Things to see in Tallinn
If you are in Tallinn for just a limited time, you need to make sure that your stay is worth your while by visiting some of the famous and historical destinations in and out of the city. Once you arrive in the city, you will understand why a weekend getaway is not adequate to explore and enjoy all the amazing places Tallinn has to offer. Apart from being the capital of Estonia, Tallinn is also the largest. It occupies an area of about 159.2 km² with estimated 434,330 population. We have compiled a list of places we suggest you include on your itinerary.
Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour
The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour features a unique wooden architecture and serves as the iconic reminder of the exciting tales of the Estonian maritime and its military history. The museum is vast and filled with all things related to Estonian maritime and military artifacts. It is filled with hundreds of unique exhibits that tells the colorful history of the country. Serving as the major centerpiece of the museum, the Lembit is a British built submarine that weighs approximately 600 tons. The submarine is built in 1936 by the British for the Estonian navy. During the World War II, it served under the Soviet command and after the war, it continued its service for seventy five years making it one of the oldest submarines that still remain in service.
The prime tourist destination in the city is the Old Town popular for its vibrant and dazzling nightlife and shopping hubs. However, the Toompea Hill serves as its crowning jewel and the site for some of the most charming and unique building and streets in Europe. Tallinn has a lot of major tourist destinations that must not be missed when visiting Estonia. But the Toompea Hill’s unique location makes it a popular hotspot for most tourists. Aside from its location, stories behind Toompea Hill spark the curiosity of tourists. Locals believe that the hill itself served as a burial mound for the celebrated King Kalev of Estonia.
Town Hall Square
Since the Middle Ages, the Town Hall Square in Tallinn served as a market place and center of business and trades for this ancient Hanseatic town. At the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, Town Hall Square became the focal point of the Lower Town. The square plays an essential part in today’s modern way of life and provides a wide range of attractions all year round. During the summer season, the square is filled with al fresco cafes. It is also the location for annual medieval festivals including the Old Town Days. Because of its location, the Town Hall Square is an ideal place for fairs and open air concerts regularly held in Tallinn.
Occupying more than seventy hectares of property, the Kadriorg Park is considered as one of the largest and majestic urban palatial park. Its construction was ordered by the Russian Tsar Peter I in 1718 and its architectural elements are a mishmash of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries design. Tourists that visit the park find the flower beds that encompass the Swan Pond as one of the most attractive spots for a wonderful stroll. There is also a promenade that leads to the stately President’s Palace. Also, there are several museums inside the park that include the Kadriorg Art Museum, the KUMU (the Estonian Art Museum) and the Mikkeli Museum.
Kumu Art Museum
The Kumu art museum in Tallinn is considered as the largest in the Baltics and one of the largest with comprehensive collections of exhibits in the Northern Europe. Although just one of the Art Museum of Estonia’s five branches that houses its main offices, it has a wide range of exhibits that showcase the rich history and culture of Estonia. Although a relatively new museum that was established in 2006, it quickly attracted the interests of locals and tourists especially those who are interested in the art and culture of Estonia. Majority of the artworks of modern artists can be found here including a wide range of Estonian art classics.
Tallinn TV Tower
The Tallinn TV Tower in Estonia was originally built in 1980 to provide better telecommunication services for that year’s Moscow Summer Olympics particularly the regatta event. This free-standing structure is the tallest building not only in Tallinn but in the whole Estonia. Its observation deck offers full panoramic view of the city. Today, the TV Tower is considered as one of the prime tourist spots aside from being a leisure and cultural center. The observation deck is not the only attraction of TV Tower because on its 22nd floor, a brasserie/restaurant awaits visitors as well as a high tech and interactive multimedia presentation that promotes Tallinn and Estonia.
Rocca Al Mare Open Air Museum
The Rocca Al Mare Open Air Museum is just fifteen minutes away from the city centre of Tallinn. It showcases the unique rural architecture, rich heritage and way of life of Estonia. Among the many attractions featured in the museum are the 12 Farms that provide a general idea on how families in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries lived based on the different strata of the society. The museum is open the whole year to cater to foreign and local tourists. Inside the museum, there are gift shops where you can buy handicraft souvenirs and you can also ride horses. You can also visit the tavern inside if you want to try a wide range of popular traditional Estonian dishes.
