Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Estonian capital Tallinn has slowly emerged from the shadow of Prague to become a main contender as an Eastern European city that’s simply unavoidably beautiful. Unfortunately, Tallinn’s also adopted one of Prague’s other claims to fame: it’s the up and coming capital of stag parties, and unless that’s what you’re here for, the relentless drunken weekends can make for a bit of an off-putting evening.
Put that aside, though (or, if you’re on a longer trip, just come during the week) and you’ll soon find Tallinn lives up to every ounce of its increasingly glowing hype. Narrow, winding cobbled streets and buildings hidden behind the chunky front of medieval town walls are the order of the day here, with plenty in the way of the off-the-wall post-Soviet art and remnants of Russian dominance still easy to track down amongst the city’s many enticing nooks and crannies. The trades are an equally mixed blend, with glass blowing and pottery still substantial amongst Tallinn’s newfound designer boutiques.
The single tower of Tallinn’s medieval Town Hall – perfectly lit to glow in the cold of night – as well as spectacular Kadriorg Palace, a garish deep-pink baroque structure at the heart of a manicured park are both must-see local attractions. Head for the edge of town and you’ll find tower after tower of gently peaked fortress turrets, guarding the walls with a closely knit defensive cylinder capped with slated cones.
Don’t forget to check out the exceptional restaurant culture while you’re here – affordable and cozy out of the snow, the candlelight diners, artistic coffee shops and high-end luxury hotels with expansive wine cellars are all part of the Tallinn experience.
Up there with Croatia as one of the ‘now’ destinations in European tourism, Tallinn might be blighted with its own imported drinking problem, but its startlingly beautiful and quite exceptionally memorable. Most are surprised by the artistic modernity of the capital, and in winter the sun never quite sets, leaving a perpetual twilight hovering over the city, accompanied by an exceptional – if frigid – snow-capped winterscape.