We spent a total of 5 days in Estonia, split between the capital, Tallinn and the tiny beach town of Parnu for the Weekend Baltic Music Festival. Estonia had never been on our list of countries to visit (nor did we know much about it) but when we were invited to join along with my brother, there wasn’t a reason not too. Flying in from Stockholm, Sweden, was quick, cheap and relatively easy until my poor beloved backpack was broken by SAS airline… 🙁 We’ve had an interesting 4 weeks carrying it around with a makeshift strap. Update: We’ve just received news that I can replace my backpack and they will reimburse us the whole amount. Now that is quality customer service 🙂
So, what’s Estonia all about? Is it worth the visit? Read on and find out!
Some Fun Facts about Estonia
- Estonia is located in Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland.
- Population: 1.3 Million with an estimated 450,000 in the capital Tallinn.
- Currency: Euro (as of 2011)
- Language: Estonian
- Size: 45,339 km²
- Estonia is ranked in the top 5 countries for the cleanest air in the world due huge expanses of forest and a relatively smaller population within the borders.
- The medieval Old Town of Tallinn is considered the best and most preserved in the world.
- 50% of Estonia is made up of forestry.
- Vana Tallinn is a sweet liqueur, invented in the 60’s and is native to Estonia.
- There are over 1500 Islands in Estonia.
- Skype was created by Estonians and is home to over 50% of the company.
- Blood sausages are the most popular meal to eat during Christmas Eve.
- All of Estonia’s schools are connected to the internet
- Estonia was one of the first countries in the world to begin online voting.
- 75% of the Estonian population claims to be irreligious however Evangelical Lutheranism is the predominant religion.
Where is Estonia & How to get there
Estonia is located in northeastern Europe and is a very accessible country to reach. Fly or hop on a ferry from Finland or Sweden, take an overnight train from Russia or a bus from many of the European cities such as Warsaw, Riga, Budapest or Berlin. The Port of Tallinn is also one of the biggest cruise ports in the Baltics. Sometimes over 30 cruise lines visit the port of Tallinn in the tourist seasons.
If you travel by bus, LUX Express is by far the nicest bus company we’ve used in 17 months. They have huge comfortable seats with ample leg room, are very affordable, on time, contain personal TV’s with movies and working WiFi.
Where to visit in Estonia
Tallinn is the capital and should be on anyone’s itinerary, however, it shouldn’t be the only place you visit, nor should you restrict yourself to just the Old Town. Estonia has 1000’s of islands that are reachable on day trips from Tallinn. Lahemaa National Park is the perfect place for a city escape, Parnu is a small beach town with clean beaches in the summer but be prepared for extensive crowds in July or take a bus to Tartu which is a university town with one of Northern Europe’s oldest universities. Frequent buses and wide roads make for easy access everywhere in Estonia.
How long do you need in Estonia?
Estonia is a small country and getting around by public transport is very easy, not to mention the distances are not that large between cities. Unfortunately, we barely scraped the surface of Estonia but we can say from our experience that 10 days can cover a significant amount of time in the country. You can always spend longer everywhere you go if you choose to get more acquainted with the local lifestyles, so if you have the time, use it, this is a just basic guide. The weather plays a huge role into how long you would stay in the cities. So take note on the time of year you travel.
Tallinn is one of the oldest cities in Northern Europe and significantly cheaper than some of its neighbouring countries up north. We had just flown from Sweden and Denmark so it was a refreshing change of price tags.
The medieval city dates back to the 11th century and most of the streets inside the old town have remained untouched. The Old Town is considered to be one of the most authentic Medieval Old Towns in the world and strolling through the streets can take you back 100’s of years instantly. The cobblestone alleys, colourful houses, old architecture, cute cafes, restaurants, bars and shops are a treat to explore.
Did you know? Due to the large cost difference, people from Finland take the 2-hour ferry across to stock up on goodies such as alcohol and household goods and return to Finland the same day. I mean I probably would too!
Where to stay
There is no shortage of accommodation in Tallinn, especially in the hostel department within Old Town. We personally stayed right on the outskirts of the Old Town at an Aussie owned hostel called “The Red Emperor Hostel and Bar“. It was one of the highest rated on Hostel World and ticked all the boxes. The hostel is perfect for solo travellers and is one of the most social hostels we’ve stayed in plus they had “super happy hour” for 1 Euro pints. Apart from that, Airbnb had a decent selection of rentals in the Old Town. Check out an extensive list of accommodation for all sorts of budgets on Visit Tallinn.
What to do in Tallinn
The #1 thing to do in Tallinn is, of course, walk back in time and explore the Medieval Old Town. However, apart from that here are a few things to keep you busy:
- Stroll around Raekoja Plats (the main square)
- Take a walk to the top of Toompea Hill for views of the Old Town
- Admire the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- Visit the Tondi Shooting Range (10 minutes from the city)
- Hit the “town” for a night out at one of the many bars and clubs.
- Have a carefully crafted cocktail at Manna La Roosa
- Sit underground at Porgu and enjoy a local beer
- Enjoy a meal at Pegasus or Kohvik Moon
- Scope out Tallin from the TV tower. (170m Tower built to provide better telecommunication services for the 1980 Moscow Olympics)
Weekend Baltic Music Festival
We found ourselves in the town of Parnu to attend Weekend Baltic Music Festival. The festival came soon after our 3 day weekend at Tomorrowland but had a significantly different crowd and a much cheaper price tag.
80% of the people were from Scandanavia with the majority from Finland and the average age was 22/23 years old. Unfortunately, due to the weather we couldn’t appreciate the town or the beach it was held on. The skies were dark and grey and the rain came down in buckets but it didn’t stop us from enjoying our 2 days at the festival. A little rain never hurt anyone!
Maybe we are biased because the weather wasn’t in our favour (hence why we jumped off to Mykonos) but to be honest, there really wasn’t a lot going on and the beaches were not spectacular. The town itself was relatively small with one main street holding a handful of restaurants and shops.
So is Estonia worth it? We think so. If you can invest some more time into this overlooked country, do it. Don’t restrict your time to just Tallin, visit one of the many islands, the National Parks and maybe the beaches in better weather. Even after a short visit, we truly believe Estonia has so much more to offer.
Have you visited Estonia? What did you like about it?
Married days survived: 531