Thrifty Tallinn: How to Shop, Eat & Drink for Cheap

Tallin doesn’t quite have the rock-bottom prices it once boasted – a heady appeal for stags and hens – but it is still a budget destination.

What gives this city its lovely oldie worldie feel are the 2km of original city walls – one of Europe’s best preserved medieval fortifications. Cobbled streets, plenty of towers to climb and the gabled medieval town houses and churches make for a lovely backdrop. But Tallinn Estonia is also bursting with creative talent. Galleries host top Estonian artists, slick bars make the most of cavernous cellars and Tallinn University keeps the atmosphere buzzing.

Practical Information

For anyone intending to travel to Tallinn Estonia, take a look at our practical information on the city…

Tallinn Weather
A temperate climate, with warm summers averaging at 21 degrees (70F) in July and August and -5 degrees (18F) in winter are typical for Tallinn weather. Snow can stick around from December to March. A coastal location means sea breezes and in summer, Tallinn experiences up to 19 hours of daylight. In winter this drops to 6 hours of daylight.

When to Visit
If you want to know when to visit Tallinn weather in spring makes April and May popular months, but visit in winter for an excuse to cuddle up in the cellar bars and cafes or enjoy the adorable Tallinn Christmas Market in the town square from November. But with cultural events taking place throughout the year, Tallinn tourism will be booming in 2011.

Tallinn Transport
The city is easily walkable but Tallinn transport includes buses, trolleybuses and trams running from about 6am to midnight. The cheapest place to buy tickets is from street kiosks but tickets are also available from the driver. Don’t forget to validate your ticket inside. For the green-minded, a Velotakso pedi-cab offers rides in an egg-shaped vehicle in the Old Town.

From Tallinn airport, travellers can catch bus no. 2 (Mõigu-Reisisadam) from outside the terminal which takes you in to the city centre, next to Viru Keskus at A Laikmaa street. One-way costs €1.6 and can be bought from the driver. The service operates between 6am and midnight. Find the timetable here.

Where to Stay
If you would like to keep things cheap Tallinn hostels are available from €5 per person per night! Check out two of favourite properties…

Tallinn Backpackers is a lively party hostel. There’s a homely atmosphere in the lounge with travellers mingling on the sofas or heading out to local pub crawls together. Staff can advise you of the best clubs in Tallinn and even take you on off-the-beaten-track tours, to really uncover some hidden gems. The hostel has self-catering facilities, a games room and free internet. Private and shared rooms from €9pppn.

Alternatively Vana Tom Hostel offers stylish rooms with reading lights, lockers and free hot drinks. Guests can rent DVDs or books, and use the self-catering facilities to cook meals. This might be the quieter of the two hostels but bars, clubs and cafes are all within walking distance so nightlife in Tallinn is never far away. Shared and private rooms from €8pppn.

Things to do in Tallinn

When you arrive in Tallinn map out a couple of our top things to do…

Shopping: The Balti Jaama Turf is a Russian market of 50 stalls set up opposite the main railway station. You can find all sorts of delicious edibles and handicrafts both old and new. Alternatively, St Catherine’s Passage is a picturesque medieval lane of craft workshops selling traditional creations.

Churches: Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Estonia’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral and is certainly one of the grandest donning spectacular onion-domed structures. The white and glowing Holy Spirit Church boasts Estonia’s oldest pulpit as well as an elaborate clock from the 17th century which is Tallinn’s oldest public timepiece.

Towers: It may not be the tallest in Tallinn but Fat Margaret’s Tower is certainly the widest. A magnificent coastal defense structure standing next to the Great Coastal Gate. For the best views however, head to the Patkuli and Kohuotsa viewing platforms. Kiek in de Kök is a museum inside an artillery tower. The 500m of passageways are the big draw which were built to conceal the movements of soldiers and sheltered people from the 1944 Soviet bombings. Half are still being dug out.

Day Trips: It’s certainly worth looking into the Tallinn Helsinki ferry. You could break up your holiday between the two cities or stick to a day trip. There are plenty of Tallinn ferry operators crossing this 50-mile stretch of water in as little as 2 hours.

Eat & Drink

Estonians love confectionary, evident from the many decadent window displays in Tallinn cafes. Chocolate especially is coveted here. Try Chocolats de Pierre. It claims its own secret recipe and, rather a novelty, it stays open until midnight. (Vene 6, Meistrite Hoov)

Valli Baar is a local hotspot for everything from folk singers, to working men on stools and those enjoying the lethal local tipple millimallikas consisting of tequila, Sambuca and Tabasco. (Muurivahe 14)

Hell Hunt is no butch biker bar, in fact, it translates as ‘The Gentle Wolf’. This bar has managed to elude most tourists so aside from locals and the odd boozy Finn (stumbling off one of the Tallinn ferries) you’ll have the great range of own-brewed beers and excellent home-cooked kitchen grub to yourself. (Pikk 39)

For a cosy Tallinn restaurant, Vanaema Juures lives up to its name ‘Grandma’s Place’. Wild boar and elk roast will delight the more adventurous eaters and the lamb with blue cheese or pikeperch with champagne sauce are also delicious. Mains €10-€16. (Rataskaevu 10/12)

nAno offers meat-free and wholesome dishes, perfect for a light and booze-free lunch. It’s run by a local fashion designer and her DJ husband and the atmosphere is intimate and colourful. (Sulevimägi 5)

Thanks to VirtKitty, Troy David Johnston and Tallinn 2011 for the images!

Check out Turku Finland: Capital of Culture 2011 no. 2 for more exciting culture goings-on throughout the year!

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