Tallinn is the perfect destination for an October half term break. When the beach resorts of the med no longer guarantee the heat for swimming and beach fun, we embraced the cold weather and had lots of adventures exploring this beautiful city.
Only four kilometres from the airport, it was a quick taxi ride to our hotel. A stay at the St Barbara Hotel was a great choice with children. The family room was spacious and comfortable. Breakfast was presented in the cellar restaurant with a medieval vibe and knights’ armour on display which was a novelty for the children. Only a short walk from the old town, it was an ideal location and saved tired little legs having to walk too far or use public transport. After a hearty breakfast, we started our day with a walk up to Toompea Hill. This is mainly pedestrianised so the children could run and hide in the nooks and crevices of the remaining defence structures, pretending to shoot their bow and arrow. The Danish King’s garden and Maiden Tower offered a fun, medieval experience with steep, stone steps taking you up to the walk way along the defence wall with music playing and flame torches lit. After walking a little further, you are met with breath-taking views of the old town below with its red roofs, turrets and spires.
Making our way back down into the old town, we stopped at the Nuku Puppet Theatre for a bit of family fun and respite from the cold. We managed to get tickets for one of the shows and although in Estonian, the story was easy to follow. It was not the traditional puppets I had expected but a modern take on puppetry with rapping and dance music. A bizarre experience but certainly very amusing. After stopping for some lunch, we made the climb up to the top of the stone portion of St Olav church. The narrow, stone spiral staircase was a bit of a challenge for the children (and adults too) but they were keen to complete the 232 steps to the top. The views were worth it.
Making our way into the heart of the old town, untouched by war, the streets are a feast for the eyes at every corner. The old town was truly magical and on entering the town square, I felt that I had stepped into a fairy tale and was back in medieval Estonia. People are dressed in costume to entice tourists into their restaurants and museums. The children loved the horse and carts and street performers. My daughter said it was like a scene from one of her favourite Disney movies.
To finish off our fun-packed day, we bought tickets for Tallinn Legends. A new museum taking you through different times in the city’s history combining multimedia technology and special effects with young, enthusiastic actors – a theatrical delight for all. Too scary for small children but for older children it is a great way of teaching them a bit about the history of the city.
On our second day we visited the Estonian Open-Air Museum just outside of the city centre which is like stepping into a traditional Estonian village. Although winding down for the winter, the quietness made it feel all the more real with only a few other people in sight. Set in a beautiful forest of birch trees and autumn colours, it was a lovely place to walk and take in the history of Estonia. We enjoyed a horse and cart ride and inside the farmhouse buildings and surrounding gardens, people were working and doing handicrafts as they would have done in the past. The traditional Scandinavian swings were also great fun for the adults and children alike.
Both restaurants we visited were very accommodating with children. One even had a small area with Lego and colouring. This allowed us to enjoy a fine dining experience whilst also offering a children’s menu. The choice for them was simple and tasty and there wasn’t a chicken nugget in sight. The food is innovative with a scandi-style cuisine whilst still using traditional Estonian flavours.
If the children need a bit of time out from exploring, the indoor crazy golf course located just a short walk from the hotel is great fun. With exploding volcanos and singing pirates, it will be sure to please.
With only two days in Tallinn, we didn’t make the Energy Discovery centre but this would be another great indoor option. The modern science centre offers hands on exhibits and even lightening displays which my children loved the sound of. A magical city enjoyed by all. My son even chose to discuss it for his school show and tell, so I can safely say it made it on to his approved list (and the rest of ours).