Tallinn at sunrise

Top Things to Do in Tallinn

Welcome to Tallinn, the charming capital of Estonia! Located on the Baltic Sea, this vibrant city is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty. In this article, we will take you on a virtual tour of the top things to do in Tallinn, from exploring the enchanting Old Town to discovering hidden gems and local favourites.

*This post contains affiliate links, which are included to provide easy access to products or services we genuinely recommend. We may make a small commission if you make a purchase or booking through one of these links. This comes at no extra cost to you, but helps to sustain our site and create more valuable content.*

Exploring Tallinn’s Old Town

No visit to Tallinn is complete without immersing yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of its Old Town. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Town is divided into two main areas: Toompea Hill and the Lower Town. Toompea Hill, crowned by the majestic Toompea Castle, offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city; visit the impressive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with its stunning onion domes, marvel at the Gothic beauty of St. Olaf’s Church, and stroll along the iconic Viru Gate, the gateway to the Old Town.

In the Lower Town, the cobblestone streets and winding alleys are great to explore either at your own pace or as part of a guided tour. Discover hidden courtyards, beautiful churches, and impressive medieval buildings, each with its own unique story to tell.

A great way to explore the Old Town is by guided tour. Tours are usually with locals, who are licensed, knowledgeable guides. Tour options on Get Your Guide include mediaeval walking tours, car tours and even a VR tour where you can see what Tallinn looked like before and during the Second World War. If you’re on a budget, check out Free Tour.

Must-visit Landmarks in Tallinn

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn

Tallinn is a city steeped in history, and it boasts a plethora of must-visit landmarks. Start your journey at the iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a masterpiece of Russian Orthodox architecture named after the Prince of Novgorod. Admire the intricate details, the golden domes, and immerse yourself in the spiritual ambiance while learning the history of the cathedral and its namesake.

Next, make your way to the Tallinn Town Hall, a symbol of the city’s rich history and a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Explore its fascinating interiors, including its beautiful arches, intricate tapestries and paintings, and learn about the city’s governance throughout the centuries in its museum.

Another landmark not to be missed is St. Olaf’s Church, a towering masterpiece of medieval architecture. Climb its narrow staircase to enjoy breathtaking views of Tallinn from the church’s observation deck. And of course, no visit to Tallinn would be complete without passing through the iconic Viru Gate, a symbol of the city’s medieval fortifications.

In addition to Viru Gate, Tallinn is also home to other notable defensive towers, such as the Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret Tower. These towers were constructed to protect the city from potential sea invaders and to make a lasting impression on visitors arriving by sea. The Great Coastal Gate is one of the few remaining intact gates from the old city wall system, showcasing its historical and strategic importance.

On the other hand, Fat Margaret Tower, built during the 16th century, now houses the Estonian Maritime Museum. This museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Estonia’s maritime history through its extensive collection of ships and maritime objects.

Enjoying the Outdoors in Tallinn

Tallinn is not just a city of history and culture; it also offers a wealth of outdoor experiences. One such place is the Estonian Open-Air Museum, located in a picturesque forest. Step back in time as you explore traditional Estonian farmhouses, windmills, and other historic buildings. It’s a perfect place to learn about Estonia’s rural heritage and immerse yourself in nature.

Another outdoor gem in Tallinn is Kadriorg Park (and Palace). This beautiful park, named after Catherine I of Russia, offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. Take a stroll through the manicured gardens, visit the elegant Kadriorg Palace, and enjoy the tranquillity of this urban oasis.

This one is more of an indoor-outdoor activity, but is definitely an underrated gem. Iglupark igloo saunas, located a stone’s throw from Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour, thoroughly deserves recognition as one of the top things to do in Tallinn. Estonian sauna culture dates back centuries, and Iglupark’s modern facilities are excellent. Take a refreshing dip in the Gulf of Finland from the private terrace, then relax in one of the steaming igloos.

Tallinn’s Cultural Attractions

Maiden's Tower, Kiek in de Kök Museum and Bastion Tunnels museum fortifications in Tallinn in late afternoon
Maiden’s Tower, Kiek in de Kök Museum and Bastion Tunnels

Museums

Tallinn is not only rich in history but also in museums and cultural attractions. One such gem is Lennusadam, also known as the Seaplane Harbour. It offers a fascinating glimpse into Estonia’s maritime past, with its impressive collection of historic ships and interactive exhibits.

The Estonian History Museum, located in the Great Guild Hall, is conveniently located in Tallinn’s mediaeval Centre, and a great stop if you only have a day or so in the city. The gothic style building served as a guild for merchants for hundreds of years, and today details Tallinn’s cultural heritage over several floors.

Two of the most intriguing museums in Tallinn are the KGB Prison Cells and the Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom. Both museums educate visitors on arguably the most difficult period for many Estonians, offering a sobering experience. The KGB Prison Cells allow you to step back in time and experience the chilling atmosphere of the Soviet era, with narrow corridors and dimly lit cells. The Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom meanwhile takes visitors on a modern and informative journey.

If you’re interested in Tallinn’s military history, a visit to Kiek in de Kök Museum and Bastion Tunnels is a must. Explore the underground tunnels and learn about the city’s fortifications and defence systems throughout the centuries. The museum also offers a fascinating insight into Tallinn’s past as a strategic stronghold.

The Maarjamäe History Centre is also a treasure trove of knowledge. Located on Tallinn’s outskirts, this museum complex offers a comprehensive overview of Estonian history, from ancient to modern times. From interactive exhibits and informative displays to archaeological finds and historical artifacts, the Maarjamäe History Centre provides visitors with a unique opportunity to learn about Estonia’s cultural heritage and its place in the world.

Galleries

Tallinn has plenty to offer for art enthusiasts. The Art Museum of Estonia has five branches; Kumu, Kadriorg, Mikkel, Niguliste and the Adamson-Eric Museum. Kumu Art Museum holds the title of the largest art museum and exhibition space in Estonia, showcasing Estonian art from the early eighteenth century up to 1991. It also hosts international exhibitions, with collections spanning from classical to contemporary

The Kadriorg Art Museum and the Mikkel Museum are both housed in Kadriorg Palace; with its elegant design, the palace provides the perfect backdrop for the stunning pieces on display. The Kadriorg Art Museum is strictly dedicated to European and Russian art, while the Mikkel Museum features the private collection of Johannes Mikkel, as well as occasional temporary exhibitions.

Niguliste Museum, housed in a former church in the Old Town, has the biggest and most valuable collection of ecclesiastical art in the country. The Adamson-Eric Museum, also in the Old Town, is dedicated to the works of Adamson-Eric, the famous Estonian artist.

Tallin is also home to both the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia and the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design. Additionally, Multimedia Art Space Digitiva is a must-visit for those interested in digital art. The immersive installations and mesmerising projections are a great contrast to the mediaeval Old Town, and offer brilliant photo opportunities to help you remember your trip.

Viewing experiences

For a unique perspective of Tallinn, head to the Tallinn TV Tower. Take the elevator to the observation deck and enjoy panoramic views of the city from a height of 314 meters. It’s a perfect spot for capturing breathtaking photos and getting a bird’s eye view of the city.

For another opportunity to capture the postcard-perfect view of Tallinn’s Old Town, head to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform. From here, you can admire the red rooftops, towering spires, and the Baltic Sea in the distance. It’s a truly magical spot that will take your breath away, but go early- it’s a popular photo spot and can get pretty busy.

The Skywheel is also a great way to see Tallinn’s skyline and the Gulf of Finland. It’s located on the roof of the T1 Mall of Tallinn, which is also home to an indoor amusement park and a butterfly garden. Furthermore, the Skywheel is open until eight in the evening, so depending on the season you’ll be able to catch the sunset. The wheel is heated during winter and air-conditioned during summer, and gondolas fit up to six people with rides lasting for fifteen minutes.

Unique Experiences in Tallinn

Tower of Toompea Castle building pictured behind a garden in Tallinn
Toompea Castle

In addition to its historical and natural attractions, Tallinn offers unique experiences that are sure to leave a lasting impression. One such place is the Telliskivi Creative City, a vibrant hub of creativity and innovation. Explore the trendy shops, art galleries, and enjoy the lively atmosphere of this former industrial complex turned creative hotspot. During winter, the space is also home to an outdoor ice rink; rent a pair of skates and spend an hour on the ice, then indulge in a hot drink and a sweet treat at one of the cosy cafes.

For a taste of Tallinn’s political history, visit the Toompea Castle, which houses the Estonian Parliament. Explore its historic halls, learn about Estonia’s journey to independence, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the city from the castle’s terrace.

The Estonian National Opera is another cultural landmark that provides a unique experience. The Opera House features two wings; one a theatre, and the other a concert hall. Performances such as operas, classical concerts and ballets are available year round, and you can also join a tour of the building before the curtain goes up. Tours provide information on the history of the Opera House, including its destruction during and renovation following WWII, as well as how in 1919 the first ever Estonian Parliament convened in the concert hall.

Hidden Gems and Local Favourites in Tallinn

While the main attractions in Tallinn are undoubtedly captivating, there are also hidden gems and local favourites waiting to be discovered.

Kalamaja District

This bohemian neighbourhood is known for its colourful wooden houses, hipster cafes, and street art. Venture beyond the Old Town and take a leisurely walk along the picturesque streets, visit the Telliskivi Creative City, and soak up the creative vibe of this up-and-coming area.

Estonian Maritime Museum

Housed in the historic Fat Margaret tower, this museum offers a fascinating insight into Estonia’s seafaring past. Explore the interactive exhibits, learn about shipwrecks and maritime archaeology, and even step aboard a historic icebreaker ship.

Patarei Prison

For a spine-chilling experience, visit the Patarei Prison. This former Soviet-era prison has been left untouched since its closure in 2004, offering a haunting glimpse into Estonia’s dark past. Take a guided tour, hear stories of the prisoners who were once held here, and reflect on the importance of freedom and human rights.

Balti Jaam Market

This bustling market is a treasure trove of fresh produce, local delicacies, and unique souvenirs. Immerse yourself in the local culture by sampling traditional Estonian dishes, browsing the stalls for handmade crafts, and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere of this lively market.

Estonian Food Tours

Food tours are a great way to explore the flavours of Estonian cuisine. Join a local guide and visit hidden eateries, taste traditional dishes like black bread and sprat sandwiches, and learn about the history and traditions behind each delicacy. It’s a delicious way to experience Tallinn like a local- and don’t forget to try the local favourite, kama, a healthy and delicious Estonian dessert made from roasted grains.

Nõmme District

This leafy suburb is known for its charming wooden houses, picturesque parks, and tranquil ambiance. Escape the tourist crowds for a peaceful walk through the Nõmme Central Park, visit the Nõmme Market, and enjoy a coffee in one of the cosy cafes that dot the area.

Family-friendly activities in Tallinn

There are many things to do in Tallinn with kids. Attractions from the outdoors section, including the Open-Air Museum, Kadriorg Park and Palace and Iglupark are all child-friendly. Kadriorg Park is especially good for kids, as it’s home to Kadriorg Carousel, an outdoor amusement park. The park has a number of games and rides, including a carousel (obviously) and a ferris wheel.

During winter, the outdoor ice rink in Telliskivi Creative City, as well as the Old Town ice rink next to St. Nicholas Church, are both great options. Year round, Škoda Ice Hall and Jeti Ice Arena offer indoor skating.

A particularly good option for younger children (although older children will also enjoy it) is Super Skypark. The indoor play centre has a climbing court, slides, ball pits and a toddler area. The centre also claims to have the largest trampoline area in Europe, with trampoline basketball and dodgeball, as well as a bumper car arena and an ice cream parlour.

Super Skypark is conveniently located in the T1 Mall, which is the same building as the Skywheel. Also in the building is the Skylab, an interactive science centre. Activities include mirror drawing, screaming contests, and various building projects. The Skylab is both wheelchair and pram accessible, and family tickets are available for purchase.

Further family friendly activities include PROTO Invention Factory, a virtual reality centre in the former Noblessner submarine factory with exhibits and experiences focused on the Jules Verne invention era. The factory is located close to the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour, which also has child-friendly interactive exhibits. You could also visit Tallinn Zoo, the only zoo in Estonia.

Day Trips from Tallinn

Viru Bog
Viru Bog

Tallinn’s position at the heart of Harju County makes it an excellent base from which to explore. Harju is home to numerous waterfalls, including the famous Jägala Waterfall to the east of the city. To the west are Keila waterfall and Treppoja Cascade, both worth seeing- especially in summer, when you can take a refreshing dip in the water.

Another popular day trip is Lahemaa National Park, which is also home to Viru Bog. One of six national parks in Estonia, Lahemaa is great for hiking (and swimming, weather permitting) with miles of forests, bays and waterfalls. You can also try bogshoeing- hiking in the bogs and swamps- which is an activity pretty unique to the Baltics.

Another popular day trip from Tallinn is Rummu Quarry. Once a limestone quarry, it’s now a popular swimming, snorkelling and diving spot. Its turquoise water and partially submerged buildings and trees, as well as a nearby former prison, make for surreal views and unforgettable memories.

Lastly, if you feel like venturing beyond Estonia’s borders- and waters- you can reach the Finnish capital of Helsinki in less than three hours by ferry. Round trip tickets cost less than £40 and Helsinki is a great day trip destination- it has multiple museums, many year-round and seasonal attractions, and multiple family-friendly activities.

For more information on Helsinki, check out our articles Discover Helsinki: Your Essential Travel Companion for Visiting Finland’s Vibrant Capital and From History to Culture: Top Helsinki Attractions.

Tours and Tickets

If you’re actively planning a trip to Tallinn and want to organise tours and book tickets in advance, the following links will be helpful. They include some of the top tours available on Get Your Guide, a leading platform for booking excursions and activities. Also included are links to Tiqets; this site is good for planning specific attractions in advance, as well as for last-minute activity decisions!

Make sure when you book that you double-check dates and times of activities, as well as attraction opening times. Also check if tour/activity providers can meet any accessibility requirements, and whether activities have any restrictions.

Tours

Tickets

General Tips and Safety in Tallinn

Before you embark on your Tallinn adventure, here are a few general tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Tallinn is a relatively safe city, but it’s always wise to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas or at night. It’s recommended to use reputable taxi services or public transportation to get around the city.

English is widely spoken in Tallinn, so communication shouldn’t be a problem. However, learning a few basic Estonian phrases will be greatly appreciated by the locals.

If you require emergency assistance in Tallinn, dial 112 to contact emergency services.

Conclusion

Tallinn truly is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. From its enchanting Old Town to its impressive landmarks, museums, and unique experiences, this city has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking new adventures, Tallinn will leave you wondering why you didn’t visit sooner- and when you’re coming back!

CTA: Ready to explore the hidden gems of Tallinn? Book your trip now and embark on an unforgettable journey!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top