If you've heard a lot of hype recently about Tallinn, Estonia, there's good reason for it, and I'm about to tell you why.
As a West Coast kid, Estonia was always just a place I confused with Astoria, a town in our neighboring state of Oregon. These days, it's made quite a name for itself as a capital city in the Baltic that remains largely untouched by the masses of tourists that visit the surrounding area. As with any "hidden gem," of course there are tourists there—every city has them—but compared to other places like Helsinki and St. Petersburg, this quiet little city tends to remain that way. The Regal Princess is one of the largest ships that dock in the port!
My fellow "cruise queen" (a nickname given to us by a fellow cruiser) travel buddy Tamara and I came away completely enchanted by the pastel tones, hidden corridors, charming people and colorful buildings that make Tallinn feel so magical.
We began our day around 9 A.M. with an organized shore excursion from the Regal Princess. Tour guides can be hit or miss, but the experiences I've had with Princess are a great time. I'm always amazed at the extensive knowledge that tour guides have—they can list off every fact about a city without hesitation...unless they can't think of the word they're looking for in English! Margit, our sweet Estonian guide, had the loveliest accent and even taught us a few words and pronunciations in Estonian.
Our first stop was Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was the biggest draw on Toompea Hill, which is the "upper level" of Old Town. It was right across from Estonia's Parliament building located in Toompea Castle, which is a bright baby pink and slightly reminded me of The Grand Budapest Hotel!
Our walk continued through Old Town to a phenomenal vista from Toompea Hill. It took Tamara and I twice as long as the rest of the group, because we stopped for just about every beautiful building and doorway in sight. In Tallinn, most photos take themselves. Every corner is a frame waiting to be captured.
After taking in the view, our next adventure was a wine tasting! As a millennial in this day and age, I of course love a good glass of wine. I was excited to learn a little more about it, particularly in a foreign country. We visited Luscher & Matiesen, a winery whose roots began in 1910 with a distillery in Moscow run by Arnold Lüscher and Paul Matiesen, who eventually came back to Estonia and created the winery that is back up and running today. If you have five minutes, take a look and read through the history of this place! It was such a joy to hear the story from our Finnish-born sommelier while sampling some delicious wines. They also have a stunning view of town from their private terrace!
After our tour wrapped up, Tamara and I had souvenirs to buy and photos to take, so we set out on a stroll to see where we would end up, which turned out to be the lively center of Old Town. After debating which patio cafe would grant us the prettiest picture, we settled on Kehrwieder Saiakang Chocolaterie and ordered coffee and cake for two. The weather was less than ideal for most of our trip, but magical Tallinn gave us a break from the cold and Tamara and I sat at that sunsoaked table for hours, happy as a couple of napping cats.
Although you only get a few hours in each port city while cruising, it's so nice to be able to spend some of the day on an organized tour to get your bearings before exploring out on your own. Tallinn was a stop just about halfway through our trip, so exhaustion was already starting to set in. We had the perfect balance of activity and leisure between the walking tour and our lazy afternoon of sipping coffee and shooting photos. Between that and the stunningly preserved historical beauty of Tallinn, it's no wonder this dreamy little city is my favorite hidden gem of the Baltic. I hope to find myself back in the peaceful country of Estonia again to explore more of its beautiful, romantic culture.
I've compiled a little video from my Instagram Story of our day in Tallinn, so scroll to the bottom of the post to watch!
Thank you to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post.