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Photo by: Maret Põldveer-Turay

Photo by: Paul Kuimet

Photo by: Paul Kuimet

Kalamaja - Wooden houses & Bohemian charm

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By visittallinn.ee  •  21.04.2017

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.


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.

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.

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.

Photo by: Kadi-Liis Koppel

In Telliskivi, you may taste the good street food all year round, especially in the Depoo street food zone. You’ll find one of Tallinn’s best kept secrets there: Renard Coffee Shop, which is a magnet for true coffee lovers from all over the world. 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.

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.

Read more about Kalamaja restaurants and bars.

Tallinn areas

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