Nightlife: Pop-Up Passions
The nightlife of Tallinn, for foreigners and tourists, can seem to be dominated by the big beasts that are the major nightclubs, and the Old Town bars we all know and love. But that’s not necessarily right. There are an increasing number of bars and clubs in pop-up and temporary venues, or in places converted from one purpose to another. If you look hard enough, nightlife can ALWAYS be interesting. Let’s take a look at the best in Tallinn.
We’ve mentioned Speakeasy (Kopli 4), the little box-bar run by Põhjala Brewery, a few times in this article already, but it’s worth celebrating, because it’s back, at least for the summer, and possibly into the autumn depending on demand. The bar had closed except for private parties due to the profusion of construction work all around, but with Kalamaja once again an attractive place to stroll, it means Speakeasy again gets strong passing trade, and Põhjala a place for testing its newest brews.
There have been plenty of good nights in Speakeasy, and though it seems like what it is - a basic prefab nightspot - there are myriad reasons for spending part of your night there. For starters, as mentioned, you get to try out the full range from Põhjala Brewery, everything from the smooth, considered Uus Maailm to the inky Öö, which will send you into the night with a bang.
You’ll find a diverse mix of people there, from the hipsters of Kalamaja lore to day-trippers and couchsurfers looking for a new thrill. If you’re feeling peckish, no problem - just order a burger and kimchi fries through the hole in the wall, and Burger Box, next door, will oblige.
Kalamaja isn’t exactly the wild frontier it used to be, though. Now there are two major supermarkets competing for attention within 200 metres, and you even have to pay an admission fee to the Telliskivi Food Fair. What about if you want to experience the hipster side of Tallinn from before Kalamaja went gentrified? Take a walk further up the tram line, towards Kopli, once the home of feverish activity in the Soviet shipyards, and still the home of a sizeable maritime workforce. On the edge of Kopli, before you start seeing the slightly scary-looking dive bars, there’s a real oasis of calm - Kopli Restaurant, formerly Kamahouse, which lies next door to the behemoth former Standard paper factory.
On selected nights, the bar adjacent to Kopli Restaurant, Sveta Baar (Kopli 25), comes to life. There are games nights, a popular quiz night, live DJs, and the nicest bar-staff in the whole of Tallinn - ask for Gerda! Sveta Baar makes the best possible use of an unconventional space, in the L-shaped complex that houses Kopli Restaurant, through which you can walk to get to Sveta Baar. Although the two places are separate entities, they work superbly together, and you’ll feel perfectly at home as soon as you step into the reclaimed industrial building.
Telliskivi continues to throw up surprises, even though it’s seven or eight years since cafes and bars began sprouting up there, an epoch in Tallinn time. Next to the disused railway line that runs up to the active part of Balti Jaam or Baltic Station, from which those shiny orange trains run every day, there’s a little bit of history. It’s called Peatus (Telliskivi 62), or stop, and in old railway cars that were once pulled by the engines that used to go to Moscow or Leningrad, you will now find chilled people celebrating to a fluid stream of music from a great DJ. It’s the perfect way to round off a night on the town.
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TEXT STUART GARLICK, PHOTOS SVETA BAAR, ANDREI CHERTKOV Stuart Garlick is a journalist and English language teacher based in Tallinn. Since 2012, his blog, Charm Offensive, has covered food, music and fashion in Estonia.