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Olde Hansa: A Tallinn Tourist Trap

UPDATE MAY 2017: I have been contacted repeatedly by the new management of Olde Hansa, asking that I take down this post. I have chosen not to, since it is simply a personal experience and a review – one of just many that exist all over the internet. Still, I am adding the following disclaimer.

This post was written about an experience that we had at the Olde Hansa in 2014. It may or may not reflect the current policies of the restaurant or the experience you will have there. As always, you should go and judge for yourself. Something we will also do if we ever make it back to Tallinn.

It’s hard to miss Tallinn’s Olde Hansa restaurant. It’s a huge white building, smack dab in the middle of the city’s historic centre. If you’re blind as a bat and happen to miss it, various people dressed in medieval costumes will chase you down and offer you a free drink (non-alcoholic) from the cart situated outside the restaurant, to entice you inside.

The impossible to miss, Ye Olde Hansa

The impossible to miss, Ye Olde Hansa

If you see this cart, RUN AWAY, no matter how many free drink tokens they give you

If you see this cart, RUN AWAY, no matter how many free drink tokens they offer you

We didn’t need to be lured in, since we’d already planned on having a meal there. I’d read glowing reviews on That Backpacker, and was all set to give it a shot.

It was a big mistake.

I’m not sure what’s happened since Audrey visited, but the service was terrible, the food was either too salty or tasteless, expensive, and the whole medieval experience thing? Ok I’ll give the decor of Ye Olde Hansa a thumbs up, but everything else was worse than a roadside diner. The service was negligent, slow and terrible…and forget about any medieval character or ambianceย from the servers…unless of course, they’re angling for an extra tip, which they so obviously do, right from the beginning of the meal, to the very end.

Actually, I take it back. I’ve easily had much kinder, efficient service from the servers at Denny’s.

But never mind the too salty or too bland food, the over-the top prices, or the fact that they charge you 2 euros for a glass of tap water. Forget that they tried to give us the worst table in the restaurant, and attempted to prevent me from looking in the other room to see what else was available (it was empty by the way, and I hesitate to call it discrimination, but that’s sure what it felt like). It was only when they saw us (and our money) possibly leaving, that they seated us at a “better” table, after which we waited 15 minutes for the server to acknowledge us in the 50% empty restaurant.

No, the real problem for me, was that Olde Hansa really just didn’t seem to care about it’s customers (unless they were part of a tour group). Maybe they did at one time – after all, they didn’t get all those positive assessments by accident – but they sure don’t anymore. Maybe they’ve been coasting for so long on Tripadvisor reviews from the past, that they don’t feel the need to bother with a worthwhile experience for visitors anymore. Or perhaps, there’s so much business coming in from tour groups (of which there were many), that the individual customer walking through the door is not worth their effort.

Who really knows? And it really doesn’t matter.

What does matter, is that you don’t waste your money there. Take it to one of the many restaurants nearby, that while still touristy, do not take you, and your business for granted.

If not, Olde Hansa, could be the one dark spot in an otherwise worthwhile and enjoyable tourist destination.

It was for us.

Have you ever been terribly disappointed by a “tourist trap” on your travels? Make us feel better and share your horrifying tale below. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sadly, many of the “well known” restaurants are way worse than you expect. I’m trying to visit non-touristic spots as often as possible. At most times, this is way better than going to restaurants like the “Olde Hansa”. After that review, I’m sure that I’ll never visit that restaurant in Tallinn. Thanks for the hint!

    August 31, 2014
    • Yes, it’s often that way, and we too, usually follow a policy of trying more “local” spots, than touristy ones. Even in Seoul, there are chain restaurants, that if you make the mistake of going to one in a touristy location (i.e. Myeongdong), the quality of the very same food is much worse. Sometimes I don’t mind going to touristy places if I think it will be an interesting or valid experience…which was the case here, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      September 1, 2014
      • After reading your biography, I’ll definetly ask you for the best spots in Seoul when I’m finally having the chance to visit South Korea (I’m speaking some Korean but it may be really bad :D). I hope you know some “non-touristic” and very good restaurants in “your” town? ๐Ÿ™‚

        September 1, 2014
        • Wait! You speak some Korean?! But howwww??? ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually Korea has a very honest culture where even the touristy restaurants are still very good, and not overpriced. They focus more on providing a good experience and good food here, I think. Of course, there’s the odd person who tries to take advantage of people, but mostly I think you’ll be surprised by how much Koreans go out of the way to make sue you’re having a good time. (But yes, definitely I can suggest some places – it can be pretty overwhelming here!!! Let us know when you come!)

          September 2, 2014
          • Well, I’ve learned some words in a language course at university (I’m able to say hello, introduce myself and stuff like that). I’ve been working with guys from Korea (OnGameNet, KeSPA, …) some years ago ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Well, that sounds very good! I’m planing to fly over next year, so I’ll definetly keep that in mind! Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

            September 2, 2014
  2. I remember once in Venice I ended up in a horrible restaurant with freezer food, and the waiter only cared about serving us when we got up to leave (because he didn’t know we’d already paid). I sympathize!

    September 1, 2014
    • Ugh. Getting freezer food in Italy of all places is really a crime!! I think Venice might be one of worst places for overpriced tourist traps. All over Italy, they offer you free panna for your gelato, but not in Venice. My husband, having grown up in Rome, was completely shocked and argued with them about it, but to no avail…

      September 1, 2014
  3. I loved reading your honest post!! I am so sorry about your experience ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It happens to everyone I guess… I guess it was a pretty bad experience, for such a famous place I am very disappointed and for sure I am not going there, thank you for sharing this!! I also had bad experiences and the last one was in Ljbljana…before going there I made a research of nice cafes to visit, and Cacao was pretty famous, everyone seemed to love in on tripadvisor…though for me it was very disappointing, I ordered smoothies and they came hot (I mean very warm, not slightly cold as they normally should be) and the chocolate cake everyone talked about, I can bake something better… on top of that it was on a warm day and also it was a bit too expensive for what we had! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ disappoing!

    September 1, 2014
    • Ugh. That smoothie sounds really horrible. A hot smoothie?? ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Sometimes I think the most famous places still get good reviews on Tripadvisor because people think they “should’ve” enjoyed it more (after all didn’t other people and why is it so famous). It’s like a weird mind game we play with ourselves. Also, we’re more willing to accept things in other countries or when we’re traveling than in our own cities. I know I am… like I don’t want to ruin my trip with a negative attitude or I chalk it up to “oh, things are just done differently here,” but bad service and bad food, is simply that, no matter where you are… especially when you pay so much money, service and food should be top notch as far as I’m concerned!

      September 2, 2014
      • I completely agree with you!! Bad food and bad service is the same everywhere in the world…and sometimes we just have to admit it wasnt good, even though we are trying to see the positive things while traveling. Its also sad when we have expectations and then we get disappointed during our trip…but it happens ๐Ÿ˜ฆ anyways, I find it great you shared this here, we have to tell people whats also bad, not only the good things! ๐Ÿ™‚

        September 2, 2014
  4. Yikes! This whole experience sounds awful! I mean, Medieval Times loses its allure after you turn 12… so I can’t imagine that this place came across as anything but kitschy.

    September 5, 2014
    • It was pretty kitschy, but I figured if I was gonna do medieval anywhere, it should be in the “Medieval Pearl” of Europe. This place supposedly follows real recipes from medieval times, and I honestly think they do, because everything was so tasteless. Unfortunately, I think the service was also from the Middle Ages. Haha!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      September 5, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. L’Olde Hansa รจ una trappola per turisti? | lituopadania
  2. The Travel Disappointments of 2014 | Travel-Stained

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