Tallinn travel, Estonia

Top Things to Do in Tallinn, Estonia
Old Town

The charming old town is part of the Unesco as one of Europe’s most complete walled cities.

The Old Town is really well kept, and it is a perfect place to wander around through the cobblestoned streets looking at the beautiful architecture.

Viru Gates

The Viru Gates is one of the entrances to Tallinn’s old town where you can see part of the 14th-century extensive defence system.

I found this area too crowded and not well looked after since they have allowed the opening of a couple of fast-food chain restaurants what to be fair just kills the vibe of the place.

Around Viru Gate, there is also a small flower market.

Toompea Hill

The Kohtuotsa viewing platform, located on Toompea Hill, offers great views over the city.

On Toompea Hill, you can also find the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral a Russian Orthodox church with black domes, that can be seen from the Old Town.

Located next to Alexander Nevsky Church, is the Toompea Castle.

Town Hall Square (Raekoja Plats)

The Town Hall Square is a busy place during summertime with lots of cafes, restaurants and stalls. I recommend arriving here as early as possible to enjoy the peace and quiet.

The surrounding architecture is stunning with merchant houses.

Kalamaja District and Telliskivi Creative City

The Kalamaja District has enjoyed rejuvenation in recent years as Tallinn’s hipster neighbourhood. So to go a bit off-the-beaten-path, Telliskivi Creative City (or Telliskivi Loomelinnak) is the place to go to explore the creative side of Tallinn.

It was for me the most exciting part of the city. Telliskivi is a complex of former warehouses turned into boutiques, restaurants, live music venues, and cafés, and all are beautifully decorated with street art.

KGB Prison Cells

For some history head over to the Patarei prison for an outstanding exhibition. To explore the place that the Soviets used as a high-security facility. Where hundreds of men were locked up and executed. A glimpse of Soviet-era prison life in all its dreariness.

Although it’s far from being a light experience, you can only imagine what horrors they suffered behind bars.

At the time of the visit, the prison was holding an exhibition called ‘Communism is Prison’. I highly recommend a visit. (Ticket 5.00€ or free with Tallinn Card)

The abandoned Olympic stadium – Linnahall

Linnahall is an abandoned Olympic stadium located not far from the Old Town, constructed for the 1980 Summer Olympic Games, hosted in the Soviet Union.

Nowadays most of the structure is blocked off by safety fences. The rooftop is the only part of the building that can be visited.

I heard that there are plans to transform the structure into a conference center, including an opera and concert hall but it still abandoned.

The Kadriorg Art Museum

Kadriorg Art Museum is a museum dedicated to foreign art, located in a former imperial summer residence. If you are lucky enough you may get to listen to a classical music performance.

The admission price is €6,50 but it is lovely just to enjoy the surroundings and that’s free.

Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM)

The Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia is the place to go to see alternative and contemporary art.

The EKKM gives an unexpected insight into Tallinn and Estonia culture. At the time of my visit, there was amazing video work but the exhibitions change regularly.

The Entrance is free, and there is a cosy area outside where you can have a cup of coffee, it’s well worth the visit.

Market Balti Jaama Turg

The Baltic Station Market (Balti Jaama Turg) is a great farmers market where people can buy and sell food, and also non-food goodies.

The market is housed in a brick building next to the train station.

vegan scene

There are several vegan-friendly and 100% vegan restaurants in Tallinn. Luckily veganism seems to be on the rise in Eastern Europe and it’s becoming much easier to find good places to eat.

Tallinn Botanic Garden

I just love botanic gardens, so I couldn’t skip this one. Tallinn’s Botanic Garden has over 4,500 plant species and is perfect for a relaxing stroll away from the city.

Free Walking Tour

While in Tallinn you can join a Free Walking Tour. They are a great way to learn about Tallinn and get some local insight.

Have a day over in Helsinki

Tallinn is just across the Baltic sea from the Finnish capital of Helsinki. So a great opportunity to explore another country during your time in Estonia. Find here how to get to Helsinki by boat and what to do and what to visit while there.

Have you been to Tallinn? what was your impression of the city? 

I’m happy to help if you have any questions about Estonia or Tallinn.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

From Tallinn to Helsinki by Ferry

If you have time to spare in Tallinn why not to take the Ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland? It’s an opportunity to be in two different countries in one day.

The Tallinn-Helsinki Ferries are huge cruise comfortable ships, with various facilities. The journey takes only 2 hours and the ticket costs about €20-30 and can be booked online or at the terminal.

