Tallinn is one of those European cities that ooze with traditional charm. Cru Hotel personifies this, and makes for a perfect stay in the heart of the old city.
I have been fortunate to visit a lot of great cities over the years and I honestly consider myself very lucky. Just in the last six months I have spent time in Paris, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, and Philadelphia. Recently however, I discovered what for me is one of the coolest European cities I have been to in quite a while – and it is probably not one you would have guessed.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and, tucked away in Eastern Europe, a lot of people wouldn’t think of it as a great destination. If you ever visit however, you will see that there are plenty of fascintating aspects of this lesser-known northern European city.
It has an old world village feel to it – despite being a sizeable city with plenty of amenities. Its center is 1000 years old, and is built around the Toompea Hill where ancient buildings are encircled by medieval walls. Beneath this the old town continues, and Russian style church domes dot the skyline. The whole area has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site, and a short walk around its cobbled streets is enough to see why.
When we visited it was winter, and the whole scene was covered in a white blanket of snow. It was a beautiful sight, which made the place feel even more magical. What’s more, it also made the brightly painted old buildings look quaint, cozy, and inviting. We wanted to be right in the heart of it – in one of those buildings if possible - so we narrowed our search down, and quickly found just the place.
Cru Hotel is a boutique style property located in one of the oldest houses in the city. It is just minutes away from the old town square, and only a few more to the Toompea Hill (an amazing viewing point). All the other sights are nearby including St Alexander Nevsky cathedral, and the parliament building. Outside the door, the quaint streets were busy with activity as locals and tourists alike relaxed in cafes and restaurants.
This part of the old town is pedestrianized, but it is only a short walk down from where the taxi can drop you off. As we approached we noticed the pretty blue façade, and the outside seating which juts out into the street and sits on rustic wooden decking. Beside the front door, a tunnel leads through to an alley and the entrance to the hotel restaurant. It is extremely atmospheric and wouldn’t look out of place in a television show like Game of Thrones.
There are a few hotels in Tallinn which give you the chance to stay in one of the historic buildings, but what sets Cru apart is its boutique style. It is a small hotel and has only fifteen rooms. Each of these is different but all are united by the tasteful decoration.
Much of the historic structure of the building is protected by UNESCO, and so the interior designer has had to work around it. This is no bad thing, as stone walls, wooden beams, and sloping ceilings can be found throughout, just adding to the charm. One of the dominant tones is gold, and tapestries can be found in many of the rooms. It all really fits in with the fantasy town outside, and it felt charming and authentic. This is not to say that some attractive modern touches haven’t been added however, and some of the rooms are surprisingly light and spacious. It all comes together well, and makes for a interesting place to be.
Our room was no different. It was long and thin with wooden beams running down its whole length. The floors were also made of wood but the walls were white, and all together it gave the medieval effect while at the same time feeling light and open – a pretty tough thing to pull off! The bed was made of wrought iron and was set back in a little wall niche. Above the headboard faux candles added were a nice extra touch. If historic charm is not your style, you might find yourself disappointed, but this is an integral part of the hotel’s theme so you shouldn’t expect anything else.
Our room overlooked the main street outside, but as there is no traffic this doesn’t mean that noise is a problem. In fact it was a blessing. We would leave our curtains open at night and wake up to the sight of snow falling on the surrounding roofs. During the day, we watched the people stroll past on their way to and from the square.
Most of the first floor is taken up by the restaurant, and it is said to be one of the best in the city. It is run by Dmitri Haljukov, who represented Estonia at the Bocuse d’Or (think of it like the Olympics of cooking). This makes him one of the country’s best chefs and so of course we were excited to see what he had to offer. He did not disappoint, and we were completely mesmerized by the dishes we ate, as well as by the excellent service. We had a great dinner there and you could really tell that Haljukov uses only the freshest local ingredients.
During the summer, the outside seating would make a lovely place to soak up the atmosphere while you enjoy your meal, but visiting when we did we opted for inside. It is a beautiful space, with high wooden ceilings and whitewashed walls, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out. One of the highlights of the evening was the Estonian vodka which our waitress brought for us to try. It was very smooth and helped warm our bellies nicely after a cold day.
There is plenty to see and do nearby thanks to Cru’s excellent location. A walk up Toompea to see the views is a must, as is the Kadriorg palace with its surrounding gardens. At the right time of year, there are several beaches just outside Tallinn, which are easy to reach – if you are feeling really brave you can even take a dip in the Baltic.
The city also has a much bigger party scene than you would expect from a place of this size. If you like going out, you won’t have to go far to find somewhere to entertain you. Our top recommendation however, is to just wander around the old town and admire the beautiful architecture.
With its traditional charm, this hotel feels like an extension of the city itself. Its location could not be better, and the service is both genuine and kind. Even without the historic building, this would be a well run and designed hotel, and to be completely honest I can’t really imagine staying anywhere else in Tallinn.
For more information about this hotel, please follow the link below: