Many visitors to Tallinn don’t venture far outside the sturdy stone walls of Old Town. Granted, Old Town is a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site oozing with historic charm. But it really pays off to leave these medieval quarters for a bit. Just a hop and a skip from the cobblestone streets of Old Town lies a prime example of grim Soviet architecture. But don’t let the austere first appearance fool you. Sure, Telliskivi Loomelinnak or Creative City is protected by bleak concrete walls neighboring rusty old railroad tracks. But trust us – Telliskivi is well worth the visit.
Once you venture inside those concrete walls, you are in for a delightful surprise. After standing abandoned and neglected for years, the old Soviet buildings the make up Telliskivi are now enjoying a true renaissance and a second chance at life. What was once an industrial railway factory yard today houses cool urban coffee shops and bistros as well as small boutiques and stores selling young Estonian designers’ products ranging from clothing to cosmetics and beyond. Telliskivi is now a chic spot for grabbing a great cup of coffee or enjoying a fantastic burger after shopping for some unique jewelry or hand crafted leather goods.
Summer weekends are the best time for visiting Telliskivi. On lazy Saturday mornings, brunches spill out from the trendy restaurants out into the leafy courtyard which also often hosts concerts and other cool events. Every Sunday, the courtyard is taken over by an urban flea market, which is a terrific spot for picking up vintage clothing and soviet knick-knacks in a nice and relaxed atmosphere.
What Telliskivi is today is in fact nothing short of impressive. It’s simply wonderful to see these old severe Soviet buildings being repurposed in such a positive way. After years of utter neglect, rather being bulldozed after the fall of Soviet rule, the property has now been given new life. Telliskivi is a unique combination of old warehouses and graffiti against a back drop of medieval castles and bell towers of the Old Town looming in the background. Telliskivi is very much in the present moment and yet at the same time, it’s a powerful, living reminder of Estonia’s history. All in all, this is a fantastic place for getting a sense of the real Tallinn, both past and present.