Estonia is a tiny country in the Northern Europe, located just 80 km South of Finland. You may guess that the climate here is quite rough in winter months, making it a perfect place to stay indoors in a cosy environment. Most visitors end up seeing just an old town during their Baltics cruise. However, there is just so much more to do and see while visiting Estonia!
Here are the Top 10 reasons for visiting Estonia and why you should consider visiting Estonia for at least an extended weekend!
Badass old town
Can you guess how old our Old Town is? First time it was put on the map was in 1154! It is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Conquered by many nations over the centuries and later built up by Danes, Germans, Swedes and Russians, Tallinn was an important trade hub and Northern most member of the Hanseatic League. Even today, walking through the cobble stoned streets you can feel the vibes of the medieval past. Numerous museums can help you discover the glorious past even further! Tallinn Old town Days, held at the beginning of Summer every year, is a perfect opportunity to travel back in time and experience a taste of Middle ages, practice shooting a bow, enjoy medieval music and dance performances.
The fact that this country is so small makes it actually an ideal base for exploring it’s neighbors on 1-day trips. For example, Riga and Helsinki can easily be enjoyed on a day trip from Tallinn without having to stay overnight. You can also reach St. Petersburg in Russia in about 7 hours by bus (don’t forget visa!). Overnight cruises to Stockholm are also crazy popular, with 2 nights spent onboard the cruise ship and 1 full day in the Swedish capital. However, you will hardly find it necessary, as there is so much to do in Estonia alone.
Delicious local cuisine
Estonian national cuisine is quite similar to German cuisine and there is a good reason for that – Estonia used to be under German reign for many centuries. Today, you might find lots of different options for any taste and budget. Both old town and modern parts of Tallinn offer wide variety of restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars. We highly recommend paying a visit to lately renovated Telliskivi district. You will find many unusual dining options there, like train car or shipping container! Out of town, fish farms are quite popular – places where you catch the fish and the have it grilled on the spot.
Numerous cultural events
No matter when you visit, there is always something going on. In summer, numerous outdoor concerts and yearly festivals take place. A great way to explore and learn about our medieval history is to visit during Old Town Days. For music and beer lovers of the most popular one is Summer beer festival in July (Õllesummer). Other famous festivals and events include: Jazz Festival in October, Foodfest in November, Christmas market, Black Nights Film Festival in November, St. Martin’s Day fest and many more. Estonia seems to be a magnet for music scene. Every year we get to see at least one big name (in 2017 it was Rammstein with 70.000 people visiting the show from all over Baltics). However, smaller stages and clubs often feature big names too. If you are into club music, the Weekend Festival held in the city of Pärnu in August is for you!
Whether you are looking for stunning waterfalls, breathtaking cliffs and seashore or hidden forest lakes – Estonia has it all and much more. Several natural parks have awesome hiking trails with informative signposts for you to explore. As the weather gets warmer, these trails start to see more and more visitors, as locals love to spend time outdoors. Lahemaa National park is only about 50 minutes drive from Tallinn and has spectacular hiking trail! Southern part of the country offers some hills and beautiful lakes for you to explore. Fancy to spend time on the Baltic sea? How about visiting some of the larger islands with their unique and pristine culture? Hiiumaa and Saaremaa both have good accommodations options as well as things to do!
Ever since Estonia moved to EURO as it’s currency, the prices started to climb up. Still, you may find this country rather cheap, compared to Western Europe. Among other things, communication services are among the cheapest and best you might get. For only 10 Euros per month you may get very decent 4G internet connection with unlimited calls and SMS (within the country). Hotel night will cost you between 20 and 40 Euros. A typical dinner in the city center – 7-10 Euros. Bus tickets between cities are also quite cheap and should be bought during discount periods. Once, I was lucky to get Tallinn-St. Petersburg for only 3 Euros! 1-bedroom apartment rent varies between 200 and 500 Euros. Gas prices are similar to European, as well as food, clothes and electronics. It’s important to remember that Estonia doesn’t really produce anything much and imports most of the products.
Estonia is becoming more and more digitized. Today, electronic voting system, electronic recipes for buying medicine, tax declaration system, online banking and many other services are making our lives much easier. In fact, having cash has become quite uncommon – you just never need it anymore. Petrol stations are mostly automatic as well as self service car wash. We buy almost everything online, including groceries, cinema tickets, bus tickets, electronics and gadgets. Cyber security is an important factor and the main reason why these services are so widely used – most people trust their data is protected.
Seasons are very well defined here. During winters we get fair amount of snow, mixed with rain sometimes. The cold stays for as long as early May. Summers are usually mild with enough sunshine but not nearly as hot as everywhere else in Europe. The good things is that nature keeps it’s colors and doesn’t burn out like the Mediterranean (yellow grass). The best time to visit is September-October. If you are lucky and the sun is out, you will see million different colors. It’s truly magical! January and February tend to get most snow days and that’s when the town becomes a living fairy-tale.
Many people speak English
It’s fairly easy for a foreigner to navigate through town, as many people speak at least some English. Younger generation mostly speak it close to perfect. In fact, Estonia is famous for its multi linguistic population and therefore attracts international customers who require call center services. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, various Airlines and hotel businesses have their call centers here. Kids at school learn 2-3 languages, English and German are usually the most popular ones. Due to high number or local Russian population, society is diversified and acceptable of foreigners – expats are not unusual to meet.
Well developed infrastructure
Whether you are looking for a tram ride from airport to city center or a local train to Viljandi – there is easy and reliable transport system to get you there. Estonians like to buy everything online, so tickets are usually purchased in advance. For Tallinn public transport we recommend purchasing smart card and pre-loading it with money. This way, each time you swipe the card, 1 € will be taken off your account for that 1 ride. Intercity buses are operating frequently, especially between Tallinn and Tartu. Taxis are also available – you will see many different companies with different prices. We recommend using Uber though, because this way you will run smaller risk of getting cheated.
Have you been to Estonia already? How did you like it?
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