During the Soviet occupation, the KGB Museum in Tallinn was formerly one of the first foreign owned and operated hotels in the city of Tallinn. Urban legends have it that the inside of the hotel and every room in it was totally wired in order for KGB agents to tap into the conversations of both its local and foreign guests. When the Iron Curtain collapsed, KGB agents and undercover hotel staff destroyed all incriminating evidence and took with them all the important contrabands back to Russia. Today, the room has been opened for public viewing and like an oversized time capsule; all the rooms remain the way the KGB left it. It even features an ashtray filled with Soviet-era cigarette butts.
Long Street (Pikk tänav)
If you want understand the rich heritage of Estonia and marvel at the history of its people and way of life, you should not miss visiting Pikk tänav or Long Street. The lengthy street of Pikk tänav leads to the port of Tallinn and it features 15 century houses of local gentries and medieval German merchants. When you take a casual walk through Pikk tänav, it is as if you are transported back in time. Most of the ancient guild buildings are generally German. At present, the Great Guild has been converted to State History Museum while the Oleviste Guild and the Brotherhood of Blackheads (referring to bachelor merchants and named after their Patron Saint Maurice) are often used for concert events. The old KGB headquarters now serves as the police department.
Dominican Monastery Claustrum
The Dominican Monastery contains inner chambers that were once included three wings and together, they are called the Claustrum wherein the east wing still remains until today. The Claustrum is composed of a monks’ dormitory, internal library, refectory and the living quarters of the prior as well as other rooms integrated within it. All these areas provide a fascinating perspective about how monks live during the medieval era. When visiting the Dominican Monastery, tourists should not miss the mystical “Energy Pillar” located in the cellar. This particular part of the chamber is believed to be a source of spiritual and physical well being.
Estonian Maritime Museum
Perfectly located in the Fat Margaret tower, the Estonian Maritime Museum in the old town of Tallinn presents comprehensive maritime history of Estonian ships and navigation as well as other things related to Estonia. It cannot be denied that Estonians have great maritime history and the islands, rivers, seas and lakes have provided them with food and essential protection ever since primeval times. The museum was founded in 1935 and it only occupied about 700 meters square of space in the Fat Margaret which is an old cannon tower.
Estonian Health Care Museum
The Estonian Health Care Museum is situated in Tallinn's Old Town and was established in 1924. It has a permanent exhibition that mainly focuses on anatomy and Estonian health care apart from its wide collection of medical heritage associated to the historical past of medicine in Estonia. On top of that, the Estonian Health Care Museum also serves as a training facility that makes use of various illustrative displays to demonstrate health care subjects in a more visual and interactive manner.
Estonian Museum of Occupations
Situated at the corner of Toompea Street and Kaarli Blvd., the Estonian Museum of Occupations is devoted to the period of foreign occupations that took place in 1939 up to 1991. It presents the impact of occupation on its residents as well as Estonia in general. The interactive displays are combined with video, audio and graphic materials in order to create a concept of the changes and hardships of the country during the German and Soviet rule. By means of items obtained from ordinary people, an effort is made to show the world the people’s fates during the occupation period.
Before the construction of Viru Centre started in 2002, the Viru Square remained as one of the popular squares in the center of Tallinn. Today, the old square has been changed to a roundabout and its official street name is only thing left of the old open area. The area still remains a popular tourist attraction because it serves as a reminder of the old times when all important thoroughfares still converged to it. This may not be as vibrant as before when more people can be seen milling around the square but its historical importance cannot be denied even when modern changes persist.
Tallinn tourism is fast becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the country. And like most cities in the world that is proud of its more than eight hundred years of history, the city of Tallinn is a hodgepodge of historic zones. The Medieval Old Town remains as Tallinn’s pride and charm but there are also lots of other key tourist hot spots that boast its own history and tale of culture and heritage. Visiting these places will provide you the opportunity to look back and see Tallinn the way it was before the rule of Russian Tsars were overthrown.