In Depth

Mini metropolis: A guide to Tallinn, Estonia

Compact and increasingly hi-tech, Tallinn is a beguiling blend of Russian and Scandi influences

The stereotypes are partly true: Tallinn is the chosen destination for many a stag do and beer is cheap here. But it’ll still be easy for those aboard British Airways’ new direct service from Heathrow (launching 28 March) to escape those numbered-T-shirt hordes, and find creative and unexpectedly pretty corners of Estonia’s petite capital.

What to see

The quaint Old Town is Tallinn’s heart. Its Unesco-protected tangle of cobbles and colourful buildings eventually lead to Raekoja Plats marketplace, above which looms Alexander Nevsky Cathedral’s onion domes. Head to the KGB Museum to see some old Russian listening devices and then on to KUMU gallery to marvel at some traditional Estonian art.

Take some time out

For the best Old Town views, climb 157 steps to the top of the Patkuli viewing platform. Also visible from here is the Bay of Tallinn, where the forested island of Aegna can be visited by ferry. A similar peace awaits in vast Kadriorg Park, home to swans, gazebos, gardens woodland and a royal palace.

What and where to eat

"One of my favourites is NOP an organic cafe and neighbourhood store amid the lush Kadriorg district’s old wooden houses," says Helen Sildna, head of the multi-discipline, fast-growing Tallinn Music Week festival. "The local food and homely atmosphere are brilliant for lazy Sunday brunches – and for free concerts during our Music Week." Elsewhere, proximity to Helsinki explains the new-Nordic styling of Sfaar, where warm trout and poached-egg salads can be enjoyed in white-brick surrounds.

What and where to drink

Like everywhere else, Tallinn is going crazy for craft beer. To dodge the stag-do crowds, head to the secretive bar Koht; decorated like a living room, it stocks hundreds of obscure bottled potions. Try to stop at Maiasmokk too, it's Tallinn’s oldest coffee house and doubles as the best place to buy marzipan.

Don't miss…

In the former fishermen’s community of Kalamaja, the hippest space is Telliskivi – an ex-industrial complex, it is now a furniture and fashion treasure trove. Peruse interiors and candles in Homeart before heading across to F-hoone to mop up borscht (sour soup) with black Estonian rye bread.

The best place to stay

Tallinn’s growing clump of stylish boutiques epitomises its growing confidence. Recently spruced up, the 27 rooms at the Hotel St Petersbourg come with suspended bubble seats, low lights and risque artwork.

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