Tallinn Is Not Helsinki

Tallinn, Helsinki’s cool cousin

I know this blog is about Helsinki, but it would be silly not to mention Tallinn. It’s a Helsinki thing.

Several ferries crisscross between the two cities. Some are more luxurious than others, but even the scruffier ones have food, drinks and entertainment. If you need a break from your fellow passengers, you can reserve a cabin.

We visit Tallinn often enough and have a few regular stops. My last trip was slightly different, because I went by myself. What follows is a mix of the places we frequent and a trip report. There are of course many more shops, galleries, museums and restaurants to visit in Tallinn than are listed here. We all have our favorites.

Gowri is a new stop for us in Tallinn. All shirtmakers have something flashy on display to attract customers and show off their goods. The British shops are muted – the really posh ones are the most understated. Italian shops have a familiar Italian flair to them, of course. Finns are minimalists. Gowri’s shop is shiny, extravagant and fun. Naturally, they also cater to more conservative tastes.

Muhu Leib is not a shop, but a rye bread. We pick up a loaf every time we visit Tallinn. For some reason, we tend to get it from their shop near the train station. I don’t think you can buy it in Helsinki, which is very strange – let me know if it is sold here. Why no one is importing it by the truckload is a mystery.

Sigari Maja is a tobacconist and cigar lounge next to the main square. I normally visit them to pick up a few cigars, because it is a nice shop. Their lounge is a wood-paneled, leather-upholstered oasis of peace and relaxation. If you like, you can also get a drink with your cigar. I had an amontillado, because I was on my way to lunch.

Rataskaevu 16 is our usual stop for a late lunch or dinner. I have had amazing and not-so-amazing meals there, but never a bad one. The last couple of times I ordered their elk for nostalgic reasons. The wine list is well-edited and the service excellent. If you have a table next to the front door, you may observe an endless stream of potential customers being turned away. Make a reservation!

Pudel is a bar in Telliskivi, the hip part of town. Finns joke that you can actually see more Finns than locals there. I did not go this time, but we have previously bumped into Finnish friends there, so there is some truth to the jokes. When in Tallinn, we often stop at Pudel for a beer. There is usually something interesting on tap and an art exhibition nearby.

Crème de la crème is one of the few niche fragrance shops near Helsinki – I noticed there is a new one in town, but more on that later. They are located in a fairly depressing shopping center, but they are worth a visit if you like smelling things.

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