New cafes, bars and galleries have transformed the former industrial complexes of this historical wooden house district. It is now a fast-developing area of Tallinn, attracting creatives and those young at heart.
Often considered a hipster area of Tallinn, this once closed off Soviet border zone is conveniently located between the scenic Tallinn coast and Old Town and features some real architectural gems. The area is best known for its colourful wooden houses, bohemian charm and industrial heritage.
Kalamaja has served as the city’s main fishing port from the middle ages onward. Its name even means ‘fish house’ in Estonian. Fishermen, fishmongers and boatmen have lived here since the 14th century.
Everything changed in 1870, however, when the Tallinn-St. Petersburg railway was completed. Large factories sprang up in the district, bringing with them an influx of thousands of workers. This industrial heritage, exemplified by the internationally renowned Seaplane Harbour Museum and Patarei sea fortress, has only added to Kalamaja’s intrigue.
Part of Kalamaja's old industrial infrastructure has been preserved and is still operating today. For example, world-famous pianos are still manufactured on Kungla Street at the Estonia piano factory. Many factory buildings are now also being used for new purposes, as homes to restaurants, cafes, bars and even galleries and offices. Telliskivi Creative City is an excellent place to see this phenomenon.
Those interested in architecture and history should take a guided tour of Kalamaja. The wooden houses, which give the neighbourhood a uniform appearance and reputation as a prized real estate area, have their own story to tell. You can learn the difference between ‘Lender’ and ‘Tallinn’ houses, why old-fashioned linseed oil paint protects buildings better than modern paints, and how to distinguish it on buildings.
There are activities awaiting curious minds and families with children year-round in Kalamaja, regardless of the weather: the Seaplane Harbour Museum, Energy Discovery Center, and PROTO Invention Factory are great choices.
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