When I first announced on Facebook that I was going to Scandinavia for almost two weeks, one of my friends said I absolutely had to take a day trip to Tallinn, a tiny European city believed to have been built in the 12th century, while I was in Helsinki. I thought that sounded like a fantastic plan to add a fifth country to my itinerary and there wasn’t a whole lot on my schedule for Helsinki, so it worked out perfectly. There are multiple companies that sail from Helsinki to Tallinn multiple times a day. I ended up choosing the Linda Line. I think it let me upgrade to first class (free snacks!) for the cheapest amount of money. The ride is around two and a half hours and it was completely lovely with smooth seas ahead.
Tallinn doesn’t look very impressive when you arrive on the docks (it’s very communist-block looking – as you can see above) but as soon as you walk through the walls of Tallinn, you are transported to a town that looks like the ones you read about as a kid in your story books.
Tallinn is one of the remaining cities that has preserved medieval architecture in Europe so it’s an UNESCO site. It’s also apparently known as the “Silicon Valley of Europe.” I decided to spend about 6 hours total in Tallinn so here’s what I saw while I was there:
See? Tallinn is super tiny!
St. Olaf’s Church: I’m not really a big fan of churches but this is a tiny city and Frozen was still a thing, so… Yeah, I’m embarrassing myself, but I went inside and it was pretty but it pretty much looked like a church. It’s actually named after King Olaf II of Norway.
Tammsaare Park: This is a super pretty park just on the outskirts of the old town right before you get to the Hotel Viru (aka the KGB hotel).
Hotel Viru: My friend who told me to visit Tallinn said the best thing to do in Tallinn was visit the Hotel Viru, also known as the hotel that the KGB used to spy on foreign guests when they were in town, while the Soviet Union was still intact and communism had not yet fallen. The tour started at the very top of the hotel on the 23rd floor which had an amazing view of the city.
If memory serves me correctly, on the top where the KGB had their offices, the other half was a restaurant with that amazing view. So on one side, you had spies, and on the other you had diners.
We learned that the KGB had bugged phones, plates, among other items, in 60 of the hotel’s 420 rooms. So you may have been staying in an room that wasn’t bugged, but if you were an important person coming from out of town, you can be sure that you were in one of those 60 rooms. It was super interesting, and incredibly crazy, to learn about this hyper invasive and paranoid time in eastern Europe. You should definitely carve out time to check out the Hotel Viru if you’re in Tallinn.
Estonian Presidential Palace: Having checked off the Hotel Viru and St. Olaf’s Church, I basically spent the rest of day walking around admiring the beauty of the architecture and eating. I also decided I wanted to one day become president of Estonia so I could in their presidential palace, aka Kadriorg Palace, because it’s obviously my color.
Town Hall Square: Another super quaint town square with really beautiful architecture and lots of restaurants.
Food: I sustained myself while in Tallinn on cake and fried cheese. Diet of champions, for sure. Everything in Tallinn is very heavy and is oftentimes fried.
Tallinn City Museum: I went into the Tallinn City Museum, but to be honest, it was really tiny and you could read any of the information on Tallinn’s Wikipedia page that you could find in the museum. Save your time and eat more cake instead.
Medieval Architecture: See? I told you. You don’t get more medieval than that.
The only thing that I didn’t have time to do was head over to the Museum of Occupations. Tallinn was occupied by the Nazis in 1940 so I would’ve loved to learn about that, but maybe next time I’m in town! Now because the architecture is so amazing in Tallinn, I’ll end this post with a bunch of pictures highlighting said-architecture: