Tallinn—the largest city and capital of Estonia—is a nearly 900-year-old port on the Baltic Sea. The Old Town’s Gothic spires and gabled houses suggest a fabled past, but the city now buzzes with youthful energy.
Above: A nightlife scene sparkles on the outskirts of Tallinn’s Old Town, where stylish locals gather at hip clubs like Kohvik Moskva for cocktails and chatter.
Tallinn, Estonia: A Baltic Port With a Modern Beat
Cobbled streets lined with old, gabled houses. A passion for music. Universal Wi-Fi. Tallinn is an old soul with a zest for life.
The Scene For a city that’s pushing 900 years old, Tallinn has a fresh face and the bravado to support it. A jam-packed performing arts calendar, thriving high-tech community, and the New Nordic food movement have injected this Baltic port with an unstoppable energy.
City Gem With its Gothic spires, historic homes, and winding streets, the Old Town has a Camelot feel and a compact layout that’s easily navigable on foot. Rise above the throngs by taking a stroll on the medieval wall—the portion that connects the Nunna, Sauna, and Kuldjala towers is open to the public—or climb to the top of one of the 20 defensive towers for a view of the red-tiled skyline.
Insider’s Tip The Estonian Song and Dance Festival debuted in Tartu and is now held every five years in Tallinn. But, with an abundant arts calendar, there’s no need to wait until the next one in 2014. “The summer months are filled with open-air festivals and concerts,” says Tallinn native Ene Palmiste. “Estonians just love to use every opportunity to take their lives outdoors. Locals believe that there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”
Local Flavor Sült (jellied pork), verivorst (blood sausage), and vürtsikilu (spiced Baltic sprat) are seasonal Estonian staples. At avant-garde restaurant Neh, dinner takes a modern turn with edgy dishes such as salted ostrich served with a shot of pine vodka.
Nightlife Party with Tallinn’s chic set at the Butterfly Lounge.
By Sea At Seaplane Harbor, hitch a ride aboard the Kajsamoor, a 1939 schooner, for a two-hour sail along the Tallinn coastline and a spiel on the port’s maritime history.
Ship Shape 293 cruise calls in 2012, including ships from Crystal, Celebrity, Holland America, and Windstar. —Margaret Loftus
Read "Ports of Call" in the February/March 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler.