-The Very Best Things to Do in Tallinn, Estonia-
If you’re looking for the very best things to do in Tallinn, you’re in the right place! Tallinn is a superb mix of old and new, where medieval meets trendy. Tallinn reminded me (Joel) of several other European cities. It is a hybrid of cities and has the essence of other towns and cities from across the continent. Tallinn shares some architectural details with Tirana, the Albanian capital, and other European cities, such as Munich, with an ever-slightly Bavarian feel. Tallinn has something to offer everyone and should be on your list of places to visit!
Things to Do in Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, which lies in the Baltic Sea region of eastern Europe. It’s the country’s beating heart with its fantastic art scene and unique medieval centre and is packed to the brim with history, culture and things to see and do. Tallinn is relatively small for a capital city and is the perfect size to explore over a weekend, meaning most things to do in Tallinn are in the city centre or within walking distance. Without further ado, here’s our list of the best things to do in Tallinn, Estonia.
Old Town District
1 | Walk Through Viru Gate
First up on our things to do in Tallinn is to walk through Viru Gate. Viru Gate is synonymous with many medieval towns. Viru Gate was built in the 14th century as a former barbican – the outer defence of a walled city – but now marks the entrance to Tallinn’s Old Town. Lining the route to Viru Gate are a series of florists, so if flowers are your thing, Viru Gate is the place to buy them!
2 | Wander Old Town
Once you step through Viru Gate, you’re in the beating heart of Tallinn, known as Old Town (Tallinna vanalinn, in Estonian). Old Town is the oldest part of Tallinn and has wholly preserved its medieval origins, boasting Gothic spires, endless cobbled streets and charming architecture. Because of this, Tallinn Old Town is now the best preserved medieval city in Northern Europe, and thanks to its 13th-century city plan (which is still intact), Old Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Step inside Old Town, and you’ll realise it lives up to its reputation.
3 | Take a Free Walking Tour
Something we always aim to do in a new city is a walking tour. We usually Google’ free walking tour’ to see what’s on offer. If you’ve never done one before, understand they are free because you don’t formally pay for the tour but give tips at the end based on what you think it was worth. We’ve done them all over the place, including in Athens, and they are always fun, energetic and filled with great information about the city you might not otherwise find out about. You can find free walking tours on Google or head on our recommended walk at traveller.ee to uncover Tallinn’s local life and history. Details below!
4 | Explore With the Tallinn Card
Tallinn has an abundance of museums and attractions to get stuck into, from the KGB museum to the maritime museum, which we’ll discuss later on our list of things to do in Tallinn. If museums are your thing, consider buying the Tallinn Card. It gives you access to over 50 museums and attractions around the city, including a few things on this list, and makes visiting all these wonderful places a little lighter on your wallet.
5 | Wander Down Katariina käik
Katariina käik, also known as St. Catherine’s Passage, is one of Tallinn Old Town’s most famous and picturesque lanes. The lane itself doesn’t offer much other than an opportunity for a picture. Still, a lovely restaurant named Restoran Controvento lines Katariina käik, where you can take a few minutes out of your day to enjoy the lane’s ambience over coffee.
6 | Get Your Hangover Cure at Europe’s Oldest Pharmacy
So, I’d heard that Tallinn is popular for stag and hen parties, and I can confirm this is true. I saw no fewer than half a dozen hen parties in one evening. And with a heavy night out often comes a heavy hangover. With said hangover may come a headache and if you’re in search of some painkillers, look no further than Raeapteek, Town Hall Pharmacy.
The significance? Town Hall Pharmacy is the oldest pharmacy in Europe that has continuously been in business in the same building. Although the exact opening date is unknown, the pharmacy has been operating since at least 1422! Inside, you’ll find a museum with artefacts of a bygone era of medicine, full of weird and wonderful things once used for medicine.
7 | Have Coffee at Master’s Courtyard
Master’s Courtyard (Meistrite Hoov in Estonian) is one of the cutest courtyards in Tallinn. And if you didn’t know it was there, you’d walk right on past and be none the wiser. Master’s Courtyard is home to a cute cafe, and arts and crafts workshops, and worth popping in for coffee or a wander. While you’re there, look at the picture on the wall on the left-hand side as you walk in – it shows how Master’s Courtyard used to look.
