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Tallinn, top5's of must-see's and do's

Angelo PalmeriComment

How to best spend your time while you´re in the ´Danish Town´ for football ?

As a Talliner here are my trip advices for the stay.

Tallinn is not a big city after all (less than 500,000 people live here, mostly in the big Soviet-time districts) and everything you need to see is concentrated in its ´Old Town´, the real main attraction; however I will give you also extras you might have the time to go and check.

Top 5 sightseeings – almost a must-do

The top 5 are all stretched within the Old Town boundaries.

Aerial view of Tallinn Old Town 

Aerial view of Tallinn Old Town 

1. Raekoja plats – the city council square
You cannot miss it, it´s in the heart of the Old Town. His old medieval market has been replaced by the many bars and cafes offering the best view to the main postcard: with the fair weather being enjoyed during spring/summer, you might be lucky to sunburn while sipping a local ale (Saku or A.LeCoq). Obviously the city council building is there dominating the scene.

2. Toompea – the upper city
The Old Town was developed on two levels: first the upper (better defendable became the residence of the nobles and the knights) later the lower one (by the merchants’ brotherhoods and businesses, inhabited also by the servants, slaves sold from the countryside in the market square). The upper one is the ´Dome Hill´: take a walk among what today is the site of many embassies (not the UK and the US) and discover the 3 main panorama points to the lower city and the rest of Tallinn.

3. The Danish King Garden
As Tallinn´s name, history and coat of arms is tied to the Danish history, you cannot miss this enchanting place where the legend says that God or someone on His behalf, donated the Danish flag (´Dannebrog´) to the Danish king who was expecting a divine sign in the middle of the fierce battle taking place against the Estonian tribes organized by chief Lembitu to stop the invasion.

4. Lühike jalg – the short leg
Exiting the Danish King garden from a small gate, you will face a downhill lane which connects the mid-level of the garden to the lower town. Be careful if you decide to do it at night as some of the houses in that lane have been thought to be haunted (among many: a dead black cat spirit and the one of a young lady who might suddenly appear and make you tumble down the stairs)

5. Viru street
It´s the ´high street´ of the Old Town, starting already from outside the wall with the typical flower market, it brings you in the older part through the Viru gate into the most popular and busy street of the UNESCO heritage borough. Shops, cafes, medieval restaurants and an almost unnoticeable modern shopping centre mounted among the old buildings, are the ´red carpet´ to the market square. Make your way through the cruise organized groups.

Itinerary suggested: Viru Street -> Raekoja plats -> climbing to Toompea via ´Pikk jalg´ the longer leg –> descending to the mid-level of the Danish King garden from the back of the Russian cathedral-> exiting the garden via the ´Lühike jalg´

Top 5 extras – nice to see

After all, Tallinn is not the Old Town only. If you are a means-of-transport hopper, you could easily reach other parts of the city centre and closest outskirts to add value to your trip.

The Kadriorg Castle withing the same park

The Kadriorg Castle withing the same park

1. The Kadriorg Park and Castle
It´s the same park that gives the name to one of the three football stadiums of the city. You can reach it by tram (nr.3 - ´Kadriorg´ bound) and hop off at the final stop. Walk through the swans’ lake up to the KUMU, the modern art museum, and go down by the road: on your right the castle, today´s President of Estonia residence, is guarded by 2 soldiers. Be amazed at how close you can get to the door! If nature lover, explore the park woods and lawns where people go running or have a picnic while sunbathing.

2. The Song Festival ground
A huge amphitheatre built for the big gathering of the national song festival. The empty stage reminds of the open mouth of a whale. It is a place of historic value for the regained independence (1991) as here started the ´Singing Revolution´. (It can be reached by walking from Kadriorg, or take bus nr. 5 - ´Metsakooli´ bound from city center)

3. Pirita beach
Normally in Winter I would strip it off from this top 5: frozen sea and snowy beach are nothing to joke with, especially if not familiar with walking on ice. However in summertime this long strip of sand facing a thick pine forest, is populated by people of all ages with a majority of youngsters. Swims are not the top (water is low and a bit chilly) however you can still enjoy the young ladies’ display of bikinis and maybe challenge some local guys with a beach soccer game ahead of the real clash. Bring your speedo! (Bus number 5 ´Metsakooli´ bound).

4. The TV Tower
Built in before and for Moscow 1980 Olympics to broadcast the water mirror sports taking place in the Tallinn Gulf, it offers a unique view of all Tallinn; if the sky is enough bright, you could see Finland peeping. Entrance fee is applied and there is also a restaurant on top. An interactive museum in between gives interesting facts about Estonia including its main worldwide known brand: Skype. 
(A taxi ride is advised, from the city centre should cost no more than 5-6€ important: don´t pick taxi cab from the street, ask your hotel concierge or hostel desk for numbers of the cheapest, in call centres they all speak English and will send you a cab in few minutes)

5. Open Air Museum in Rocca al Mare coastline
Bottoming the ´extra´ for those who might stay longer after the game to enjoy the weekend and discover more.
It´s a huge piece of land reproducing the old farm houses through the centuries (in some cases the farms have been built down and moved here). You can learn how Estonian peasants’ life was being conducted and what changes end of slavery (19th century) brought to this nation. It´s a true historic park and you are allowed to bring your own snack for a picnic. The park borders with the other big gulf of the city, Kopli, whose homonymous district´s chimneys and cranes can be viewed from the Rocca al Mare coastline.

Eat and drink

You will easily notice that for being a smaller capital compared to many other European ones, Tallinn´s packed with restaurants, bars and cafés. These are simply my picks, feel free to discover the many others and try, menus are available also in English:

- medieval restaurant: Peppersack or Olde Hansa, ladies in Middle Age costumes and spiced beers for unique atmosphere from 1000 years ago.
- typical Estonian food: Kuldne Nõtsu, the golden piggy, here you find a good variety of typical Estonian food with countryside roots, basically what the peasants used to eat.
- Italian food: Pulcinella, the best Italian pizza in the Old Town in the Napoli way of making it.
- pubs: Drink Baar, stronghold of beer lovers for the huge variety of ales. Best fish-and-chips outside of the UK.
- party and eat: you don´t give a damn about the food quality but you want loud music, young people and cheaper drinks and that ´Ibiza-atmo´ taste? Then head to Nimeta, ´The bar with no name´. It´s an institution for generations of foreign tourists. Live sports also broadcasted.

Shopping

Close to the Old Town is the big shopping centre ´Viru Keskus´, built on the back of the tall Soviet-time only hotel (up to the 1980 when Olümpia was added for the Olympics): it offers all kind of services and is directly connected to one of the main department stores, ´Kaubamaja´, another Soviet heritage. Not far from here you can take a walk to the other department store of Finnish import, Stockmann.

Sportland Football for football shopping at the 'A.LeCoq Arena' stadium

Sportland Football for football shopping at the 'A.LeCoq Arena' stadium

For football shopping: Viru Keskus includes a couple of sports shops and a football section is available at Kaubamaja, however the offer is modest.

Except the small gadgets you could buy on the game day at the kiosks within the A.LeCoq Arena - Lilleküla Stadium (if your European tie is there), ´Sportland Football´, just outside the stadium,  offers a wide selection of Estonian clubs shirts and scarves (including the A.LeCoq Arena home team, FC Flora, and the national team). The shop is open on the game day along with other stalls on the walk to the A.LeCoq Arena.

At Kadriorg Park Stadium (only club football games) there will be stalls from the home club offering club's merchandizing.

There are no clubs' or national team official shops in the country.