5 ways to experience the true Tallinn
Shop in the market
First opened in the 1990s, the Balti Jaam Market was recently reconstructed and reopened a couple of months ago. It’s the perfect place to get a glimpse of the old and the new Tallinn. The façades of the 19th-century warehouses have been preserved, while an architecturally humorous solution has been found for the market stalls under the decorative roof. Each of the stalls is like a separate little house: one is a bakery, one a pet-food store, another a burger joint (some say it serves the best burgers in town). Right next to it is the old flea market featuring secondhand clothing and Soviet-era relics: vinyl records, military decorations, clothing fluttering in the wind, and merchants who look like they’ve just stepped out of a time machine. The Balti Jaam Market sits between Tallinn’s main railway station and the bohemian neighbourhood of Kalamaja.
Appreciate Estonian design
The newly opened Tallinn Design House is a must if you’re looking for Estonian design. This is a veritable design showroom in which everything, starting from furniture and interior objects to accessories and clothing, is made by local designers. A couple of years older is the Solo Sokos Hotel Estoria. Each of its 93 rooms tells an exciting tale of Estonian design and its history. Or head to the former fishing port, where the Estonian Design House is situated. Alongside artwork created by members of the Estonian Association of Designers, the gallery showroom exhibits pieces done by up-and-coming young artists.
Dress like a Tallinner
Local fashion brands can now be found hanging on the same rack with Calvin Klein and Ted Baker in department stores like Kaubamaja and Stockmann. One of the most popular local fashion names is August. Created by designer Äli Kargoja, the brand is known for its minimalistic style and Scandinavian soul. The clothes are mainly made of organic cotton and linen fabrics. But the best-known Estonian name on the international fashion stage has to be Marit Illison and her brand Longing For Sleep. In 2014 she was among the finalists in the 29th Hyéres Fashion Competition, the ‘Oscars of the fashion industry’. Her most recognised collection is based on the colourful Soviet-era blankets from the 1970s that could once be found in almost every house, child-care centre, and hospital in these parts. But have you been noticing colourful teardrop earrings on the ears of the local ladies? Those are Ear Berries, made by Tanel Veenre, the most striking personality in the local jewellery niche. A good place to seek out Estonian fashion gems is the Tallinn Design House and the Tali concept store in Kalamaja.
To get the true taste of Tallinn, you have to eat local. Luckily, locally produced ingredients are the top trend on the Estonian restaurant scene right now. Leib Resto ja Aed was one of the first places in Tallinn to base its menu on local goods. Here you can kill two birds with one stone and get acquainted with Estonian beers, too, because Leib Resto ja Aed offers food and beer pairings. The meals at the Fabrik restaurant are also made of locally sourced, seasonal products as much as possible. The Nordic-inspired dishes there match the light and cosy Nordic interior, and the friendly prices along with the location (in the popular Kalamaja neighbourhood) explain why it’s a favourite among locals.
The Kalamaja neighbourhood is a hub for the city’s trendiest residents. Here you’ll find Telliskivi Creative City, which is a home to vintage fashion and design stores and cafés (F-Hoone, Frenchy) serving cuisine from around the world. Telliskivi Creative City also plays host to various concerts and other performances, organised by the Vaba Lava theatre studio. But you don’t have to travel far from the bustling city centre to hang out with the locals. In the Must Puudel café it’s almost certain that you’ll bump into either an actor or a painter or a musician, because this is a top gathering place for local artists and artisans. However, the visit would be worth it just for a glimpse of the interior, which is packed with all sorts details from 1970s living rooms, including furniture, bulb-shaped cosmic lamps, and vintage Samsung television sets. But the best thing about Must Puudel is the courtyard garden. And a DJ plays good R&B and soul music in the evenings. Naudi!*
* Naudi means ‘enjoy’ in Estonian.
Written specially for airBalticBlog by Anothertravelguide.com.