📍 Master’s Courtyard, Vene 6, 10123, Tallinn
8 | Visit Tallinn Town Hall
Built in 1322, Tallinn Town Hall is the oldest surviving town hall in Northern Europe and the only one preserved in the Gothic style. Once inside, you can explore four floors of history and even climb the 115 steps up the tower to the belfry. Access to Tallinn Town Hall is available with the Tallinn Card but only during selected dates. Check out the Tallinn Town Hall website for up-to-date information.
💶 €5, free with Tallinn Card
9 | Enjoy a Drink in the Town Square
A town square is the undisputed hub of many European towns and cities, and it’s no different in Tallinn Old Town. Tallinn Town Hall Square is the centrepiece of the city and a magnet for tourists. Why? Because it’s vibrant, it offers a place to sit, relax, grab a drink and a bite to eat and watch the world go round in one of the most beautiful settings in Tallinn.
Be aware that restaurants around Town Square can be a bit pricey. It may be worth avoiding here if you’re on a budget. However, if you’re not, it’s a great place to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the ambience of Old Town.
10 | Visit Freedom Square
Freedom Square is a representation of national symbolism and civic pride within Tallinn. During Estonia’s first period of independence, Freedom Square was a location for parades and fanfare. Once the country fell back into Soviet rule, the square fell into neglect. Freedom Square has returned to its former glory and features cafes, art galleries and places to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Freedom Square is a stark contrast to Tallinn Old Town – it’s a vast, open space with a different feel to the cobbled streets of Old Town and is also home to St. John’s Church – an unmissable, dominating bright-yellow church that sits on the edge of the square.
Toompea Hill District
11 | Visit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built in 1900 when Estonia was part of the tsarist Russian empire and is the most lavish Orthodox church in Tallinn. It is Estonia’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral and resembles the Kremlin with its onion-domed structures. You can wander inside, where you’ll find a little gift shop. Be aware – the inside isn’t as remarkable as the outside, so don’t be disappointed!
12 | Visit the Domed Church
Not far from Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on Toompea Hill sits St Mary’s Cathedral, which was constructed sometime before 1233. Access is through a small, unassuming door which takes you into a church dressed unlike any other I’ve ever seen. There are tons of coats of armour on the walls and some strange wooden structures towards the alter, which offer an alternative, interesting church interior you wouldn’t usually see. Inside, you can also climb the 69-metre climb the 69-metre Baroque bell tower for some decent views over Tallinn.
13 | Admire the Views From the Viewing Platforms
If you venture outside Tallinn, you will notice Estonia is a flat country. The highest point in the country is just over 300 metres. That’s pretty small compared to the mountains back in the UK, like Ben Nevis. Anyway, the point I am making is that it’s hard to get good views, so head up to Toompea Hill for some of the best views of Tallinn. Patkuli viewing platform offers views north, towards the sea, and Kohtuotsa viewing platform offers views into Tallinn Old Town.
14 | Visit Kiek in de Kök
Built in 1470, Kiek in de Kök was the mightiest artillery tower in the Baltics. Today, Kiek in de Kök serves as a museum for Tallinn’s fortifications. It’s split into three parts – the Kiek in de Kök artillery tower, Maiden’s Tower, the underground passages, and the Carved Stone Museum.
If you’re not interested in going inside Kiek in de Kök, visit the grounds on either side of the wall. There is a beautiful garden named Komandandi Garden on the western side of the big round tower. On the opposite side of the main wall, you’ll find the Danish King’s Garden, which was the birthday of the Danish flag. Access to Kiek in de Kök is available with the Tallinn Card.
15 | Explore Balti Jaama Turg Market
It’s time to step outside Tallinn Old Town and into the hip Telliskivi District, also known as the Cultural Kilometer. The first stop on our journey outside Old Town is Balti Jaama Turg Market. If vintage is your thing, Balti Jaama Turg Market is the place to go! It’s full of vintage clothes shops and antique centres where you can get lost for hours in the treasure trove of items on offer. You’ll also find food stalls selling groceries and hot food, and if organic is your thing, head to Biomarket – it sells only organic food, cosmetics and natural cleaning products.
