Experience colourful Kalamaja

This quiet little neighbourhood just outside the Old Town is eye-catching for its colourful wooden buildings. Throughout most of Tallinn’s history Kalamaja served as the town’s main fishing harbour.

In fact, 'Kalamaja' literally means 'fish house' in Estonian, and starting from the 14th century the area was traditionally dominated by fishermen, fishmongers and boat wrights. Everything changed in 1870, however, when Tallinn was connected to St. Petersburg by railroad. Suddenly enormous factories started to sprout up in this part of town, bringing with them an influx of thousands of new workers.


Photo by: Nele Inglist

The wooden houses built to accommodate these workers became Kalamaja's architectural legacy and are now what gives neighbourhood its unforgettable charm. The most architecturally unique of these are called 'Tallinn Houses'. Built in the 1920s and 30s, these two- to three-storey apartment houses are made of two symmetrical wooden wings separated by a stone central staircase. There are about 500 of these in the city today.

Photo by Nele Inglist


It’s a must-see destination for anyone interested in architecture and history, as well as those who want to gain an insight into Tallinn’s newer art landscape. It’s one of the most popular neighbourhoods in the capital. Here you’ll also find the city’s sprawling maritime museum, the Seaplane Harbour. For families, Energy Discovery Centre and Kalamaja Children’s Museum Miiamilla are worth to visit. 

Recently the area has taken on a bohemian atmosphere, becoming the residence of choice for young, creative types. Clever use of space and dedicated use of local produce makes the local restaurant-cafés an integral part of the Kalamaja atmosphere. It’s the part of town where you will get the best feel of the locals’ life-style.


Telliskivi Creative City in Kalamaja © Andrew Bain / Getty Images

A good way to experience this bohemian phenomenon is to visit the Telliskivi Creative City (Telliskivi 60), a collection of factory buildings that has been slowly transformed into a popular hangout for those who enjoy off-beat restaurants, art expos, creations of young Estonian designers, craft beer, antiques shopping, flea markets, alternative theatre and clubbing. Telliskivi is also home to one of the most popular concert venues in Tallinn – Vabalava, which is at its busiest during the music festivals that are held in the city. But if you’re looking for a sure-fire reason to head to Kalamaja, plan your visit during the Estonia’s biggest community-based festival, the Kalamaja Days, or the extremely popular Telliskivi Street Food Festival.

Telliskivi Creative City in Kalamaja © Andrew Bain / Getty Images

In Telliskivi, you may taste the good street food all year round, especially in the Depoo street food zone. While you’re there, stop in at Peatus – an original Moscow-Tallinn passenger train carriage and restaurant car that’s been turned into a café and nightclub. You can also experience marvelous cuisine when you visit a bohemian restaurant Kivi Paber Käärid, which is dedicated to gluten free food.

In addition to its street food zone, Telliskivi is just a short walk away from the brand new Balti Jaam (Baltic Railway Station) Market. The most modern market of its kind in Estonia, it brings an extraordinary range of items together under one roof, with everything from farm-fresh produce to tasty street food. The new market is something of a community centre too, drawing in locals to do their everyday shopping, but its unique atmosphere, fascinating selection of antiques, and brewery also make it a great place for tourists to explore.


Photo by: Tallinn Street Food Festival


We also recommend you to take a fascinating walk in Tallinn Kultuurikilomeeter (Culture Kilometre). It was opened in 2011 to coincide with Tallinn's turn in the spotlight as European Capital of Culture. Only 2.5 km short but pretty interesting walkway through the historical part of Tallinn’s seaside that connects Linnahall area with Seaplane Harbor Museum and continues a bit further to new Arsenal shopping center (built in old military equipment factory premises).


It definitely cannot be considered as a traditional tourist route but it is definitely something special with plenty of historical and industrial vibes from different eras. The Culture Kilometre offers a great chance to see Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, from a completely different perspective away from the city centre tourist crowds. ​

and more inspiration: 10 things to see and do in Kalamaja