Y Magazine

Postcard: Tallinn

Revel in the medieval splendour of the Estonian capital’s ancient Old Town. Alvin Thomas recommends Tallinn. 

The medieval town and capital city of Tallinn in Estonia looks as though it could be plucked from the renderings of a fairytale. Fans of the Harry Potter series would be forgiven in thinking they’d stumbled into the town of Hogsmeade – half expecting to see ‘big man’ Hagrid down at one of the taverns. 

This is the beauty of Tallinn – it mirrors what you imagine a rustic, medieval town should look like. Whether you’re exploring the alleyways in the city, interacting with the good-humoured locals down at the central square, or taking a tour of the many iconic churches dotted throughout the cloisters of its old city, Tallinn consistently delivers on the
picture-postcard quotient.

Much like Omanis, the Tallinnians are a proud people, and that can be seen in the way they preserve their buildings, traditions, and their beliefs. The Gothic Town Hall and the 64m-high tower that surrounds it, was built in the 13th century, while other landmarks from the era – such as the St. Nicholas Church – exhibits awe-inspiring ecclesiastical art.

Tallinn’s history dates back to the year 1248 when it first received city rights, though human settlements date back nearly 5,000 years. Since then, it’s switched powers – initially being ruled by the Danes, before alternating between Scandinavian and German rule.

Tour guides will also take you around the early landmarks and spoon-feed you with details straight off Wikipedia, but really, it’d be best to ditch them and head out for a walk around the town like you belong – and that’s what you should do. The residents of Tallinn – especially those in the Old Town – are incredibly welcoming and will rattle off places you should visit.

My favourite place  Toompea. This limestone hill is a challenging climb, but with a great reward at the top. There, you can catch a glimpse of the Old Town and ponder how the locals lived during medieval times. The Old Town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 Highlights:  The quiet halls of St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Olaf’s Church that were built in the 13th and 12th centuries respectively, should help you connect with your spiritual side. St. Olaf’s Church has quite a history, believed to have been the tallest building in the world from 1549 to 1625, and has been hit by lightning around 10 times – of which, it burned down to rubble three times!

Lowlights:  The temperatures during the winter months can unsettle those travelling from the Sultanate. And those staying at smaller inns or hostels should make sure their rooms are bed-bug-free. 

Souvenirs:  Tallinn is home to several boutique shops that sell Estonian jewelry and clothing. Try getting your hands on the patterned earrings and socks – they’re creative, and incredibly funky. Freshly-made Tallinnian jams are also worth bringing back home.

Getting there:  There are direct flights from the Sultanate to Tallinn. You can fly from Muscat to the city with Turkish Airlines for about RO171. 

Where to stay: With over 4.3 million tourists visiting Tallinn annually, hotel stays can be a bit expensive. One night in a three-star hotel can set you back upwards of RO35, however, there are several inns and hostels that cost between RO10 and 20. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can also find cheap stays at Airbnb.

Top 5 things to do:
1. Explore the art collection at the Kadriorg Palace.
2. Meditate in St. Mary’s Cathedral
3. Head to the Estonian Open-Air Museum to learn about the ancient fishing techniques of Estonia.
4. Grab a ferry for a day-trip across to Helsinki, Finland. It’s a 3-hour journey and your EU visa stamp allows you easy entry at the port.
5. Spend an afternoon relaxing with your mates in the Kadriorg Park.