The story of Telliskivi Creative City begins in 2009. Back then, the large former Kalinin factory was in a state of neglect and the Kalamaja district around it didn’t have the best reputation. Starting a business in the old factory seemed absurd to many, but Telliskivi has now become a kind of hipster cultural space where tourists and locals of Tallinn spend their time.
Telliskivi Creative City’s physical structure is a remnant of the machinery and electronics industry that resided there for almost 130 years.
Tallinn and Saint Petersburg were connected by railway in 1870. Tallinn’s main railway junction was in the former Piiskopi chapel, which is now the Baltic Station. At the same time, the railway’s main factory was built near the junction. It had 500 workers and its function was to service the railway’s infrastructure and undercarriage. This was Tallinn’s biggest industrial company at the time.
Before World War II, the factory mainly dealt in fixing and building locomotives and wagons. After the Soviet occupation, the factory was named the Kalin Tallinn locomotive-wagon factory and became a mercury-arc valve factory in 1958.
Throughout the decades, semiconductor devices for the first Soviet moon walker and components for power plants, railways, the defence industry and airports were also made in the factory. The closed off industrial area became shrouded in mystery through urban legends. There were rumours of space travel and war technology, toxic chemicals and even of radioactive platinum that was buried on the factory’s property.
An oasis of creative businesses
The factory was privatised after the country became independent again and moved away from the centre of the city. The buildings were empty for a long time, but they gained their first residents in Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and Linnalabor. The first place to grab a bite there was the restaurant F-hoone, which is still popular today.
By now Telliskivi Creative City has become a centre of creative businesses located in 10 old factory buildings that are decorated by big wall paintings and has a cosy bohemian feel to it.
There are 250 companies, almost 30 stores and a dozen places to eat in the Creative City. It also contains art galleries, performance institutions, band rehearsal spaces, a kindergarten and outdoor activities including a playground, outdoor galleries, summer terraces and many interesting events. A majority of the businesses in the Creative City are in the creative industries sector. Nearly 1500 people, a lot of them foreigners, have jobs in the City.
It is quite difficult to rent in the Creative City these days because it’s such a popular place with little free space. In addition, the operation and ethical code of the tenants have to align with the creative themes of the City which is why it has closed its gates to fast fashion and big corporations.
A place for lovers of culture
The international photography art centre Fotografiska Tallinn has been called Telliskivi Creative City’s crown jewel. It operates out of the so-called Red House and displays the best works of world-renowned photographers through frequently changing exhibitions. Fotografiska also has a café and restaurant that can be visited without a ticket to the museum. The restaurant is run by top chef Peeter Pihel who is known as a passionate advocate for thrifty food making. The restaurant’s delicious dishes are made from local produce, all of which is creatively used.
You can also admire art in the Creative City’s gallery that is weaved into its shopping streets. It displays works both by young and lesser known artists and renowned artists from Estonia and the world. You’ll also want to keep an eye out in the outdoor spaces of the City for displays of Tallinn’s most known street art in addition to exhibitions from Välisgalerii and Kolme Puu gallery. The last gallery focuses on reflecting social issues.
Vaba Lava theatre company is home to varied performances while Sõltumatu Tantsu Lava is a platform for modern dance. Erinevate Tubade Klubi organises events from cultural events to company meetings and from concerts to movie premieres. IDA radio also operates in the Creative City.
Before the virus hit, the City was home to over 800 diverse cultural events visited by nearly one million people a year. The area is Estonia’s richest when it comes to cultural events.
Telliskivi Creative City’s first restaurant F-hoone operates out of an old cast iron plant. Back in the day the factory buildings were referred to by letters and this tradition is still followed in the Creative City. The big and cosy F-hoone’s diverse menu includes breakfast, soups, salads and main courses in addition to sweet cakes and a wide variety of drinks. F-hoone’s new wing is called the Black Hall.
Kivi Paber Käärid(Rock Paper Scissors) treats its visitors well with a completely gluten-free menu. The Creative City’s restaurants are also extraordinarily considerate of other dietary preferences, like lactose-free and vegan. In addition, most places offer a take-out option with your own box and cup.
Lendav Taldrik is an Asian restaurant that offers mostly Indian food. Frenchy on the other hand focuses on French wine and food. The Chile-Estonian food truck Bueno Gourmet offers warm sandwiches influenced by Latin American flavours.
Fans of coffee should check out the Estonian café Reval Café and the Swedish influenced Fika. Cozy Pudel focuses on beers, offering products from small breweries from both Estonia and the rest of the world.
The ice cream factory La Muu makes 100 tonnes of ice cream per year. The ice cream shop that is only open in the summers sells over 20 different varieties of ice cream that usually cannot be found in your local grocery store. It also offers sorbet and vegan ice cream.
Many restaurants, cafés and bars have opened in the neighbourhood of Telliskivi Creative City. For example, check out the DEPOO food street, the rewarded Junimperiumthat makes Estonian gin and the drink store SIP that focuses on Estonian beer and wine.
Telliskivi Creative City’s small shops are mainly located on the first floor of the factory’s former administrative building. A majority of them focus on local designs and you can meet the shopkeeper themselves in many shops.
Les Petitesis a design store that offers products from Estonia and its neighbouring countries. Its wide variety of products include clothes, jewellery, dishes, interior design items and eco-friendly goods. Across from it is a Scandinavian furniture store Homeart that sells Swedish-Danish furniture in addition to stylish second-hand furniture. The store also houses a cosy café. You can admire and buy ceramics by Estonian creators in the new pottery gallery TEKE.
Fans of fashion will love the variety of stores selling designer clothes and accessories. One of the most known ones is Reet Aus that focuses on recycling. On the other hand, vintage shop Kopli Couture sells clothes from the colourful ‘60s. In addition to others, Dadamora sells Estonian clothes for children.
Mokoko sells stylish leather items made on the spot, for example bags, wallets and accessories. The entrepreneur experiments with new things right in the store, so a fashionable buyer who appreciates individuality can see prototypes and unique products.
Avid book readers should check out the bookstore Puänt. It was started by two women who became friends thanks to a joint bookstore visit in Paris. As they saw the need for a similar curated bookstore in Tallinn, they decided to start one in the Creative City.
The fastest way to get to Telliskivi Creative City from Tallinn’s city centre is by trams no. 1 and 2. Get off at the Telliskivi stop from where there is a short walk to the Creative City.
You can also come on foot through Tallinn Old Town. After you have walked to the Baltic Station, go towards the Baltic Station’s market and walk in parallel with the railway tracks until you get to the Creative City.
This article introduced only a few of the companies and activities of Telliskivi Creative City. To learn about everything happening in Telliskivi, visit telliskivi.cc.