To mix things up a bit, lets skip a few and take a weekend trip to Tallinn, how about that?
Why Tallinn? Because why not!
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, located conveniently 2 hour ferry ride from Helsinki. Not just any ferry ride, but cruise with Viking Lines, which is almost like a 5 star hotel floating on the sea. There are bars, night clubs, restaurants, spa, kids entertainment and plenty more.
If you find yourself in Helsinki and get a headache from the prices, hop on the boat and spend a weekend in one of the best value cities in Europe. It’s for a reason that Fins take the cruise, not just leisure. They load up crates of booze ahead of any big celebration or just a weekend in a cottage with friends. Thanks to high taxes on alcohol in Finland, the route Helsinki – Tallinn is truly a booze-cruise.
All of a sudden, instead of paying 15 eur for a glass of wine in a restaurant, you will pay the same for a whole bottle in Tallinn.
If that’s not enough to lure you in, then you must know that Tallinn is one of the oldest medieval cities in Europe and most certainly one of the prettiest I’ve been. It’s also not just about appearances. Estonia has the first paper-less government in the world, and thanks to their innovative e-residency solution you can set up company based in there from anywhere else in the world. Tallinn is a vibrant mix of history and innovation, it breathes charm and village feel.
I don’t know if that ever happened to you, but the moment I stepped off the boat and saw the skyline of the city, I said out-loud: ‘ I could live here!’ And that’s before I even saw the city itself.
Here is a little virtual tour through pictures.
Starting with the fun commute with Viking Lines. Truly enjoyable experience, although I have to note that the Helsinki archipelago is not as impressive as the one in Turku (blog post about that later).
The boat seemed almost fully booked and thanks to the sunshine, everyone descended on the outdoor terraces like bees on honey.
We attempted to take some pictures for the family album, which went great.
Arriving in Tallinn, there was already a fleet of cruise lines which made our one feel like a small fisherman boat.
We headed straight to the hotel, which was another adrenaline experience.
We stayed in Radisson Blu Sky Hotel. When the polished gentleman at reception announced that our room is on floor 17, I thought I might head straight to the bar for a shot of something strong.
With trembling feet we stepped into the lift, which took us in just a few seconds to our floor. The room was gorgeous with a view to die for.
The fear of heights didn’t stop me from making it to the roof terrace.
Panoramic views of Tallinn combined with gourmet dining experience and gorgeous sunshine. Just bear in mind you have to defend your food from a fleet of seagulls that hover above.
After food and refreshments, it was time to check out the old town.
From the hotel, it was only a short stroll through a pretty green park and to the medieval gates guarding the entrance to the old town.
As you walk in, the crowds get bigger and you hear all sort of languages, Finnish being the most prominent one.
The streets of old town are lined up with shops, souvenirs, medieval themed restaurants and all lead to the main square with the town hall.
You can’t really get lost, only on purpose.
There is plenty to do and see in Tallinn. Being your typical tourists, we skipped all of them.
Instead, we took a stroll outside of the old town and explored the less crowded place.
Thanks to our friends who live here, we couldn’t have wished for a better guide!
Our first stop for picnic was this outdoor museum with traditional Estonian wooden cottages.
Located in a bay short drive from Tallinn, you get to spend a day by the seaside with beautiful view of the city’s skyline and surrounded by centuries old houses. There is a showcase of traditional crafts, ship building, fishing and much more.
Right next to us was a small fenced area with sheep, restaurant and playground for kids. The immaculately kept lawn and fresh sea breeze makes you feel like you just traveled to a different country, even though you just left town.
Best of all? We had the whole place to ourselves!
After a laze-around on the grass, burning our faces in the sun and eating unhealthy amount of white bread, we headed out back to town.
To one of my favourite tourist activities – visiting castles, chalets, palaces and other ridiculously gorgeous buildings fit for a king.
Welcome to Kadriorg.
Influenced by Russian architecture and built by Russian Tsar Peter I, this place is a hidden gem in a medieval city.
The palace itself is surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens, swan pond and few buildings which serve as museums. There is a small canal running through the park as if you walk further through the forest, you will find yourself in Japanese Gardens.
Did I already mention I love Tallinn?!?!?
If you venture inside the palace yourself, you will be treated with a view of classic Versailles style rooms with opulent decorations.
This particular one was my favourite.
Takes the word wall decor to a new level.
Time for a stroll around the gardens.
This was on Saturday afternoon and the park was nearly empty.
Despite the millions of tourists visiting the city every year, it still doesn’t feel as crowded as many other European capitals.
Plus, its absolutely breathtaking!
We must have walked miles and still didn’t see everything.
It was getting closer to dinner time, so we headed back to town, for quick refreshment before dinner.
We found this cool vegan cafe and opted for a very vegan selection of local beers.
For dinner, the choice was easy.
Our friends took us to one of their local favourites – Elevant Restaurant in old town. As you enter from the street, the metal spiral staircase takes you to the restaurant, complete with a hang out corner for kids and beautifully decorated interior.
The kids got busy with the crayons as soon as they arrived at the table and we took to our most popular venture – perusing the wine list.
Starting with an aperitif of Martini, followed by a bottle of wine.
The menu in the restaurant is rather impressive, but we opted for the classic.
3 out of 4 of us were non-meat eaters, so our choices were seafood thali and vegetarian thali, perfect portion for two people to share.
Hands down – one of the best curry dishes I’ve ever had (and I’ve lived in Brick Lane in London, so curry was a big part of my life).
I can’t remember all the ingredients included in our selection, but we pretty much licked the plates dry. Curry usually leaves you feeling really stuffed and puffing, but this meal felt so light and beautifully balanced that I felt like I should order another one.
I think it must be old age, but from visiting new places I most vividly remember the food and wine.
Elevant restaurant quickly made it to my top 10 list.
The evening didn’t finish there – the guys made it to the cigar club at the main square and me and my friend with two sleeping kids strolled to the nearest outdoor terrace to toast to the great evening.
Most of the terraces close around midnight, leaving you not many options to enjoy the outdoors on a warm summer night. We ended up going to a Wine Library at the corner of the square, which was a rather unusual experience.
A tiny Italian place with an eccentric owner who was shouting at a chef in front of the guests, waiter who gives you weird looks when you tell her you want red wine served at a correct temperature (not straight from the fridge) and I didn’t even mention the crowds that arrived after us.
We squeezed both prams and four of us into this small place and declared it our own. The wine was flowing (a bit too much) and the food eventually came too (after the owner located his chef). We must have been the best advertisement the place had as it quickly filled with other tourists looking for a one last glass before heading to the hotel.
We stayed until very late and came to the hotel filled of wonderful memories and dangerous amount of wine.
Tallinn is a truly magical place to be!
PS: more of Tallinn in next blog post!