I recommend taking the earliest cruise to Helsinki and the latest cruise back, so you can comfortably explore Helsinki for a full day. Numerous ferries cover this distance throughout the day, so it’s easy to organize it.

Visiting Helsinki in 1 day

Although Helsinki is one of Scandinavia’s most popular destinations, one day was enough to scratch the surface of the city, especially because I didn’t really feel seduced by the city. Helsinki doesn’t have the charm of an old city neither the excitement of an extra modern one…

What to do in Helsinki

The best thing about the city is its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Helsinki is a small capital city, the centre is compact, and in one day, you can cover most of the highlights.

The city has plenty of museums and some interesting architecture but is quite pricey. Nevertheless, there are plenty of free things to do.

If you visit during the summertime Helsinki is full of free performances, from concerts to stand-up comedy shows.

If you’re looking to add more context to what you see you might consider doing a free walking tour. They give you a glimpse of the history and talk about Finn’s everyday life and culture.

Top things to do for free:

The best time to visit Helsinki is definitely during the summer season from June to September because the days are longer and the temperatures are mild.

Have you visited Helsinki? How did you like visiting the capital of Finland?

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Kiev travel guide

Kyiv, Ukraine’s Dynamic City on the Dnipro

Kiev or Kyiv, is the vibrant capital of  Ukraine. Full of colourful cathedrals, parks, funky cafes, colourful street art, exciting nightlife and delicious vegan food.

I would go as far as saying that is one of Europe’s most underrated travel gems.

I was curious to finally visit this former Soviet nation since I’ve only visited a few countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union (USSR), Estonia, Latvia,  Lithuania, Georgia and Armenia.

Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe, famed for its beautiful historical cities, unusual-flavoured vodkas, beautiful beaches in the Crimean Peninsula, wonderful churches, and soviet architecture.

I felt on my time in Kyiv that the city has a huge amount of potential and it had the surprising feel of being somewhat off the beaten track when compared with other European capitals.

Exploring Ukraine’s exciting and engaging cultural capital
UNESCO Sites

Kyiv has two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Both are Orthodox Christianity icons. Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and the Saint Sophia Cathedral.

  • St. Sophia Cathedral

I found that the interior was the most outstanding aspect of St Sophia’s Cathedral. The oldest standing church in Kiev, with its striking original frescoes and mosaics from the early 11th century.

The bell tower is also worth climbing for great views over Kiev.

  • Pechersk Lavra also known as the “Monastery of the Caves” comprises an ensemble of monastic buildings, overlooking the right bank of the Dnieper River.

Founded in the 11th century, Lavra has a number of gold-domed churches and an underground complex of labyrinthic caves that expands for more than 600 metres.

The monks dug caves and underground labyrinths, living and studying in them, and their mummified bodies still line the walls.

Walking around the caves was definitely an ‘experience’ that I will not repeat. I felt that was a place that should only be open to people that go there to pray, I was the only tourist there walking around in the dark and narrow passages while believers congregate from one relic to another, praying and kissing each icon and the numerous vaults which contain the mummified bodies of the monks in turns.

Cathedrals and more Cathedrals

When visiting Kiev you will not escape from visiting at least a few Orthodox Christian Cathedrals. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful, unique and different from what I’m used to, but after a while, I had to have a break from all the religiousness.

I honestly can’t decide which one I liked better. They were all beautiful with their golden tops glimmering with glory. So here is the list of my favourite ones:

  • St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral

Built-in the late 19th century, St Volodymyr’s Cathedral is not one of the most famous but I found the interior absolutely stunning, with art nouveau influences.

The exterior is yellow and has seven blue domes.

  • St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery

This golden-domed blue church is hard to miss out. Looking from St Sophia’s past the Bohdan Khmelnytsky statue, at the other end of proyizd Volodymyrsky. The shiny cupolas are absolutely stunning and also the murals inside.

  • St Andrew’s Church

This Golden and blue baroque church is a traditional Ukranian five-domed crossed-shaped church, that dominates the view as you walk up Andriyivsky uzviz.

Make sure you climb the steps to the platform for great views over Podil and the Dnipro River.

An Introduction to Kiev at Independence Square
  • Maydan Nezalezhnosti square (Independence Square)

Maydan is the nation’s meeting point, where people come to stroll and enjoy the nightly fountain show.

