Travellers to Tallinn will be thrilled by this town. This cosy capital of Estonia is a mixture of medieval and modern. The UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town will transport you back to the days of old. You can even experience a medieval banquet served by candlelight here. You can see the pageantry of a parade during Tallinn's Medieval Days in July, but modern life is never far away in a country which has one of the highest internet penetration rates and fastest internet speeds in the world.
If it all gets too much, you can relax and unwind in one of Tallinn's many spas. Estonians take their wellness seriously. You can visit a traditional sauna to warm up in the winter, or if you are lucky you might find a smoke-sauna, which has been listed on the UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.
After this treatment, you will feel like a royal person and you will want to go to a palace; Kadriorg Palace, built for Catherine I of Russia, is just a short tram ride from Tallinn centre.
Tallinn, whose name is derived from the Estonian for Danish town, was founded in 1248, but its foundations are older. It was conquered by the Danes and became one of the most Northern Hanseatic League towns. During this time, it was called Reval. Owing to the presence of Teutonic knights and the Protestant Reformation, the city had a strong German presence. Following many battles, it became part of the Russian Empire. In February 1918, it declared its independence and became an independent country. During World War II, it was occupied by the Soviet Union but was able to re-declare its independence in 1991. Since then, the Old Town has been restored and Estonia has become one of the leaders in ICT in the EU.
Things to Do
Rain or shine or snow, there are always things to do in Tallinn. Sightseeing, shopping or spas -- it is all here. History enthusiasts will not feel left out with visits to Kadriorg Palace or the Estonian Open Air Museum.
Explore the Old Town
This UNESCO listed Old Town covers an area of 46 hectares and is divided into two parts: Toompea, the upper town where the nobility lived, and the Lower Town. From Toompea and the Town Hall Tower, you can see the Baltic Sea. After all the sightseeing, take a break with a drink in one of the bars that surround the Old Town Square (Raekoja Plats) or go back in time with a medieval style meal.
Follow in the footsteps of Peter the Great at Kadriorg Palace
Kadriog Palace, which is a short-ride from the centre of Tallinn, was built by Peter the Great of Russia for his wife Catherine I. It is built in the Petrine Baroque style. You can visit the Palace, which houses a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia, and wander in the gardens. If you are lucky, you might even see the President of Estonia -- he is a neighbour of this Palace.
Go back in Time at the Estonian Open Air Museum
The Estonian Open Air Museum, which is a short ride from Tallinn, has a collection of original farmsteads and buildings from 18th century Estonia. The Museum is divided into four parts: Western, Northern, Southern and the Islands of Estonia. During the summer, you can even become an apprentice blacksmith.
Tallinn may be small but hidden among the Old Town are the boutiques of Estonian designers. Travellers can find unique, unusual, hand-crafted gifts at a reasonable price. If you want to buy some delicious Estonian mushrooms or other food, head to the Central Market (Keskturg)
Spoil yourself in a Spa
Estonians take their wellness and relaxation seriously. Travellers can find numerous spas in the city and beyond. You can warm yourself in a traditional Estonian sauna and perhaps even try a UNESCO-listed smoke sauna. As well as saunas and mineral water pools, you will find some different treatments at a reasonable price. You can be slathered in mud, for example, which has a therapeutic effect on the body. In the winter, brave travellers can try winter swimming with a refreshing dip in the icy water. Some Estonians believe it gives their immune system a boost.
Calendar of Events
Tallinn has events throughout the year to appeal to all. Here are few of the annual events held in the city:
Tallinn Medieval Days. The Medieval Days festival takes place annually in July in Tallinn. You are transported back to the town's Hanseatic League days. The Town Square hosts a large medieval market. There is a procession of locals dressed in traditional costumes of the era. There are also workshops, shows and even a knights' tournament for children. [http://folkart.ee/en/events/medieval-days-tallinn-old-town/]
Õllesummer Beer festival. This beer festival is held annually in July. It is the largest outdoor event held in Estonia. It is not just an opportunity to drink beer but also to see some of the top acts in Estonia and beyond. It is held in the city's Song Festival Grounds. [http://www.ollesummer.ee/eng].
Birgitta Festival. This annual music festival is held in the ruins of the Pirita Monestry in August. The festival covers classical, opera, ballet, contemporary dance and musical comedy. It has been organised each year since 2005. Pirita is the coastal resort of Tallinn, so you can see the sea during this festival. [http://www.filharmoonia.ee/en/birgitta].
St Martin's Day Fair. In November each year, Tallinn holds the St Martin's Day Fair. This is the largest handicraft fair in Estonia. You can buy local handicraft products or try some traditional Estonian food. There are also craft workshops so you can learn to produce some of the goods yourself. [https://www.visitestonia.com/en/st-martins-day-fair-2017].
Estonian Independence Day. Every 24th February, Estonia celebrates its Independence Day (the day it first declared its independence in 1918). Although it is a public holiday, there are several organised events. Travellers can see the raising of the Estonian Flag in a special ceremony at 7.30 a.m. from Toompea Castle. At noon, there is a parade by the Estonian Defence Forces in the Town Square.