Don’t let the cruise ship crowds deter you: most of the Estonian capital is blissfully free of hordes of tourists, yet full of unusual attractions and buzzy, revived neighbourhoods.
With a population of just less than 500,000, everywhere in Tallinn is walkable.
You could spend two days exploring the once-dormant area of Kalamaja alone, while the craft beer, spirits and wine scene gives plenty of larger cities a run for their money…
With a population of just less than 500,000, everywhere in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, pictured, is walkable
Where to stay
Solo Sokos Hotel Estoria
The essence of Estonian quirkiness, this design hotel attempts to tell a different native story in each of its 93 rooms through books and framed pictures that depict scenes such as locals having 11-hour wrestling bouts and playing underwater chess.
Perky, bright duvets and lurid orange bathrobes are similarly unconventional, but they all add to the vibe of this very welcoming anomaly. B&B doubles from £96, visit sokoshotels.fi/en.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the Old Town, the Palace offers outstanding value for money, with its sleek, compact rooms, thoughtful bedside books on Estonian travel and spacious bathrooms.
The breakfast buffet is simply immense and delicious — though it would be a hungry traveller indeed who would reach for the BBQ ribs, which are offered alongside mountains of herring, salmon and Estonian cheeses. B&B doubles from £84, visit tallinnhotels.ee.
Hestia Hotel Barons
The graceful Art Nouveau touches of this former bank, dating back to 1912, give a demure feel to the rooms. They are all slightly different, but the vast majority have parquet flooring, and elegant dark wooden bedheads and wardrobes.
The excellent buffet breakfast has a fine selection of local meats and cheeses, and the location — on one of the city’s oldest streets — is full of character. B&B doubles from £63, visit hestiahotels.com/en.
It’s a little further out than some of its competitors, but the 14-minute walk from the Old Town is rewarded by this contemporary gem.
The rooms have light wooden panelling, huge windows that let the Tallinn sunlight pour in and funky Nordic furniture. All contribute to the hotel’s zen-like, unruffled charm. B&B doubles from £59, visit centennialhoteltallinn.com.
Where to eat
Some of the excellent small plates on offer at Lore Bistroo, which is housed in an old warehouse
Newly opened in the Tsarist-era submarine base of Port Noblessner (which was a no-entry zone during Soviet times), this old warehouse is getting a new lease of life as a bistro with subtle French touches.
The excellent small-plates include tuna sashimi with avocado, coriander and wasabi-soy dressing for £10.30. Visit lorebistroo.ee.
Pretty as a picture on a corner in a quiet part of the Old Town, this is the top spot in Tallinn for coffee-lovers, with the beans provided by local producers Kokomo, who source them from El Salvador.
Take a seat on the cushions on the deep windowsill and admire the colourful artwork by Estonian artist August Kunnapu (after whom the cafe is named) while devouring huge bowls of kimchi or miso ramen for £7. Visit kohvikaugust.ee.
The rough-hewn walls and cosy decor make this a superb spot for a languorous lunch of fried Baltic herring, braised elk roast or platters of Estonian cheeses. Main courses cost around £11.
The dishes are surprisingly delicate, despite their robust-seeming descriptions.
This restaurant also stocks delicious blackcurrant and chilli pepper schnapps created by Tiina Tauraite, one of Estonia’s most famous actresses. Visit rataskaevu16.ee/en.
The Estonian capital is blissfully free of hordes of tourists, yet full of unusual attractions and buzzy, revived neighbourhoods
Formerly part of a dingy mass of derelict heavy industry factories, F-Hoone was one of the first bars and restaurants to open in an area that is now called Telliskivi Creative City.
Despite the high ceilings and industrial decor, there’s a surprisingly intimate atmosphere here, with a menu where the imaginative vegetarian dishes shine the brightest.
Try the pumpkin and chickpea falafel with rocket and quinoa salad and cashew cream for £7.60. Visit fhoone.ee/en.
Stepping inside Pegasus, which opened in 1962, is like stepping on board a fantasy Soviet space ship from the Yuri Gagarin era.
It exudes retro cool, with huge circular orange wall lamps, metal spiral staircases and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Old Town, but the menu is refreshingly modern and lively.
Don’t miss the orsoto with wild garlic, goat’s cheese and marinated purple carrot for £8.50. Visit restoranpegasus.ee.
A map showing some of the best bits of Tallinn
What to see and do
This once-gritty industrial area has been turned into Tallinn’s most exciting neighbourhood. Start by perusing the Balti Jaama Turg market (astri.ee/bjt), which sells everything from antiques to caviar to Taiwanese steamed buns.
Stock up on cool bags, jewellery and art pieces made by locals at Tali Design (talidesign.eu). Next, walk to Port Noblessner, an ex-submarine yard where you can try beer at craft brewery Pohjala (pohjalabeer.com).
Get bugged out
The Hotel Viru is a Seventies behemoth and the only place foreigners could stay back in the days of the USSR.
During renovation in the Nineties, an abandoned KGB spy station was found on the 23rd floor. The rooms, left as they were found, can be explored. A guide will show you cameras once concealed in bedrooms and plates with microphones used in the restaurant. Entry costs £9.50 (viru.ee/en/kgb_muuseum).
Powered by invention
Like getting stuck somewhere between da Vinci’s laboratory and Jules Verne’s imagination, the Proto Invention Factory — which opened in October — uses modern technology to transport you to the workshops of history’s greatest inventors.
Try your hand at steering a vintage hot-air balloon via a virtual reality headset, or strap in for a ride on an upside-down monorail attached to the ceiling. Entry costs £10.30 (prototehas.ee/en).
EasyJet has return flights to Tallinn from London Gatwick from £41.98 (easyjet.com).