Although I was born and raised in Estonia, it was only recently, during the past years, that I started to truly value the beauty of my home country. Probably because three years ago I moved abroad and living abroad makes one understand that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Estonia is full of natural beauty (more than 50% of the land is covered by forests) and another big chunk is covered by bogs, wetlands, lakes and rivers. It’s never crowded in Estonia – even the capital city has only 400,000 residents, and the population density is twenty times smaller than in Taiwan. In fact, Taiwan is smaller than Estonia but it has a population of 24 million people (Estonia has 1.3 million people). That’s probably one of the reasons why Estonia is becoming increasingly popular among Asian tourists. It’s weirdly “empty”.
For history buffs, there’s a lot to see – from medieval castles and towers to grim Soviet architecture, to modern Estonian high-rise glass buildings and new fashionable neighborhoods (such as Rotermanni) that often try to combine the old and new.
I must also praise the new Estonian cuisine, that combines Nordic food philosophy with fresh seasonal ingredients. One cannot even keep up with all the new restaurants that keep popping up in Tallinn these days. The same must be said about new Estonian design. I love the minimalism of it.
But I’ll let the photos speak for itself.
Tallinn: A Romantic Medieval Old Town
I know I am biased, but I believe we have one of the most beautiful medieval old towns in the world. It’s definitely special, as it is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The Old Town isn’t the only beautiful place in Tallinn though. Try to also visit Telliskivi Creative Center and Kalamaja hipster region, Rotermanni quarter (it has some cute bakeries and shops), Kadriorg (where you see a mini version of St. Petersburg), and some seaside places. There’s a cool view of the sea from the Linnahalli roof. For people interested in the Soviet architecture, go have a peek at the Lasnamäe district.
Natural Beauty: From Forests, to Bogs, to Quaint Fishermen’s Villages
Like I said, most of Estonia is covered by nature. And it’s such a natural part of our lives that I feel that we almost take it for granted. This time, I made sure that I spent a good chunk of my time in the nature. I particularly loved our road-trip to Northern Estonia, Lahemaa National Park, by the Gulf of Finland.
Delicious and Fresh Food
The Estonian food scene has really evolved a lot in the past 10 years. Every time I’m back, there are 30 new restaurants to try out. And the chefs are really becoming more and more creative – utilizing the seasonal ingredients to the fullest.
In Tallinn, it’s an absolute MUST to visit the Telliskivi Creative Center (my all time favorite is F-Hoone and the hottest newcomer is definitely fotografiska). I also recommend Balti Jaam Market for street food. If you have time to leave Tallinn, do try Altja Pub (it has the most delicious traditional dishes). Tartu has multiple cool options at the Aparaaditehas.
As for the specific dishes to try – black bread is a must, so is local fish such as herring and spiced sprat. For desserts, try kohuke (a curd dessert covered in chocolate) and kama flour dishes. I also really love the lamb meat dumplings (we have this Eastern European version of dumplings) at F-Hoone. If you visit in the summer, try to eat some chanterelle mushrooms. For drinks, have some kali (sort of a version of root beer but imo much better).
Southern Estonia – Manor Houses, Nature Trails, and Tartu – the Student Capital of Estonia
Southern Estonia has so much to offer. Much more than I can cover in this post, I simply did not have enough time. But in addition to Tartu, I definitely recommend to visit lake Peipsi (and the Onion Road) and Taevaskoja Hiking trails.
Well, that’s all from me now. I hope this inspired some of you to visit my beautiful home country.