We’d heard rumours that the Estonian capital Tallinn was fairly vegan-friendly – and we were not disappointed.
We spent five days in April exploring this beautifully preserved medieval city through snow showers, rain and an unseasonably hot two days – our expectations of where and what to eat were wonderfully exceeded and very reasonably priced. During our short stay, as well as eating our own body weights in delicious, wholesome vegan food, we squeezed in a walk through the stunning Japanese gardens in Kadriorg Park, before making our way to the sandy beaches and jagged, frozen sea.
A visit to the old Olympic yachting centre at Pirata (used for the sailing events at the 1980 Games) is also a worthwhile destination, either by walking up the coastal path or jumping on the bus, you will be rewarded with a wonderful plant-based cafe at the end of the 3km stroll – details below. Tallinn Teletorn (the TV tower) is a 20-minute bus ride out of town, and from the top you can see the best views of the city and coastline – if you have the stomach for it there are glass floors over a 170m drop! The restaurant had no vegan options though, so take a snack.
The Alexander Nevsky cathedral is also not to be missed – especially the hypnotic arrhythmic Sunday bell-ringing that sent our daughter into a strange shamanic trance! The KGB museum (guided tours only) is based on the ‘secret’ top floor of Hotel Viru, from where the secret police spied on guests, and offers a really informative, fascinating hour and a sobering glimpse into life before Estonia’s independence.
Our apartment, a spacious and very comfortable open-plan one-bed mezzanine was situated just on Town Hall Square, and I would happily recommend staying there. It was booked with a view to doing some cooking ourselves, but the amount of vegan and vegan-friendly cafes and restaurants meant our little kitchen hardly got a look-in. Below are our favourite finds. We travelled with our seven-year-old daughter, so all of these establishments are guaranteed child-friendly too.
There are a few Rimi supermarkets in the centre where there is a good choice of non-dairy milks from big brands like Alpro and Oatly, dairy-free chocolate plus cans of chickpeas, pasta and the usual staples, as well as some pre-made, clearly labelled vegan salad boxes – e.g. quinoa, chickpea, rocket and olives. Right next to the main train station (Balti Jaam) is the Balti Jaama Turg Centre, (‘turg’ means market) which is where you should head to stock up. This is an indoor market with a wonderful and varied selection of fruit and veg, a bakery, health food store and food stalls including some vegan ones (see below), with some household goods and clothes on the top floor. There is the Bio Store with a great zero waste section – full of nuts, grains and seeds – eco cleaning, store cupboard essentials, treats, snacks and more. On the lower floor is a large Selver supermarket with a surprisingly good vegan section. You can find lots of plant-based milks and spreads here, as well as faux meats and sauces – all clearly labelled vegan. If you are self-catering, I would suggest visiting Turg Centre first to snaffle the best produce. Note that if you want to buy booze from the shops you need to so so before 10pm – it’s illegal afterwards.
Cafes and restaurants
August – We ate at this stylish, friendly Old Town cafe on our last day and it was my most enjoyed meal. If we had gone here first, I would have gone on to try many more of their dishes. They serve meat but the menus are clearly labelled and the staff are on it with a clear understanding of what is and isn’t vegan so you can sit back and relax. The special that day was a cherry and espresso smoothie, which was insanely good. It’s not often a little side drink becomes worthy of posting about and daydreaming over days later, so do try it if you visit. The food was wonderfully unfussy here, presented beautifully and flavoured perfectly – it was a wonderful meal to send us on our travels home. We had the pancakes, tofu kebabs with rice noodles and satay sauce, and pappardelle with beetroot and cumin pesto and avocado. The cafe is bright, chilled and young with a modern designer feel, good music and nice staff. Cakes are displayed on the counter and the menus have English translation. http://www.kohvikaugust.ee
Pegasus – This smart, modern restaurant sits just by the main tourist information centre and boasts a great first-floor view of the medieval St Nicholas’s Church. We sat by the huge windows and had our first meal here people-watching and getting a feel of the city. Our waiter was very charming and welcoming, but did bring us butter and bread – both made with dairy despite us ordering vegan dishes and letting him know we were eating vegan food only. For my husband who is mostly plant-based not vegan, this isn’t really an issue – but when this happens to me I become wary of everything subsequently served and can’t really relax. The starter we had was really very good, a soya meat salad with coffee and raisin jam, the main meals were nice too – baked celeriac and truffle – but not as standout as the first course, and there was just one vegan dessert but we didn’t try it. https://www.facebook.com/RestoranPegasus/
