legendary pancakes. The pancake house is a casual relaxed bar setting with lots of round tables. Serving both sweet and savoury pancakes, all items are under 5€. The food’s not only cheap but tastes great too. Their servings are generous, and you won’t leave hungry. Full and happy we were off for a few drinks before retiring for the evening.
Our last stop was Cafe Och Bar Popular. The plan was just to have a couple of drinks from their great cocktail range, but having seen a cheeseboard on the menu I had to have that too; I’m addicted to CHEESE! Food was generous, cocktails were yum, and to top it off they have a shisha section at the back of the cafe. Cafe Och Bar Popular is so inviting, comfortable and warm we found it hard to leave. Bon Appetit!
Lush Forests of Lahemaa National Park
We couldn’t have asked for better weather for our final full day in northern Estonia, we took a day trip out to Lahemaa National Park, and if you have time you should definitely get yourself out there. We used City Bike again, who ran a tour where a van would take you out to Lahemaa with bikes and a map for a self-guided tour. Then you were left to cycle through the beautiful forests for half a day and they would meet you at the last point to take you back to Tallinn.
Sadly, it looks like they no longer run the exact tour, opting to run a slightly different excursion involving train travel for 29€.
Lahemma National Park is a gorgeous forest conservation area located on the northern coast of Estonia. It was a very safe and flat ride, not many vehicles on the road, and there are many different things to see along the way including bogs, wildlife, rivers, villages, a picturesque coastline, and a few eateries. Make sure you stop off at a traditional Estonian tavern for some refreshing Saku Pear Cider along the way.
After 3 days in and around Tallinn we made the first of our Baltic coach trips down to Parnu, one of Estonia’s most popular beaches in the south-west of the country. After a comfortable 2 hour journey we reached a small sunny city with cafes, restaurants and a chilled out vibe; the main attraction is the supremely maintained and pristine sandy beach which is a great place to grab some food, go for a swim, play volleyball, and chill out.
We stayed at the cute and spacious Tulbi B&B at 40€ per night. It’s close to everything and the owner is not only lovely but makes a great breakfast too!