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Photo by: Reimo Võsa-Targsoo
Photo by: Paul Kuimet
Photo by: Paul Kuimet

Kalamaja - Wooden houses & Bohemian charm

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This quiet neighbourhood has long been known for its colourful hodgepodge of old fashioned, working class houses. 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.

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.

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, craft beer, antiques shopping, alternative theatre and clubbing. 

Read more about Kalamaja restaurants and bars

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