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Tallinn the Perfect PreChristmas Getaway

Northern Europe with its markets and ad hoc decoration is the perfect destination for anyone seeking to get into the Christmas spirit before actually celebrating the festivity with their family. One city with a must-visit flea market is Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which boasts one of the best preserved medieval towns on the Baltic. The historic precinct, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, is ringed by walled fortifications which have withstood all wars. Any further reason for visiting Tallinn? Well, it has one of the most beautiful seafronts in the world and, according to Condé Nast Traveler, it is due to become one of the most prosperous cities of 2017. What else?

Tallinn was a major commercial hub during the period when the Hanseatic League dominated the Baltic and North Sea trade routes. At that time it was known by the Germanic name Reval and such was its prosperity that it could afford to have two mayors and twenty-four municipal councillors who only worked alternate years. The Old Town dates from medieval times and is arranged around the City Hall, which bears the city’s symbol, “Vana Toomas” (Old Thomas), a weathervane in the shape of a mercenary holding a sword in one hand and a flag in the other. Noteworthy, too, is the Lutheran St Mary’s Cathedral, also known as the Dome Church, in bare Gothic style, and the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, dating from 1900, located on Toompea hill. Danes, Germans, Swedes, Russians and, lastly, Soviets have left their mark on Estonia’s history. Prominent from the latter period is the cinema, now one of the major leisure centres in Tallinn, and the network of inner patios scattered across this Baltic city.

You can’t say you’ve been to Tallinn unless you walk down Pikk jalg (Long Leg) Street and Lühike jalg (Short Leg) Street and stop to take in amazing iconic views of the city from the Patkuli viewing platform overlooking the sea, the harbour and the Church of Oleviste (St Olaf). Neither will you be seasoned experts on the capital of Estonia unless you take a stroll through the modern Rotermanni district, or if you fail to laugh on hearing the names of two of the best known towers on the city wall – “Look in the Kitchen” and “Fat Margaret”.

The inhabitants of Tallinn enjoy going to the beach and one of the most crowded in summer is Pirita (Brigid). With its fine white sand, locals have no qualms about bathing in the wild, frigid waters of the Baltic, where freshwater fish like the pike can also be caught. This coastal district has a marina where athletes who took part in the 1980 Moscow Olympic sailing events were housed.

The Museums of Tallinn

Tallinn boasts a plethora of green areas and museums. Kadriorg Park is home to the palace of the same name, commissioned by the wife of Czar Peter I of Russia. The palace houses the Art Museum of Estonia which exhibits works by Italian, Dutch, German and Russian artists, among others, ranging from the 16th to the 19th century. Nearby is the Kumu Art Museum, one of Tallinn’s most modern and unique buildings, structured in limestone and copper, which hosts all kinds of exhibitions throughout the year, both permanent and temporary.

Other cultural venues well worth seeing, particularly for families travelling with children, include the Rocca al Mare Museum, located in a large wooded park with thatched roof farm cottages dating from the 18th to the 20th century, a timber church and a school. Another highlight is the Estonian Maritime Museum, which features such emblematic nautical exhibits as the Suur Tõll icebreaker – the largest surviving icebreaker in Europe – the Kalev mine-layer and the submarine Lembit.

Make a point of visiting the capital of Estonia – book your Vueling to Tallinn here.

Text by Tus Destinos

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Seven destinations for travelling alone

You can travel with friends, as a couple, with the family... yes, we know that it's nice to share experiences, but those of us who love travelling recommend that everyone should travel alone at least once in a lifetime! Why? You can get around without having to wait for anyone, make your own decisions and choices, get away from it all... In short, you will be your sole companion. Which are the best places for this? Here is a list of destinations for travelling alone.

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Helsinki la ruta del diseño

The moment you set foot in the airport you are surrounded by design. Suffice to look at the street furniture, a clear example of Finnish design. Their design philosophy is so consistent they have even created a design district. Confident of the value of their brand, in 2005 they created the Design District, founded by a group of entrepreneurs, which includes the Design Forum Finland, an organisation that has endeavoured to promote Finnish design for over 120 years. The area currently functions like a “mini-city” in the centre. It is made up of over 20 streets and some 200 establishments run by young entrepreneurs and local merchants who conceive of commerce as promoting Finnish design with great impetus and creativity.

They are all identified by a sign on the door. The Design District features quaint establishments, florists, restaurants, fashion stores, design and publicity agencies, photographic studios, art galleries, and such interior design spaces as the famous Artek, and even the Design Museum.

Beyond the DD circuit itself, one can’t fail to notice other significant Finnish design and architectural works. Here are some of the landmarks you shouldn’t miss:

The Kamppi Chapel (Chapel of Silence), in Narinkkatori Square, is a must-see. It is a refuge from the city bustle which was inaugurated in 2012, the year Helsinki was designated World Design Capital. It is built entirely of timber to resemble an igloo. No religious symbol features in its interior, and its maxim is peace and silence.

The older Church of Temppeliaukio, popularly known as the Church of the Rock, is visually stunning, resembling a UFO embedded in a rock, the only design of its kind in the world. Prominent between the roof and the rock is a thick glazed front that lets natural light into the interior. This is one of the most widely visited buildings in the city.

Another of Helsinki’s majestic constructions is its famous train station. This veritable gem of the Art Nouveau – which the Finns oddly call “National Finnish Romanticism” – was designed by the Finnish architect, Eliel Saarinen. Presided over by four huge sculptures, the exterior stands out as grandiose, while the interior is also admirable.

The Kallio District is acclaimed as one of the most hip districts on the planet. Indeed, it bears all the traits of this sub-culture, with its a-thousand-and-one Indie music nightspots, organic food, vinyls, brunch, food trucks, vintage, design, etc. One worth highlighting is Made in Kallio, a radical design store which doubles as a café and a studio belonging to a design collective. This space hosts events, including exhibitions and flea markets. Here, you’ll be anything but bored.

Helsinki’s design hub, where it all started, is undoubtedly the Arabia Centre, where you can find such brands as Iittala, Fiskars and Arabia, which account for a 90% presence in Finnish homes. Here, too, is one of the most prestigious design universities in Europe, the Alvar Aalto University of Art and Design. It can be reached by tram and is worth devoting a morning to. You can visit the factories and purchase the odd Finnish design article.

If you’re an unconditional fan of art nouveau, this is your ideal city, as Helsinki boasts one of the most prolific repertoires of this style in the world. Download the most emblematic routes, here.

In closing, to approach contemporary design, you should not pass up the chance to see the Kaisa House university library, a majestic building which breathes design throughout. It is Finland’s largest library and its architecture has been awarded several prizes.

I would take Vueling and turn up there right now. Helsinki is one of the most wonderful cities I have ever visited, with endless opportunities for outings and sightseeing. What’s more, it is near St Petersburg, opposite Tallinn and just a short jaunt away from Stockholm.


Text by Tensi Sánchez of actitudesmgz.com

Photos by Fernando Sanz

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