Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia’s capital and its largest city, has a population of over 453,000. Tallinn’s Old Town, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the best-preserved medieval town centres in the world and is divided into two areas – the lower town and the upper town (also called Toompea) which were once separated by gates, almost like two different cities. In the heart of Tallinn is the hill of Toompea, covered in cobbled streets and filled with medieval houses and alleyways while the lower town spreads out from the foot of the hill, still protected by the remnants of a city wall. Around the city wall is a collection of well-maintained green parks, with many paths for strolling.

Is Tallinn Worth Visiting?

The answer is a resounding YES!  With its preserved Medieval Old Town, historic buildings, cobble-stone streets, and rich culture, we would highly recommend a visit.

When is a good time to Go to Tallinn?

Tallinn is a great place anytime of the year; the summers are beautiful with average temperatures in the low and mid 20’s Celsius, spring and fall are in the low teens, while during the winter months, the temperature is generally low single digits with November to March the temperature can hover around 0 degree Celsius.

Many will say the best time to visit is in the summer between June and early September, when the streets are bustling with people and activities. We went in early September, the weather was beautiful and there was plenty of activity in the Old Town, but not overcrowded.

Best Things to do in Tallinn

There are a tremendous number of exciting things to do, from visiting historical sites to cultural attractions. There are tours available, however we are explorers and always do so on our own; here’s a list of local attractions we enjoyed.

Tallinn Town Wall

Visit this portion of the wall connecting Nunna, Sauna and Kuldjala towers to get a sense of what guarding the town would have been like.

There is about 1.9km of its original city wall and 20 defensive towers wall still standing, Tallinn boasts one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval fortifications. In fact, a large part of what gives Old Town its charm is the walls and towers that surrounds it. During its peak in the 16th century, the wall was 2.4 km long, 14 to 16 metres high, up to three metres thick, and included 46 defensive towers.

To get a look at the wall from the inside, head to these three towers at the northwest corner of Old Town. Here you can climb up and explore the towers and wall, as well as enjoy a picturesque view of the red-tiled roofs of Old Town.

Alexander Nevky Cathedral

Perched on top of Toompea Hill, sits the spectacular Russian Orthodox church, Alexander Nevky Cathedral.  An ensemble of 11 bells, including Tallinn’s largest bell which weighs 15 tonnes, is located in the church towers and can be heard before services. The interior is richly decorated and definitely worth a visit.

Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square)

Tallinn’s Town Hall Square is very picturesque and is said to have been the undisputed hub of Old Town for the last eight centuries. It is surrounded by merchant houses and, in the summer months is packed with café tables, making it a draw for visitors.

Historically, as is the case of town squares elsewhere, it served as a market and meeting place and remains true today with Raekoja plats being the social heart of the city; a venue for open-air concerts, handicraft fairs and medieval markets. Each winter it’s home to the town’s Christmas tree – a tradition that stretches back to 1441 – and a traditional Christmas Market.

On summer nights, the square serves as a place for a number of buskers and entertainment and we were treated to Russian Folk Dancers outside Restoran Troika, a restaurant with traditional Russian cuisine.

St. Olaf’s Church

St. Olaf’s Church, which dates back to 1267, was once the tallest building in the world, however that was during the 15th and 16th centuries. Today, its 124-meter tower remains a defining element of the Tallinn skyline. If you’re not afraid of heights, we would suggest making the vigorous climb to the top (232 steps) where you will be treated to some truly magnificent views. The tower’s viewing platform is open from April to October.

View from the top of St Olav’s

Kadriorg Palace – Kadriorg Art Museum

This beautiful baroque palace surrounded by manicured gardens was built for Peter the Great in 1718. Today it is home to the Art Museum of Estonia’s foreign collection.

Surrounding the Palace are several other interesting buildings. The restored kitchen building houses the art museum called the Mikkel Museum, and the summer cottage is the Peter I House Museum. The palace governor’s house (the castellan’s house) is now home to the Kastellaanimaja Gallery and the Eduard Vilde House Museum.

For those that enjoy walking, we would recommend the surrounding gardens and park area, which has numerous paths to explore.

More to see

As mentioned earlier, we love to explore on our own, and with Tallinn’s narrow cobblestone streets, there was plenty to see. We ventured down narrow alleyways in Old Town and came across pubs and restaurants and some of the most amazing historic buildings and archways, which made for great photography.

Tallinn is considered to have some of the freshest air of all European capitals.  One reason the city has such clean air is that there are as many as 50 parks in the area, and a number of them steps away from the Old Town.

There are many more interesting things to explore and experience; the above are merely some of our highlights.

Restaurant Scene

If you’re a foodie like we are, take full advantage of Tallinn’s incredible restaurants and cafes. There are restaurants for every taste, from pub-faire to Italian, to German and Russian and for the adventurous, Boar, Bear and Elk. The medieval décor in the old town’s restaurants are truly unique, making visiting each one a fun adventure!

How many days do you need to visit Tallinn?

Tallinn is a great city especially if you’re a bit of a history buff. Architecturally, the Old Town is superb, and we enjoyed strolling through and exploring. A comfortable visit to Tallinn can be achieved in about 3-4 days assuming that you’re reasonably active, as there are many things to see and do.

Is Tallinn Safe for Tourists?

Tallinn is not any more dangerous than other European cities, and like everywhere else, you should take reasonable precautions like you would at home. Don’t flash your wallet and money, don’t go with strangers, and stay out of areas that are less than desirable.  We felt quite safe in Old Town, even while out quite late into the evening. 

Getting Around Tallinn

Central Tallinn is very compact and easy to get around; and reaching farther out destinations is simple thanks to the city’s network of buses, trolleys and trams.

Taxis

Taxis can be found lined-up at taxi stands (at the airport and in front of larger hotels and at some key intersections) and can be ordered on the phone or via various mobile apps.  Rates are not uniform – they are set by the Taxi Company or operator, and can vary widely. Each taxi’s rates are posted on a yellow sticker on the car’s right rear window. The cost usually consists of a base fare (starting fare) plus a per-kilometre fare.