Travel

Belly of the Beast: Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia’s capital is tiny by the standards of the region, but it buzzes with the energy of a hip neighbourhood in Berlin or Amsterdam. Although wedged onto a promontory in the Baltic Sea, its got zany Helsinki, ritzy Riga and glamorous St. Petersburg within striking distance. The melange of cultural influences—Scandinavian, Russian, German, Italian, and others—have helped foster an ambitious restaurant culture, seething clubs, and a raffish party crowd jacked up on vodka and their post-independence success.

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The city has lost some of its mojo since the riots this April against the removal of the Red Army monument though. The stags have also turned against the arrogance of the local belles and moved on to Riga, and other hotspots further East. The scene’s quiter now, more mellow and less vain, so it’s a good time to come knocking again.

NIGHTWATCH

Bon Bon

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This upscale, plush club, with ‘Moroccan lounge’ touches, chandeliers, and a huge portrait of Bacchus over the dance floor, is the chosen spot for Estonia’s ‘Winners’ Generation’ of restaurateurs, bankers, advertising execs, and others who made it during the 90s. While the music is a bit Euro-pop, and the vibe sometimes snobby, the glamour girls, cosy lounge in back, and late-night backslapping, can make even a jaded clubber break out in smiles.

Nyets. Rich Estonians and leather-faced females take themselves much too seriously.

Mere Pst 6 e. Open Wed, Fri, Sat from 11 pm onwards www.bonbon.ee

Club Prive

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Once proud of its Nordic minimalism, Tallinn gives way to its sensual side in this intimate club, with its circular sofas, thick rugs, gilded mirrors in the foyer and back bar overlooking Vabaduse Square. Owned by the promoters of the infamous Vibe parties, Prive is always pumping with clubby babes, hip bartenders and progressive DJs. It has hosted Brazil’s DJ Marky, Deep Dish, Ministry of Sound, and other big acts this year. Nyets. Too much detroit house and R&B. Feels more like a commercial house club, than a hip place to hang out in.

Harju 6. Open Wed-Sat. www.clubprive.ee

Hollywood

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A mainstay of the mid 90s, this mainstream club still packs in the ice teens on its weekly Wednesday’s ‘Ladies Night’ and occasionally hosts high-profile acts from abroad, and rocking drum ‘n’ bass evenings. (White Stripes played here during their European tour last summer.) Tip. The upstairs VIP room has toilets fit for a Baltic baron, with miniature fountains and backlit fronds. Nyets. So mainstream it hurts! Too many stupid, arrogant teens.

Vana-Posti 8. Open Wed-Sat. www.clubhollywood.ee

Angel

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Nightman’s wild nights are no more, but there’s a newcomer on the scene, a jumpin’ gay club that has great food all night, and theme parties every weekend. Slovenian drag queens flew in for its 2nd anniversary recently, and the legendary ’Get Fucked’ parties bring out the creative hedonists for an all-night party. While some heterosexauls still stay away, the smart ones know that this is where the action is. Upstairs cafe is the best place to feed that late-night craving. Nyets. Dancefloor is too small. Often hot as a sauna inside. Will never be as cool as Nightman!

Sauna 1. www.clubangel.ee

Von Krahl

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Tallinn’s avant-garde theatre, cafe, and live events central station. This bohemian haunt is usually pumping with the best of Estonia. The laid-back crowd slips through the labyrinth of the Old Town like chemically-induced lab rats on their way to the super-charged cheese, which is Krahl.

Home of legendary Mutant Disco, the last Friday of every month. Weekdays, the downstairs bar is usually a locals-only affair, but when the upstairs is open the place is rocking with out of towners. During the daytime the cafe is open and the reasonably-priced food, especially good. A little bit of Estonian goes a long way here, as does a live-and-let-live attitude. Nyets. Not glamorous enough for the B EAST. New boho generation much tamer than their 90s counterparts.

