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Fairy Tale Tallinn, Estonia

Picture Walt Disney building a medieval town and you get Tallinn .  It’s straight out of a fairy tale!  Cobble stone pedestrian only streets, check.  Town walls you can walk on, check.  A massive square, check.  Neat restaurants with outdoor seating, check.  It almost seems fake, but in a good way.

We arrived around 1pm after our 4 hour bus trip from Riga.  The bus station is miles out of town so we had to taxi to the Old Town then walk into the town as its completely closed to traffic.  We had time to eat, outside as the weather continued to be gorgeous our entire visit, before we met up with our Airbnb host.  She took us to our rental and we promptly dropped our bags before heading out for a free walking tour of the old town.

Our bus from Riga to Tallinn

Viru Gate – entrance to the old town. We ate lunch at the outdoor restaurant on the right.

Outside the Viru Gate

The tour, while informative, wasn’t that great.  Our guide talked way too much, however, he did take us all around the far side of the old town where we saw the Kiek in de Kok, the Maiden’s Tower, past the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and to viewing platforms that overlooked the city.

Kiek in the Kok

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

From there we walked down the town walls and into the lower old town before finishing in Town Hall Square.

Viewing platform from below

Town Hall Square

Another side of Town Hall Square

If you’ve been reading about our entire trip, you know that this would be the perfect time to stop for drinks and dessert!  We went to Troika (you can see it in one of the above pictures) and got a vodka sampler and crepe dessert.  Some of the vodkas were delicious, some were not, but it was still fun to try.  And combined with the atmosphere of the square and the perfect weather, it was a wonderful break from sightseeing!

Vodka sampler – cranberry, chokeberry, galangal, lemon, and I think pine nut

Then it was time to meander thru the rest of the old town.  We walked and walked exploring the other side of old town and tons of little streets.

We headed back to Troika for dinner as I was craving more authentic Beef Stroganoff.  When we got back to the square, they were projecting different movies on the side of the Town Hall to commemorate 100 years of the Republic of Estonia.  One showed the history of Estonia going back to the beginning of the earth, while another showcased current Estonian culture.  It was fantastic sitting outside eating and watching the show along with locals.

Movie projected on the Town Hall

Town Square lit up at night

Cute little street off the Town Square

The next morning we took a taxi to Kadriorg Palace a few miles from the old town.  This was single-handedly  the place I was most excited to see.  I’ve wanted to go to Russia my entire life to see the churches and palaces and here was a palace built by Peter the Great for his wife, Catherine.

The palace was very cool and disappointing at the same time.  The outside and grounds were nice, but most of the rooms inside were very bland and there weren’t really any furnishings.  The main hall was gorgeous though!

The palace now houses art and other artifacts, the most exciting being the Faberge eggs.  Unfortunately our pictures of them came out blurry so I don’t have any to share.

Kadriorg Palace

Getting back to old town proved harder than we expected as we couldn’t find a taxi at all.  We walked thru Kadriorg park to a busy intersection and still couldn’t find a single taxi.  Luckily after a bit, I spotted a taxi dropping off other tourists and was able to flag him down.  Phew.

Next up was visiting the KGB museum inside the Hotel Viru.  I was really excited to see this as well, however I didn’t realize you could only go as part of a set tour and you had to book them in advance.  So we showed up to find no open tours till much later and it just wasn’t going to work out.  Oops.  Although if this is the only thing I screwed up this trip, I don’t feel too bad.

So we decided to visit the Tallinn Town Wall which you can climb up and walk along.  This was actually pretty cool and gave another great vantage point to see the town.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the background

Another part of the town wall

Across the street is St. Catherine’s passage which is thought to have been built over 700 years ago.  They also had some tombstones hanging on the wall dating as far back as 1388!

St. Catherine’s Passage

Tombstones dating as far back as 1388 on left wall

At this point both our legs were exhausted because we had walked for hours and hours every day.  If I’m being honest, I was actually in pain and trying not to cry because my legs and knees hurt so badly.  So what is the best cure for that?!?  Sitting to enjoy a coffee and dessert!

We stumbled into this chocolaterie in a little courtyard that had delicious desserts and was such an adorable place to enjoy a rest.  The cake was every bit as good as it looks.

So good!

After resting up, we decided to re-explore most of the old town again.  Why did I do this when I was already miserable?  I guess because I loved the town and wanted to see it as much as possible before we left.  I’m not very smart sometimes.  But it was cool to see the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral again, revisit the viewpoints, wander the cute little streets, and soak up the town as much as possible before stopping for dinner and a local beer and heading back to our rental.

Outdoor dinner spot

We tried to get to bed early that night as we had an 7:30am ferry the next morning and needed to be at the ferry dock by 6:30am.  Unfortunately I got about an hour of sleep as I was in agony all night and had one of my most miserable nights in recent memory.   Chuck’s legs weren’t feeling that great either as we really overdid the walking on this trip.  Luckily we were able to flag a taxi in the morning and were able to skip walking the couple of miles to the dock.

Despite this, I look back on Tallinn so fondly.  It was adorable and quaint and everything you’d want a medieval old town to be!

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