16 | Get Hipster at Creative City
Before I visited Tallinn, I’d read a little bit about Creative City. I wasn’t particularly sold but decided to take a punt and visit the place, and I’m glad I did. Creative City is a vibrant part of Tallinn that’s home to some hipster stuff, like bars and restaurants and the fine-art photography centre, Fotografiska. If you’re looking for a trendy place to visit for a drink, consider heading to Nudist Winery. A creative location wouldn’t be complete without the next thing on our list of things to do in Tallinn – street art.
17 | Wonder at Tallinn’s Art Scene
Street art is a growing part of Tallinn and Estonia’s identity and is a world away from the communist era of Estonia. It’s colourful, creative and a feast for your eyes. A formal street art programme was created in Tallinn in 2016, which launched Estonia from medieval to modern on the global street art map. Street art always makes for interesting travel pictures and is one of my favourite things to photograph while travelling.
Tallinn Port District
18 | Visit Port Noblessner
Port Noblessner is a former submarine shipyard and one of the fastest developing areas of Tallinn. It’s a trendy little spot with a mix of interesting architecture, open spaces and cafes. There’s also the former foundry which is now home to Proto Invention Factory – a place where you can immerse yourself in a world of virtual reality.
19 | Visit Lennusadam Maritime Museum
Lennusadam Maritime Museum is one of the most popular museums in Estonia and sits in the notable Seaplane Hangar – an impressive structure with its dominating hangar doors. For history and maritime buffs, Lennusadam Maritime Museum is the place for you. It’s a place for Estonian maritime culture’s collection, preservation and presentation, a little like the Maritiman in Gothenburg. You can get eyes on the 1930s submarine, EML Lembit, which was the pride of the Estonian Navy and one of only two submarines in Estonia’s naval history. Access to Lennusadam Maritime Museum is available with the Tallinn Card.
20 | Climb the Crumbling Tallinna Linnahall
Last up on our list of things to do in Tallinn is to visit Tallinna Linnahall. Built in the Soviet era for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, Tallinna Linnahall is a 5,000-seat concrete amphitheatre that is now just a crumbling relic of the communist era in Estonia. Located just a few hundred metres from Old Town, Tallinna Linnahall is a stark contrast to the beauty of endless cobbled streets in Tallinn and reminded me of my time in Tirana, Albania with similar crumbling buildings such as the Pyramid of Tirana.
Is Tallinn worth visiting?
Absolutely, yes! Tallinn is a fantastic city that is worth visiting. It’s full of history and culture and has plenty of things to see and do to keep you occupied. Tallinn is relatively small for a capital city, so you can explore the whole city in a weekend without missing too much.
Are two days in Tallinn enough?
Two days in Tallinn is a suitable length of time to visit. You’ll be able to explore the old cobbled streets and see the top attractions on your list of things to do in Tallinn. But be under no illusion – despite its size, Tallinn packs a punch with its exhaustive amount of things to do. So, allow an extra day to explore Tallinn if you want to scratch beneath the surface of what this wonderful city has to offer.
Is one day in Tallinn enough?
No. Ha. One day in Tallinn is not enough. Despite the size of the city (it’s relatively small for a European capital city!) Tallinn offers a wealth of things to do. Allow for at least two days to explore the city. If you like to scratch beneath the surface (like us!), you’ll need two nights / three days.
Things to Do in Tallinn Map
Things to Do in Tallinn, Estonia
- Walk Through Viru Gate
- Wander Old Town
- Take a Free Walking Tour
- Explore With the Tallinn Card
- Wander Down Katariina käik
- Get Your Hangover Cure at Europe’s Oldest Pharmacy
- Have Coffee at Master’s Courtyard
- Visit Tallinn Town Hall
- Enjoy a Drink in the Town Square
- Visit Freedom Square
- Visit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- Visit the Domed Church
- Admire the Views From the Viewing Platforms
- Visit Kiek in de Kök
- Explore Balti Jaama Turg Market
- Get Hipster at Creative City
- Wonder at Tallinn’s Art Scene
- Visit Port Noblessner
- Visit Lennusadam Maritime Museum
- Climb the Crumbling Tallinna Linnahall
-Things to Do in Tallinn-
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