A local’s guide to Tallinn: the best fishburgers, speakeasies and Soviet-era art

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Food

Don’t miss Anno, near the cruise terminal, where a husband-and-wife team serves creative dishes made with Baltic ingredients. The tasting menu isn’t too expensive and Erno (the husband) suggests inventive wine pairings. In summer, try to get a seat in the beautiful backyard.

The most delicious street food is in the Telliskivi neighbourhood. Get the best fish and chips at Päästke Willy, which sources fish from Lake Peipsi on the Russian border. The Chilly Willy fishburger is my favourite.

For something really traditional, go to Olde Hansa in the old town. I love the mushroom soup and wild boar sausages. Try their homemade ​​berry schnapps, too. Best in Tallinn.

Inspiration

I take visiting friends to Fotografiska, a fine-art photography museum. It’s in super-cool Telliskivi, a 10-minute walk from the old town.

Nick Brandt’s This Empty World, Inherit the Dust, which captures the destruction of African nature, is showing until spring. And don’t miss the neighbourhood’s street art – see it on a walking tour with Pseudo Tours.

tallin SPOT

Noblessner is an old submarine shipyard that has been repurposed as a cultural hub. Visit Kai Art Center first: it does a great job of promoting contemporary Estonian artists. Have lunch – the fish soup is delicious – in the same building at Lore Bistroo. Families will enjoy Proto Invention Factory (hot air balloon exhibit pictured), over the road. It’s an interactive “discovery centre” where you can play around with different inventions from history. Really fun – even for adults.

Neighbourhood

A restaurant in Telliskivi.
A restaurant in Telliskivi. Photograph: Peter Forsberg/Alamy

Telliskivi is one of the liveliest areas in Tallinn. Once an important Soviet manufacturing base specialising in trains, its factory buildings are now a meeting place for creative people in the city. There are no chains. When F-hoone – the first and probably best cafe in the neighbourhood – arrived in 2011, people said they were mad. Now 1,500 people work there, from designers and architects to painters and musicians. There are 800 events a year. I love it in the summer, when the squares are taken over with street-food trucks and live music. But it’s not all hipsters! If you go to the flea market (every Saturday, 10am-3pm), you’ll see families rummaging through the stalls.

Green space

In the Rocca al Mare area to the west – near Tallinn zoo – there’s a park called Vabaõhumuuseum. It’s an immersive, open-air museum with a reconstructed fishing village. I visit for the woodland walking trails.

Fountain and pavilion in Kadriorg park.
Fountain and pavilion in Kadriorg park. Photograph: Image Professionals/Alamy

But my favourite green space is Kadriorg Park. I walk along the promenade from Kadriorg Palace – the Kadriorg Art Museum within is well worth a visit – to the formal gardens near the Swan Pond. While you’re there, check out Kumu, a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia. The fourth floor (there are seven!), which exhibits art from the Soviet era, is my favourite.

Nightlife

One of the coolest bars in Tallinn is an underground speakeasy called Whisper Sister. It’s not easy to find – the door looks like any other – and you have to call when you arrive, so they can come up to let you in. The cocktails are excellent and I always order their cheese board.

For live music, I go to Uus Laine. Thursday is the night to see up-and-coming artists, and on Wednesdays they do a music quiz. Otherwise, have a beer at Põhjala Brewery & Tap Room in Noblessner.

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Stay

Design lovers should stay at Hektor Container Hotel (doubles from £46) in Telliskivi. Each room is in its own container. There’s a great vintage clothing store in the same building called Kopli Couture.

Otherwise, stay at Oru Hub Hotel (doubles from £52). It’s another design-led hotel where the co-working space is really quirky and the restaurant specialises in sharing plates using local ingredients.

Tiia Vihand is CEO of the Estonian Design Centre. The European Design festival takes place in Tallinn in June