Kiev’s big social heart hosts many concerts, performances and festivals, and it is known for its vibrant and lively atmosphere.  The independence Square is filled with fountains and glass domes.

Annually you can see here on August 24, the celebration of the independence, with a military parade.

  • Stroll Along Kreshchatyk Street

Khreshchatyk Street is lined with neoclassical buildings, cafés, and upscale shops. You will probably walk this street almost every day in order to reach different sights in various parts of the city.

On weekends and holidays, the road is closed to traffic.

Highlights in Kyiv’s Old Town

Is at Kyiv’s Old Town, (also known as the Upper Town), that you can find the oldest and most important landmarks of the city, perfect for aimless walking… admiring ancient ruins and gracious baroque architecture.

Discovering the Best of Kiev
  • Podil- In the heart of Kiev

The historical area of Podil is one of the most dynamic and coolest areas in Kiev. It truly has a bohemian, revivalist feel that really resonated with me.

Podil is full of stylish cafés and restaurants, art galleries and cultural centres, street art and historical orthodox churches.

Part of the joy here is wandering around without any specific purpose.

Strolling Around Andreyevsky Uzviz

Andreyevsky Uzviz (or Andrew’s Descent) is a charming winding cobblestone street.  The area has a bohemian vibe, and is a wonderful place to stroll. The main street is filled with galleries, shops, restaurants, cafĂ©s, artists’ co-ops and studios. Stop to check out the open-air vintage markets along Andriyivskyy Descent.

The Bustling Bessarabsky Market

Is a massive indoor market filled with stands selling fresh produce, jar upon jar of pickles and preserved everything! The produce is stacked beautifully and you’ll see lots of traditional Ukrainian products.

Other cool and unique things to do in Kiev, Ukraine
  • Kiev’s ‘underground economy’

As other post-communist countries, there are several underpasses at busy intersections. Where you can find people selling all sorts of goods – these mini-market stalls truly seem to be a part of people’s everyday life.

So marvelling at all the economy that is taking place underneath Kyiv’s walkways is a must.

  • Take the metro to the deepest station in the world

The metro in Kiev is cheap, reliable and a great way to get around.

Kiev metro is one of the deepest metro systems in the world, and Arsenalna Metro is the deepest metro station in the world (346 feet underground).

  • Go on a self-guided street art tour

The scale, quality and quantity of the street art in Kyiv is impressive and not to be missed.

  • Eat amazing Vegan food

Veganism is on the rise, and Kiev is not an exception. There are lots of interesting places to be found and delicious food to be appreciated.

  • Ride the funicular 

The funicular is not a tourist attraction, is one of the many public types of transport you have in the City. Is just a short trip, but nice, especially for the views. A simple way to travel from upper to lower city.

The funicular runs down a steep hillside to the river terminal in the district of Podil

  • Catch an Opera or Ballet

While in Kiev you should admire the amazing architecture of the opera house and see an Opera or Ballet show. They are quite affordable, and Ballet is known for being popular in the Ex-Soviet states.

  • PinchukArtCentre

The international centre of the contemporary art – PinchukArtCentre, It’s the largest exhibition area in the whole of Eastern Europe.

They have excellent free rotating exhibitions, and great views of Kyiv’s roofs from the coffee shop on the top floor.

  • Holosiivskyi National Nature Park

The Holosiivskyi National Nature Park is a protected forest and nature reserve in Kyiv and a must-visit for nature lovers.

Navigating Your Way around the city

Transportation in Kiev is cheap by most European standards. The metro in Kiev is one of the most efficient in the world.

Kyiv, a city that has it all

Kiev will surprise you and leave you pining to book a return trip, I really enjoyed my time in Kyiv, and I bet you’ll love it as much as I did.

What was your experience in Kiev? Or are you planning to go?

Kiev Street Art

Kiev, an amazing hub for street art

Kyiv, Ukraine‘s capital city is getting in the spotlight as the Eastern European cultural hotspot since 2014. Kiev today has a vibrant art scene, it’s home not only to numerous exhibitions, performances and premieres but also to street art.

And you ask what as happened in 2014? Well, since then a number of large murals began appearing on the facades of old Soviet buildings.

Nowadays, the city hosts over 160 pieces of public art produced by talented painters or graffiti artists from Ukraine and other countries such as Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Australia. Not many places can compare to Kiev in terms of the scale and volume of huge murals.

What is really cool about exploring the city through its murals, is that you will go to places that otherwise you wouldn’t since the murals are often hidden in lesser-known parts of the city.

