Travel Tips from Locals in Your Fave Cities: Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia may not be the first city that comes to mind when planning a getaway vacation – to many, however, it is Europe’s best-kept secret. Home to a small population, Tallinn is serene and lively all at the same time, while also being breathtakingly beautiful. It’s also brimming with fascinating sights to see – from medieval streetscapes to its hip cafés and youth culture. Beyond Tallinn’s city walls lies charming avenues of brightly painted houses, beaches, docks, parks, and of course, sprawling forests. Elaine Caguiat Santos has been living in Tallinn for over a year with husband Bob. She currently works at an iGaming company, Global Gaming, as an HR Business Partner, while Bob is a Full-Stack Developer at TransferWise – FinTech unicorn company. She says, “If you want to reboot, experience a mixture of old and new, you love nature, looking for serenity and relaxation, then Estonia is the perfect place.”
Before you go
Estonia is a small and very technologically advanced country (they created Skype!). It’s part of the EU so you need Schengen Visa. We use the Euro (€) for currency. All shops accept cash cards/debit cards, though, farmer’s markets only accept cash.
Generally, it’s quiet here, even at the city center. Please bear in mind that locals love their space and the quietness of surroundings. Most young people speak English. The older ones only speak Estonian and Russian.
Dress for the season. Estonia is located near the arctic circle. In Summer, temperatures range between 10 to 25 degrees. In winter, layering is essential. Temperatures range from 0 to -30 degrees celsius. Thermals, pants and a knitted jumper/sweater (second later), a down winter jacket (top layer – waterproof and windproof preferably), a beanie, a woolen scarf, winter gloves, wool socks, as well as winter boots with insulation and traction soles are essential.
Must do’s and Must see’s
Old Town: it’s the oldest and one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in Europe. It’s an excellent place to walk around and experience history. There’s a lot of museums, cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Forest and Bogs: 50% of Estonia is covered in forest, being one of the greenest countries in Europe. If you love and want to explore nature, hiking and bog shoeing is a must.
Spa and Sauna – It is part of their culture and can be traced to hundreds of years ago. If you want to experience the Estonian sauna way, try the smoke sauna and jump into the cold icy lake during winter. There are a lot of spa and sauna hotels and tours all over the country.
White nights: White nights in Estonia start on the 24th of June – they call this Midsummer’s Day or Jaanipäaev (St. John’s Day). This happens when summer days extend into the night, and there’s barely any darkness in sight. During this time, there are a lot of festivities, foods, drinks, singing/dancing, and bonfires.
Christmas Market in Old Town: Tallinn Christmas Market has always been at the top of the list for best Christmas Markets in Europe. Drinking hot chocolate or Glögg (mulled wine) while roaming around the old town when it’s snowing is a great experience.
What to avoid
Estonia is generally safe. Though locals love to drink, so best to stay away or avoid drunk people.
Traveling on a budget
Estonia is very affordable in general compared to other European countries. Airbnb costs are even lower. You can get a good flat in Old Town/City Center for as low as 35€ to 45€ per night.
How to get around
It’s easy to get around Tallinn via public transport (bus and tram). Buy a smart card (Ühiskaart) from supermarkets and R-kiosks (there’s one in the airport). During summer, go around using rental bikes and scooters that are scattered around the city center. Download the apps Möbius.ee (bike), Citybee (scooter) and Bolt (scooter), enter your payment details, et viola, you’re good to go!
Public transportation is available until midnight only. If you go out partying and you need to go back to your hotel or Airbnb, you can use Bolt, Yandex or Über. By the way, you can access wi-fi everywhere even if you’re in the middle of the forest (with data).
Best foods and places to eat
Mom and pop café’s abound in the city center. Try these shops for breakfast or afternoon snack with tea. During the Christmas season, blood sausage, sauerkraut, and potatoes with Glögg are typical eats. For an everyday lunch or dinner staple however, locals often eat meat or fish, accompanied by a side salad, and a type of grain with sauce. Estonians put sour-cream and dill in most of their dishes. If you like beer, then there are several local craft beers you can drink and enjoy.
Fifty percent of the country is covered in forest and one of Europe’s greenest countries, so definitely go hiking, swimming in the lake, and bog shoeing in the forest. You’ll most probably have the whole forest to yourself.
Best time to visit
All year round! If you want to experience White Nights, then come during summer or for the 24th of June to be a part of Jäänipäev (St. John’s Day) festivities. But, if you want to experience a winter wonderland, then definitely during travel here from late December to early March.
Elaine Caguiat Santos has been living in Tallinn for over a year with husband Bob. She currently works at an iGaming company, Global Gaming, as an HR Business Partner, while Bob is a Full-Stack Developer at TransferWise – FinTech unicorn company.
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