As an Australian, I think we grow up with the perception that Europe is tiny - 'you can cross about 3 different countries in the same time it takes to drive from Sydney to Melbourne' style tiny. My 18hr Flixbus from Amsterdam to Aarhus by way of Hamburg back in March - fuelled mostly by 'well what could really go wrong' - would definitely tell you otherwise (never. again). Point being: European cities aren't that small, honestly.
But Tallinn - at first - did feel small, even for a day trip which most people do from Helsinki. Noora and I had planned a deathly early ferry from Helsinki to Estonia (like 7AM) and very late ferry back (like 10:30PM). By the time we finished lunch around 2PM, we were already a little stumped about what to do for the rest of our time. Don't get me wrong, I was having the time of my life wandering through the 'transported to pastel dimension' beauty of Tallinn's Old Town alleyways and castle remnants, but it really wasn't taking us very long to do so, even accounting for ducking into shops and small museums and galleries along the way.
If you do plan a trip to Tallinn, either commit to public transport and museum-hunting and head to the Art Museum and perhaps to the Kalamaja area where a lot of vintage stores are located, or settle on walking. As it was, we were kind of stuck on not really feeling like going into any museums, but with a lot of time to spare.
When in doubt when travelling: walk.
So we did. We found comfortable shopping malls with reliable H&M, Zara and Forever21 stores, a beautiful refurbished 'modern' area with some second-hand boutiques, tiny cafes. And then we walked a bit more across the train tracks, to find a market that was closing and a row of boutique artists alleys and then spent about 2hrs eating dinner, chatting and browsing our phones at F-Hoone. So yeah, I never promised all the excitement.
By the 17km mark, my 7kg backpack of photography gear, water, sketchbook, umbrella etc. was starting to wear me out and Noora was looking composed, fresh and her makeup was unfairly impeccable so she has to take credit for dragging me that last 2km back to the ferry.
So if you're worried you can't do the 'quick 'n easy' tour of Tallinn's Old Town in a day, don't be. It's definitely worth doing but there's also things to explore just in case you plan to stay longer.
- Kompressor: Really reasonably priced pancakes for their size - both sweet and savoury - with pretty bad customer service. Can get crowded so recommend going off-peak.
- Vegan Restoran V: Vegan dishes, some set out like fine dining. Definitely book ahead.
- F-Hoone: Located in this block full of interesting modern restaurants. Gigantic spacious warehouse-like interior with rock vibes. Best to book ahead especially in a large group.
- Balti Jaama Turg: Open air market with lots of vendors and modern pop-up shops serving both food and some souvenirs/design items.
- Vintage Fankadelik - super nicely set-up boutique/vintage store with some beautiful fitting rooms and gowns to ogle at.
- Oma Asi D_sign - really cool design shop selling ~Aesthetic~ homewares and goods and little things. Found some amazing enamel pins.
- A.G.A.N OÜ - really liked this store which features garments from Estonian designers. The area around it is nice to explore as well and there are a bunch of cafes within walking distance.
- Viru Keskus - quite a big modern shopping mall with usual chain store suspects, but also some Estonian brands. Good for hunting for sales and/or resting.
- Raeapteek - Fascinating little pharmacy with a small exhibit on the history of medicine in Europe and Estonia. Closes during lunch hours, beware!
- Patkuli Viewing Platform, Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) - Obligatory. The Pharmacy is also in this square.
- Flower markets along the road to Viru Väravad - If you go in spring, flowers are so cheap compared to Australia and/or Scandinavia. Bring some back to Helsinki maybe ( :