Updated: Apr 9
I personally don’t think Estonia gets enough credit, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who have gone to Estonia or have even thought about ever going. I suppose it can be considered a bit off the beaten track to more popular European destinations.
From reading up on Tallinn and looking at various different websites, I had come to the conclusion that Tallinn Old Town was going to be quiet and laid back. This thought was exciting, to be able to see an amazing city without the large hordes of tourists, overpriced restaurants and be able to take beautiful pictures undisturbed. But in reality it was the furthest thing from quiet and laid back, with large hordes of tourists on every corner.
But besides it being extremely busy, it is still worth visiting Tallinn Old Town as it is unimaginably beautiful. It feels like you have stepped back a few centuries as the medieval structures and the cobblestone streets are so well preserved. The streets are lined with medieval buildings and there are so many beautiful churches to visit. The city is still encircled by much of its original stone wall and dotted with guard towers definitely gives it an extra dose of fairy-tale charm. It is very easily explore on foot but with the cobblestone streets shoes with support are recommended.
Tallinn has often been referred to as being a very cheap country, but I didn’t see anything cheap about it. Starters ranged in price from €5 -10 each and a pasta dish (very small portions) were anywhere from €15-17. Pizza was cheap at €7- 9 each but that was about it. Food prices were the equivalent to Ireland, and there is definitely nothing cheap or low cost about that. Again drink were also expensive with one bar charging €7.90 for a pint of Estonian beer, which gives temple bar a run for its money.
The large hordes of tourist come mainly from cruise ships that dock early morning in Tallinn and then the madness begins. I saw way to many tours with the their flags up high trying to get their tour groups attention with none of these tourists too interested in moving out anyone elses way in the mean-time. There are not too many quiet moments to be found during the daytime unfortunately. If you happen to arrive on the weekend then you will also see lots of stag parties so quiet moments at night may also be an issue, as the bars can get quite rowdy as they fill with drunk tourists looking to get drunker and it spills out on the streets.
I have very mixed feeling about Tallinn, this may be partly due to the mass tourism from all the cruise ships but I’m torn between hating the mass tourism the city has to loving the undeniable beauty of its medieval fairy-tale charm. I would like to think I just planned this trip at the wrong time of year.
My favourite time in Tallinn was when all the cruise ships had left and it was late Monday evening. I got the chance to wander around without the crowds. During summer in Estonia it never really gets dark, with 11pm at night looking more like 6pm in the evening. Walking around in the beautiful warm evening, I got to see the magic of Tallinn that everyone talked about. The streets were almost soundless, but this may also be due to the fact it was St John’s Day. It was so much nicer to admire the Old Town without the massive crowds. You could just sit and be in complete awe of the beautiful architecture all the buildings hold. It was during this time that I saw why people would want to come here it made me love Tallinn a little more than I previously had. I no longer saw the hordes of tourists that had so blemished my vision previously.
All in all, Old Town, Tallinn has such a beautiful presents with its medieval fairy-tale charm, there is definitely no denying that. I still feel it is way too touristy to enjoy as it is a small place (total Tallinn population is 400,000). I would highly recommend off-season as the best time to visit Tallinn, when the hordes of tourists are gone and medieval cities are much better when they are unoccupied and quiet.
The hotel I stayed in was St.Olav Hotel. On average it cost about €60-70 a night per room. The breakfast selection wasn’t fantastic and the hotel itself was like a maze. But full of old charm. The room was very clean and the bed was comfy. The location was perfect so close to Town Hall Square where all the restaurants and bars are. There is a 24hour shop just around the corner from here and also Toompea Castle is only 0.5km away.
Any questions or further information I can provide you with, feel free to pop me an email