Visit Tallinn, Estonia
Helsinki by ferry to visit Tallinn, Estonia
We had an early morning to get up and get ready for our ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. We had booked a taxi online and although we had received a confirmation message, there is always that level of angst over whether it will in fact come or when in another country, whether we entered the address correctly! We did, it was early and we got to the Ferry Terminal in perfect time to check in and wait. We were laughing at how annoying it is that we frequently ‘hurry, to wait’ when travelling. The boys are adjusting to that concept well but sometimes it is a little testing.
Onboard the ferry we found ourselves some seats on the top level near the entrance to the ‘Sun Deck’ which was hilariously covered in snow. It was the perfect spot as we could go in and out as we wanted, it was quiet and we had fresh air meaning we were comfortable being somewhat relaxed with our mask wearing.
Mask wearing is not really a thing here, but we are continuing to wear them on public transport and in taxis in particular, just to be safe.
We watched from the Sun Deck as the ferry departed from Helsinki at 9am with the sun coming up and we admired the frozen islands as we headed out. A couple of hours later we arrived in Tallinn.
We got a taxi from the terminal, which proved to be quite an experience and one that we were happy to see the end of and grateful that we made it to our destination alive! The driver seemed to have his own rules, and drove very quickly on snow covered roads and tram tracks! He also drove through red lights – it was well noted (with fear) from the back of the car. We had booked a hire car, which we had to collect before heading off on our day trip, so once we got there we were very grateful to be out of his hands, wondering whether this was just the way taxi drivers drove in Tallinn.
All went smoothly in the car collection, and we took off towards Keila Joa, in the hope to see frozen waterfalls. Navigating driving on the right-hand side of the road, the snow over the road and the snow falling from the sky was quite an experience!! As was driving with nervous little passengers in the back; they may have been feeding off their parents! Once we got out of the city, it was much more smooth sailing and enjoyable. Geoff driving and I was navigating, we made a good team. I talked Geoff around corners saying out loud “turn right and onto the right handside of the road”. We made up our own language in the car, too, which made it fun. When Geoff was driving too close to the snow on the side of the road, we would tell him he was being a ‘snow buster’, as we had named other drivers snow busters earlier in our drive. It was incredible the way they just drove through deep snow, with no idea what was underneath! I tried to make the trip as ‘easy’ as possible and re-routed multiple times so we could turn right rather than left and reduce the number of turns we had to make. It was quite funny, really!
Keila and Keila Joa
We had to find somewhere for lunch before we got to the waterfalls, so we decided to vear off the main road and into the town called Keila. We wanted something quick and easy and spotted a bakery pretty quickly. We found a park just up a little further and then realised we had parked in front of a marvellous looking establishment, the Scottish House, and thought that looked way more fun than the bakery, so in we went! We ate the most delicious meal, it was a traditional Estonian Christmas dish as a lunch special. It would have been a great place to have a local beer, too, but we opted not to for the safety of us all!
Before we got back in the car, we walked across the road to take some photos of a church. It was so beautiful and we loved our introduction to Estonia!
The next stop was Keila Joa. We pulled into the carpark, which was empty and wandered along the ‘path’ that led us to a series of bridges. The second bridge we had to cross had icy cold water flowing underneath, as well as pockets of frozen rocks covered in snow. It was absolutely stunning.
With snow covering the ground, sitting on top of branches, railings, stairs, just everything, it was so magical! We continued wandering through the park to find the waterfall which was in fact frozen for the most part. Nature at its very best, it was so impressive! We were in absolute awe.
With the backdrop of churches and traditional homes, our visit to Keila Joa was well worth the challenge of driving ourselves there!
We returned the car to Autorent1 and got ourselves a Bolt, which is similar to Uber. This ‘taxi’ experience was perhaps ever so slightly better, but he still seemed to make up the rules and then charged us double what we were quoted. We were definitely ripped off but we were just grateful to have two feet on the ground. We thanked him, paid him and got on with our holiday.
The apartment we booked is in the best location, inside the Old Town and just minutes walk from the Christmas Market. The apartment itself is brilliant. It is three stories which the boys find incredible! The entrance is small and we have to bob down to walk through the doorway. There is nothing except a toilet downstairs and space to leave snow covered boots and jackets. The second level is the living and kitchen area and upstairs again are two bedrooms and the bathroom. It’s perfect!
