I don't usually do trip reports as travel a huge amount but this was a first visit to a new country for me with family so I'm doing the full TA bit.
Thanks to all the regulars here as I loitered and made notes pre-visit, thanks also to those that responded to my direct questions on forum, I really appreciate it.
Airport to Old Town:
Easy to do by public transport but the taxi service is obvious, regulated and not going to cost more than Euro10 + a tip. It depends on hotel location so see if you are near a stop but for me unless you are going to use public transport to explore well outside of the old town it's not worth lugging cases onto trams and won't save much money anyway.
We used taxi efficiently by day, sometimes even from south of old town to kalamaja, yes can use tram but it cost Eur 5 between us. For dinner or after walking and being tired I'd rather pay the Eur 5. It depends how many of you, what luggage and how much will you use a day ticket for public transport.
We stayed in The Imperial, in a suite. A1 location, couldn't be better as we wanted to be near Kalamaja. We walked everywhere, used tram once I think.
Often dour but very helpful. I sensed that the outward impression of many local service workers is quite cold or can appear so to a ‘westerner’, scratch under the surface and it is a bit different in a positive way. I know this from Serbia where it can be similar from a Brits perspective until you know people, it is mostly Slavic demeanour IMO. Anyway, that’s just first impressions of first visit, some staff happy, most not much smiling or small talk but most definitely there to help you and they were excellent. Even offered to make breakfast rolls for 5.30am one morning as we were leaving early for ferry! Nice touch that we declined with thanks but they left the coffee machine on for us. ;-)
Cons to Hotel:
No aircon and we stayed during a heatwave, I know that is most unusual for Tallinn but be warned. It's also a basic hotel, very clean, great breakfast * Actually excellent breakfast* but not many other amenities, not sure how it qualifies for 4*? A fantastic building though, why oh why it's not a functioning bar and lunch venue with terrace by day. No idea, a lost opportunity. Overall a good experience but if you want to spend a lot of time in the hotel I'd look for one with more facilities. It suited us for shower, bed and breakfast with great location.
Eating out not including snacks/fast food:
Golden Piglet - Good experience but the local traditional food is not that exciting. Glad we ate there but for the food we enjoyed places outside the old town mostly, immediately we saw the 'Prague or Rome phenomenon' where it's a bit too much geared for tourism, best get out to back streets or outside the walls was our impression but we loved walking around and stopping for coffee and drinks around the town.
Hell Hunt - Loved this place, especially on the covered terrace outside. Great 'own' draft beer selection as well as huge number of imports in bottles., tried the food twice, various things, all excellent and a fair price given old town location where many are expensive. It’s a pub rather than restaurant but done with some style. Loved it outside people watching. Their Hell Hunt weissbier was marvellous!
Babulja and Grill House - Same places joined, one Russian wine bar the other grill house. It has a nice terrace at front with (3 set) music where you can choose off either or both menus, nice in good weather. Good musicians with sympathetic mood music. The food was excellent! Russian food and grills. Went twice, all drinks were good too, tried some new wines for me, and vodka …hic!
F-Hoone - Our favourite place for interesting food. Very tasty, imaginative and about 50% of the cost of old town. Definitely go to Teliskivi area and check out all the 'happening' places around there, this one is very popular so book peak times. The market at Balti-Jamm across to there is only 10 min walk, 10 min from old town to station, not even that from our hotel.
We enjoyed the contrast of going past the flower market and exploring the modern city shopping malls and outskirts away from the old town. Some very good shops for clothes, especially for the ladies.
The old town:
Personally loved it up and around Nevsky Church, avoid at weekends or go early or late. The whole town is wonderful but as such it's ruined by tourism in terms of ambience. On the Saturday it really felt like a Japanese theme park, 5 or 6 major tours all Japanese, loud, and not very polite, pushing to see things without a care for others. Just an observation, I’m not anti- Japanese. I mentioned Prague, it can be the same, or Rome. It's the penalty for being a really lovely place to visit and learn about. I'd recommend visiting Monday to Wednesday slightly off season to see it at its best rather than weekend. I walked it all myself on a Monday and it was very quiet, much better.
Ferry to Helsinki:
Viking service was well worth it, walk from arrival terminal to city waterfront was about 15mins or you could use a tram. The buffet breakfast was very good quality and value @ Eur11 each. We only had café food on board on way back, the dinner buffet was Eur30. Nice approach to Helsinki port – thanks for the heads-up John The Fin! ;-)
It was a long day out in Helsinki and a heatwave, (25 degrees+) a bit tiring, so much so that we paid for the bus tour, against my nature but we got to see all of a wider area. Helsinki is expensive but we enjoyed what we saw. A fine city, I'd need to go again to find its soul, I didn't feel it first visit, almost cold even though some lovely places of interest. No offense intended to locals but they mostly seemed to be on a mission, I did meet a few fun locals in a bar overlooking the harbour though.
Tallinn overall as a destination/city break:
Loved it! Just avoid all the tourist times and tourist traps. I'd go back to Estonia, interesting, highly recommended Tallinn as first visit and go to the suburbs, mix with locals and see what you think. The old town is a must visit even if flawed by what I describe, we expected that.
Finally on a bad note:
One negative, we saw the unfortunate spectacle of small minded Brits abroad getting rat-ar$$ed in public areas, even middle of daytime. Why they chose Tallinn I have no idea, hardly exciting for guys on ‘tour’. Total disrespect to local girls and idiots of the highest order, I can say that as a Brit! I’m always apologising when abroad, trust me it's only the minority that act that way but we do seem everywhere.
I was surprised no local guys sorted them out, and why no police? Disorderly and abusive in a public place, they would not have got away with that in Belgrade! Perhaps EU soft laws, nobody seems to be able to challenge misconduct these days ;-(
I hope these comments help, only my personal impressions, some may totally disagree. I’ve noted some negatives but I’d thoroughly recommend a trip to Tallinn for 2-3-4 days days.