Forget what you think you know about Estonia. This northernmost of the Baltic states has figured out how to blend its medieval roots with a modern sensibility, determined to delight even the most hardened of travelers. From the hipster haven of Kalamaja to the charm of the walled Old Town, Tallinn is just waiting for its close-up. And, as it's only a short ferry trip from Helsinki, it's becoming more than just a day trip for visitors to Northern Europe. Here's how to get a taste of the town.

Day 1: Old-World Charm

Kompressor

Decompress before exploring Old Town

via Website


Let’s start at the very beginning. The Historic Center of Tallinn is Old Town, with cobblestone streets, churches that weren’t always churches (don’t forget that Estonia was part of the Soviet Union for almost five decades) and cool little enclaves. Fuel up at Kompressor, a locals’ favorite serving giant pancakes stuffed with almost 30 different sweet or savory options, like blue cheese and mushroom, and applesauce and whipped cream. Don’t worry if you miss breakfast — it's open late. 

Where: Rataskaevu 3, 10123 Tallinn

When: Daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
More info: 
+372 646 4210, kompressorpub.ee

 

Three Sisters

For a taste of medieval glamour

via Website


Old Town Tallinn is more than just a picturesque glance into the 13th century: It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Immerse yourself in the history without giving up the finer things of modern technology with a stay at Three Sisters. This 23-room hotel is spread across three 14th-century houses complete with a cigar lounge, library, balconies, galleries and even a secret staircase or two. But don’t worry: Estonia’s only Relais & Chateaux property is also outfitted with modern conveniences like air conditioning and Wi-Fi (Estonia is a world leader in internet access and considers it a human right). 

Where: Pikk 71/Tolli 2, 10133 Tallinn
More info: +372 630 6300; threesistershotel.com

 

History & Panoramas

As above, so below

via Website


The best way to truly get a glimpse of the medieval city is to see it from above … then below. Kiek in de Kök (literally, “peek in the kitchen”) is a six-floor cannon tower that houses one of the city’s museums. After you peek at the views from the top floor, you’re conveniently close to the hidden tunnels that wind their way under Toompea hill. 

Where: Komandandi tee 2, 10130 Tallinn

When: Mar. 1-Oct. 31, Tues.-Sun., 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Nov. 1-Feb. 28, Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
More info: 
+372 644 6686; linnamuuseum.ee

  

Day 2: The Other Side of the Tracks

Telliskivi Creative City

A glimpse at the new face of Tallinn

via Facebook


You’ve seen the old, now take a stroll into the new. Near the Balti Railway station, by the fast-growing neighborhood of Kalamaja, Telliskivi Creative City is a work-and-play destination for the city’s young, creative types. Buildings that once held factories now house offices, studios, workshops, cafes, bars and a bike shop. Wander through the space and check out design shops, organic tea bars and more. 

Where: Telliskivi 60A, 10412 Tallinn
More info: telliskivi.eu

 

F-hoone

Taste new Tallinn

via Website


Industrial design meets honest food in this popular spot in Telliskivi. Often busy, but consistently good, F-hoone has a creative and tasty menu that will suit meat eaters, vegetarians, and people with gluten and dairy allergies. Prices remain more than reasonable for the quality; it’s enough to make you forgive the occasionally slower pace of things. 

Where: Telliskivi 60A, 10412 Tallinn

When: Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-midnight; Sun., 9 a.m.-10 p.m. (kitchen closes 1 hr. earlier)
More info: 
+372 5322 6855; fhoone.ee

 

Pudel Baar

No crap on tap!

via Website


As has been the case in much of the world, an influx of craft breweries have opened in Estonia over the past few years. And most of them are making really good beer. At Pudel Baar (pudel means "bottle"), you can try some of the best craft beers in the country, including the popular Põhjala, made in Tallinn. 

Where: Telliskivi 60A, 10412 Tallinn

When: Tues. & Weds., 4 p.m.-midnight; Thurs. & Fri., Fri., 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat., noon-2 a.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.-midnight
More info: 
+372 5866 4496; pudel.ee

 

Day 3: Tallinn Mash-Up

Town Hall Pharmacy

A cure for what ails you

Photo by Olgite via Flickr


Is it a shop? Is it a museum? This anachronistic spot in Tallinn’s Town Hall Square is both. The oldest continuously running pharmacy in Europe, Town Hall Pharmacy (look for "Raeapteek" on the beige building) continues to sell a cure for what ails you, along with hosting a free display of some of its past elixirs. 

Where: Raekoja plats 11, 10146 Tallinn

When: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
More info: 
+372 5887 5701; raeapteek.ee

 

Roll On

Faster than your feet

via Website


Tallinn is a walkable city, but sometimes you want to move a bit faster. Jump on a Sixt bike and start cruising. There are 15 rental points around the city and, since the first 30 minutes are free, you can zoom from spot to spot with minimal fuss. Even if you choose to keep it a bit longer, it’s only €1 an hour or €10 for 24 hours. Payments can be made via the app or by phone, but instructions are fairly clear at the rental points. 

 

Depeche Mode Baar

All I ever wanted

via Website


To truly round out your experience in Tallinn, a visit to Depeche Mode Baar is in order. A dive bar filled with memorabilia, this is a spot dedicated to the English electronic band, but you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy the experience. The bar has gained international recognition — members of the band even stopped in before a show in Tallinn about 15 years ago — but the owners haven’t let it go to their heads. 

Where: Voorimehe 4, 10146 Tallinn

When: Mon.-Thurs. & Sun., 6 p.m.-3 a.m.; Fri. & Sat., noon-4 a.m.
More info: 
+372 644 2350; Facebook


By Katie Coakley

Denver-based writer Katie Coakley is a craft beer drinker, inveterate traveler and outdoor adventurer. She's just as happy sleeping on a portaledge as in a five-star hotel. You can follow her travels on Instagram.