Tallinn is the capital and most populous city in the Baltic country of Estonia. It’s located in the north of the country next to the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea. Compared with other capital cities, Tallinn is relatively small with a population of 437,811. Tallinn is a historic city with roots stretching back 5,000 years.
It’s well-known for its medieval architecture, with the old town being a UNESCO World Heritage site and among the most well-preserved in Europe. By contrast, Tallinn is also a hub for digital innovation and entrepreneurship with many media start-ups being located in the city, including Skype and Bolt. Tallinn also makes for an excellent interrailing destination.
This compact city has a lot to offer visitors and is especially popular in the summer months, and as a winter destination. Whether you enjoy being in nature, appreciate history and architecture, or want to enjoy the markets, in this guide we list twelve amazing things to do in this unique city.
Table of Contents
- 1. Visit The Old Town
- 2. Visit The Christmas Market
- 3. Estonian Open-Air Museum
- 4. Enjoy Some Estonian Cuisine
- 5. Kumu Art Museum
- 6. Enjoy The View At Kohtuotsa
- 7. Explore Telliskivi Loomelinnak
- 8. Play At PROTO Invention Factory
- 9. Visit St Olaf’s Church
- 10. Explore Lahemaa National Park
- 11. Relax In Kadriorg Park
- 12. Visit The Estonian History Museum
- Tallinn: A Charming & Vibrant City
1. Visit The Old Town
The Old Town is a great place to start your adventures, being right in the heart of the city. It is famed for its medieval architecture, labyrinthine, cobbled streets, excellent views, abundance of museums, cafes, and galleries. The Old Town is exceptionally well-preserved, so it feels like you’re stepping back in time into the Thirteenth Century.
2. Visit The Christmas Market
If you’re visiting between 25th November and 8th January, the Christmas market is definitely worth a visit. The market is similar to the traditional German Christmas markets. It’s located in the Old Town Hall Square and includes many stalls selling a wide range of handicrafts, souvenirs, artworks, as well as food and drink. There’s also an enormous (and real) Christmas tree, which is sure to give you festive vibes, especially if it’s snowing.
3. Estonian Open-Air Museum
The Estonian Open-Air Museum was founded in 1957 as a reconstruction of a rural fishing village from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries. It was inspired by other similar open-air museums in Scandinavia and includes a staggering twelve farmyards, a church, a tavern, a schoolhouse, and even a fire station. It is located in the Rocca al Mare subdistrict of Tallinn.
4. Enjoy Some Estonian Cuisine
Traditionally, Estonian cuisine has included lots of fish (being by the sea), pork, rye bread, and potatoes, but also includes many other influences from surrounding countries, including Russia, Germany, and Scandinavia. Some popular dishes include Kiluvõileib, which is rye bread topped with boiled eggs and sprats, the brilliantly named Mulgipuder, which is mashed potatoes, groats, and a butter and bacon sauce, and smoked fish, or, turg, which can be bought easily and cheaply in the markets.
5. Kumu Art Museum
Kumu is among the largest museums in the country and in Northern Europe. It contains exhibitions dating from the early 1700s to contemporary art in the present day, including several significant art movements that took place in Estonia, such as Socialist realism, Nonconformist art, and the Soviet occupation period. The name Kumu is a portmanteau of “kunsti muuseum,” which means “art museum” in Estonian.
6. Enjoy The View At Kohtuotsa
Kohtuotsa Vaateplatvorm, or Kohtuotsa viewing platform, is located on the north side of Toompea Hill. It’s regarded as one of the best spots in the city for soaking up the view, as the entire city, as well as the Gulf of Finland, can be seen from the platform. If you’re staying within the city limits, it’s reachable by foot, otherwise, there is public transport to the base of the hill.
7. Explore Telliskivi Loomelinnak
Telliskivi Loomelinnak is called a “creative city,” a unique kind of creative, collaborative hub within Tallinn for those in the creative industry. The space houses over 250 companies and includes creative pursuits as varied as music concerts, film festivals, makers of ice-cream, designers and bike mechanics. It’s a hot bed for start-ups and anyone interested in creative networking. For visitors, there are independent shops, exhibits, art festivals, food and drink stalls, and a wide range of events throughout the year, from film screenings to dance workshops.
8. Play At PROTO Invention Factory
PROTO Invention Factory is a one-of-a-kind space dedicated to the magical world of inventions through the use of VR technology and historic inventions, including machines invented by Jules Verne. There are twenty interactive attractions in total, which are suitable for both adults and children. It’s located in the north of the city inside the former foundry of the Noblessner submarine factory.
9. Visit St Olaf’s Church
St Olaf’s is a Twelfth-Century church that is thought to have been the centre of the Scandinavian community in the city until the Danes occupied Tallinn in the Thirteenth Century. The church takes its name from Saint Olaf of Norway, a king of Norway in the Eleventh Century. It’s well worth a visit for those interested in medieval architecture and the history of religion.
10. Explore Lahemaa National Park
The park is located by the coast to the north of Tallinn and offers visitors the chance to escape the city to unwind, hike and experience the beauty and tranquillity of the natural landscape. As well as sandy and stony beaches, visitors will find pine forests, rivers, and hiking trails. You may even spot some wildlife, including lynxes, brown bears, wild boars, and foxes.
11. Relax In Kadriorg Park
If Lahemaa is too far for you, why not relax in Kadriorg park, which is east of the city centre. It’s an enormous green space that includes a lake, promenade, and ornamental gardens. Plus, it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s known for its beauty, especially in the summer, and for surrounding Kadriorg palace.
12. Visit The Estonian History Museum
For history buffs, the Estonian History Museum, or Great Guild Hall as it’s known, is a must. The guild hall dates back to the medieval period, being over 600 years old. Aside from having numerous exhibitions about Estonia’s long and rich history, the space also hosts various cultural events, including film screenings and dance parties, and there’s even a wine cellar.
Tallinn: A Charming & Vibrant City
Tallinn is a small city, so it’s easy to get around. The city itself is a bit out of the way of mainstream travel routes but could make for a great destination when combined with other nearby cities, such as Helsinki and Riga. All in all, it’s a charming and vibrant city with lots of hidden gems.