Walking through Tallinn’s Old Town, with its 13th-century castles built by crusading knights, you half expect to encounter characters from a fairy tale. Cobblestoned streets curl into alleyways, artisans craft their wares behind Easter egg–hued façades, and classical music drifts out of stone churches. It seems unreal, but it only takes one visit to the Museum of Occupation to discover the tension residing beneath the picturesque surface. Subjected over the ages to Danish, Swedish, and—most recently—Russian rule, Estonians have long grappled with their identity. Since gaining independence in 1991, however, the fast-growing economy has fueled the burgeoning restaurant and nightlife scenes.
Enjoying a chilled cocktail made with local vodka at Ice Bar, while admiring the 14th-century painted ceiling, one of the city’s best-preserved frescoes.
Shopping for cutting-edge Estonian designs—abstract clocks, sculptural vases, and whimsical bowls—at Nu Nordik.
Touring the fascinating exhibits at City Museum, including a six-foot replica of a merchant’s house.