Rataskaevu 10/12 www.vonkrahl.ee

Moskva

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Even though Estonians aren’t fond of the Russians, Moscow is back in vogue again. Both the city, and its namesake bar on a main square in the Old Town. Designed in late-90s lounge style with linen-backed chairs, right angles, and large windows, the café has become a daytime haunt for the city’s movers, shakers and heartbreakers. Young, placid waitresses in orange baby doll dresses add the requisite glamorous touch.

Nyets. Too many tourists seeking glamor. Feels dated these days.

Vabaduse Valjak 10. www.moskva.ee

Kaheksa

Rather conventional lounge bar that still manages to pack in the city’s beautiful people, who also use it as a VIP entrance to Club Hollywood. The Asian-inspired menu is light, inexpensive and delicious; the smoothies like ’Last Mango in Paris’ are great boosters after a night out. Kaheksa sources their fashion pictures on the wall from B EAST, so we support them (and their sister lounge in Riga) 100%.

Vana-Posti 8.

Depeche Mode Bar
Rumour has it that the band popped through during a concert in Estonia a few years ago. This divelike, underground shrine to the 80s cult band, with its morose clientele still revels in the adolescent angst of their darkest songs.

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Valli Bar
Tallinn’s all slick and trendy these days, but this hole in the wall catty-corner to Club Hollywood is a throwback to oldies-style Finno-Ugric debauchery, with its comatose accordion players, teary alcoholics and chatty old men. Try the Millimallikas, a vodka, tequila & tabasco sauce shot, for just 25 kroons.

Catty corner, close to Club Hollywood.

GOURMAND

African Kitchen
Great, cosy restaurant on a quiet side street in the Old Town, serving delicious African dishes, with an authentic ethnic interior of African masks, tribal paintings and cane wicker chairs. Outdoor terrace in summer is a perfect hideaway from the usual touristy terraces. Run by the same hipsters who charged the Tallinn scene with Café VS in the late 90s, this place has a mellower, more chilled vibe—and excellent food.

Uus 34. Tel. +372 644-2555

Café VS
Once the trendiest haunts of Tallinn of the late 90s, this faux-industrial restaurant is still a favorite B EAST lair, mainly because of its spicy, authentic and inexpensive Indian curries cooked up by the best Punjabi chef in town. And, of course, owner and Goa regular, Daryl’s witty presence.

Parnu Mnt. 28. Tel. +372 627 2627

Elevant

With its airy, Eastern-minimalist design, chill-out back room, and comfortable wicker chairs, this restaurant was the first to combine Indian cuisine with lounge chic and has remained a favorite with the in-crowd even after the departure of founding chef Anil for warmer climes.

Vene 5, old town. Tel. +372 631-3132

Troika
Russian epicurean glam at its best in this jolly cellar restaurant, its arched ceilings painted over with Russian themes. Waiters in traditional peasant costume know how to pour their vodka, aiming directly for your shot glass with the iced bottle poised high above. Excellent blinis, pelmenis, pork chops, and other Russian staples. Always full, so remember to book a table in advance.

Raekoja Plats 15. Tel. +372 627 6245

MORNING AFTER

Nu Nordik
Cool boutique on Vabaduse Square with ironic Estonian-designed T-shirts, threads from local fashion designers, designer cutlery, CDs, posters, and more.

Vabaduse Väljak 8. www.nunordik.ee

KUMU
Art Museum The sensation of last year, Estonia’s modernist and gigantic art museum, jutting out of a cliff in Kadriog Park, showcases the best in local art, while covering modern art trends. Its bold Nordic architectural style has won plaudits across the Baltic. Its sleek café, with an outdoor terrace, is a great place to watch the country’s art scenesters.

Weizenbergi 34 www.kumu.ee

MORE HOT PLACES TO BE… 

BUCHAREST

KIEV

MOSCOW

PRAGUE

RIGA

WARSAW

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