Tallinn, the largest city in Estonia, is a compact capital by European standards – but what it lacks in size is more than offset by its gem of an old quarter. Now a Unesco World Heritage Site, Tallinn’s Old Town is among the best preserved medieval cities on the continent, and reason enough to visit Estonia. The city’s hotel inventory is broad with plenty of unique properties to stay at on a trip to the Baltics.
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Designed by prominent Estonian architect Elmar Lohk in the 1930s, the venerable Palace is a landmark hotel overlooking Freedom Square. The celebrated blend of Art Deco and Chicago School architecture has spurred several renovations – the most recent in 2014 considerably upped its game. It appeals to mainly business clientele, while retaining the historic atmosphere – room decor favours clean lines and Scandi-style furniture, while the so-called garret floor rooms have skylight windows. All rooms feature reproduction landscapes by Estonian artist Konrad Mägi.
Just south of the Old Town and Freedom Square, St Barbara has distinctive grey limestone brickwork which gives this 1904 mansion-block a muscular yet attractively weathered look. Rooms are smart and comfortable with tub chairs and the odd piece of faintly vintage furniture – while one junior suite features Art Nouveau touches and a sliding wooden privacy screen. Baieri Kelder, the basement restaurant with barrel vaulting, specialises in German cuisine and has a good range of draught beers to match.
The Barons has a pleasing location on a cobbled Old Town street junction, and the elegant masonry facade lends it instant appeal. The Chesterfield-filled reception with arched windows hints at even more characterful decor within. Formerly a bank, the main building has some lovely Art Nouveau detailing: bannister statues, ethereal female figures etched onto glass panes and stylised floral wallpaper. Rooms range from astutely sleek and modern, to more retro-styled chambers that mix Arts Nouveau and Deco with English country house in varying degrees.
Once the HQ of Soviet-era marine officers – note the decorative red star cresting the elegant classical facade – My City is owned by an Italian art collector and jazz aficionado. There’s no doubting these passions as some of his collection, featuring mainly 20th-century Italian artists, is displayed throughout the property while eclectic “shades of jazz” permeate the public areas. Pictures of jazz A-Listers who’ve stayed here during Tallinn’s annual jazz festival fill the breakfast room.
On the western edge of the Old Town near the Patkuli Stairs and viewing platform, the small and cosy Imperial has been going strong for more than a century. Local lore has it this was the good-time venue of choice for the so-called Finnish Boys, Estonian soldiers volunteering during World War II in the Finnish Army. Now revived, polished and de-soldiered, it’s a curious mix of semi-vintage furniture, bolsters and random exposed brickwork. The popular bar’s still there and breakfast is included.
This functional 1972 high-rise put up by the Soviets beside Tammsaare Park is a bit of a behemoth with conference rooms, restaurants and a shopping centre. On the 23rd floor lies the KGB Museum, originally a spying hub to monitor guests – particularly foreign guests – and exemplifying communism’s sinister surveillance state. These days you can (probably) trust the one-way mirrors in the snazzy rooms and suites, some of which incorporate the success stories of acclaimed Estonians into their quirky playful decor.
Home to two excellent restaurants, this Russian-inspired boutique hotel benefits from a premier location in the Old Town, inspired design and an overall atmosphere of luxury. Rooms and suites mix faux fur and splendid wooden floors with modern amenities. All rooms also have free access to the sauna in the morning.
The Savoy Boutique Hotel has nothing to do with the prestigious Savoy Hotel in London – but it’s still worth checking out for its Art Deco interior and elegant room design. With only 44 rooms, it has a smaller, more intimate feel, and everything is high-quality – from the Italian-made furniture to the historical details and modern amenities. There’s also a sophisticated restaurant, where you can enjoy Estonian cuisine at its finest.
This luxuriously converted telegraph exchange station is now home to the Telegraaf Hotel, one of the most prestigious establishments in the city. It retains beautiful marble floors and grand, spacious rooms, while the furniture and design add to the historical ambiance – with features such as four-poster beds in a number of rooms. The hotel is also at the heart of the Old Town, a stone’s throw from the main city sights. And if you’re interested in sampling the best of Tallinn’s cuisine, head to the in-house restaurant, Tchaikovsky.
Three adjoining medieval houses in the Old Town have been turned into this luxury five-star-plus hotel, perfect for a romantic holiday. Numerous celebrities, politicians and even royals – such as Britain’s Prince Charles – have stayed at Schlossle. The antique furnishings further the traditional, old-world atmosphere, while attentive staff make sure you have everything you need – made easier by the compact size of the hotel.
Four-star Hotel CRU is a small but charming hotel in a former merchant’s house. Its brick walls, wooden beams, antique furniture, and – best of all – large beds make it just as romantic as the more luxurious hotels in Tallinn, while the prime location is within walking distance of the main attractions. Be sure to check out the in-house restaurant, where a refined menu is served in an intimate, homely atmosphere.
Many hotels in Tallinn sit in medieval buildings, but this one truly embraces the medieval and renaissance heritage. This old merchant’s house has intricate facades, wooden beams, hand-painted frescoes, period-appropriate fireplaces, stone walls and old-fashioned wooden furniture. It makes for a romantic atmosphere and is ideal for couples, though it’s by no mean limited to loved-up twosomes.
The 23 rooms of the Three Sisters each have their own design and furnishings, making every experience unique. The meandering network of chambers, staircases, balconies and galleries make the setting – the eponymous interconnecting 14th-century houses known as the Three Sisters – original even in a medieval city such as Tallinn. The hotel restaurant, Bordoo, provides a great setting for a romantic meal, with handpainted ceilings and large windows, and features a selection of more than 300 wines.
Near the Old Town lies a small 19th-century estate, which was once owned by German-Baltic Baron von Stackelberg. It’s now a hotel, beautifully blending old grand architecture with modern minimalism. The elegantly designed rooms have modern amenities, including tea- and coffee-making facilities and heated floors in the bathrooms. Some rooms offer jacuzzi baths, and there’s a swimming pool and sauna. The overall design respects the historical setting, with pine floors, brick walls and beautiful furniture.
Conveniently situated in a quiet part of the Old Town, Taanilinna is a tiny medieval-style hotel, which features stone walls, beamed ceilings and a summer terrace. All rooms are fitted with hardwood floors and elegant wooden furniture, plus free wifi, cable television and heated bathroom floors. Breakfast is also included and served in the ground-floor restaurant. The most luxurious suites offer a stellar experience, thanks to the extra-large beds and added sofas.