From the team of this year's JA Alumni Europe Conference, CREATE – the 7 best places to see in the lovely capital of Estonia!
You’ve probably already heard it referred to as the world’s first digital nation, the cybersecurity hub of Europe, or even as Europe’s Silicon Valley. Over the past few years, Estonia has gained a bit of a reputation for being an (almost unreal) digital land meaning that the capital city, Tallinn, has swiftly climbed up the travel charts becoming more and more popular with tourists around the world. And although it might seem like this city was made for online activity – from free public wifi spots all over the downtown area to cashless payments at the smallest kiosks and markets – there are plenty of reasons to turn your devices off and enjoy what this undiscovered gem of Northern Europe has to offer.
The organising team of this year’s JA Alumni Europe Conference, CREATE has picked their favourite spots in the city and highlighted them as those you definitely have to visit during your stay in Tallinn. Aware of just how little free time you’ll have before and after the conference, we’ve made sure that those places are easy to access and in walking distance from the conference venues.
1. Baltic Station Market
by Victoria, networking & evening program
The surroundings of Tallinn’s central train station, Balti Jaam (an area that didn’t use to have the best reputation), have been through a vast makeover over the past few years. Today, the neighbourhood is fast-becoming one of the most desired places to live, and all the recently opened restaurants, cafés and shops are transforming the neighbourhood from hipster hangout to a mainstream must-visit. One of the most recent additions – the renovated Baltic Station Market (say bahl-tee yah-mah toorg when asking for directions from locals) – has been a favourite grocery shopping spot for locals since its opening in 1993, and has already won the hearts of many modern Tallinn-ers thanks to last year’s makeover.
Fresh local food, little craft stores, vintage shops, delicious restaurants, a sports centre, and sometimes even parties; this not-so-traditional market has something to offer to everyone!
2. Cafe och Bar Popular
by Maria, conference manager
Although the famous Tallinn Old Town is packed with ‘tourist traps’ – the extremely average restaurants and bars with higher-than-average prices – there is one long-time favourite among local youngsters hidden just behind the well-known Viru Gates (you’ve probably seen them on Google if you’ve ever searched for “Tallinn Old Town”); a café and shisha bar called Popular.
Go there in the morning for a traditional Estonian breakfast, or in the evening to enjoy drinks and shisha with friends. And don’t hurry to leave, you might find yourself in the midst of a party if you stay long enough!
Don’t like shisha? Don’t worry, they have great, affordable food, too. We recommend their legendary pelmeni (Russian dumplings) or crêpes! Yum!
3. Town hall
by Liisa, sponsors & partners
All roads lead to – no, not Rome – the Town Hall! This was a popular phrase among Estonians in medieval times when the Town Hall Square was the main meeting point for the whole city. And even these days, no matter where you enter the Old Town, the narrow streets will magically lead you to the Town Hall. Standing in the heart of Tallinn since the beginning of 14th century, it’s the city’s main symbol.
Cited as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this medieval landmark and surrounding square is one of the most famous sights to see in Estonia and come Christmas, it’s known for housing one of the most beautiful markets in Europe, and is even believed to be the place where the tradition of putting up a town Christmas tree began. In the summer, you’ll find it bustling with outdoor cafés, festivals, and city visitors.
4. Pikk street
by Karolin, accommodation
Pikk means long in Estonian, and this street is indeed one of the longest in the Old Town. This is why it’s also a real treasure for anyone looking to discover the more interesting and unique places in the city.
Start your walk at the Town Hall Square and, just around the corner, you'll find the small Church of the Holy Spirit. A little further and you’ll arrive at the History Museum. Even if you’re not into history, you should still walk by this old merchants’ house to admire its majestic oak doors and glorious bronze door knobs. This door is not the only one you’ll want to see though – just a few houses away, you’ll find a colourful entrance to the House of the Blackheads. Continue your walk and you’ll arrive at the former KGB House – the building that once housed the headquarters of the organ of repression of the Soviet occupational power. Finally, you’ll end your walk at the city's Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret’s Tower, both worth a wander.
5. Kohtuotsa viewing platform
by Kristjan, speakers & content
Need an #amazingview for Instagram? Head to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform. Located at the edge of Toompea Hill, just a few minutes walk from the Town Hall, it provides beautiful views over the red roofs of the Old Town. Look a bit further, and you’ll see the glamorous business towers of the modern downtown area. If you’re lucky, you might even meet the local Instagram superstar #StevenTheSeagull
If city landscape photos are too cliché for your account, take a picture next to the wall with a dreamy sign “The times we had.” – likes and new followers guaranteed!
6. Bakery and Café RØST
by Kristiina, food
Are you a #foodie? If so, we’ve got you covered. This little café might be a little hard to find, but once you’re there you won’t want to leave! Rumour has it, this cosy place is best for breakfast with its freshly roasted coffee and delicious Scandinavian pastries.
7. The airport
by Daniil, marketing & communications
We all know that feeling – you’re flying home from an airport you’ve never been to before, arrive well in advance so as not to miss your flight and end up being bored at your gate or strolling between the shelves of the cookie cutter duty free shop. The good thing about Tallinn airport is that it’s so close to the city – you can be there in less than 10 minutes from downtown – and, outside of rush hour, you can whizz through security control. However, it may be worth arriving just a tad earlier because Tallinn airport isn’t exactly like the many others you’ll have been to.
You can grab a coffee at one of the affordable cafés, play ping-pong with your friend (yes, there’s a free ping-pong table), get a light workout before your flight (yup, a free gym too), or get some rest in a sleeping cocoon (those are free of charge as well). Believe us, there is more in this airport that will amaze you – cute security announcements recorded by children, a business card exchange wall, comfortable sofas at the gates – but you have to experience it yourself to really know what Estonians mean when we say our airport is the cosiest in the world!
We hope you got at least one new place on your to-do list while in Tallinn. If you need more tips on where to go and what to see, make sure to check out visitestonia.com!
We can’t wait to see you in Tallinn in just a few months! If you haven’t yet registered to the JA Alumni Europe Conference 2018, you can still do so on our website create18.eu. But hurry up – tickets are selling fast!
With love from 🇪🇪
the CREATE team