5 great things to do in Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and also the largest city in the country. It’s a perfect holiday destination where you can find great historical buildings, beautiful modern parts of the city, rich culture and great nightlife.
I’ve put together a list of the best things you can do and the most exciting places you can visit in Estonia’s capital – Tallinn.
Seting off on a Walking tour
What better way to see this beautiful city than to set off on foot. So many sites to see in both the Old Town and New Town. The Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of it being “an exceptionally complete and well-preserved medieval northern European trading city”.
Key things to see on your “walking tour” include:
1. Toompea Castle (which includes the current Estonian parliament building).
2. St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square), including the famous Town Hall Pharmacy.
3. Tallinn Town Hall, St Olav’s Church and Tower, Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret Tower and street after street of medieval residential homes. There is no shortage of good quality maps available free at tourist points around the city. Also English speaking guided tours leave the central Tourist Information Office (on Niguliste 2) daily and are free of charge (but make sure to tip the Guide).
4. A map will ensure you see as many of the picturesque sites as possible as the City is fairly compact – make sure you take a stroll down the charming Katariina Kaik (St Catherine’s Passage) not far from the attractive Hotel Telegraaf, which is the former telephone exchange.
5. Visit Viru Gate which marks the boundary between the old and new.
Enjoying the view
The stunning architecture and medieval roofs and buildings mean it is well worth finding an opportunity to snatch a panoramic view of the City. The Sky Lobby Bar on the 24th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel offers amazing views across the City. If you take the tour of the Hotel Viru and KGB Museum, which is well worth the visit itself, you will get the opportunity to view the city – north and south from the terraces on the 23rd
floor. Hotel Viru was Tallinn’s first high rise building and when built in the 1970s most the most luxurious hotel in the former Soviet Union. Situated in the Old Town are the Kohtuosta and Patkuli Viewing Platforms – make a trip to these when the weather is good as they are great spots to take photographs. For a small charge you can also view the city from the Tallinn Town Wall. When this all becomes too much you can always retreat to the underground Bastion Passages to explore the military tunnels.
Visiting museums and galleries
It seems Tallinn has a museum for everything. Take your pick from the Estonian Maritime Museum, the Estonian History Museum, the Estonian Open Air Museum (just a short trip from the city centre) the Estonian Health Care Museum, the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum and a Museum of Marzipan to name just a few. The Museum of Occupations is worth a visit as it gives a good overview of the recent history of the city and country.
A must do is to make the trip out to Kadriorg (Estonian for Catherine’s Valley). It is walkable but if it seems too far you can take a tram from the Viru Gate or of course a taxi. A quiet and leafy part of the city it is here where the Russian tsar, Peter the Great, built a Baroque palace for his wife, Catherine I of Russia. There are other museums in the park including the major KUMU Art Museum which is a previous recipient of European Museum of the Year. Next to Kadriorg Palace is the official Presidential Palace of the President of Estonia.
Exploring new areas
Well worth leaving the Old Town via the Viru Gate to explore the dynamic Rotermann Quarter which is mid-way between the Old Town and the Port. An area of former industrial buildings that have been refurbished to be used as residential, offices, hotels, shops and restaurants. The area also includes a new cinema complex. Still under development but an attractive area with specialist shops and new architecture sitting alongside the old industrial units.
A lot of the big European clothing brands have shops in the Old Town. Lots of shops sell good quality Estonian handicrafts. There have been a number of new shopping centres developed including the Viru. Buy marzipan – some say it was invented by the Estonians – at Maiasmokk – the oldest cafe in Tallinn.
December through to early January there is a traditional Christmas market selling a range of goods including Estonian crafts. There are a couple of department stores in the commercial part of the city. Look out for an interesting shop at Tallinn Airport which sells a range of traditional Estonian goods plus some well designed and reasonably priced ranges of women’s clothes.