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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in tallinn
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Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is truly one of the gems of Northern Europe. The city lies at the bottom of a bay on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, only 70 kilometers south of Helsinki. At the historical heart of the city is the hill of Toompea, covered in cobbled streets and filled with medieval houses and alleyways. The lower town spreads out from the foot of the hill, still protected by the remnants of a city wall. Around the city wall is a series of well-maintained green parks, great for strolling.
While the old town has been astonishingly well preserved and is now in better shape than ever, with the bigger roads converted into fashionable shopping streets reminiscent of Zürich or Geneva, the new town sprawling all around is largely built in typical concrete Soviet style. The new center of town is Vabaduse valjak (Freedom Square) at the edge of the old town, and nearby is the giant matchbox of Hotel Viru, the former Intourist flagship and notorious den of Cold War intrigue (every room was tapped and monitored by the KGB!). Recently, Tallinn has received a boom in tourism, especially by daytrippers which visit it from its sister city across the Baltic Sea, Helsinki.
Tallinn is a historical city dating back from the medieval times and founded in 1157, although the first fortress was built on Toompea in 1050. In 1219, the city was conquered by Valdemar II of Denmark, but it was soon sold to the Hanseatic League in 1285. The city -- known as Reval at the time -- prospered as a trading town in the 14th century, and much of Tallinn's historic center was built at this time.
Tallinn then became a pawn in the geopolitical games of its big neighbors, passing into Swedish hands in 1561 and then to Russia under Peter the Great in 1710. By World War I and the ensuing brief Estonian independence (starting 1918) Tallinn's population had reached 150,000.
Estonia was eventually annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, only to be conquered by Nazi Germany (1941-44) and then retaken by the Soviets. In World War II, the city was quite extensively bombed, even though luckily the medieval town remains. The Soviet Union undertook a program of Russification, and just over 40% of Tallinn's current inhabitants are Russian (compared to an average of 28% for the entire country). On August 20, 1991, Estonia declared independence and Tallinn became its capital once again.
Today, Tallinn is a bustling, gleaming metropolis of 390,000 people, undoubtedly the most modern city in the Baltics. However, among the tall glassy buildings and corporate headquarters, Tallinn retains an inner charm rarely found anywhere else. Estonia considers itself a Northern European country (i.e. nearly Scandinavian) and, if you have had Scandinavian travel experiences before, you will understand Tallinn well.
As in other parts of Baltic Europe and Scandinavia, sea is the easiest and most common way of reaching Tallinn.
The most common ferry shuttle route is the short journey from Helsinki in Finland to Tallinn. The basic choice is between fast hydrofoil or catamaran, which complete the trip in 1.5 hours but cost more (€22-38 one way) and are susceptible to poor weather, and slow ferries, which plod for 3.5 hours in rain or shine for half the price (starting at €12). Exact pricing depends on operator, season (summer costs more), day of week (Fri/Sat costs more) and even time of departure (to Tallinn in the morning and back in the evening is popular and hence more expensive).
As of 2004, the list of operators is:
All ferries except Linda Line dock at Reisisadam port, to the north of the center. From here, there is a direct bus to both the city center and the airport; alternatively, just walk for a leisurely 15 minutes, first east to Mere pst and then down to Viru Square. The journey from the port to the city center is not all that impressive but don't be shocked - this isn't the real Tallinn!
Tallinn Airport (http://www.tallinn-airport.ee) (TLL), about 5 km from the city center, is increasingly becoming an airport hub of the Baltics. Estonian Air (http://www.estonian-air.ee?keel=eng) provides good quality services to a series of European cities, including London, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Riga, Vilnius, Kiev and Moscow. If you live in or near these cities, air travel is the best way to get to Tallinn. Fares are also fairly cheap - Amsterdam to Tallinn is from 67 Euro. In a code-share agreement with SAS Scandinavian Airlines, there are now a whopping 18 flights per week to Copenhagen and Stockholm. Since 2004 the newest major air carrier EasyJet offers connections to London and Berlin at low prices. Detailed information is available from Tallinn Airport timetable (http://www.tallinn-airport.ee/index.php?page=569).
Bus line 2 comes right in front of the airport and goes to the city center in just a few minutes. Be careful! Line no. 2 buses also go to the Mõigu area from the same stop. In the city centre, get off in stop A.Laikmaa, which deposits you smack dab in the middle of the city next to Hotel Tallink and the Viru Center shopping mall.
