Constantly changing: Tallinn – Estonia’s exciting seaside capital


Jaan-Laur Tähnpold points to a chic café in the old town and is certain: “That wasn’t there last week.” The tour guide is no longer surprised that something new is happening in his hometown. Tallinn is booming, setting trends, changing rapidly. Why?

“Perhaps because we had to catch up a lot that was prevented by the Soviet era,” answers the sociologist.

Industrial charm and culture

Tallinn is full of creative minds who have turned rotten industrial plants into thriving hot spots. Example: Telliskivi, a private initiative of visionaries. A creative center has developed where the Soviets once repaired locomotives near the railway line to St. Petersburg – with organic shops and designer shops, co-working areas, pubs, restaurants, cinema, concerts, flea markets and dozens of events per month.

Parts of the old city wall of Tallinn in the evening light – the old town is very pretty and worth seeingPhoto: Photo: Philipp Laage / dpa-tmn

Visit to the upgraded harbor district

The Noblessner district shows how old becomes new. Here, Estonia’s capital has recently opened up to the sea side, with luxurious apartment blocks and the new use of traditional shipyards, in which submarines were built.

For around a year now, the art exhibition center Kai and the Proto adventure museum have been housed in refurbished old architecture, where you can move around on a “floating bike” or on a “flying machine” in spheres of virtual reality.

The historical seaplane hangar, which houses the Estonian Maritime Museum under its reinforced concrete domes, keeps visitors on the ground of the facts. And this is so exemplary modern that Tallinn is way ahead of the rest of the world.

Sports port in Tallinn

Sports harbor in the newly refurbished Noblessner district – Tallinn is a city on the waterPhoto: Andreas Drouve / dpa-tmn

Culinary audacity

Constant change fuels expectations, drives demands: Where do the latest addresses open, where do you keep your finger on the pulse of culinary delights?

This is speculated by someone like chef Tauno Tamm, 27, who relies on Estonia’s nouvelle cuisine in the Noblessner district. And how does he define it? “We are currently rediscovering Estonian food – what comes from the sea, the forest or from the local farm. And we as bosses simply take it to the next level without our ego going through with us. “Estonians like Tamm love rye bread, mushrooms, berries and everything that“ we have learned to put up with under tough living conditions, ”says the boss.

deep insights

A highlight in the Estonian Maritime Museum is the walk through a submarinePhoto: Photo: Andreas Drouve / dpa-tmn

An old, a fat and a long

But there is also the other, the traditional Tallinn with what Jaan-Laur Tähnpold calls “Hanseatic architecture”.

The guide brings a trio into play: old Thomas, fat Margaret and long Hermann. The old Thomas is the weather vane figure on the top of the town hall, the thick Margarethe a defense tower, the long Hermann the towering tower of the castle, where the Estonian flag is hoisted every morning.

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral Alexander Nevsky and the Nikolaikirche, whose sacred halls have been converted into an art museum, should not be missing from the sightseeing list.

Sightseeing in Tallinn

The Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the early evening light.Photo: Photo: Andreas Drouve / dpa-tmn

Garlic ice cream and marzipan for heartache

Tallinn is extravagant in many places: colorful outdoor loungers below the Nikolaikirche, plant decorations in rubber boots on the sidewalk, garlic ice cream in a restaurant.

People who fill historic Tallinn with life include Georg Bogatkin and Jelena Kapitonova. Bogatkin, 65, is a master ceramist and runs a combined café and studio. Kapitonova stands in the town hall square in one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, where she works as a pharmaceutical assistant. The entrance to the museum leads from the sales room, where it helps to explain medicinal exhibits of yesteryear. Earthworms in oil are said to help relieve stomach pain. “And marzipan for heartache.”