Once we settled, we took off to the Tallinn Christmas Market. It was magical, perfect, and exactly as we thought it would be. The lights, the atmosphere, the stalls, music, the snow, the Christmas tree – everything was amazing!
For dinner the boys had chicken sausages in rolls (a bit like a hot dog, but it was traditional sausage) and Geoff and I ate potato porridge with meat. We drank Glogi, stood in the mix of everything and took it all in.
It had been a big day and we were all very tired so we didn’t stay too long. We wandered back to the apartment and all had an early night.
Tallinn Old Town Exploration, Ice Skating, Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum and the Tallinn Christmas Market
“Oh, the things you can find. If you don’t stay behind!” – Dr Seuss
My morning run was magnificent! I had no plans about where I would go, I simply started and turned when I saw a road that looked interesting. I found churches, quaint little streets, look outs, official looking buildings, the ice rink and finished back at the Christmas Market, which to my surprise was already opening in some parts.
We got ourselves ready for the day and walked to Pulla Bakery where we drank coffee and ate the most amazing cinnamon buns fresh from the oven! We will need to find a time to go back there before we leave!
The next stop was ice skating at Uisupark Ice Rink in Vanalinn (Old Town). Geoff opted to be the camera man so I took the boys out on the ice. We had an absolute blast! It was a little busy to start with but with the help of the frames for the boys, they grew in confidence quickly and were soon making their way around the rink without them. I love skating, so for me this was a real ‘pinch yourself’ experience to have with the boys. It was a great skating introduction to our upcoming ventures!
We used our 48 hour Tallinn Card which got us 50% off ice skating!
For lunch we ate at Georgian Tavern. We ordered a lamb pie to share and a salad, as well as a couple of local beers. It was warm, unique and yummy! While we were waiting for our meal, we planned the next part of our day.
After lunch we wandered the streets some more, taking the approach that I had earlier on my run. A bit of a choose your own adventure for the boys, it kept them going and allowed us to see more of Old Town Tallinn. We made our way to the spectacular St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, walked around the outside and then went in for a look. It is Tallinn’s largest orthodox cupola church and has such great history and remarkable architecture. You can do a guided tour of the Cathedral, but we decided not to on this occasion.
Our next stop was to visit Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum, where again we used our Tallinn Card to get our entry. We wandered along the walls, explored the towers, and wandered through the underground tunnels. The boys enjoyed learning the history and exploring all of the different paths and stairways.
By the time we left Kiek in de Kök, we were ready to sit somewhere warm for a coffee and an afternoon snack. We had wanted to go to Peppersack for coffee and cake, since discovering it on Instagram in our pre-trip planning – the cakes were exceptional! The boys say we need to go back again before we leave! Peppersack also has a restaurant which has been highly recommended to us as well.
Following this, we went back to the apartment for a rest. We had done a fair amount of walking and needed a break to re-energise before heading back to the Market for dinner.
We were better prepared for our evening at the Christmas Market so we spent some more time there, listened to the live music, the boys played in the snow and we enjoyed a different meal to the night before. Geoff and I ate venison, sauerkraut and roasted potatoes, Finn ate dumplings and Taj ate a ham and cheese sandwich, which was more like a crepe. They all went down a treat! We also enjoyed a ‘Glum’, Glogi with rum.
ROST Bakery, Fat Margaret and the Maritime Museum, Olde Hansa Restaurant
Our first stop was to be ROST Bakery. We had read that it was the best in Tallinn so we thought it was essential we visit! It took us outside the city walls which was nice. We didn’t get far out of the walls when we stumbled upon a market. We wandered through, initially just looking for a neckwarmer for Finn, as he had misplaced his the day before. We left the market with woollen Christmas jumpers, a neckwarmer and leg warmers – we were happy shoppers and officially Christmas ready!
Onto ROST – oh my, it was AH-MAZING! Although there were tables and chairs to sit in, it was so popular that not only were the tables full, but there was a queue to sit as well. We opted to order take away and sit outside at the snow covered tables and chairs. This trip is really making us realise how soft us Aussies are! In Europe, we are outside more than inside and the temperatures are literally freezing! We wouldn’t dare do that in in Australia. That said (and in our defence), we don’t dress well for the cold in Australia, perhaps if we did, we could manage. Our waterproof over pants have been an absolute saviour and make sitting on snow a viable option!