Alternatively, if you're in a very big hurry to get to or from Helsinki, Copterline (http://www.copterline.com) operates an hourly helicopter service between the city centres. Flights take 20 minutes and the list price is a steep €198, although last-minute one-way ticket can be had for for €69. There are also a number of discounts and packages are available, notably €110 for Silja's catamaran one way and a helicopter ride back.
Train travel in the Baltics has considerably decreased in recent years, and today, Estonian rail is a cocktail of private companies and subcontractors that makes it fairly hard to get around by train. There are limited train services to Latvia, Lithuania and Russia (Moscow by EVRekspress (http://www.evrekspress.ee/pages/soiduplaanid/soidu_rong.html)). Therefore, train is not a good option to get into Estonia. If you're visiting from Russia, take the plane; if you're in Latvia or Lithuania, consider the bus. If in Poland, fly to a European hub and transfer to Tallinn, or catch a bus.
There are a series of fairly frequent bus routes that radiate out from Tallinn and serve other countries. These particularly go to Riga in Latvia and Vilnius in Lithuania, as well as other parts of Estonia. Even though not always the best of comfort, they are much better (usually) than the train if you live in one of Estonia's neighbouring countries. Increasingly, the buses are also servicing Russia, Germany and Poland
The Old City is best navigated on foot, not that you have much choice. A network of buses, trams and trolleybuses covers the rest of the city, and there is an abundance of (relatively) cheap taxis.
Buses, trolleys and trams operate regularly between 6 AM and 11 PM. Make sure that you have a valid ticket when driving. You can buy tickets from newsstands or from drivers. For ticket prices go to https://www.pilet.ee/pages.php/0403 .The Tallinn Card holders may use unlimited public transportation free.
The bus network covers the whole city from southeast to northwest. One time ticket from newsstand costs 10 EEK(from driver 15 EEK). Ticket has to be punched right after entering.
The tram network is covering the city centre. There are 4 lines and they all meet at Viru Center, in stop Hobujaama. About 15 vehicles are with a lowered middle-section, which makes trams wheelchair accessible. Tickets also 10 or 15 EEK.
All trolley lines have a direction to south or west. There are 8 lines, 1-7 and 9. Trolley no. 8 was closed in 2000 and replaced with bus no. 22. The fleet is relatively new, though there are some old ?koda-s. Tickets 10 or 15 EEK.
If possible, always order taxi by phone and for example don't use the ones standing in Tallinn Port taxi stop. They are being called "the sleeve-taxis", cause usually they have inormous price and the taximeter seems to go a "little" bit fast. The price difference can be amazing! Taxi companies operating in Tallinn can be found at http://www.ttl.ee/taksod.php
The Old City
Tallinn's prime attraction is the excellently preserved Old City 1 (http://www.tallinn.info/), built in the 15-17th centuries. The compact area is best explored on foot. In addition to the few spots listed below check out the city's Official Tourism site 2 (http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/) where detailed and colourful sightseeing overview is provided.
Outside the Old City
Toompea str. 8
Tallinn Official Sightseeing Tour with multiple daily departures is available by Reisiekspert (http://www.travel2baltics.com/default.asp/ac/reisiinfot/id/177).
The other available tours are listed on the Tallinn Tourism site 11 (http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/index.php?page=167)
For heavy-duty shopping check out the Kaubamaja 12 (http://www.kaubamaja.ee/) and Stockmann 13 (http://www.stockmann.ee/) department stores, off Vabaduse valjak. The area near the port has also sprouted an ever-increasing array of minimarkets, supermarkets and hypermarkets catering to the tax-free alcohol brigade.
For boutiques and souvenirs, your best choice is Viru street in the Old City and its side streets. There are many stalls selling traditional items like woolen pullovers and crystal; prepare to bargain.
The Old City is packed with restaurants claiming to offer authentic Estonian food, particularly on and around Raekoja plats. Prices are steep by Estonian standards, but still much cheaper than neighboring Helsinki -- which explains why on weekends they're always packed with daytripping Finns. Once again, the official site has a list 14 (http://www.tourism.tallinn.ee/index.uk.php/index.php?page=32) of the dining and drinking places sorted by type.
Tallinn's nightlife is extensive enough to be notorious. Exercise some caution in choosing your venue, as some strip clubs and such make their money by fleecing tourists who come in for a drink. Drinking is still cheap in Tallinn, you can get a beer in a bar for 2?.
Apartment rental is a viable option.
In some of the shadier bits of Tallinn's nightlife Mafia presence remains heavy, but much less visible and violent than it used to be. Overall, Tallinn is a safe town if you don't go out of your way to court trouble. Thefts and robberies still happen even in the most popular city centre.