Tallinn boasts one of the best-preserved medieval Old Towns in Europe, and was deservedly awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997. The 13C city boasts winding cobblestone streets, medieval churches and impressive merchant houses – many of which date back to the Middle Ages – and wandering the streets on foot is a must for anyone with an appreciation of either history and/or architecture. It’s a hugely characterful and atmospheric place that will enchant one and all.
Start with a walk up to the Patkuli viewing platform; not only are the far-reaching views out towards Tallinn Bay impressive, but it will help you get a sense of the layout of the city and work out your bearings. After a day spent exploring the sights, drop off your bags, freshen up and head back out to one of the Michelin inspectors’ favourite restaurants in the Old Town.
Set on the hugely atmospheric Olevimägi street, in the heart of the Old Town, this former pop-up was a hit from the outset and quickly became a permanent feature. The sister of Mere 38 in Võsu, it’s run by up-and-coming chef Joonas Koppel and, while the exterior is beautifully historic, the interior is the complete opposite, courtesy of striking murals and a cool, fashionable vibe. Cooking is similarly contemporary, with original, well-judged dishes combining subtle Asian flavours with a range of different textures, all presented in an eye-catching manner.
The Viru Gate was built in the 14C and comprises two striking, ivy-covered watchtowers which mark the entrance to the Old Town. Just past the gate, you’ll find The Cru Hotel, which may be small but has a big heart. The dining rooms clearly play an important part here, as they occupy space over three levels, and while they might be within the hotel’s cellars, they are brightly decorated, with plenty of personality. Knowledgeably prepared dishes are a reflection of Estonia’s seasonal larder, and the classic, comforting puddings are not to be missed.
Lee sits beside the Old Town Wall in the north side of the city, next to the Kellerteater (performing arts theatre), and boasts a charming courtyard garden. Its powder blue interior has a lovely classical feel, thanks to its Ionic pillars and art deco references – and even its name is a link to the past: a ‘Lee’ is an ancient communal fireplace around which families would sit together to prepare a meal. Cooking, on the other hand, is modern and adventurous, showcasing precisely prepared, original flavour combinations and a range of textural contrasts. There are many Asian influences to be found, but produce is mainly from local, artisan producers.
Hear more from Lee’s chef, Hiro Takeda, in MICHELIN Guide’s Destination Estonia video.
Tallinn’s impressive town square, Raekoja Plats, can certainly lay claim to its fair share of history – it’s where you’ll find the oldest town hall in Northern Europe, as well as one of its oldest working pharmacies, Raeapteek. Just a short stroll away is Rado, a smart-looking restaurant with a vibrant atmosphere. It’s split over two floors – the ground floor is livelier, while the basement makes for a more intimate experience – and its plain walls are offset by colourful modern art. Cooking is contemporary and echoes the seasons, and service is chatty and informative.
This elegant building in the heart of the Old Town dates from 1878 and was formerly the offices of The Telegraph newspaper. It has since been transformed into a luxury hotel, which comes complete with an equally striking restaurant fit for celebrating a special occasion. The classical room exudes a feeling of opulence; an impressive chandelier is suspended from the glass roof and gilt-framed pictures hang from the battleship-grey walls. As you might expect, there are Russian influences on the menu, with dishes that come with a classical base and modern overtones. Flavours are well-orchestrated and there’s also an appealing contrast of different textures within each dish.
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