is always a good idea to include new destinations in your
city breaks and a wise move will be to travel with the destination’s
carrier. My next 48-hour winter break is in Tallinn, Estonia.
I have to confess that when I set out to experience a weekend
in Tallinn, I was not sure of what to expect. I had made
the right decision and was travelling by Estonian Air. This
is my first time travelling with the airline and my very
first visit to Tallinn which is situated on the southern
coast of the Gulf of Finland, in north-western Estonia.
I knew it would be different, first it was very cold and
it was snowing. I had expected this but I wanted to put
a little spice into my travels. I had also read somewhere
that making friends in Tallinn is not easy so I was ready
for many “cold shoulders” too. On the contrary,
Tallinn friendliness started on board the aircraft, where
a very curious Estonian proudly offered me some tips on
how to enjoy Tallinn, obviously she was intrigued to find
that an African-European had chosen to visit her country
for a weekend break in mid-winter! Upon arrival, my chauffeur
was also very chatty and friendly. My Chauffeur was so knowledgeable
about his city that I learned a lot before I went to bed
that Friday evening. If anything at all, he assured me that
despite that bitter cold night and white snow, it was not
possible to ski in Tallinn and the appearance of snow on
my arrival was rare. I was beginning to think that the ‘weather-gods’
were warned that I was in town! The warmth continued till
the morning from the hotel staff through to my guide even
though I was of a race and colour they were not used to
seeing. Very re-assuring.
Estonian Air was
established in December 1991, shortly after the country
gained independence. It flies six times a week to
Tallinn. It flies direct non-stop flights between
London Gatwick and Tallinn in a three class service;
Travel class, Flexible Economy and Premium Business
Class. As a member of the EuroBonus Loyalty program,
it offers frequent flyer programs on all its flights.
It is important to note however that, even though
the airline is not a budget carrier in-flight catering
is sold to passengers in the economy class and offered
complimentary to passengers travelling in business
and flexible economy.
Tallinn has a lot
of accommodation choices –
from budget to the best, there is a wide selection of
from London go into Tallinn airport which is about four
kilometres from Raekoja plats (Town Hall square); there
is a local bus connection between the airport and the
edge of the city centre (bus no. 2). The nearest railway
station Ülemiste is only 1.5 km from airport. The
terminal building is a small but modern, convenient and
hostels, apartments, bed and breakfasts and camping
solutions. Most hotels accept major credit and debit
cards. Rates are usually quoted per room and not per
person and include breakfast and tax.
I stayed at the Schlossle Hotel, in the medieval city
centre which is otherwise known as Old Town. The hotel
was very warm with log fires blazing in the lobby
when I arrived.
One cannot fail to notice the plaque proudly displaying
the names of royals, diplomats and celebrities who
had stayed in this hotel as you climb up the stairs
to your room. Every
guest walks past this plaque. It raises your expectations
and immediately makes you feel important.
I was a little disappointed though that
despite the numerous services advertised on the room information
list which included 24 hour room service, laundry and valet
service, baby-sitting, Doctor on call, private sauna and
massage service, among others, there wasn’t a maid
ready-in-waiting to undress me and run me a warm bath –
but hey! – What do you expect after all it was a hotel
fit for kings and I was expecting a ‘kingly’
service! The hotel is ‘cute’ with 23 rooms and
suites to offer. All rooms have deluxe furnishing and direct
dial/ISDN-lines and phones, voice mail and modem/ fax connection,
minibar, In-room safe, LCD television and DVD. My room was
complimented with a luxury en-suite bathroom and floor heating,
personal scale (as if I’d care to check my weight
on a fancy weekend trip!), it was a non-allergic room with
everything except for a non-slip bath mat!
I was told
that during the summer, you can enjoy the courtyard garden
for lunch and dinner. Also,
if you choose to send the whole boardroom there on a brainstorming
weekend, the hotel’s Boardroom offers a unique setting
for up to 40 persons.
everything in the room was clean and carefully
laid and I slept like a log. Breakfast
was in the hotel’s restaurant Stenhaus which
has won many awards and has become famous in Tallinn
for its intimate atmosphere of 13th century vaulted
ceilings and the huge roaring log fireplace. Even
before breakfast, I was looking forward to dining
in its elegantly tapestry-decorated rooms, by
candlelight and to enjoy the city's best rated
culinary choices. Traditional
breakfast is laid out in a self-service manner
but you can order some hot breakfast. I
suppose that in Tallinn, Kings and Queens are
familiar with self-service!
It has conference and banquet facilities for up
to 18 people; and provides Cocktail Receptions
in the manner of a Baronial Manor House for up
to 60 people. Apart from the efficient service,
they also provide an overhead projector, screen,
flipcharts, video recorder, slide projector, TV
set and pin boards. Schlossle hotel is the destination
of everyone famous from royals through to diplomats,
famous musicians, celebrities and now of course,
me! Will I make the grade and have my name placed
on the plaque of famous names that had made into
this hotel? I hope so – especially as I
could not identify any African-European on the
to discover and enjoy Tallinn
Tallinn is renowned for its history – both medieval
and Soviet so whatever you do, you need to explore it.
