5 Things Every England Fan Should Do in Estonia When Coming to Watch Football
When you come to Estonia for Sunday's Euro 2016 qualifier, your focus is going to be on watching England trying to get three points in group play. But if you're in Tallinn for two or three days, it would be a crying shame if you didn't look at some of the other amazing attractions that have brought tourists from all over the world to this tiny corner of northern Europe.
1. Check out the Old Town
Tallinn's Old Town, or Vanalinn, is a UNESCO-protected masterpiece. It's the place that made "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver in the United States remark that Estonia looks like a country "that is still worried about Shrek attacks." It's got enough to keep most short-term tourists happy, with breathtaking views from the platforms on the hill at Toompea, and some cute little cafes and souvenir shops.
If you get hungry there are all kinds of restaurants, from the British/Irish pub food of Clayhills Gastropub (Pikk 13) and the Dubliner (Suur-Karja 18) to quality, well-presented healthy cuisine at a low price at Von Krahli Aed (Rataskaevu 8). If you head down to Chicago 1933 (Aia 3) you'll be able to hear the best live musicians in town while sipping cocktails straight out of the top drawer.
For the clubber, Club Prive (Harju 6) is clean, modern and inclusive, with hot people of both genders and a carefully-selected choice of dance and R&B music. If you get your kicks in a more relaxed nightspot, head across the street to Vabank (Harju 13), where the fancy people go to chill with Champagne, and the rest go to dance without breaking a sweat, or to lounge in the plush VIP rooms.
2. Get Out of the Old Town
Tallinn's best finds come when you leave the comfort of the Old Town and seek out the cooler, often less-expensive places in the less chocolate-box parts of town. Most tourists don't even make it out of the Old Town, but you can be adventurous, as Tallinn is a relatively safe place to walk. Head to hipster central, the Telliskivi district, where an old factory complex plays host to Tallinn's best-kept secrets: cafes and bars where the service is good and the food and drink is often superior to anything you could get in the Old Town.
Start your evening at F-Hoone (Telliskivi 60a), in an old factory, where Nordic-style cooking takes a Western twist. Stroll across the 100 yards to Pudel (Telliskivi 60a), probably the best bar in Tallinn, where bartenders who really know what they're talking about can guide you through an extensive choice of strong, imported, or local, craft beers. Take it steady though - these beers are going to hit you harder than a Carlsberg or a Heineken; they're meant to be sipped, not downed.
3. Talk to the Locals
At times Estonians don't seem instantly friendly, but increasing numbers of locals are heading out to see the world, and coming back with a new openness, meaning you can have some interesting conversations. If you do make friends with Estonians, find out what makes them tick. Most people do about two or three jobs at once, while juggling a hectic life of social engagements. Respect the local culture, and understand that you're in a country where people have their own way of thinking and expressing themselves (usually people's conversations are brief and direct), and you'll have a great time and fit in well.
Tallinn's always been a port city, so, a bit like Newcastle or Liverpool, people in the Estonian capital have a bit of cheekiness mixed in with self-confidence. Remember, before expressing an opinion on current affairs, that Tallinn is populated by both ethnic Estonians and ethnic Russians, and so any two local people might have differing viewpoints on, for example, EU membership, or the Russian annexation of Crimea. Whatever you say to locals, go easy on the politics, remember Estonians have had a turbulent history, and, most importantly, learn a few words of their beautiful language. If you can say "tere" (hello) or "aitah" (thank you) to a local, you might make a new friend. Whatever happens, show respect, and you'll be respected back.
4. Go to a Spa
Spas in Estonia are places where men and women go - in fact, the hot sauna (none of your lukewarm steam rooms here) is ingrained in the local culture. They're not just places people go to sit in silence - they're rooms where business deals are done, friendships are forged, and where even the toughest of tough guys will crave water after about 15 minutes.
If you want to stay in the Old Town, Kalev Spa (Aia 18) has a gym, water park, saunas and other relaxation rooms, perfect for sweating out the stress of a Ryanair flight. If you're happy to take a taxi further out, head to Viimsi Tervis Spa Hotel (Randvere Tee 11, Viimsi), in the gorgeous suburban seaside town of Viimsi. The spa resort is world-renowned and the service outstanding, at an affordable price if you're on holiday.
5. Take a Walk at a Great Height
Some distance from the main tourist attractions of Tallinn, but still well worth visiting, is Tallinn TV Tower (Kloostrimetsa Tee 58a), a Space Age marvel renovated in 2012, but keeping just enough of its '60s Soviet ambiance to remind visitors of a time, at the height of the Cold War, when there seemed to be no limit to human endeavor.
Take a lift to the top and look at the panoramic views of the Estonian coastline, then, if you're feeling brave, head up a floor, where an instructor will strap you up so you can walk around the outside of the tower - a vertigo-inducing experience and something you'll never forget, particularly as you can rarely get that kind of open-air thrill in an English city.