Tallinn: Going Underground

After spending two days in Riga, we took a bus to Tallinn where we spent another two days running around cobbled streets. It’s a wonderful city for a short break and staying within the city’s medieval walls means you’re always a stones throw from a snug café or underground bar.

Tallinn: Going Underground

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

Learning about Tallinn’s history at the fascinating city museum
Eating a pork hot pot out of a metal canister at Svejki Juures
Drinking Imperial Red at the stylish Kuku bar
Finally finding the Levist Valijas cellar bar on Olevimagi ${QuickSuggestions} Depending on why you’re visiting Tallinn, you may want to think carefully before you book your trip. We were in Tallinn Wednesday – Friday and by Friday, numerous stag parties had arrived en masse. For those wanting to avoid groups of drunken idiots, I’d advise visiting Sunday-Thursday!

If you are in Tallinn on the weekend it’s worth making reservations for restaurants as the good ones are obviously popular and get booked up.${BestWay} Definitely walking, although we’d advise carrying a map at all times as the streets and alleyways can all look the same at times.

At certain times taxis can’t drive inside the city walls so it’s worth checking with your hotel if you need to book one.

Insomnia at Vana Tom

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by sararevell on July 28, 2006

For location, you can’t get much better than Vana Tom. It’s in the heart of Tallinn, around a couple of corners from the main square. Sadly, for us, that’s where the benefits of staying at Vana Tom ended.

We booked a double room, which are downstairs from the dorms, right behind the small reception area. This is where the cleaners meet to chat early in the morning, and where stag parties and late-night revelers congregate at any time between midnight and 5am. We didn’t get much sleep and our complaints to the staff went ignored. If you’re after some privacy and quiet, look elsewhere!

The shower rooms and toilet facilities were okay, but with only three showers and two toilets, they could have done with adding a few more. The kitchen area was also somewhat small and uninspiring, and had a kettle that no longer worked.

One other aspect that may be a draw, or a deterrent, is that Vana Tom is located directly below a strip club. The strip club is signposted more clearly than the hostel itself, so if in doubt, follow the signs to the "Striptiis Baar." Due to the shared stairwell, there’s a nice odour of cigarettes and urine that greets you as you enter the hostel on the second floor.

I really have no good words to say about this place. I’m sure it’s great for groups and budget travelers, but overall we were extremely disappointed, and angry with the fact that the staff had so little disregard for people who want to sleep during the night rather than during the day.

Website: www.hostel.ee

Vana Tom
Väike-karja 1
Tallinn, Estonia
(372) 6 313 252

Hot Pots at Svejki Juures

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

Just around the corner from Levist Valjas is the modest Svejki Juures. It seemed like a quiet spot to stop and have a drink and a bite to eat. It’s not much to look at: bland beige walls dotted with cartoon pictures of the Svejki Juures mascot and friends, but this bars secret weapon is its great value food and unassuming, efficient service.

I ordered a pork hot pot and my husband ordered the schnitzel. After a short wait, my hot pot was delivered to the table in a camping tin, with a fork slid down the side holding the latch in place. The schnitzel looked more like a folded omelette but both meals were yummy and tummy-warming. We almost went back the following night but forced ourselves to try somewhere different for our last night out.

Svejki Juures
Uus tn 25, Olevimagi 16
(372) 641 1021

Italian Corner at Café Al Sole

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

This bright café / restaurant has a great menu if you’re in the mood for Italian food! The waitresses are, for some reason, forced to wear strange pinafores that seem better suited to a 19th century German beer hall than a present-day Italian restaurant but the service was extremely efficient and cheerful.

I had the colourful gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and goats cheese and my husband had the risotto prosciutto. We shared a smooth crème brulee and felt quite self-indulgent. We were trying to travel on a budget after all but in fact our bill, which also included one starter and three glasses of wine, only came to $36.

Cafe Al Sole
Viru 8
Tallinn, Estonia, 10140
(372) 6117 617

Pizza with a View at Fellini

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

We were solicited on the main square by the hostess of this restaurant. She invited us to try Fellini’s upstairs or the restaurant downstairs. For whatever reason we were in the mood for pizza and tried Fellini’s. It was certainly more upscale than we were expecting and I felt under dressed in combat trousers. We were seated next to a small business party, at a table overlooking Tallinn’s town hall square. It was quiet on a Wednesday night, and somewhat romantic in atmosphere.

Despite the upscale feel, two pizzas, one wine, and one beer came to $31, and we had a great view.

