Silver Travel Explorers Club: Tallinn in Estonia, with Princess Cruises

Win a copy of the Lonely Planet Travel Guide to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Our Explorers Club spotlights a port of call from favourite cruising areas each month. The world was first explored by water and in many cases, it remains the best way to discover a new destination. Just add a comment at the end of the feature and to be in with a chance of winning the Lonely Planet Travel Guide to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

This month, we spotlight Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, with Baltic cruises expert, Princess Cruises.

Why go to Tallinn?

Tallinn lies on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, facing Sweden across the Baltic Sea. 

TallinnAfter a turbulent history as the plaything of Danish, Swedish, Polish and German and Soviet powers, Estonia became independent in 1991 with Tallinn becoming a proud European capital in its own right.  

Today, it’s a thriving city – lively without being noisy, welcoming to visitors without being overly-commercial, and it is almost ridiculously photogenic. An abundance of striking sights in the fairytale Old Town will vie for your attention – ancient churches, cobblestoned streets and colourful merchants’ houses. Add a burgeoning foodie scene and a vibrant digital culture – Tallinn has been called the Silicon Valley of Europe – and the city becomes a place with modern as well as historic appeal and charm.

What’s good to do there?

One of the best things to do is simply walk – as one of Europe’s most complete walled cities, the beautifully preserved Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encloses what feels like a medieval stage-set complete with time-honoured castle, cathedral, churches and palace.

Alexander Nevski Cathedral, TallinnThis is a city full of colour – Toompea Castle’s gloom was offset by Catherine the Great’s creation of a salmon-pink façade in 1773, while the onion-domed Alexander Nevski Cathedral opposite – a later Russian addition – is picked out in russet and white. Colourful, intricately painted doors and gateways will catch your eye on many streets. 

The oldest building in Tallinn is Dominican St. Catherine’s Monastery and dates back to 1246 with its courtyard serving as a museum in the summertime.

St Olaf’s Church was once thought to be the tallest building in the world until lightning hit its soaring spire in 1625. Today, the spire still stands out on the skyline, but after 10 lightning strikes over the years, it has now been deliberately shortened to a height of 124 m, 35 m less than in its heyday.  

Raeapteek pharmacyA great place to stop awhile is Maiasmokk, the city’s oldest running café, which first opened its doors in 1864. The interior of the shop has been the same for over a hundred years and adds to its antique charm. Try traditional Estonian fare – the brown bread is delicious and check out the marzipan museum on the premises.

The Raeapteek on Town Hall Square, meanwhile, is Europe’s oldest continuously-operating pharmacy, dating back to 1422. These days, the pharmacy stocks modern medicine, but visitors will also find an exhibition on traditional herbs and cures from centuries ago.

Little-known facts about Tallinn?

Old Town TallinnThe name Tallinn is derived from the Estonian words ‘taani linnus’ meaning Danish Castle.

Under the Old Town is a labyrinth of 17th century tunnels. During WWII these were used as bomb shelters, but they were not widely known about until 2010 when 380 of the passageways were opened to the public.

The city houses about 430,000 people a third of the entire population of Estonia.

Tallinn and Estonia have come a long way in the 30 years since declaring independence from the Soviet Union. Today, Tallinn has more start-ups per capita than any other European city, and Skype was developed here.

Town Hall Square, TallinnTallinn is not often thought of as a beach city. However, the Pirita District offers 2 km of unspoilt sandy beaches with stunning views out to the Baltic Sea.

Tallinn hosted the sailing events in the 1980 Olympic Games. 

Top tips

It is almost impossible to see all of the city’s five medieval church spires at once. However, by standing at a particular circular stone on Town Hall Square there is one spot where, helped by a gap in the roofline, all five can be seen. 

For a panorama of the city’s red rooftops and soaring church spires, head to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform. It’s easy to find – and free!

Princess CruisesHow to get there

Tallinn will be visited by a number of Princess Baltic fly-cruises in 2022 and 2023. New for 2023 will be Sky Princess sailing from and back to Southampton on Baltic itineraries featuring Tallinn and 7 further ports including St Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Fares start from £1,299pp for 14 nights and are on sale now.

Lonely Planet Guide to Estonia Latvia LithuaniaWin a copy of the Lonely Planet Travel Guide to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Simply add a comment below as to why you would love to visit Tallinn.

The best entry made in the month of August will win a copy of the Lonely Planet Travel Guide to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which will be sent to the winner in September 2021.  


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