From ROST, we walked to the tower called Fat Margaret, which is the permanent home of the Estonian Maritime Museum. The boys loved the Maritime Museum, it was interactive and really engaging for children. There were also little activity books with puzzles and information, for the boys to use as they walked through the different levels of the museum. This was a very family friendly museum and we would highly recommend it.
More street wanders took us to Hell Hunt, the first pub in Tallinn. The food and atmosphere was great and the beer was cold; it was the perfect stop for lunch.
Following lunch we found the city walls again and climbed up the towers of Nunna, Sauna and Kuldjala and walked along the walls. The views are simply spectacular and of course this is added to with the thick layers of snow that line the roof tops. The steps up and down, were steep, uneven and large! Most of the time we had to crouch down to fit through the passageway and use the rope to help us up the stairs.
Taj and Geoff continued their explorations and went up to the look out of Kohtuotsa and Patkuli Vaateplats, while Finn and I went back to the apartment for a rest before our dinner outing.
For dinner we ‘dressed up’ (I put on a skirt) and we dined at Olde Hansa. Olde Hansa is a medieval restaurant which had been highly recommended to us. I had watched eagerly on Instagram in the lead up to our trip and was so excited about eating there. We had booked months ago and I am so glad we did. They were turning people away at the door. The restaurant was lit by candlelight and had a great mood about it.
We ordered the feast for the table. We ate boar, bear, elk and lots of local delicacies. We drank cinnamon beer, herb beer and honey beer – all local specialties. The waiter was entertaining, kind and certainly added to how much we enjoyed our evening. With our Tallinn Card, we were ‘gifted’ a schnapps at the end of the evening. I’m not sure what was in it but it knocked us for six! It was very tasty and helped us have a solid night sleep!
The boys meals were half price and we were able to use our Tallinn Card to get a discount off the bill at the end of the night – that was a nice little bonus as it was quite a splurge.
Ice Skating, City Exploration, Chocolaterie and the Tallinn Christmas Market
I started my day with a short run in a loop around part of the Old Town. Feeling more confident with the Old Town, I was able to run with purpose and create a lap, rather than just running up random roads. It was just as pleasant as my first run in Tallinn, I was still able to enjoy and soak in all of my surrounds. Magical!
Taj was desperate to go ice skating again, so we made good use of our Tallinn Card and got 50% off the entrance and skate hire. We got there right on opening time, the ice was fresh and there was hardly anyone there – 18 people to be precise, Taj counted. It was sensational, we had so much space to skate freely, there was light snow falling and the buildings were looking spectacular as the sun shone on them. Taj grew in confidence on the ice and had so much fun!
We met Geoff and Finn at about 11:30am ready for an outing together. Our first stop was Chocolats de Pierre, a gorgeous little café down one of the many snow covered laneways of the Old Town. The café was full of character, served house made speciality chocolates and the most amazing hot chocolates! Tallinn Card offered a discount here, too!
Following our decadent morning tea, we headed up Hellemann tower of the Old Town walls which was closest to our apartment. Although we had been up many towers before, it continued to be an exceptional experience and an opportunity for us to take in the remarkable views one last time, over the rooftops of Tallinn Old Town.
For lunch we stopped into a small café that seemed to be in the basement of a building. It was claimed to be voted the best café in Tallinn; it was not! We ate a miserable cheese platter and the boys shared a piece of mushroom quiche, after removing the mushrooms! As a constellation prize we went back to Pulla Bakery to get ourselves an afternoon treat to enjoy back at the apartment; because, we really needed yet another sweet something!
We enjoyed a quiet and restful afternoon at the apartment. We packed up a little, tidied some of our mess and got ourselves ready for our last visit to the Tallinn Christmas Market. It is astounding how far spread our belongings can go across an apartment in just a few days!
Our final evening at the Market did not disappoint. The boys played on their favourite snow mound. Made tracks for slides and went up and down, I don’t know how many times and in multiple directions! It is truly fabulous watching the boys loving life! Dinner was a repeat for Geoff and I, we ate venison which literally fell apart, smoked sauerkraut and roasted potatos. The boys ate ham and cheese ‘sandwiches’. Of course there was also Glogi for the grown ups!
On our way back to the apartment we bought some roasted almonds from Olde Hansa and stopped in at a souvenir shop to buy our collectables from Estonia. Finn is collecting pens, Taj is collecting magnets, Geoff is adding to his collection of patches and I am adding to my pin collection.
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