There was no doubt about it, our trip to Helsinki and Tallinn was an eating and drinking holiday. So, a Medieval Beer Tasting and Legends Excursion with Estonian Experience seemed the perfect way to start our 4 day stay in Tallinn. This was a walking tour of the Tallinn old city with a couple of beer stops. Our tour guide was Eva-Maria. Here are a few highlights of our tour.
Our tour started at the Tallinn Freedom Square. The square is on the southern end of the Old Town, and as it happens, right in front of our hotel. It is the location of many public celebrations, concerts and military parades in the city of Tallinn. From here, you can head either to the modern part of the city, lower old town or upper old town. (More posts on these later).
The Freedom Square is also home to the Victory Column which commemorates the Estonian War of Independence from 1918 to 1920. The pillar is covered in glass panels which lights up after dark. The building of this monument was not without controversy in Estonia. Whilst some see it as a great memorial highlighting the sacrifice of all those who had fought for freedom and independence, others see it as a costly white elephant. Personally, I thought it was really quite good.
Tallinn Town Hall Square
The Tallinn Town Hall Square has to be one of my favorite parts of the Tallinn old city. From late November to early January, it is home to the city’s Christmas market and a huge Christmas tree. It reminded me of the old town square of Prague, but this is smaller and has a more intimate feel. The Christmas market also had many more local products compared to the one in Prague.
Beer Stop No. 1: Old Hansa Restaurant
Our first beer stop was at the Old Hansa restaurant. This is a medieval restaurant just off the town hall square of Tallinn. It has a very authentic medieval setting. There are no electric lights, but hundreds of candles. The staff are all dressed in medieval clothing, and there is even a medieval entertainment troupe.
Eva-Maria had a quick word with one of the staff, and soon were sitting down with jugs of honey beer . We simply loved the beer (and went back for more later in our stay!). There were also sugared almonds, which we found out was a traditional medieval accompaniment to beer.
Town Hall Pharmacy
After being fortified with pint of beer each, our next stop was “Raeapteek” or the old Town Hall Pharmacy. It is located on on side of the town hall square and is known to be one of the oldest continuously running pharmacies in Europe. It was first started in the 1583 by Johan Buchart and remained in the Buchart family for 10 generations.
Today it is still a pharmacy, selling products inspired by the past as well as modern medicine.
It is also home to a mini museum that tells you the history and displays some of the interesting products from the by gone era; such as Scorched Hedgehogs, Dried Toads and Sun Bleached Dog Faeces!
Kalev Marzipan Museum Room
Marzipan is a popular export from Estonia. The Kalev Marzipan museum is a great place to see some of these Marzipan works of art being made. The museum has information boards on the history of marzipan making in Tallinn.
Back of the museum is the Maiasmokk (“Sweet Tooth”) cafe, the oldest operational cafe in Tallinn (and Estonia). It has been operating from its current location since 1864. The cafe’s unique interior has not changed over for almost a century.
Beer Stop 2: Gastro Pub
Our second and final beer stop was at Clayhills gastro pub. Although gastro pubs are very popular and quite common in UK, it is a relatively new phenomenon in Estonia. Clayhills claims to be the first gastro pub in Estonia situated in a medieval house not far from the Town Hall Square.
Here we had a beer sampler with 8 different beers – some local brews and some from bit further afield. There was also a platter of appetizers.
Our tour ended here, with the 2 hours having flown by. Eva-Maria took her leave from us here, but we stayed on into the night, sampling more of the excellent beers.
About our tour
We really enjoyed our tour with Estonian Experience. Our tour guide, Eva-Maria was very knowledgeable and she told us about the history and stories behind the all places we visited. She also very patiently answered all our questions about everything, from the local education system to the economy and property prices! She also recommended many things to see and do, and (more importantly) many places to eat and drink during our time in Tallinn. We tried many of these over the next few days and were not disappointed once. The tour was very well organised and all the places we visited were expecting us, and the 2 hours flew by. I can highly recommend this tour with Estonian Experience and Eva-Maria. Note: The tour only covers the lower part of the Tallinn old city, as the beer stops take time. If you are not fussed about beer, I would recommend going on Estonia Experience’s 2 hour walking tour instead.
My friends and I received discounted rates for this tour from Estonian Experience. As always, opinions and photos here are my own.
This post is part of #theweeklypostcard with Two Traveling Texans