After a fun filled weekend in Helsinki, my husband Sean and I took the three-hour ferry across the Baltic Sea to Tallinn, Estonia.
We arrived around lunch time at the Ferry terminal, which was a short walk into the spectacular Old Town of Tallinn, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and for good reason. The Old Town was like something out of a fairy tale and is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe.
We had four days in Estonia which really allowed us to explore the Country and learn about the history and culture of this small Baltic nation. The highlights of our time in Estonia included:
- Wandering the Old Town, getting lost in the medieval streets and trying some of the many small pubs and restaurants the town has to offer.
- The free walking tour where we had a magnificent guide who taught us some fun facts about Estonian history and culture.
- A day trip to Laheema National Park, where we visited some beautiful sites along the Baltic Sea, walked along a 3.5km boardwalk across a bog, and swung on a traditional Estonian swing.
- Touring the Bastion Tunnels, built in the 17th century under Tallinn Old Town.
In the center of Tallinn Old Town you will find Town Hall Square. This is the main gathering point for tourists and it can get very busy on days when cruise ships are in port. The square is surrounded with restaurants with outdoor seating areas offering overpriced food and drink. We decided to give in to the tourist trap this time and enjoyed some expensive beers while people watching and enjoying the sights of this beautiful Square.
The focal point of Town Hall Square is, not surprisingly, the Town Hall building. We learned that this is the oldest standing building in the Square, built in the 13th century.
In the lead up to visiting Estonia, we weren’t really sure what to expect. As an ex-Soviet state, I expected it to have a Soviet feeling to it; however, it was much more Scandinavian. In fact, Estonians generally relate much more to Finland than they do Russia. A fun fact we learned on our walking tour is that the Estonian language is very similar to Finnish and that the Estonian National Anthem is the exact same tune as the Finland National Anthem. Imagine watching a sporting event where Estonia is playing Finland and they play the same anthem twice in a row before the match!
We also learned that Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world with approximately 75% of its 1.3 million inhabitants having no religious affiliation.
Estonia is also one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world – they do everything online, even vote!
One of our days in Estonia was spent on a day trip through Laheema National Park which lies in Northern Estonia along the Baltic Sea. While the tour made lots of stops along the way, the highlights were the Jagala waterfall, the Hara Submarine Base and the Viru Bog walk. We also learned about kiiking, the most popular sport in Estonia, and had a chance to try it out!
I love waterfalls so any visit to a waterfall is a highlight for me. The Jagala waterfall was beautiful and I hear is even more beautiful in winter when the water freezes into large hanging icicles.
The Hara Submarine Base is an abandoned Soviet submarine base. It was here that the Soviets would de-magnetise their submarines so that they would be more difficult to detect on radar. The base is now in disrepair and a popular spot for graffiti artists but regardless was a very interesting place to visit with beautiful scenery of the Baltic Sea.
The Viru Bog was the highlight of our day trip around Laheema National Park. Here we stopped for a short hike along the 3.5km trail. You will want to make sure you stay on the marked trails and boardwalk as the ground around the park is like a sponge!
We also stopped at a park in a small Estonian town where we tried swinging on a traditional Estonian swing (kiik in Estonian). The Estonians are not really known for being at the top of any sporting leagues, but they did invent the sport of kiiking. This is basically extreme swinging where the goal is to go full circle over the top of the swing! It is definitely worth checking out on YouTube!
Once we were back in Tallinn, we spent the next morning taking a long walk around Tallinn. Tallinn has a lot to offer outside of the Old Town and is definitely worth checking out if you have the time. We wandered to Kadriorg Park where the Kadriorg Palace stands. We also visited the Song Festival Grounds where the Estonian Song Festival, which is a massive part of Estonian culture, takes place every five years.
To round off our time in Tallinn, we spent the afternoon with a visit to the Kiek in de Kok tower which overlooks Tallinn Old Town and then the Bastion Tunnels, which run underneath the town.
The Kiek in de Kok is a large tower house which forms part of the original medieval walls around the Old Town of Tallinn. This is now a museum and worth a visit if not only for the beautiful views it offers from the top. Kiek in de Kok means “peek in the kitchen” and was named as such because from the top the guards could peek into the kitchen of the townspeople.
Underneath the Kiek in de Kok is the entrance to the Bastion Tunnels. This is a fairly new attraction and they are still cleaning up further sections of the tunnels to allow tourists to visit even further within the tunnel system. The tunnels are set up well for tourists and take you on a journey through the different eras and uses of the tunnel system.
After four days, it was time to say goodbye to Tallinn and move on to our final stop on this week long journey.