Vegan Inspiratsioon – Such a cosy place, once could almost curl up after a belly full of food and have a sneaky nap or grab one of the many books, games or mindful colouring books and see the day away under the fairy lights listening to Oasis play on the sound system. Exclusively vegan and rocking more of a bohemian vibe we came here twice, for breakfast and a early dinner. The food is good, portions are big and hearty, and you will leave twice the person you arrived. Breakfast was a chickpea flour omelette, pancakes and a trio of toasts with cheese sauce, avocado and hummus and also a really tasty “egg” salad and decent strong coffee. Our second meal was a gluten-free pizza, which was overloaded with veggies but had a little too much sauce on, an Estonian potato salad, and a huge wrap with bean cutlet, tofu, hummus and a host of salads – again a little too heavy on the sauce, which overpowered the flavours of the cutlet, but it was still very nice and could have fed all three of us! They have a great selection of cakes, including salted caramel cheesecake, raw cakes and a classic Estonian cake and which is a little like a rocky road bar – yum. Everything about this place is worthy of a visit, or two. http://veganinspiratsioon.ee/en/
Vigri – Set in the old Olympic complex (with the green roofs) I didn’t realise everything was vegan as I drooled over the cakes and buffet lunch wondering which ones I could eat. What a wonderful surprise it was to learn its 100% vegan and have so much choice. We tucked in to the self-serve buffet (at €1.60 per 100g) which included baked polenta, African peanut stew, curry, salads, lentils, wild rice and fresh bread washed down with bottles of beer and a very impressive section of cakes and pastries. It’s very good value – paying by weight always scares me, but it was not expensive at all – around €25 for us three, including beer and coffee. There is a little kids’ area with vegan books and toys to keep the little ones busy and content. The cafe looks over the harbour and boats and you can have a nice mooch along the sea afterwards chatting to the ducks. I imagine in the summer this place gets heaving, but for us on a freezing clear day it was peaceful and welcoming and we felt like we had found a real gem serving up the good food we were hoping for. https://vigrikohvik.ee/en/
Vegan Restaurant V – This is the most famous vegan restaurant in Tallinn and with good reason. You will need to book in advance (you drop in to buy cakes to take away though, which we did the next day!). This place reminded me a lot of Berlin – low lighting, interesting and eclectic mix of diners, advanced vegan food and a place where you can settle in for a good night. We had a snack platter starter to share, each items was to be savoured, the cheese cube was the best vegan cheese I’ve had in taste and texture – it was a perfectly balanced plate of food to get us in the mood for a great evening. Ruby had a ginormous chickpea cheeseburger, which she enjoyed, I had the tofu in black bread with hemp seed mash and James had the seitan tacos. No complaints, just good honest food. The desserts were off the scale and the only advice I can give is just to order them all and like us go back the next day to get any takeaway cakes you couldn’t manage the first time around! http://www.vonkrahl.ee/en/vegan-restoran-v/
Von Krahli Aed – Run by the same people as V Restaurant and just two doors down, this is Tallinn’s first fully organic establishment that also offers plenty of vegan options. It’s another welcoming space with very friendly staff and a relaxed candle-lit atmosphere. All the dishes are available with and without meat, the menu (in English) shows how this is done and its clear what can further be made vegan. We had The Carrot, The Potato and James ordered the Dark Green off the special Music Week Festival Menu – as was the dessert of fennel sorbet, scorched tarragon marshmallow and cotton candy, which James and I had to fight our daughter for. The interesting textures and flavours of all our dishes were outstanding – plus Ruby’s carrots came skewered on twigs. How can you not smile at that? http://www.vonkrahl.ee/en/von-krahli-aed/
Noodle Box – Blink and you miss this place so keep your eyes open for the tiny shop front. It’s a pleasant walk from the centre, despite our wrong turns, in a more down-at-heel area compared with the chocolate-box Old Town. Note that if you get too lost your Uber app works here otherwise it’s round in circles using maps hoping for the best! Noodle Box has a fully vegan menu so order with ease. It serves booze too. It apparently gets quite busy here so we went early to grab a seat, but if it’s rammed when you arrive they do a roaring takeout trade so you won’t go hungry. Another relaxed and informal place – there are lots of vegan magazines to flick through, good tunes playing, and a very cool young Tallinn feel to the place – or maybe that was the bottled gin cocktail successfully defrosting me. Everything we ate here was spot on: fishless fingers, Szechuan wok-fried potatoes (highly recommended), kimchi fried rice and the standout dish was the dan dan noodles. https://www.facebook.com/Noodle-Box-611510528973689/
Veg Machine – One of two all-vegan places we found in the Baliti Jaama Turg Centre. These guys serve up fast vegan comfort food – done very well. Ruby had the hot dog because waiting for dinner wasn’t an option apparently when you are stood outside a vegan stall – she has a point. It was very good – great bread, home-made dill mustard and mild pickled onions set it apart from most hot dogs on offer. When we return to Estonia I’d like to try more of their food. https://www.facebook.com/vegmachinebalta/
ToorMoor – On the street level of Turg Centre you’ll find this tiny vegan café as a welcoming example of the vegan finds in this interesting market place. It serves breakfasts, savouries, cakes and some tubs of hummus among other bites. We picked a raw chocolate cake to take out and it was rich, tasty and gone in a flash. Around the Turg centre at the back there is some great street art to look out for as well. http://www.toormoor.ee/en/
I hope you’ve enjoyed our reviews – we have a growing vegan travel section on littlevbigv.com including a vegan and dog-friendly guide to South Devon and Berlin, plus more to come, just click on the holidays tab on the right.