One of Estonia’s most captivating urban areas, Tallinn is a powerful mix of the medieval and advanced, with confined, cobbled avenues set underneath the towers of fourteenth century chapels, and a unique blend of restaurants, bistros, boutiques and clubs hidden behind the concrete walls. Start your journey at the Old Town; it has a lot of preoccupations for even the most aspiring travel agenda.
There are no large museums that can be accessed here, but you will discover noteworthy historic and cultural places that light up both Tallinn’s colorful past and its dark days under the Soviet rule. On the other hand, its progressive Art industry features Estonia’s most innovative 21st century masters.
When To Go:
When making a trip to the city of Tallinn, there is a strong guaranteed that whatever time of the year you plan to go, there is not much humidity that can be felt because it is not generally hot there, even in the summer season. It is without a doubt not known for having extremely hot summers. Summer, be that as it may, is the most well-known time of year for voyagers to visit. The normal temperature amid the late spring months (May through September) is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can move into the mid-70s, yet typically not higher.
Amid the mid year, even with temperatures in the 70s amid the day, the nights could be nippy, arriving at into the 40s. Along these lines, voyagers who head out to Tallinn in the late spring ought to make a point to pack a coat, a sweater and whatever else might be available to keep warm during the evening. The winter months of January and February are the coldest months that Tallinn sees. The normal temperature amid the daytime is more often than not around 20 °F; however, it can go as low as 20 down to below zero until the evening.
Here are the best attractions to see and things to do when in the city of Tallinn.
The Old Town is a real legacy of the past. It is a mandatory item in the “menu” of Tallinn’s main attractions. Though relatively small in size the city center has lots of activities to offer and there are always good choices on where to go, where to drink beer, and where to buy an interesting souvenir of the trip. The Old Town is equipped with three viewing platforms that offer excellent views of the different parts of the city. The Old Talinn is indeed a living history as it successfully combines modern comfort with the atmosphere of the Middle Ages.
You will definitely like the walk to the “train”, the ancient streets, and the “City Bus Tour” that comes complete with an audio guide about the history of Tallinn and the famous old structures that survived more than a century of existence.
Try to visit the city during December and you will witness an amazing and very festive Christmas market located right in the historic center, just like in the movies! A big Christmas tree in the center of the square with a multicolored train ride through the streets, with a hot mulled wine and a pile of homemade gift. Tour the narrow streets and enjoy great food as you dine in restaurants with a good proximity to the sea nearby. If toured alone, one can endlessly wander through various streets on their own even if not focusing on the map or a group excursion.
Town Hall Square
The Town Hall Square is a good place for walking with lots of restaurants to suit all tastes and places that you will want to explore. It has not changed since the ancient times and you can meet locals who are dressed in authentic national costumes during the Middle Ages. You can take pictures with them and hand a small donation after a shot. It is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. The spirit of the Middle Ages surrounds you on all sides and there are a lot of cozy dining restos around the square itself.
The square is always packed with a lot of tourists even if the area is small. It is surrounded with interesting architectural monuments, many cafes and bars with a summer terrace. Even in the evening it is still a very busy place with locals and tourists converged on the middle of the lighted square. It is not hard to miss because it is not that far from the tourist information center of Talinn. There is also a second hand market located within its premises. It is very cute, picturesque, and well kept, the only downside is the presence of beggars that stand on the alley and ask for food or money.
Toompea Hill (Toompea Castle)
First, the view from the Toompea Hill offers sensational views of the entire city and secondly, there are lots of surprises around every corner and something new to see which makes it very interesting. The streets are a big hit and you feel like being transported to another time each time you turn on each corner. It is impressive how well maintained everything is and there are also several free public toilets, all very clean and smells good. From the terraces of the Toompea you can see a fantastic panorama of the Old Town. If you come during the winter season, you can have the good fortune of seeing everything cloaked in snow and without all the red roofs and leave an unforgettable memory of Toompea in winter. On a clear day, the view is great over the Vanalinn (Old Town) and you can see the big ships anchored in the harbor in the distance and the busy shores of the Baltic Sea.
The high citadel, which stands on a high hill about fifty meters away, offers a view of Tallinn City in all its glory. The Toompea Castle is a fortress built in 1229 with four corner towers (now there are only three) and the highest (45 meters) called “the long-Herman”. Within the vicinity of this tower complex you can find the Palace of the Parliament, the Government of Estonia, ministries and foreign embassies, beautiful and elegant palaces and classical mansions like; the Katedral. You can also find the Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church and the ancient medieval Toomkirk Lutheran cathedral, as well as numerous museums and academies. All of this is encompassed in a series of cobbled alleys, small squares, and the local features. The atmosphere is nice and lively, but it is a bit touristy. It is the heart of Estonia, rich in culture and old structures with striking views over the city.
Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor
The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor is a modernized large hangar where they placed boats, ancient sea planes, and also a former Soviet submarine that now belongs to the new Republic of Estonia. Inside you can see lots of naval material (buoys, mines, torpedoes, war crafts, and old boats) and some interactive games that are very entertaining especially for kids. This hangar museum traces the history of the Estonian Navy and has as its centerpiece a real submarine that you can visit to look inside and see how the sailors lived.
In short, everything about naval history is gathered inside this renovated hangar with a nice bar where you can have lunch. There are several indoor attractions for the amusement of everyone.
