We all love London. But sometimes you have to leave, if only for the joy of the return. This week Leaving London takes us to a city that’s finally shaking off its reputation as simply a spot for large groups of men getting drunk. In fact, Tallinn has done its best to ban stag dos from its cobbled streets
Estonia’s capital boasts the oldest preserved walled city at its heart. A fairy-tale collection of pastel Hansel and Gretel style houses and spiral towers that sit happily alongside an emerging scene of hip foodie pop-ups, kitsch bars and independent fashion boutiques.
And if you want to go Eastern European bear-spotting – you’re only a 45-minute drive from the countryside and its large collection of wild grizzlies, moose and wolves. Don’t worry, the locals all insist that they are ‘very shy’. But also add ‘playing dead’ is the best way to avoid being eaten.
EAT AND DRINK
Lunch @ Sfäär
Tallinn’s trendiest cafe is a place where coffee is taken seriously. Not sure what to choose? You’ll get to smell the options. Indian or African? Mellow or smoked? Choose your bean and watch it fired up. The food is modern Estonian which means dishes like baked goat cheese with beetroot yoghurt sauce served with black bread and salted butter. The decor is warehouse style with exposed brickwork and a DJ booth to add to its style.
Dinner @ F-hoone
The most popular restaurant and bar hang-out for young Tallinners. It’s located in an old factory building with dizzy ceiling heights and an arty-feel. The food is cheap and really good, the sociable sharing plates offer platters packed with pickled garlic, spiced squash, beef jerky and Pecorino cheese. Move into the bar afterwards for the amazing gin and rosebud cocktails. There’s a nightclub next door that hosts the city’s best DJs if you’re not ready to go home at midnight.
Something different @ Mull
If you’ve always wanted to have a champagne dinner in an ex-supermodel’s living room – you’re in luck! The beautiful Beatrice Fenice has turned her stunning four-storey Tallinn Old Town house into a restaurant on the ground-floor and a private dining room in her fascinatingly eclectic living room. It’s a sociable affair that might get a bit boozy as she tops you up with bubbles and serves up local specials like plump lamb dumplings, salty pies and borsch soup. You’ll need to book two days in advance.
You’ll have an intimate and fun experience at Beatrice’s colourful home
Known as the ‘hipsterville’ – don’t let this put you off – of Tallinn, Kalamaja has been transformed from a closed off Soviet border zone into the must-be place for young Estonian creatives. It’s well worth the ten-minute walk away from the more touristy old town. The ‘Telliskivi creative City’, once an abandoned factory, is now home to a trendy indoor market where you’ll find pop-up stalls full of the latest fashion, jewellery and craft without a piece of tat insight. There’s a creative hub with studios and space for the city’s young designers where you can pop in and watch them at work.
The indoor markets are packed with modern, creative homemade craft
The word ‘bog’ might not conjure up the most beautiful image, but this marshland is enchanting. Just under an hour’s drive from Estonia’s capital city you’ll discover a wild landscape of forests and waterlands full of colour. There’s a 2.1 mile trail that allows you to easily walk right through it’s centre. If you’re lucky/unlucky you might spot some of the aforementioned wildlife. Remember ‘playing dead’ not ‘tree climbing’ is the best technique for escaping a bear attack.
The bogs are popular with locals for swimming during the summer
For location and comfort, The Hotel Telegraaf is a winner. You can get cheaper places, but this elegant establishment has a nice swimming pool and is only a two-minute walk from the Old Town. And a 12-minute stroll from the station. Rooms start from £80.