As you may know, I’m a hockey writer. I get paid to travel all over North America and Europe and watch hockey games and write about the players. Not sure if that’s your dream job, but it’s definitely mine and I love having the opportunity to live it out in real life and not just the fantasyland in my head. Plus, it’s super helpful when I have things like “Visit a new country” on my annual To Do List.
Thanks to hockey, I’ve been to Finland, Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Austria, and Poland, but now I can also add Estonia to the list.
I was in Helsinki for the World Championship in May of 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed my time there and while I was looking forward to returning for the World Junior Championship and experiencing the city in the middle of winter instead of spring, it didn’t help me check “Visit a new country” off my list. So when I caught wind of a two-hour ferry that took you across the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea, to Estonia, I needed to know more because never in my entire life have I even thought the words let alone said, ‘I’d really like to go to Estonia.’ Never. Who goes to Estonia?!
As it turns out, people who like pretty pictures of a city seemingly stuck in time go to Estonia.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that there’s an Old Town section of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and where this ferry – that was more like a cruise ship – would drop us off. One google image search later and I couldn’t get my tickets fast enough. If the reality was even half as beautiful as the pictures, I’d be a happy camper.
The good news is that Old Town Tallinn was every bit as beautiful as advertised. The bad news is that it snowed a solid foot on the day of our trip, but the better news is that it made for a more interesting trip and added to the beauty of the city.
My friend Sarah and I walked around town taking so many pictures that we had to delete older pictures to make enough room to take more. We were obsessed with the charm this city had to offer!
…but we were also cold. Very, very temperatures-in-the-single-digits-cold. We stopped in nearly every souvenir shop and cafe we saw to warm up, even if just for a few minutes, and I had more hot chocolate in one day than I did the entire year before, but we walked 28,000 steps (thank you, FitBit), had an awesome time exploring this little corner of the world and have all the beautiful scenic pictures our iPhones could handle to prove it!
Visit a new country – CHECK!
- If you take the ferry, reserve your tickets in advance and leave as early as possible (also note that because it’s such a big ship, you must board an hour before departure!) so you can enjoy as much of Tallinn as you want without rushing around. We arrived at 8am and returned to Helsinki on the 8pm ferry. We didn’t venture out of Old Town, with the exception of a cat cafe we saw advertised on a placemat that was a short detour on our way back to the ferry terminal, but felt that we did and saw it all.
- Walk the city walls (all of them!) for a phenomenal bird’s eye view.
- Visit the oldest cafe in Tallinn, Maiasmokk, which means sweet tooth. It was built in 1864 and the very rich and ornate interior hasn’t changed in over a century. Order whatever you’d like because it’s all outstanding. They’re known for their candy bars, cakes and pastries, which, in my opinion, are best enjoyed while sitting by the window watching the world go by. It does get quite busy at times, so try to visit in off hours if you want to linger. Visit the marzipan room to learn more about how they make it. There’s also a very cute teacup ferris wheel in the window for a great instagram worthy shot.
- There’s usually something going on at the main square by Old Town Hall. It’s also where some of the best restaurants are as well as the oldest continuously operating apothecary in Europe – Raeapteek – which is literally stuck in time. If you love history, don’t miss it, even if it’s just a quick walk through.
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Julie is a self-improvement junkie who loves to travel, wear pretty dresses, eat big breakfast and watch all the sunsets. She’s been there and done that and sharing all her life lessons with you. Read more
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