Photo: Martin Dremljuga
Photo: Kadi-Liis Koppel

    Noblessner – the new life of an old shipyard

    13.05.2020 Terhi Pääskylä-Malmström
    The former submarine shipyard Noblessner is the fastest developing, and thus the most interesting, area in Tallinn today. 
    Situated next to the trendy Kalamaja district and the renowned Seaplane Harbour, Noblessner is filled with sounds of drilling and hammering. The old factory halls are waking up to a new life, and the newly built apartment blocks already house more than 200 homes. The first stores and offices are operating on the area’s car-free streets – and more are being opened as we speak. 

    From submarines to the new millennium

    The history of Noblessner dates back to the early 20th century. That’s when Tallinn – or Reval, as it was called back then – was about to become home to Peter the Great’s war harbour. The original plans were never fulfilled, yet a huge submarine shipyard was built in the area now known as Noblessner. The yard was named after the two businessmen running it, Emanuel Nobel and Arthur Lessner. (Yes, the former was related to the Nobel prize founder Alfred Nobel: Emanuel was his nephew.)

    Noblessner soon became famous for its submarines built for the needs of the Russian Empire. As Estonia gained independence in 1918, the shipyard started manufacturing smaller vessels instead of submarines. During the Soviet era, ‘Factory nr 7’ repaired ships damaged in World War II, as well as submarines, fishing boats and metal structures used in ports.

    After the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991, the shipyard continued its work for another ten years. Even after that, boats never disappeared from Noblessner; the last vessels were built in 2018. Additionally, Noblessner’s Marina and Noblessner Yacht Club Sailing School NYCS have operated in the area since 2009. 

    Today’s Noblessner has risen to its glory during the past few years. It is far from finished, though, so the building and renovation works will continue until the end of the 2020s.

    What to do in Noblessner?

    Noblessner wins your heart with its distinctive and colourful architecture, boldly combining old and new. Style and design can be found in many of the area’s shops as well.

    Shishi is an Estonian-Norwegian interior decoration brand with an impressive store full of products, each piece more imaginative than the other. Whether you need a vase, a fake plant, a candle holder or something unique to catch the eye, this is where you’ll find it. Collections change twice a year, and before Christmas, Shishi becomes a true wonderland of holiday decorations. Shishi is also known for its outlet, located in the same building. 

    Home furnishing store Kalhoj focuses on Scandinavian-style tableware and accessories, northern delicacies and beverages and quality children’s clothing. In case you’re more into diamonds and other fine jewellery, you’ll find them nearby at the jewellery shop Baltic Brilliant.  

    Style and beauty can also be found at the beauty salon Biomarketi Ilu- ja Tervisetuba. The ‘beauty and health room’ of the health store Biomarket lets you enjoy facials, manicures and pedicures carried out with ecological Dr. Hauschka products. Make-up and make-up lessons are also available.

    You won’t be left hungry in Noblessner either. 180° is an elegant fine dining restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Matthias Diether. The restaurant guide White Guide Nordic has quite appropriately ranked it one of the top three restaurants in Estonia. 

    Põhjala Tap Room is a beer lover’s heaven. Named among the world’s top 100 breweries, Põhjala’s restaurant delights its visitors with a whopping selection of 24 tap beers. The food menu consists of Texan BBQ dishes and all kinds of snacks to go with beer. The work of the brewers can be followed through the restaurant’s big windows, and if you book your visit in advance, you can tour the brewery with a guide. Beer and other souvenirs, such as T-shirts and caps with Põhjala’s logo, can be bought at the brewery’s store.

    Arts and culture are also present at Noblessner. You can enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the Staapli Art Gallery and Café. For immaterial souvenirs, head for the night club Hall, the place to be for those in favour of underground electronic music.

    More art will be offered at Kai Art Center. An old factory houses a top quality exhibition space, auditorium, restaurants and facilities for several Estonian art organisations.  

    PROTO Invention Factory is an entertaining yet educational centre for the whole family, using virtual reality as a gateway to showcase the great inventions of the past and the things not yet seen. How was the ride with the world’s first automobile? What would it be like to have a stroll in the centre of the earth? PROTO is the place to find out.

    In Noblessner, new shops and services are sprouting up non-stop. This is an area where you’ll find something new and exciting with every visit!

    How to get to Noblessner?

    The easiest way to get to Noblessner is by bus number 73. Hop in at the city centre, ride along Kalaranna Street and hop off at the stop called ‘Noblessneri’. Go down the stairs and you’re there.  

    Bus number 3 drives Noblessner-bound from the city centre, as well. Hop off at the stop called ‘Volta’ and you’ll find yourself at Tööstuse Street on the south side of the Noblessner area. 

    You can also take a seaside stroll from the Seaplane Harbour to Noblessner. On the way, you’ll be able to admire the museum’s outside exhibits such as the icebreaker Suur Tõll.