The street art scene in Kiev is creative, big, bold, unexpected, and colourful ‘decorating’ the urban landscape perfectly.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour

The Ukrainian capital aims to position itself on the world’s street-art scene, with monumental murals cover the walls of Kyiv.

The Street Art can be found all over the city, so time is definitely required. To help you with your treasure hunting expedition there are some great resources.

Kyiv Street Art Resources

Kyiv Murals is a great up-to-date App which pinpoints murals near you. The app it’s free and includes a map of all the street art in Kyiv, with information on the artists and the meaning.

Kyiv Murals is a website with the GPS locations of almost all of Kyiv’s street art.

Kiev Off the Beaten Track!

Making your own Street Art tour is a great way to go off the beaten tourist path and discover a lesser-known side of Kiev.

You will find a bit of everything from portraits, landscapes to abstract art – hidden on the walls of the city.

Kiev’s murals are, indeed, breathtaking and well worth of exploring while visiting the capital city of Ukraine. Expect Kiev to be like a big open-air Art Gallery.

So don’t miss out and explore and discover the colourful Kiev Murals.

Location Map

Which city is your favourite for street art? Let me know so I can make sure to check it out! 

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Cambridge, where to go?

You have many reasons to visit this extraordinary university town. Cambridge has a unique vibe and will amaze you with its history, architecture, and natural beauty.

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When visiting Cambridge you can’t miss the colleges and it’s gardens, the riverside, all the green meadows surrounding the city and the Backs (gardens and parks line up beside the river behind the colleges).

Walking and cycling are the best ways to visit the city.

The town is full of cyclists, students and tourists, but still has a nice vibe and it’s far from being a big chaotic city.

The Colleges are truly amazing even if you only contemplate them from the outside.

Before your arrival, you should check on the internet if the King’s College Chapel or the Trinity College are hosting a concert during your visit. This is excellent way to visit both of this emblematic places (sometimes for free).

Most of the museums are free in Cambridge, if you have time you should visit them all, if not I recommend the fabulous Fitzwilliam Museum, the Kettle’s Yard and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

If you are a fan of Sir Isaac Newton, stop at Trinity College to see the famed apple tree where it was said to be the inspiration for his theory of gravity after being bopped on the head by one of the fallen fruits. 2015-01-09 23.58.30.jpg

If the weather invites for a picnic the Botanic Gardens are a must or a punting session through the river Cam.

It is always something happening in Cambridge, so make sure you do your research and don’t miss what this city has to offer.

If you visit cambridge be prepared to fall in love with this town.

Cambridge is very accessible by bus or train from London.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha 

🍜 More about vegan food in Cambridge 🍜

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Street art in Marseille

Street art in Marseille

In the quartier of Cour Julien and the in the quartier of Le Panier walls are extravagantly painted for everyone to decipher and enjoy.

Both are wonderful areas with loads of quirky stores, cafes, restaurants, bars, and colourful street art and graffiti covering most of the facades.

Make sure you have the time to explore it!

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Marseille is a real treat for street art lovers, hope you have enjoyed this small gallery.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

 

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Marseille, the French Port

Marseille is the second largest French city on the Mediterranean and capital of Provence-Alpes-CĂŽte d’Azur region. Unfortunately doesn’t have the best reputation, due to high crime rates and immigration.

From my travels around France, ALL the people I meet said to be very careful in Marseille or even not to go there.

I can’t say that Marseille is very safe, I could have been lucky because fortunately, I didn’t have any problems at all as a solo female traveller.

Its great to explore the city on foot, but I also recommend you to buy a bus card because the city is quite big.

 

Vieux-Port (Old Port)

The Old Port is located in the heart of the city and is a very popular place. The bay is packed with boats and yacht surrounded by cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels.

It is quite busy but still picturesque, with a mish-mash of styles and influences.

 

Notre-Dame de La Garde “La Bonne Mùre”

The Notre-Dame de La Garde sits on the highest point in the city. The best part is to walk up the hill and the 360 panoramic views.

The basilica is ornamented with coloured marble, byzantine-style mosaics, and murals.

 

Chateau D’If Frioul

Is an incredible landmark because of The Count of Monte Cristo from Alexander Dumas. If the weather is good, you can go by boat to the island, from the Vieux Port (old port).

The fort is nice but to be honest not much to see, although the views are great.

La Major, Marseille Cathedral

It is a beautiful and at the same time  unusual roman catholic cathedral built in the nineteenth century in Romano-Byzantine style.