The best way to start your weekend visit is to get the
48-hour Tallinn card (http://www.tallinncard.ee). This
is a card that gives you free admission to 40 museums
and sights, free sightseeing tours, free use of public
transport and discounts in shops and restaurants.
Tallinn has two sides to its coin, it is a medieval
city with a modern twist and the contrast is remarkable.
The medieval city centre is the jewel in its crown.
Influenced by the Baltic, German and Russians,
the old town of Tallinn is a rare blend of northern
European history, culture and architecture. I
was particularly drawn to the tourist shops full
of exquisite Fabergé eggs. It large Town-hall
Square and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral are
sheltered by ancient towers and sturdy wall dating
back to the 14th century.
is the Latin Quarter home to monasteries, courtyards and
passages, town wall, Towers, Gates and Guild Houses.
is where you can discover the Toompea Castle & Tall
Hermann’s Tower, Cathedrals, Panoramic view of the
city and the Danish Kings Garden.
streets are paved with winding cobblestones and
lined with properties dating from the 11th to
15th century centuries. Tallinn’s Old Town
is so well preserved that in 1997 UNESCO added
it to its World Heritage list.
The Old Town, Lower
is home to the Town Hall, the Town Hall Square,
Town Hall Pharmacy and Medieval Churches.
the Old Town is St Bridget’s Convent and
my favourite of all is one of Tallinn’s
Soviet legacies the Alexander Nevesky Cathedral.
This large, richly decorated Orthodox Church was
founded in Tallinn in the late 19th century, at
a time when tsarist Russia carried out an imperialist
policy of Russification in the outskirts of its
conquered territories. Its powerful impression
can be witnessed from a distance and in the interior.
The church tower contains Tallinn’s grandest
church bell ensemble, among the largest bell,
which weighs 15 tons.
A good place to stopover
for lunch is the Ribe Restaurant. The Ribe is a contemporary
restaurant with delightful interiors and delicious food.
It has rare foods on the menu including a variety of
game. I was also impressed to discover that Ribe stocked
up some Louis
For a traditional Estonian
cuisine, you may want to visit the Kuldse
Notsu Korts where you can enjoy an Estonian dish
served by Estonian waiters and waitresses.
sites worth visiting are the KGB Headquarters, the museums,
attractions, the Tallinn zoo with some 350 species of
over 5400 animals, and the botanical garden.
The large shopping malls are in the New Town and exclusive
boutiques are located in the Old Town. Everything you
need is available in Tallinn from designer labels to
exclusive one-off items in the petite boutiques. Do
not expect any bargains though – prices are about
the same as any other part of Western Europe.
Nightlife in Tallinn
Tallinn is a very interesting city. During the day rich
cultural tours are at their peak and then if you plan
a formal dinner, the suggestion is that you make it
early because dinner starts early between 6.30pm and
9.30pm, followed by pre-night out drinks before the
night out activity. A weekend in Tallinn is full of
buzz. Most of the nightlife activity goes on in the
Old town. The bars, night clubs, pubs and wine bars
are within walking distances of each other so instead
of picking a specific spot; you can a have a nightlife
medley by visiting several venues in one night.
Friday night is when all Tallinn gets lively. The night
activity starts from 11pm to 3am. If you want a less
crowded scene Thursday or Saturday will be a good idea.
However, if you are visiting in summer, there is not
much difference between the days. Bars and Pubs stay
open until at least midnight and a pint of the local
brew costs about 2-3 EUR. Expats and Foreign visitors
stick to clubs such at the Havana, Molly Malone’s
Nimega, Nimeta or O’Malleys; while the young and
trendy favour the hip party scenes.
A quick scan of Tallinn revealed 13 nightclubs two of
which are a gay clubs. The nightclubs do not open until
11pm and most people linger nearby pubs and bars until
then. Some of the nightclubs like Club Privé
and Club Hollywood have fully-serviced lounges to cater
for the pre-nightclub traffic.
Other ways of enjoying
If you do not prefer to dance your way into the night,
you can enjoy some fine cuisine experience, by attending
some of the cooking challenges, organised Estonian parties
and evenings, spas and relaxation activities, continue
with culture and entertainment or opt for adventure.
The choice is endless.
Events in Tallinn, Estonia during April and May 2008
information - Visa Regulations
Nationals of EU and EEA member states do not require
visa to enter Estonia
Dial 110 to call the police free of charge from any
Tallinn Tourist Information Centre
WIFI- There are more than 358 zone covered by Wi-Fi
Estonian Chamber of Commerce
Tallinn City Enterprise Board