One of the things I love the most about living in Rīga is that we really are in the heart of the Baltics.
Vilnius and Tallinn are literally just a 4 hour bus ride away, and boy do Lux Express buses make the time fly quicker than any low cost airline. Instead of getting crammed in like Latvian Sprats, knees digging into the person in front’s back, you get a decent bit of leg room, power sockets, free internet access, a wee screen with a selection of terrible films, and for those who want to splash out on the “Lounge” area up the back, you get a single seat per side of the bus, a snack, a bottle of water, and the quiet satisfaction of being about 20 Euros poorer than everyone else for the privilege.
For a complete change of scenery you might prefer a Tuscan vineyard or a North American city break but each Baltic capital most definitely has a flavour of its own and is great to explore as a shorter and more affordable weekend destination.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Tallinn, the smallest of the three Baltic capitals. Perhaps it’s because I’m one of a number of Latvians suffering from an inferiority complex in the face of our northern neighbours, often touted as being more Nordic, more progressive and boasting fewer political conundrums and embarrassing moments on the world stage. Perhaps it’s just because it’s a cool city.
So, I figured I’d share what Alex and I have learnt to love during our many weekends in Tallinn, and why we keep going back. Just in case you like our blog posts and feel that you might appreciate the same sort of things that we do.
The “holy trinity of supermarkets”
Three very well-stocked and slightly upmarket supermarkets within 10-minutes walk of each other.
(I rate Selver stores too but I haven’t been able to find any in the city centre. If you drive from Rīga to Tallinn, there are at least two Selver supermarkets along the way in Parnu.)
What we buy:
- Estonian smoked cheese
- Elk or moose sausage
- Kama or rye, wheat, barley and dried pea flour – cheaper than Latvia
- Hot sauces – a different and seemingly slightly bigger selection than Latvia
- Craft beer – brands like Ollenaut and Pohjala
- Juniper bread
- Spinach pastries – because they are bigger and better, and there are two different kinds
- Seabuckthorn liqueur – a recent addition to the craft booze scene. Haven’t heard of a Latvian equivalent although we make all sorts with seabuckthorn.
The view towards Tallinn’s old town from Viimsi
Everything about Telliskivi Loomelinnak creative quarter
The shopping arcade. The food. The events.
The building. The art. The atmosphere. I’m hooked.
Estonian Health Care Museum
The kind of place where you can push lots of buttons, touch fake eyeballs and stuff i.e. fun!
Seaplane Harbour (Estonian Maritime Museum)
Because why wouldn’t you want to clamber into a submarine?
A grim reminder of the past. The operating theatre is particularly eerie.
Restaurants and cafes
Got any favourites that aren’t on our list? We’d love to see the list grow in the comments section below. And if this has inspired you to just get going, rent a car and go! It’s only four hours away. Plenty of great spots on the way too – Mekes krogs, Baltā kāpa in Saulkrasti, Ainažu mols…
Image: Mariusz Kluzniak