Wooden houses & Bohemian charm
Architecture and history buffs or anyone who wants to get the feel for the grittier edge of Tallinn’s art scene should pay a visit to Kalamaja, one of the so-called wooden architecture areas and home of the biggest sea centre the Seaplane Harbour.
This quiet neighbourhood has long been known for its colourful hodgepodge of old fashioned, working class houses. Throughout most of Tallinn’s history Kalamaja served as the town’s main fishing harbour. In fact, “Kalamaja” literally means "fish house" in Estonian, and starting from the 14th century the area was traditionally dominated by fishermen, fishmongers and boat wrights. Everything changed in 1870, however, when Tallinn was connected to St. Petersburg by railroad. Suddenly enormous factories started to sprout up in this part of town, and they brought with them an influx of thousands of new workers.
The wooden houses built to accommodate these workers became Kalamaja's architectural legacy and are now what gives neighbourhood its unforgettable charm. The most architecturally unique of these are called “Tallinn Houses”. Built in the 1920s and 30s, these two to three-storey apartment houses are made of two symmetrical wooden wings separated by a stone central staircase. There are about 500 of these in the city today.
Recently it has also taken on a Bohemian atmosphere, becoming the residence of choice for young, creative types.
Visitors will also notice that some of the Kalamaja’s old industrial infrastructure is still intact and operating. The Estonia Piano Factory (Kungla 41) for example, is renowned for producing some of the world’s best grand pianos. Many factory buildings, however, have now been converted for other uses, like providing space for the city’s cutting edge art scene.