Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is the perfect Christmas destination. When I arrived in early December there was a dusting of snow on the ground and a chill in the air; the old town looked like a scene from a fairytale. This Baltic country is just two and half hours flight from London, geographically it sits between Russia and Scandinavia, and has character attributes which reminded me of both. It is a small and easy city to navigate, with cosy cafes, interesting museums and welcoming bistros serving creative and comforting cuisine. A long weekend will give you plenty of time to see the sights and discover a few specialist local venues, some of which I have listed below.
Kaks Kokka – The name ‘Kaks Kokka’ translates to ‘Two Chefs’ which refers to the pair of chefs who run this quirky restaurant. The dining room is modern and casual, the menu offers a range of internationally inspired dishes but using the best Estonian produce. For a fancier dinner, head next door for a tasting menu at their other venue, Restoran Ö.
Noa – This gourmet restaurant has an advantageous location overlooking Tallinn bay, and serves some of the best food in town. For a special occasion the ‘Chef’s Hall’ part of the restaurant presents spectacular 5-7 course degustation menus by chefs Tõnis Siigur and Orm Oja. The more relaxed main restaurant serves experimental but tasty dishes like ‘Eggplant Burnt End’ and ‘Josper Banana’ with whiskey-caramel sauce and lemongrass ice-cream.
Umami – Found in the residential district of Mustamäe, this homely eatery is set in a residential house with a large apple orchard. The short menu features classic dishes which all aim to give a taste of umami. ‘Pan-fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and lecho’ was delicious and reasonably priced.
Restoran Controvento – For traditional and appetising Italian food Restoran Controvento in the centre of the old town is a great choice. The simple dining room is a lovely place to take shelter from the cold and feast on homemade pastas and pizzas.
RØST – Røst is a cinnamon bun mecca, perfect for breakfast or a quick snack in the afternoon. Watch the master bakers at work as your enjoy your hot drink and sugary bun.
FRANK Bistro – This trendy bistro in the old town is popular with the hipster locals. The interiors have a New York feel, though the menu features French classics like snails and tarte tatin. It is a great place for a burger and beer in Tallinn.
Nohik – This coffee shop is randomly located in the Tallinn University, but it is worth finding for the fine coffee and freshly made juices. The baristas use speciality beans from all over Europe, and there is a bright, light space to work in.
Whisper Sister – Opened in December 2016 by a group of four friends (all experts in the industry) this speakeasy style bar serves the best cocktails in Tallinn. With no sign on the door, and no website, you’ll have to call ahead or email to book your seats. Speak to brilliant mixologist (and co-owner) Irene about the menu and she’ll make sure you receive a drink you love.
Bjorn Espresso Bar – A modern espresso bar serving high quality coffee and warm baked snacks. The delicious coffee is made with Drop Coffee Beans from Stockholm, Sweden.
Renard Speed Shop – Renard is a motorbike shop, barber and coffee shop in the Kalamaja area of Tallinn. The vintage inspired cafe is a great place to enjoy a high quality cup of coffee – you can choose from drip or espresso drinks.
Pierre Chocolaterie – This traditional artisan chocolate shop makes the best hot chocolate in town, and is a good address to know about in Estonia’s colder months… seats fill up fast especially when it’s snowing outside! A thick and delicious cup of hot chocolate costs 4 euros, and is big and rich enough to share between two.
Dissident Cocktails & Curiosity – Those in the know drink at Dissident, a top secret prohibition cocktail bar in a disused building by a parking lot, on the outskirts of town. It is just one room, with a large square bar, open on Friday and Saturday nights from 9pm onwards. The experienced barmen can make you anything, but best to pick from the daily specials, which cost 8 euros each. I loved the ‘Statesman’ a whisky based drink perfectly balanced with Amaretto, Peppermint and Egg white.
Patkuli View Point – A lovely lookout in one of the most ancient spots in town, offering beautiful panoramic views over the towers and rooftops of Tallinn.
Kalamaja – This quiet residential neighbourhood once served as the town’s main fishing harbour. The colourful wooden houses are unique and charming, definitely worth a wander.
KUMU – An expansive and cutting edge art museum displaying Estonian-created works from the 18th-21st centuries. I found the exhibition showcasing works from the period of Soviet occupation particularly interesting.
KGB Prison Cells – The KGB were the main security agency for the Soviet Union, and this newly opened museum offers an insight into the interrogation and imprisonment of suspected enemies of the state.
Guild – An atelier and design house who make a beautifully tailored range of menswear and womenswear, denim and hats. Each garment is immaculately crafted from the highest quality materials. The woollen winter suits are stylish but appropriate for the cold Tallinn weather.
Sfäär – One of Tallinn’s few concept shops, Sfäär sells a range of international design brands from Acne to Aesop. Look out for some of the more local brands like Tuul, a Tallinn-based beauty company.
Telliskivi Creative City – This former industrial complex is now home to a range of studios, shops and cafes. Pop in to browse the Baltic crafts at Les Petites or enjoy a drink at Homeart.
Many thanks to Visit Estonia for their help with this trip. More information here.