Tallinn Old Town of Tallinn Excursion Reviews
Despite the pouring rain Talinn was a huge surprise. I had no idea it offered so much in such a small city.
Walt Disney could not have built a more picturesque, cobblestone village. It was so quaint and pretty and well maintained. We docked in Tallinn and walked 20 minutes through some unattractive hints of Soviet occupation before we reached the entrance into the old town next to the church with an observatory tower. We went through the gate of the old city, along the cobble stone streets (hint: wear comfortable walking shoes) passed shops and restaurants. The city was just waking up as it was about 8:30 AM and nothing was open yet. It began to rain and none of us were prepared because we left the ship under blue skies. (Note to self: it rained for a few minutes every day during our 12-day cruise in Northern Europe so take an umbrella or light rain coat everywhere). We took refuge under café umbrellas that were starting to leak when a kind gentleman opened the door to his subterranean restaurant Wana Wiipuri (Pikk 33 street in Tallinn) and invited us in to stay dry. Before we knew it he ushered us (a party of 7) into a private dining room and served us coffee, Coke and water. His name was Heinrick and he was eager to meet us and tell us about his newly opened restaurant. We visited for about 40 minutes and once the rain let up I paid him for the coffee which he never charged us for. We were all touched by his hospitality that we promised to return for lunch later that day. We enjoyed walking the cobble stone streets and looking up at the beautifully maintained buildings from long ago. The city was beginning to come alive, restaurants and shops and cafes had opened, waiters standing outside dressed in clothes of yesteryear speaking with tourists and warmly giving directions and advice on where to go and what to see. Tallinn looked like it was out of a fairytale village that Disney animated artists had created. There was plenty of shopping, especially in the town squares, where vendors had set up an outdoor market. Prices were very reasonable. Woolen hats, mittens, sweaters were plentiful. Wooden souvenirs like kids’ toys, cheese knives, cheese boards, trivets were hand crafted and lots to choose from. Back to Wana Wiipuri for lunch that did not disappoint. Heinrick was happy to see us and saved his best waiter Igor, who spoke perfect English, for us. He welcomed us with complimentary vodka shots and we dined on typical Tallinn appetizers of pickles and pickled onion shoots with a dipping sauce. The food was fresh and delicious. Everyone enjoyed their meal and the warm hospitality Henrick and Igor provided.
On our way back to the ship we went to a wonderful chocolate shop across the street from Wana Wiipuri and climbed the observation tower of the church. The climb is not for claustrophobics or people with knee problems. It consisted of about 150 – 200 steps (a ladder type climb at one point) to the top of the tower where you walked around outside and got a spectacular view of Tallinn. It was crowded as the stairway was narrow about 4 feet wide at best and people were coming up and down simultaneously. Often times you had to wait for people to pass before you could proceed.
My advice for Tallinn: Walk around the city, bear in mind it doesn’t really wake up until about 10, but enjoy a café while you are waiting. The streets are easy to navigate, just wander and let yourself get lost. There are few cars in the old section, so walking in the street is fine. Prices are a welcome change from Norway, so indulge yourself in a sweater or souvenir. Don’t miss lunch at Wana Wiipuri and if you are game, climb to the top of the church tower only a few minutes from Wana Wiipuri. We found the people to be extremely warm and hospitable and English was not a problem. This was a great port.
Our guide Thea was very knowledgable and gave us a wonderful history lesson on Estonia. The Soviet influence can still be seen today in the form of the cheaply made apartment complexes that housed the Soviets during their control up until their independence in 1991. Old Town was full of history and wonderful quaint European architecture. However, if you have hip, knee, or back issues the original cobblestones back from the Middle Ages will not be your friend. There is a lot of walking on this tour. Our photos are awesome and the bright sunny day certainly helped. Our lunch was very good, roasted chicken, veggies, good European bread. A market full of hand made items called to us more then dessert, so we had a little time to shop. As with all tours there was little time to purchase gifts - you would think they would want our money!
Tallinn was one of my favorite cities on the cruise. Could easily spend two days there. The country has become more prosperous than the other Baltic countries and given the history, that is almost a miracle.Learning of the history from a knowledgeable guide was a highlight.
Madli was the most superb guide of our entire cruise - took us on a walking tour - her stories were filled with both humour and sadness. The most poignant moment was when she talked about her father being bannished to Siberia when he was only a 3-year old child - followed with a discussion of the peaceful "singing revolution" and her a cappella rendition of their national anthem.
Most reasonable place in the Baltic to shop - purchased some ceramic items in a handicraft shop and some knit goods along the "Sweater Wall"
You can certainly do Tallin on your own but for the minimal additional cost, it's a worthwhile add-on with SPB tours.
We booked the chocolate tour which was interesting in that you could meet this elderly chocolate baker... it was expensive and quite brief but interesting none the less.