Tallinn, as a whole, is a beautiful blend of contrasts.
Medieval architectures and modern art. UNESCO World Heritage Sites and speakeasy bars. Balti Jaama Turg traditional market and Telliskivi Creative Center. What makes Tallinn an excellent adventure is that these juxtapositions exquisitely coexist side by side, all are woven into the fabric of Estonia’s capital city without a second guess. Here’s a list of the best things to do in Tallinn, so you can begin to understand its historical past that crosses millennia.
Viru tänav, 10140 Tallinn, Estonia
Viru Gate is part of the ancient defense walls during the 14th century. A total of eight gates were built a few centuries later. When the entrance of the Old Town extended, some gates were taken down so the Viru Gate could connect the Old Market and Kadriorg Palace. Today, it is one of the busiest points in Tallinn where numerous events and festivals take place. A line of flower shops leading up to the Gate also showcases many restaurants, cafés and more landmarks.
St Catherine’s passage
St. Catherine’s Passage was previously referred to as Monk’s Alley since it used to cross the Dominican monastery. Believed to have been built more than 700 years ago, this charming Medieval passage is home to several local shops that sell handicrafts and souvenirs today. The south side of the alley is where 15h-17th century constructions can be admired.
Tallinn Old Town
Tallinn Old Town is action-packed with travelers, locals, medieval buildings, live music, restaurants, bars, cafés…and more. As the oldest part of Tallinn, Old Town is symbolic of a city plan from the 13th century. During WWII, Tallinn experienced aerial bombing by the Soviet air force when the city was under German occupation from 1941-1944. The most damage was done on March 9th, 1944 when over 1,000 bombs destroyed 10% of Old Town’s buildings then created fires that killed locals and left 20,000+ people homeless.
Raekoja plats / Tallinn Town Hall
Raekoja plats is the Town Hall Square situated in the middle of Tallinn Old Town. Just as mentioned above, there are numerous restaurants, bars and cafés that encircle the square. Markets, exhibitions are also held occasionally. Try to find the Town Hall Pharmacy (Raeapteek) where one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe is remains open to the public. A Christmas Tree has been celebrated here since 1441, marking the Tallinn Christmas tree display more than 580 years old.
Estonian History Museum – Great Guild Hall
Pikk 17, 10123 Tallinn, Estonia
Today’s Estonian History Museum is housed inside the Great Guild Hall which is more than 600 years old with an ancient theater and wine cellar. Since the 14th century, the Great Guild was for artisans and merchants to host events within the walls of classic medieval Estonian architecture. It was also Russian Count Anatoli Orlov-Davydov’s summer residence for holidays. At the present-day museum, there’s a permanent exhibition called, “My Free Country” which explains 100 years of the Republic Estonia.
Balti Jaama Turg
Kopli 1, 10412 Tallinn, Estonia
Balti Jaam Market is one of the best places to shop in Tallinn as it includes 300 vendors over three floors that cover both the interior and exterior spaces. At the entrance, there are several supermarkets, a gym, large halls for fish, meat, vegetables and dining. There’s a wide variety of organic and natural products being sold while the upper floors are various shops featuring Estonian handicrafts, goods, textiles, even vintage shops.
Telliskivi Creative City
Telliskivi 60a, 10412 Tallinn, Estonia
Telliskivi Creative City is a newly artistic center near the Balti Jaama Turg market, and at the former Baltic Railway factory. The entire area covers over 10 buildings and celebrates Tallin’s art world displayed through art galleries, theaters, restaurants as well as more than 30 shops. In addition, Fotografiska Tallinn is a photo art center which highlights the works by local artists. The museum’s restaurant is renowned for its sustainability implementation awarded with a green Michelin star as it’s led by top chef Peeter Pihel.
St Olaf’s church
Lai 50, 10133 Tallinn, Estonia
St. Olaf’s Church was built during the 12th century and was the epicenter of Tallinn’s Scandinavian community before Denmark occupied Tallinn in 1219. The name came from King Olaf II of Norway, at one point, this was the tallest building in the world from 1549 to 1625. During Soviet’s occupation of Tallinn, the KGB used this church as a radio tower and point of surveillance.
Eesti Meremuuseum / Estonian Maritime Museum
Vesilennuki 1, 10415 Tallinn, Estonia
One of the most popular museums in Tallinn is the Estonian Maritime Museum which illustrates Estonia’s vibrant history of navigation and ships. Situated at Seaplane Harbor, the museum contains 200 items that range from the Lembit submarine to the Suur Tõll ice breaker and Short 184 seaplane. Visitors can also study the remains of the oldest ship discovered in Estonia.
Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design
Lai 17, 10133 Tallinn, Estonia
Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design is made for art fanatics and takes place in a former granary built in 1683-1695. The museum displays works of Estonian textiles, ceramics, jewelries and artworks from the 20th century to now. There are different levels that feature over 18,000 museum items from Estonian collections of applied art, design and photography.
Nunnatorn ja linnamüüri platvorm (Tallinna linnamüür)
Väike-Kloostri 1, 10133 Tallinn, Estonia
This is the remaining first wall wrapping Tallinn, called the “Margaret Wall” named after Margaret Sambiria – the Queen of Denmark – who commissioned the construction of the wall. It is less than 16 feet (5 meters) tall. This part of the wall is the reason why Tallinn Old Town became a World Heritage Site. During the 14th century, citizens were required to complete guard duty by wearing armor in case invaders attacked the city.
In Tallinn Old Town, you’ll stroll down Voorimehe Street which means “Coachman.” In 1813, it was named Kleine-Rittergasse which means “Small Knight Street” since it was the place where horsemen stood near Town Hall Square. Today, it’s one of the oldest and most charming alleys in the city where vinyl shops, chocolaterie, cafés reside.
Eesti Kunstimuuseum (KUMU Kunstimuuseum)
Valge 1, 10127 Tallinn, Estonia
One of the largest museums in Tallinn is Kumu Art Museum, which is also one of the biggest art museums in Northern Europe. Kumu stands for kunsti muuseum meaning “museum of art.” The main exhibition features Estonian art from the 18th century, works from the occupation period from 1940-1991, Socialist realism and Nonconformist art. Notable artists highlighted in the museum are: Carl Timoleon von Neff, Oscar Hoffmann, Ants Laikmaa, Julia Hagen-Schwarz, Oskar Kallis, Konrad Mägi, Jaan Koort, Henn Roode, and Johannes Greenberg.