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Tallinn

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Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is truly one of the gems of the Baltics and Northern Europe. Recently, it has received a boom in tourism, especially by daytrippers which visit it from its sister city across the Baltic Sea, Helsinki. On first impulse, especially if arriving from the port, visitors are usually unimpressed by Tallinn and its fairly drab buildings in some parts. However, after they see the medieval town, as well as the gleaming modern town center, no-one wants to leave.

Understand

Tallinn is a historical city dating back from the medieval times and founded in 1157. In these times, the city was attacked, sacked and razed, and it was the center of the medieval salt-trade. In World War II, the city was quite extensively bombed, even though luckily the medieval town remains.

Today, Tallinn is a bustling, gleaming metropolis of 430,000 people, undoubtedly the most modern city in the Baltics. However, among the tall glassy buildings and corporate headquarters, Tallinn retains an inner charm rarely found anywhere else. Estonia considers itself a Northern European country (i.e. nearly Scandinavian) and, if you have had Scandinavian travel experiences before, you will understand Tallinn well.

Get in

By sea

As in other parts of Baltic Europe and Scandinavia, sea is the easiest and most common way of reaching Tallinn. The most common ferry shuttle route is the short journey from Helsinki in Finland to Tallinn. This 2-hour journey is made very many times daily by a series of private operators which run everything from large cruise ships to ferries to small and fast hydrofoils. One of the largest and most trusted of these companies is Tallink. There are also many, although rarer, shipping options to Stockholm and even parts of Germany. It is best to use the ferry if you are making a day trip from Helsinki as part of a Scandinavian or Northern European tour. Otherwise, use alternative forms of transportation.

Most ferries will leave you at Reisisadam port (either Terminal A or D) in Tallinn. From here, there is a direct bus to both the city center and the airport. The journey from the port to the city center is not all that impressive but don't be shocked - this isn't the real Tallinn!

By air

Tallinn Airport, about 5 km from the city center, is increasingly becoming an airport hub of the Baltics. Estonian Air provides good quality services to a series of European cities, including London, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Riga, Vilnius, Kiev and Moscow. If you live in or near these cities, air travel is the best way to get to Tallinn. Fares are also fairly cheap - Amsterdam to Tallinn is from 67 Euro. In a code-share agreement with SAS Scandinavian Airlines, there are now a whopping 18 flights per week to Copenhagen and Stockholm.

By train

Train travel in the Baltics has considerably decreased in recent years, and today, Estonian rail is a cocktail of private companies and subcontractors that makes it fairly hard to get around by train. There are limited train services to Latvia and Lithuania, and even rarer ones to Russia and Poland. Therefore, train is not a good option to get into Estonia. If you're visiting from Russia, take the plane, if you're in Latvia or Lithuania, consider the train, although buses generally tend to be better. If in Poland, fly to a European hub and transfer to Tallinn, or catch a bus.

By bus

There are a series of fairly frequent bus routes that radiate out from Tallinn and serve other countries. These particularly go to Riga in Latvia and Vilnius in Lithuania, as well as other parts of Estonia. Even though not always the best of comfort, they are much better (usually) than the train if you live in one of Estonia's neighbouring countries. Increasingly, the buses are also servicing Russia and Poland, as well as Western European countries.


Sleep

  • Vana Tom youth hostel, Vaike-Karja 1 (extra directions if necessary), +372 6313252 (fax: +372 6120611). Very centrally situated in the Old Town, so can be a little noisy. Situated in the same building as a Strip Club. A breakfast of a ham/cheese baguette, egg, fruit juice and piece of fruit is included. Clean, comfortable dorms. 235 EEK. http://www.hostel.ee/
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