Narrow cobbled alleyways, medieval church spires, and incredibly well-preserved Hanseatic architecture make Tallinn’s Old Town a breathtaking sight, well-deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage status. With some of the Estonian capital’s finest restaurants and cafes, it is also full of treasures for gourmands. In this guide we explore the Old Town’s top 10 restaurants, with cuisine ranging from medieval to vegan.
As Tallin’s highest-rated restaurant on Tripadvisor, Rataskaevu 16 doesn’t even need a name to attract locals and travelers, using its address only. It truly deserves the recognition it’s getting; it offers delicious Estonian food such as fried herring fillets or elk roast, and boasts warm, friendly service. There are plenty of options for vegetarians too. In the summer, you can have your meal on its patio, situated on one of the most charming streets of the Old Town.
This may be a vegan restaurant, but even carnivores love it; in fact, it’s so popular that more often than not booking is essential. Dishes like spicy tofu with quinoa or potato and kale casserole with seitan provide a very filling meal. The menu is small but everything is of very high quality. Like most establishments in the Old Town, Vegan Restoran V is located in a beautiful old building, but it stands out thanks to to its colorful façade and slightly rustic interior decoration.
Also located on Rataskaevu Street (decidedly the place to be for great food), Von Krahli Aed offers a varied range of food for very affordable prices. Here too, vegetarians will find plenty they to eat, though most of the menu consists of Estonian meat-based dishes like venison stew. This restaurant is actually owned by the Von Krahl Theater next door, so is the perfect place to have dinner before or after a play. It nevertheless stands as a fine establishment of its own, and there are no intrusive advertisements for the theater’s productions and events.
One of the Old Town’s classic cafe- restaurants, Kompressor specializes in sweet and savory pancakes so huge you’ll have trouble finishing just one, despite their offering of almost thirty different variations. A simple and unassuming look with sparse decoration, Kompressor can be easy to overlook, especially since it is almost next door to many excellent dining spots, but its tasty food and great prices make it legendary among locals—so much so that it can be difficult to find a table.
If you want something a little more unusual, head to Olde Hansa on the Town Hall Square. This restaurant’s theme is the Hanseatic League, a confederation of merchant guilds that dominated the Northern Coast of Europe from the 13th to the 17th century. To recreate this epoch’s atmosphere, Olde Hansa puts on medieval musical performances for guests, and all members of staff wear period-appropriate costumes. The food too harks back to Tallinn’s golden age with venison dishes with names like “Bürgermeister’s game fillet” or “The finest elk fillet in honor and glory of the noble Master of the Order”.
Ill Draakon, on the other side of the building housing Olde Hansa, offers medieval fare as well. Prices are very moderate for quality food such as elk meat, soup and pasties, some of which are vegetarian. It’s an amazing option for a quick and inexpensive meal that still succeeds in being a novel and unexpected experience.
Main course at Tchaikovsky | Courtesy of Hotel Telegraaf
Tchaikovsky was named Tallinn’s best restaurant by Flavors of Estonia and won multiple Silver Spoon Awards in 2013, so it comes very highly recommended. The restaurants does not disappoint, offering an exquisite fusion of French and Russian cuisines meticulously crafted by chef Vladislav Djatšuk, with such delicacies as venison tartar with mustard, marinated onion and rye bread crouton or roasted sturgeon fillet from Härjanurme farm with oxtail confit and fennel-olive sauce. The two set menus—a tasting menu and a new menu in honor of the eponymous composer’s 175th birthday—are especially good options.
Known as “The Golden Piglet Inn” in English, Kuldse Notsu Kõrts is all about making diners discover true Estonian dishes: highlights include the ‘sausage feast’ (variation of sausages, oven baked potatoes, sauerkraut) and the traditional pork roast. In addition, all food is prepared with fresh products from local farms. The interior is picturesque and cozy, calling to mind a rustic village house or farm, with simple wooden tables, Estonian sayings written on the walls, and a fireplace to warm up the room in the winter.
Get away from the hustle and bustle of the Old Town by sitting down in Leib‘s lovely Scottish garden and enjoying a seasonal menu based on simple fresh Estonian ingredients, like the black bread (leib) that the restaurant is named after. The menu is minimal and changes frequently depending on what ingredients are in season: in the summer it offers meat and fish dishes such as Estonian beef fillet with roasted onion cream, and pan-fried pike perch with roasted parsnip cream and leek sauce – but there is also always a vegetarian option. Sitting in the garden is a real pleasure.
Kohvik Must Puudel styles itself as a cafe rather than a restaurant but it would be a pity to overlook it as a place for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, as it serves a dozen hot dishes, with soups, salads, vegetarian and vegan options all available. The dessert menu is also worth looking at, especially for its surprising but delicious blue cheese ice cream. The interior is colorful and quirky; it has a very trendy feel to it.