TALLINN -- If you have half a day to spare, it's well worth zipping across the Gulf of Finland for a stroll around this 13th-century capital, which has been enjoying a post-Soviet renaissance.
Take a high-speed catamaran or hydrofoil from Helsinki's ferry terminal a short walk from Market Square ($43 each way). In roughly 90 minutes you will be in the middle of a medieval fantasy land of twisting cobblestone streets and towers.
Virtually all of what you would want to see in Tallinn is in the walled Old Town. Enter under the archway next to Fat Margaret Tower and stroll up Pikk to Raekoja Plats , the sprawling square where merchants sold their goods and public executions were staged.
The 15th-century Town Hall, with its gargoyles and dragons, is the centerpiece and a natural backdrop for musical performances. All around the square are canopied restaurants with outdoor tables serving hearty Estonian specialties. The Revalia Grill House , for example, offers elk, wild boar, and salmon.
From Raekoja Plats, it's a steep but rewarding hike up Pikk Jalg to the upper town called Toompea , with its 800-year-old castle and imposing Tall Herman tower from where residents defiantly replaced the hammer-and-sickle flag with the blue-black -and-white Estonian banner when the Soviet Union was teetering in 1989 . Estonia regained full independence in 1991, but Russian resentment over the flag-raising lingers .