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Tallinn's pride and joy is its historic Old Town, an enchanting neighborhood of centuries-old streets, houses, towers and squares that looks like it was torn right from the pages of a storybook. On the other hand, threaded through that same Old Town and its environs are cutting-edge restaurants, cafés and clubs that give Tallinn its energy and buzz.
In Tallinn for a limited time? Want to make sure you've hit all the main sights? The city's pride and joy is without a doubt its Medieval Old Town, but equally enchanting is the Kadriorg district, a throwback to the time when Estonia was ruled by the Russian Tsars. Here's a list of places that you'll definitely want to put on your itinerary.
Tallinn is a highly compact city, most of which can easily be explored on foot without the need for taxis or buses. Most of the best opportunities for sightseeing, cultural events, dining, shopping, and nightlife are conveniently massed in city centre. Whatever your agenda, whichever of the Tallinn´s you need – the romantic, Medieval Tallinn or the trendy, high-tech one – the doors are open. Just take your pick and head on in! The Tallinn Card gives you free entry to 40 museums and other interesting attractions, one free sightseeing tour of your choice, free use of public transport and a variety of entertainment options.
Being located in Northern Europe, Estonian cuisine is based on fresh and natural ingredients that vary according to the season. Whether you want to have a cosy dinner with your family or meeting your friends for some drinks in a modern lounge bar, there are countless choices – from medieval to modern, from traditional Estonian to exotic international. In summertime tables and chairs are set up outside restaurants, and sitting at backyards or terraces is a great pastime and holiday activity in itself.
A romantic hideaway, a trendy hangout or just somewhere to get a decent cappuccino – whatever kind of café you're looking for, you can find it in Tallinn. But hungry travellers should also know that the line between “restaurant” and “café” in Estonia is somewhat blurred, with many cafés offering extensive food menus. Meals typically range from simple, meat-and-potatoes dishes to elaborate salads and pastas. If it's just dessert you're after, try one of the cafés that specialises in handmade chocolates.
In addition to being the best places to unwind during the evening, the city's bars and pubs also operate during the day, serving up reasonably priced dishes to the frugal masses. In local-style pubs the menus tend toward schnitzels and potatoes, whereas international-style pubs will serve you everything from Tandoori chicken to an English breakfast. Look for a chalkboard menu advertising the päevapraad (daily lunch special), which is a good way to fill your belly without emptying your wallet.
In Tallinn, folk tradition exists alongside everything contemporary. You can find some of the most amazing art pieces exclusively made with traditional skills. The most unique Estonian souvenirs are traditional Estonian handicrafts. Many shops and galleries offer a wide range to choose from, so everyone is sure to find something to their liking. The most unique Estonian souvenirs are traditional Estonian handicrafts – knitwear, linen, ceramics, leather, and wood, especially juniper wood. Most of Estonian design can be seen in small galleries, design boutiques and fashion stores. You will find many unique, handcrafted pieces from some of the most imaginative designers in Estonia, ranging from ceramic, textile and fashion, to wood, furniture, jewellers and handicraft.
Unwinding and de-stressing is something Estonians have known about for generations. In fact, since as far back as the 1800s, health spas in the country’s coastal towns have been attracting people from all over the world. The city has over a dozen establishments offering health and beauty treatments like hot stone massages, chocolate body wraps and facials. Spa hotels typically offer 2- to 6-day packages that include accommodation, meals and other services along with a choice of treatments, while day spas offer treatments only. In all cases, prior booking is essential.
If your idea of the perfect getaway involves whacking a ball with a racquet, taking a few laps at high speed or battling your friends with lasers, then Tallinn is definitely the place to be. There are places to get your pulse rate up, from health and tennis clubs to skating rinks to water parks. If relaxation is more your speed, you can visit one of the nearby golf courses for a round or two or take a leisurely sail across Tallinn Bay. You can even rent a bike to explore Tallinn’s paths, parks and seaside promenade.
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