It probably sounds a bit random to fly 4.5 hours from Cyprus to Estonia, but it was one of the last countries I needed to check off my list. I loved the other two Baltic capitals, Vilnius and Riga, last year when we went for Christmas markets, so I had a feeling I would love Tallinn. And indeed I was right. The medieval-walled, UNESCO-World-Heritage-listed old town was so adorable, and as in the other two cities, I had one of the best overall food experiences of anywhere I have been.
My mom met my sister and me in Tallinn, and we had two full days, but one of them was devoted to going to Helsinki and back. Tallinn is a small city, and if you’re not interested in going to museums, one day for sightseeing is plenty. We started our day there the way we do in most other cities: having breakfast at a cute coffee shop and then doing a free walking tour. I can’t stress how important it is to learn the culture and historical context of what you see in a city, especially one that people generally know little about. For instance, how else would I have learned that the Estonian specialty of winemaking is using rhubarb as a base instead of grapes because the climate is too cold for vineyards?! I had a glass of sparkling rhubarb wine later that night for dinner and I was ready to take home a whole bottle.
After the tour, we headed to what our guide called the “artsy, hipster neighborhood of Tallinn,” Telliskivi. Artsy and hipster it was—a super unique spot with painted brick walls, lots of cafes, and colors everywhere brightening up the dark, dreary day. The weather made me so unmotivated to take pictures, unfortunately.
For lunch, the Balti Jaama Turg was just the kind of place we were looking for. It’s a renovated railway station turned into a food hall and flea market. While the shopping didn’t interest us, the food definitely did! All three of us had bao, and I treated myself to some khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread) from a stand there. I love food halls because I love having options, and it’s a concept we desperately need in Germany! After lunch, it was ice cream time at La Muu, another tour guide recommendation, despite the 45-degree rainy weather.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the old town stopping at the sights we didn’t stop at on our tour, taking pictures and souvenir shopping.
For dinner, we ate one of the tastiest meals of my entire life at Väike Rataskaevu, the second best restaurant in the city according to Trip Advisor. The best restaurant was yet another tour guide suggestion and the sister restaurant to the one we ate at, but sadly it was fully booked. We were so happy with the whole meal that we didn’t mind second best. The goat cheese appetizer was just the kind of thing I love to start dinner with, and my beef tenderloin entree was cooked to perfection and served with the two best sauces I could ask for, red wine reduction and truffle potato cream. But the standouts were the desserts. We had bread pudding and frozen blue cheese cake. I am not a cheesecake fan, but this was one of my favorite things I’ve ever eaten. It was almost like a take on a cheese plate for dessert, and I must say I have more of a cheese tooth than a sweet tooth.
As much as I would have loved to spend more time in Tallinn, the weather was less than ideal and there wasn’t anything else I was dying to do there. Now I’m just curious how their Christmas market compares to the ones in the Vilnius and Riga. That means Tallinn is worth flying back to, especially for that blue cheese cake!