TALLINN FOR FOODIES: A PERFECT FIVE-DAY ITINERARY
Tallinn, the picturesque capital of Estonia, is an attractive tourist destination and a true foodie heaven. Tallinn is known for its enchanting medieval old town with red roofs, winding cobbled streets, ornate doorways, and pastel-colored merchant houses. However, Tallinn's attractions do not stop there. Leafy neighborhoods with old wooden houses, quirky and artsy quarters, state-of-the-art museums, world-class music, and an exciting food scene make this city one of the top places to visit.
Here is a five-day itinerary that includes history, culture, art and plenty of food.
DAY ONE: MEDIEVAL OLD TOWN
Tallinn's charming Medieval Old Town is the perfect place to start exploring the city. Check out our post TALLINN: WALKING TOUR OF THE MEDIEVAL OLD TOWN for a sample itinerary.
Leib Resto & Aed, or "Bread Restaurant and Garden" in Estonian. For Estonians, bread always means dark, naturally leavened rye bread, and the bread in this restaurant is exceptional. It is a truly "farm to table" restaurant using locally sourced ingredients and offering a seasonal Estonian menu, as well as craft brews from local breweries. The restaurant is hidden in a charming courtyard between ivy-covered medieval walls with a lovely terrace for an al fresco lunch.
Save room for a gelato and walk to Gelato Ladies Ice Cream Café just down the road from the restaurant at Uus 28. The 18 different flavors of Italian gelato are prepared in-house every day and they also serve wonderful coffee and Italian wines.
This is a good time to visit some museums and art galleries in or around Old Town. Check the websites for details and locations.
• Estonian History Museum at the Great Guild Hall covers 11,000 years of Estonia's history.
• Tallinn City Museum in a 14th-century merchant house displays the history of the city and its way of life through the ages.
• Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum and Bastion Towers: The cannon tower, built in 1475, houses a museum of Tallinn's fortifications as well as exhibits covering crime and punishment in old Tallinn. Bastion Passages is a fascinating system of hidden tunnels from the 17th and 18th centuries that run underneath Toompea hill.
• Museum of Occupations and Freedom a modern state-of-the art-museum just outside the Old Town tells personal narratives about crimes against humanity during the Soviet and Nazi occupations in Estonia.
• Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design. Located in a former granary, the museum displays the most impressive Estonian works of applied art starting from the early 1900s—glass, ceramics, textile, metalwork, etc.
• Tallinn Art Hall: Contemporary art gallery on Liberty Square (Vabaduse plats).
NOA Chef's Hall at Ranna tee 3 is one of the best restaurants in the Baltics where chef Orm Oja prepares the Omnivore 11-course tasting menu in an open kitchen.
The restaurant is located by the sea outside the city center, plan about half an hour to get there. Constructed of wood and glass, the restaurant offers stunning seaside views with the Tallinn panorama and sailboats in the background.
Robust techniques, bold flavors from smoke and open fire cooking are the characteristics of this fine-dining establishment. The ambience is elegant but not stuffy and the service attentive and discreet. At the time of writing this article, the menu includes delights such as Fermented Celeriac Lemonade with Verbena, Charred Leek and Truffle, Porridge of Squid, and Wild Strawberries in Elderflower Milk.
Every table has sea views thanks to a clever placement of mirrors and elevations. Request one of the two chef's tables if you want to see the food being prepared and interact with the head chef. One table faces the area where the chef puts the finishing touches to the dishes with your back to the rest of the restaurant and the sea view. The other, a round table that is an extension of the prep area, is the best choice if you want to see the chefs work, as well as enjoy the sea view.
DAY TWO: ELEGANT KADRIORG
Take a ten-minute ride on tram #1 or 3 from the city center to Kadriorg. This picturesque part of the town is famous for its streets lined with elegant and ornate wooden residences and an outstanding park complete with a swan pond, a Japanese garden, a Baroque palace and an art museum.
Get off at L. Koidula stop and take Weizenbergi Street towards the park. Have a coffee at Katharinenthal Cafe and Bakery, then walk by the swan pond and head to the KUMU Art Museum. After that, check out Kadriorg Palace and then take a short walk back through the park to Mon Repos for lunch.
• KUMU Art Museum is the main art museum in Estonia and displays Estonian art from the 18th-21st centuries. The complex itself is a modern architectural masterpiece with its curves and sharp edges built into a limestone cliff.
• The grand and opulent Kadriorg Palace with its gorgeous manicured gardens was built after the Russian tsar Peter the Great conquered the Baltics in the early 1700s. It now houses the Art Museum of Estonia's foreign collection.
Located in Kadriorg Park, Mon Repos is an elegant villa built in the 1870s with a gorgeous flower garden for al fresco dining. Chef Vladislav Djatšuk, who recently reached the finals of Bocuse d'Or, offers a contemporary international menu and refined flavors for a perfect lunch in the park.
Take any bus that goes to the direction of Pirita and take two stops to Maarjamägi to visit the history center at Maarjamäe Palace. Or, alight a stop before at Lauluväljak to check out the Song Festival Grounds.
The exceptionally laid out exhibition at Maarjamäe Palace takes visitors on a journey through Estonia's history in the most recent 100 years, from the birth of the Republic of Estonia to the modern day. It takes about an hour to explore.
After visiting the history center, take the steps down to Pirita tee and turn to your right for a 10-minute walk to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. The stunning memorial is dedicated to all Estonian people who suffered under the terror inflicted by the Soviet Union, with walls covered with the names of the victims. More than 75,000 Estonians were murdered, imprisoned or deported during these years. It truly is a striking memorial and the first one in Estonia to win the International Architecture Award.
If you have energy, take bus #1, 8, 34A or 38 to Pirita stop and check out the ruins of St. Brigit's Convent (Pirita Klooster) which looks like something from the Game of Thrones.
After a long day, enjoy a quiet dinner at Ribe in the Old Town. Chef Radoslav Mitro from Slovakia, who has worked in top restaurants throughout Europe, including Noma, offers a simple and seasonal menu combining modern Nordic and classic French cuisines. Extensive wine list and impeccable service—it is one of the best restaurants in town.
For a nightcap, walk five minutes to Parrot Minibar on Vana-Posti Street. The bar looks like an elegant jungle with is lush furnishings and is a popular spot among visitors and locals alike.
DAY THREE: HIP KALAMAJA AND TELLISKIVI CREATIVE CITY
Walk to Balti Jaam farmer's market, just outside the Old Town. Popular among locals, this well-designed, modern market is a great place to taste and buy some artisanal bread (try some Muhu rye sourdough bread!) and local chocolate. It has about 300 stalls from fruit and veggies to handicrafts and antiques.
Telliskivi Creative City next to the market is a revamped industrial complex and a former railway factory—a magnet for all sorts of creative enterprises, quirky design shops shops, restaurants, and event spaces. Don't miss Fotografiska Tallinn, the internationally renowned Stockholm-based art center, now also open in the Creative City.
Behind Balti jaam market at Kopli 16 is the local favorite, Ülo. Their main focus is on vegan and vegetarian, even though carnivores will find some choices as well. Try their mushroom ramen and sweet potato fries with kimchi.
Walk or take a cab to the Seaplane Harbor (Lennusadam). It will take about 20 minutes if you walk through Kalamaja, another area with wooden houses but more hip and bohemian than the elegant Kadriorg.
The Seaplane Harbor is part of the Estonian History Museum and a significant engineering accomplishment of the early 20th century. It is one of the first buildings in the world this large that had concrete domes with no internal support pillars. The museum's exhibits include a submarine and the first seaplane in the world to successfully perform a torpedo attack. Get the audio guide for a 40-minute tour. It's very well done.
Either before or after visiting the Seaplane Harbor, walk to Noblessner district. Located next to the Seaplane Harbor complex, Noblessner area features fascinating industrial architecture from the early 1900s. The name "Noblessner" comes from two names—a submarine shipyard was established here in 1913 by two businessmen, Emanuel Nobel (nephew of Alfted Nobel) and Arthur Lessner. Pop into the Staapli 3 Art Gallery for a drink or a coffee and enjoy some contemporary art displayed on its walls.
If there is a concert at the Estonia Concert Hall, St. Nicholas Church, Brotherhood of the Blackheads building or any other venue, do not miss an opportunity to listen to some music when in Tallinn. A good source of information is the Estonia Concert Hall's website.
Have dinner in the Old Town. Here are some recommendations:
Dominic, for simple but very good food, great service, and elegant setting.
Controvento on one of the most picturesque streets in the Old Town for good, classic Italian food and a cozy ambience.
