Rotermann Kvartal, Tallinn

Tallinn is a good place for a shop-a-holic. There are three big malls scattered around the small city (although Rocca Al Mare I wouldn’t recommend, very narrow selection of stores) and truck-loads of small boutiques from the tourist knick-knacks to the global high-end fashion brands. Viru Keskus is probably the most known of them all because it is situated right next to the Old Town, right in the center of the city next to the most famous and prominent building in Tallinn, the very ugly Viru Hotel, which also hosts the KGB museum (some rooms still have the old spy equipment left in them). But between the harbour and Viru Keskus there is an old and a very peculiar industrial area, Rotermanni Kvartal, which is also worth checking out.

Rotermann offers something for everyone; if you are a foodie, like shopping, are interested in architecture or history, go check this area out! It is the most interesting mix of old industrial buildings and modern buildings consisting largely of glass, and that come in all shapes and sizes. The weird and sometimes unfitting additions to the brick buildings are called parasite buildings; strange shapes and materials added in the middle, on top or attached to the old structures to utilize any of the leftover space in a small area. The square in the middle of all these brick and stone buildings is scattered with clothing stores and beautiful terraces that are walled with flowers. A very clever way to tone down the hard industrial look of the area.

The area got its name from the industrialist Christian Barthold Rotermann who founded a salt storage in the area in the wake of the 1900s. In Rotermann Kvartal there was also a flour mill, distillery and a pasta factory. The Art Nouveau red-brick building that replaced the Rotermanns’ wooden house as living quarters was built in 1910-11 and the architecture of the building is ascribed to a famous Finnish architect, Eliel Saarinen. Probably his most famous work (at least for us Finns) is the Helsinki Central Railway Station.

Rotermann Kvartal, as it is today, is quite a new area. Not long ago it was just a heap of old stone buildings that were falling apart in front of your eyes. Most of the area is now cleaned up but there is still a lot of work going on. New buildings made and old ones being stabilized and modernized. 

Today Rotermanni Kvartal is the perfect place to escape the thick tourist crowds for a lunch or a drink because the area is really quiet and calm, the big buildings blocking all the noise from the busy streets around them. The entrances to the square are also a little “unclear”, there are no street signs pointing you to the Rotermann Kvartal, so you just have to take a turn to one of the small streets between the harbour and Viru Keskus and you might find yourself in this little oasis. It's like Captain Jack Sparrow said in the Pirates of the Caribbean “It can only be found by those who already know where it is”.


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