The museum is set up a little outside the old town of Tallinn and contains an extensive display of boats and arms that are all related to the maritime history of Estonia. You can also watch photos, films, and military uniforms, all accompanied by detailed explanations in Estonian, Russian, and English. The highlight of the collection is undoubtedly the submarine “parked” in the middle of the complex. Anyway, it is a different museum to visit if ever you’re in the city of Tallinn.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a grandiose construction in the medieval part and “rise” of the Toompea Hill. The interior is very rich and if you attend a service, the mass is filled with gospel songs and a lively atmosphere. There are masses in English on certain days posted outside the sacred temple. When you enter the threshold of this famous cathedral, you immerse yourself completely in the Russian religiosity. Inside you can see lots of icons, frescoes, candle stands, and decorations that are typical of the Russian tradition.
The prayer is done in a very composed manner while seated on the pews or some who stands on its corners and with most women who have their heads covered with a veil silently praying at the front row of the cathedral.
The Orthodox cathedral is a point of reference for all the Russians in Estonia. Despite more than a century of existence, it is still very beautiful inside and the spire tower offers many glimpses of the city, The white and red colors give it a joyous air, as well as the rich furnishings of the interior that remains well kept despite the obvious antiquity. It is a wonderful and sacred building that is worth visiting when in Talinn.
If you are tired of wandering around the cobbled streets of the Old Town, take the bus and after 15 minutes you will reach the Kadriorg Park. The palace was built in the Baroque district. It looks like a small Versailles because of its broken cozy alleys and not too crowded atmosphere. The park is located at the rear side of the palace and surrounded by decorated trees. The park is ideal for family and lovers who want to enjoy a quiet and long walk around the park. It is an excellent, well-kept park with playgrounds, a pond with swans and ducks, and lively entertainment at night. Directly in it is the House of Peter I and the Presidential Palace (which cannot be distinguished from afar).
Near the presidential palace stands a team of honor guards and the flag of Estonia. You can find two cafes, one with a full menu while the other one serves confectionery and sandwiches. Both are located within the park’s proximity and close to the beach on the bay. Around the park there are lots of charming and wooden villas built in the early twentieth century. There are some interesting and simple architectural masterpieces to make your visit worthwhile.
The Oleviste Church can be accessed by a spiral staircase that goes up to 258 steep steps equipped with a rope. The trail is quite treacherous and tiring and maybe not suitable for untrained people and those who suffer from claustrophobia. This cathedral which owes its name to King Olav II of Norway, with its height of 120 meters is an imposing building in the capital of Estonia and one of the main symbols of the city. Founded as a maritime signal, inside there is nothing exceptional to admire, but from the top of the tower you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city; if visited on a clear day you may even see a part of the coast of Finland.
The Church of St. Olav allows every guest to get oriented about the distance of the other attractions of Talinn from above. The church spire of 124 meters is said to always attract lightning strikes because of its height but it always gets rebuilt several times too until it reached its current height today. The interior of the church is of particular interest and very simple, while the exterior presented in Gothic style is truly interesting.
Kumu Art Museum
If you like modern architecture you cannot miss the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn. The architectural style is unique and worth to visit. The works contained in the museum are mostly of local authors, there are no big name art but the collections are stunning. It is an interesting museum which Estonians are very proud of; there are works that are particularly impressive and others that perfectly reproduce their past history.
It is worth visiting while walking from the “Old Town”. It provides a nice walk in the park that runs along the house of the President and its gardens. Along the avenue, there are beautiful homes that look very special. Pay attention to its opening and closing times because it closes at exactly 6:00 pm. The top floor is currently being renovated to make way for more art collections, but the open rooms are pretty and futuristic like the works on display.
The KGB Museum is dedicated for everyone who is curious about the “Soviet Era”. It is a very interesting place and the guides give a detailed story about the history of the museum/hotel. Pre-registration is required at the reception desk. Tickets can be purchased before the tour. From the rooftop, you can have a beautiful view of the sea and the old town.
There are daily two tours in English and it mainly tell the story of the hotel during the one-hour tour and what role it played for the tourism of Tallinn and also for the KGB. There are two balconies to enjoy lovely city views, if it’s not too foggy. The film at the end of the tour shows when the hotel first opened, complete with world leaders who attended its inauguration.
Tallinn TV Tower
From the central bus station, take the bus 34A with the sign “Tallinn TV Tower”, and after half an hour of walking from the entrance gate you will reach the foot of the tower. The ticket costs 7 euro, but it is money well spent. Climb up to the 21st floor and enjoy the panorama of Tallinn from 170 meters in height. Climb to the 22nd floor, enjoy a coffee and a treat and then take a spin on the outdoor revolving terrace and watch Tallinn from that height. It is simply exciting!
Patarei Tallinn Prison
At the Patarei Tallinn Prison, you enter by paying the ticket to a lady in a trailer (€ 3 no student discounts). Everything here has been left intact; chairs, cabinets, dining stools, toilet seats, typewriters, blank papers to fill out, magazines, operating room, and some mattress. If you are on vacation in Tallinn then do not miss the opportunity to visit the former prison of Patarei.
Pass through the gates and as you delve deeper in the various corridors of the prison you will have the impression of stepping into the past. Everything remains as it was, and it is really awesome! It is definitely a very strong statement about freedom. A visit is a must especially for those who are passionate about contemporary history.
Tallinn Town Wall
The Tallinn Town Wall is a wonderful artifact of the past, as it turned out it is very handy for the young generations of today. This historic wall also serves as a vending niche or where tables from the nearby restaurants are usually set -up. The city wall is encountered in many areas of the city, it is often well preserved or restored and there is a good picture on the nature of the original fortifications.
The best and most original can be found at the flower market, which most tourist groups rarely visit. Walking along the walls is like being transported into another era and giving an idea of how glorious Talinn City use to be during the medieval times.