Fellini Italian Club Restaurant
Kinga 1
Tallinn, Estonia
372 6 314 775

Coffee and Cake at Kehrweider

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

This is a popular place at any time of the day. We were there at 10am, and again around 11pm and it was busy both times. In the morning, it’s a quieter, romantic spot to relax over a coffee and slice of cake. Kehrweider is a warren of tunnels leading to wooden tables and chairs or tattered sofas and upright pianos.

You can sit at the back by the glowing service bar or duck through to one of the other rooms that overlook Raekoja Plats, where you get a feets-eye view of people as they scuttle across the cobbles of Tallinn’s main square.

Kehrwieder Chocolaterie
Saiakang 1
Tallinn, Estonia
372 555 474 36

Tallinn's Own: Reval Cafe

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

This café is in a great location, on a crossroads close to the town hall square. The narrow, high-ceiling room allows has a mezzanine nook where you can spy on people below. We stopped for a couple of baguettes and coffees, which set us back about $7. One interesting fact that we picked up from the city museum is that Tallinn used to be called Reval, up until 1918 to be exact.
Reval Cafe
Vana-Viru 14
Tallinn, Estonia

Down with Imperial Red at Kuku

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

The entrance to this place is about as understated as they come but once you find your way downstairs, it’s a whole different world. It used to be a private members club during the time of the Communist regime and it’s retained some of its underground feel. Descending into Kuku, you are welcomed into a shroud of cigarette smoke, black leather booths and erratic service. Somehow all these aspects, good or bad, seem perfectly suited to Kuku’s flavour.

It was early evening and we stole the last booth. Almost every minute someone would walk around looking for the next person to leave, giving me the impression that this place is a popular night spot. The food menu didn’t appeal to us so we only stopped in for one drink, a pint of Estonia’s very own Imperial Red.

Kuku Klubi (Kuku Art Club)
Vabaduse Valjak 8
Tallinn, Estonia, 10146
644 5864

Pointless and Overpriced

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

Inspired by the excellent walking tour we did in Riga, we decided to repeat the experience in Tallinn. Our Estonian guide had other ideas though.

The bus and walking tour departed from the Sokos Hotel Viru in a "Reisi Ekspert" minibus. We drove around for an hour, stopping off at the song bowl on the way to Pirita and back. Our guide, who spoke excellent English, couldn’t have had less enthusiasm for her subject matter if she tried. Both my husband and myself felt like the bus part was a waste of time, tacked on in order to justify the exorbitant tour price.

The bus dropped us off at the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral in Toompea where our grouchy guide decided to cut the walking hour down to half an hour. Not that we were sad to leave her company early but the whole tour seemed a bit of a joke and we learnt little. The one advantage is that the tour’s shortcomings prompted us to visit the excellent City Museum the following day. The tour ended at the Town Hall Square.

The Hidden Door of Levist Valijas

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

This bar is so hidden that we only discovered it because we were lucky enough to see a couple of people entering and leaving whilst we looked at our map trying not to scratch our heads in bewilderment. There’s no sign anywhere on the outside and the front door looks more like an entrance to the basement of an apartment block.

This underground cavern is dark and dingy, just like the pessimistic bartender on duty that night, but it’s a cool place to hang out and drink cheap beer. It was quiet that night and the bartender told us about how people in Estonia generally can’t afford to go out very much. He certainly didn’t seem too impressed with the general economic situation and complained about the neighbours (residents) above the bar who put an end to live bands and DJs playing at the bar. It did seem a shame. Levist Valijas looks like the sort of place where struggling musicians should be discovered.

Levist Valjas
Olevimagi 12
Tallinn, Estonia
372 5077372

Tallinn City Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by sararevell on July 20, 2006

If only we had gone to the city museum first and not bothered with the "Reisi Ekspert" bus and walking tour!!

The lower levels of the museum, which used to be a merchant’s house, start with Tallinn’s trading history, and as you work your way up the floors, you learn about Tallinn’s rich history and independence struggles with the Germany, Sweden, and of course, the former Soviet Union. The displays are impressive and eye-catching, and some are interactive. There was also a thoughtful (but possibly temporary) top floor exhibit about Islam and Tallinn’s Muslim community and connections with the Muslim world.

It’s definitely worth spending an hour or two here if you want a good history lesson. It gives great insight into Tallinn and the development of the Baltic trading industry in general.

Tallinn City Museum (Tallinna Linnamuuseum)
Vene Street 17
Tallinn, Estonia, 10123
+372 (2) 644 6553


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