The Cathedral of Marseille stands on the western edge of the old town above the Quai de la Joliette.

 

MUCEM Museum (Museum of Civilization in Europe and the Mediterranean)

The MUCEM, is an iconic museum mostly because of the structure of the building. It’s really a magnificent place and a fantastic playground if you like photography! I strongly recommend a visit even if is just to contemplate the remarkable building.

You can access, to both the courtyard of J4 and the ramparts of the fort, for free. To visit the permanent and temporary exhibitions is 9,50€.

 

Vieille Charité

The Virile CharitĂ©, located in the heart of Marseille’s Le Panier quarter was built as an almshouse, although the beauty of the building doesn’t really give that impression with its neoclassical central chapel and elegant arcaded courtyard.

Today is home to a number of cultural institutions and museums.

 

Fort Saint-Jean

The Fort Saint-Jean, is for me one of the best places in Marseille. The fort lies at the northern mouth of Vieux Port and was recently restored.

Its perfect for scenic strolls through its gardens, and to enjoy the views of the Mediterranean coastline.

If you go to the top of the gardens near the footbridge to MuCEM, you can see Marseille’s Cathedral, and admired the amazing views of Marseille and of the Mediterranean.

 

Natural History Museum of Marseille

The museum is inside the astonishing Palais Longchamp, which is worth a visit just to contemplate the architecture and the gardens. Not really worth to visit inside.

 

 Les Docks Village

If you are into shopping Les Docks are a mid-19th century complex of shipping warehouses, that has been redeveloped and now includes shops, boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants.

The buildings are connected by creative courtyards. This alone can be good a reason to visit.

 

Street Art

The quartier of Cour Julien walls are extravagantly painted for everyone to decipher and enjoy. A wonderful area with loads of quirky stores, cafes, restaurants nice bars, and colourful street art and graffiti covering most of the facades. Make sure you have the time to explore it!

 

Farmers’ Market

A great place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.IMG_7699

David’s Statue

For some reason, Marseille also has a copy of the famous David from Michelangelo, placed in the middle of a roundabout near the Prado beaches.

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photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Have you ever been to Marseille? What other places would you include here?

 

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Carcassonne, medieval France

Carcassonne is located in the southwest of France. Is a well known fortified Medieval town part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The walled city is very old, founded by the Romans, and is the largest citadel in Europe. The walls of the city are 1.9 miles (3 km) long and have 52 massive towers.

This medieval town is a picturesque place, that attracts plenty of tourists, unfortunately, too many in my opinion.

Carcassonne was fortified by the Romans and strategically located between Toulouse and the Mediterranean sea.

I’ve visited Carcassonne 12 years ago and really loved it, this time I felt a bit disappointed. The walled city felt more like a theme park than a real town where normal life takes place.

I arrived early in the morning, and the entrance was already packed with buses and excursions.

Within the walled city all the buildings, squares, and alleyways have retained their medieval character.

La Ville Base

This time I have enjoyed more to walk around Carcassonne Town (La Ville Base) than the citadel. I found it quite charming and I really had a great time strolling through its streets.

From Toulouse, Carcassonne is an easy day trip and Bla Bla car works really well.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Albi a beautiful town in southern France

Albi is small and relatively off-the-touristy radar town on the Tarn River in southern France, conveniently located about an hour northeast from Toulouse.

Despite its size, Albi is incredibly rich in history and charm. For me is without a doubt one of my favorite small town in France.

Albi is covered in red bricks, what gives this town a charming and distinctive aspect. The best way to visit Albi is by wandering around the historic center. Through the small cobblestone streets and alleyways near the river.

Albi Cathedral

The Cathedral is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This place will take your breath-way, it’s imposingly tall and has a distinctive look for the use of brick to construct its exterior. I personally, never came across a construction of this size made of bricks.

This incredibly beautiful Gothic Cathedral is located in the middle of the lovely charming plaza filled with cafes, boulangeries, and other stores.

I found the interior as impressive as the exterior.

Maison du Vieil Alby

The Maison du Vieil Alby is a brick-half-timbered house covered in red-bricks. This house is one of the oldest-surviving buildings in Albi.

 Collégiale Saint-Salvi

A Catholic church with a small cozy cloister, perfect stop, to have a snack or to relax.

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Palais de la Berbie

The Palais de la Berbie was a former Bishop’s Palace that serves today as an art museum dedicated to the artwork of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.