The lowdown Despite having followed in the footsteps of its more established Eastern European cousin, Prague, as a popular destination for rowdy stag dos, like Prague there is far more to Tallinn than cheap beer. Nearly a third of Estonia's 1.5 million population live in its historic capital (most of the countryside is still covered in thick forest) situated on the Baltic coastline facing north towards Finland. The main draw of the city is the beautiful walled old town, a chocolate-box pretty maze of cobbled streets, dotted with cafes and shops selling amber jewellery and marzipan (the sweet treat supposedly originates from Estonia - though the Germans lay claim to it too), at the heart of which is a cobbled 15th-century market square, the perfect spot for an early evening glass of Estonian cider. If you branch off south from the square you'll find one of the best places to stay in the city, The Schloessle Hotel, a 23-room boutique hideaway, popular with rock (Massive Attack, Lenny Kravitz) and European royalty alike, whose names are proudly immortalised in brass behind the hotel reception desk.
The rooms The rooms at Schloessle reflect its refreshingly uncool decor, with floral curtains, wooden furniture and some rather kitsch gilt-framed paintings of fruit. My room was small but comfortable, with a very soft single bed, large wardrobe, shower room and windows overlooking the hotel courtyard, where you can sit out and eat when the weather's good. If you feel like splashing out, you can stay in the hotel’s main suite, provided you don't mind sharing with the mischievous resident ghost – according to the hotel staff, it has a habit of moving books around.
What to do There is so much history to soak up that a guided tour of the old town is a must. If you want a taste of Estonia’s more recent Soviet history, then the KGB museum is also well worth a visit. For relaxation after a day of pounding the cobbles, we recommend a heavenly Ayurvedic massage (60 euros) at the Babor spa, just down the road from the hotel. And if you’re a night owl, head to Tallinn’s hottest club Déjà Vu after dinner, though you might need a taste for Russian dance music.
Wining and dining Estonian cuisine is heavy and incorporates quite a bit of meat (veggie options are thin on the ground), but provided you’re not on a diet, The Golden Piglet Inn is a good challenge for adventurous carnivores, with the Estonian specialties of pig ears and roasted boar on the menu. For a slightly lighter option, you can head to the Russian restaurant Nevskij for caviar washed down with ice-cold vodka (of course), or if the weather’s not good for venturing out, the hotel restaurant, built in the old converted wine cellar, does a pretty spectacular tasting menu.
Perfect for… A romantic break. The north European climate can be a little hit and miss, but the old town is a gorgeous place to potter around a deux, and if the weather turns bad, the interior of the hotel is so cosy you can curl up in front of the fire with a glass of red wine and a bit of local marzipan.
The details Rates for a Superior Double room start from: €174 per night, buffet breakfast included. Call 00 372 699 7700, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit schlossle-hotels.com
Getting there Estonian Air flies 4 times weekly, non-stop between London Gatwick and Tallinn. One-way fares start from £89 inclusive of all taxes and charges. Visit estonian-air.com
By Lucy Pavia