Restoran Pegasus prides itself for seasonal dishes and the freshest ingredients. Contemporary setting and huge windows overlooking the beautiful St. Nicholas Church.
Gloria for a classy and plush pre-war interior, sophisticated ambience and classic French cuisine. The restaurant is built into the town wall and also has a cozy wine cellar downstairs. The charismatic chef de cuisine, Dmitri Demjanov, is a legend in Estonia.
Tchaikovsky at the Telegraaf Hotel is home to one of Tallinn's best restaurants, and offers a Russian-inspired menu in an elegant setting with black walls, gilded picture frames and old books.
Ö for the New Nordic cuisine. Inventive and modern with an emphasis on local ingredients, in a stylish setting. Just outside the Old Town, one of the best restaurants in Tallinn.
Tabac for dinner or just a nightcap. A chick interior and innovative cocktails, this brasserie/cocktail bar is popular among visitors and locals alike. The food is good, beautifully presented and the cocktail menu is extensive.
DAY FOUR: DAY TRIP
Rent a car and drive out of the city for a day. Just 30 kilometers from Tallinn in Harju County, you will find beautiful sandy beaches, lush landscapes, and excellent food. Here are some ideas of what to see and do.
• The sandy beaches of Salmistu, Kaberneeme and Valkla
• Saha Chapel, the oldest chapel in Estonia, first metioned in 1223. Although the original, wooden chapel was burned down, the stone construction you see today originates from the early 15th century.
• Jägala waterfall, an 8-meter high and 50-meter wide waterfall.
• Suspension bridge on Jägala river, about 4 km from the waterfall. The views around the bridge are spectacular.
• Valkla forell Great place to catch some trout and have it cooked to your liking.
• Ruhe restaurant for fresh fish and spectacular sea views. Great place for dinner and it is only a 30-minute drive back to Tallinn.
DAY FIVE: ROCCA AL MARE OPEN AIR MUSEUM
Take a 20-minute cab ride to Rocca al Mare Open Air Museum. It is a huge 70-acre park by the sea that takes you through villages and farm gardens from the 18th-20th centuries. As you might expect to find in any proper village, there is a church, an inn, a school house, mills, a fire station, a shop, and fishing sheds by the sea. The museum also has a good quality handicraft store.
Have lunch at the Kolu Inn in the museum and taste some truly traditional Estonian food from split pea soup to barley and potato mash. Try their kama, a yoghurt-like drink mixed with ground grains and peas, as well as kali, a bread drink that is the Estonian version of slavic fermented beverage kvass. The dark-colored drink is slightly carbonated and has a sweet and sour flavor.
180 Degrees by Matthias Dieter is located in the fashionable Noblessner district and opened just about a year ago. This fine-dining restaurant led by Michelin-starred Chef de Cuisine Matthias Dieter, has quickly become one of the very best in town. The chef knows that people who dine in high end restaurants do not go there for the food only, but for an experience.
The experience at 180 Degrees starts before you enter the restaurant when, miraculously, someone opens the door for you when you are still a few steps away. From here on, you will feel spoiled, pampered and the center of attention during your entire stay.
The interior is elegant in an understated way, with an open 180-degree kitchen in the middle. The ambience is dignified but not overly formal. When you make your reservation, you can choose to sit at the chef's table by the open kitchen, watching the team work, or at individual tables.
French haute cuisine at it best, during the time of writing this article, the tasting menu includes delicacies such as Yellowfin Tuna with Foie Gras and Pistachios; Atlantic Turbot with Champagne Cabbage and Watercress; and Etouffee Pigeon with Kohlrabi and Cherry.
Since your stay in Tallinn is coming to an end, take one last chance to look at the city's stunning panorama from the top of the Radisson Blue Hotel's Lounge 24. Get a drink at the outdoor terrace on floor 24 and say good bye to beautiful Tallinn.
SOME PRACTICAL TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT
• Get a smart card for public transportation in Tallinn. One ride is 1 euro. You can buy the green smart card and put some money on it at R-Kiosk booths. When you get on a tram or bus, swipe the card at the validator. Alternatively, you can purchase a one-time ticket from the driver at 2 euros a ride.
• Download the taxi app to your phone. With Taxofon app you can choose the car and company when ordering the taxi. Go with Tulika Premium, Tulika Takso, or Tallink Takso for the best service and a comfortable car.