Tallinn, Estonia

Up by the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe lies a sorely overlooked city that is jam-packed with history and charming scenery: Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, a photogenic walled coastal city.

Visitors to Tallinn (once known as Reval) will be pleased to hear that the city is an easy destination to get around.  The best of Tallinn is found within the city’s Old Town or immediately outside, so ultimately walking is the best way to get around when sightseeing.

The perfect place to begin your visit of Tallinn is with the medieval lower part of the UNESCO heritage-listed Old Town.  Making up most of Tallinn’s Old Town, Lower Town features quaint, meandering cobblestone streets and picture-perfect gabled houses.  Among the places you will find most interesting are:

Tallinn Town Hall Square

Town Hall Square

The main square at the core of Tallinn’s Old Town contains plenty of pretty buildings that call the square home, including Tallinn’s statuesque town Hall.  Between the various merchant houses, this market place as been the center of life in Tallinn for many centuries.  There are artisan workshops where visitors can peek in and see local craftspeople making and selling handmade goods like ceramics, glassware and leather items.

Tallinn Town Hall Pharmacy

Town Hall Pharmacy

Raeapteek Pharmacy: This old apothecary, open since 1422, is the oldest continuously running pharmacy in Europe.  Today it is a working pharmacy selling 21st-century medicine but they have a museum where you can learn about cures of old. 

Tallinn Old Town Walls

Old Town Walls

Working its way around the entirety of Tallinn’s Old Town, as well as dividing the Upper and Lower Towns, you’ll find medieval town walls.  Looking exactly as you probably would picture them, these walls are the final piece of the puzzle that sells the transformative old world atmosphere in the center of Tallinn. The 1.9 km long run of walls is broken up by great gates and towers like the Viru Gate and Fat Margaret Tower.  Visitors can walk along part of the wall’s ramparts over the Hellemann Tower on Old Town’s eastern edge.

St. Nicholas Church, Tallinn

St. Nicholas Church

One of the most noticeable towers to emerge from the rooftops of Tallinn is the spire of St. Nicolas Church.  This medieval church from the 13th century was nearly completely destroyed during World War II.  What’s impressive is that it was restored under Soviet rule, which firmly stood against the regime’s stance on religion.  Now it houses the Niguliste Museum which focues on religious art and is also a concert venue.

Freedom Square, Tallinn

Freedom Square

Sitting on the southern edge of Tallinn’s Lower Town, Freedom Square is worth visiting.  It shows the difference between the Old Town and the rest of Tallinn.  From there one can climb up to Tallinn’s Upper Town.  Its main attraction is the War of Independence Victory Column, honoring Estonia’s fight for independence from 1918-1920.  Made from a series of glass plates, this memorial, in the shape of the Cross of Liberty, glows from within at nighttime.

Upper Town – Toompea 

Perched over Lower Town, Upper Town sits upon Toompea Hill and is home of some of the best things to do in Tallinn.  The easiest ways to reach this part of the city center are taking the scenic Pikk Halg path up or slipping through a gap in the town walls past the Kiek in de Kõk Tower.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

One of Tallinn’s most iconic landmarks is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which dates from the era of the old Russian empire and its eclectic mix of architectural styles.  While its carillon and special church bells are a listening treat, the cathedral’s inner mosaics and icons are the true highlight as are its pretty onion-domed towers.

Toompea Castle, Tallinn

Toompea Castle

Directly across from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the Toompea Castle, the centerpiece of the Upper Town.  This castle has always been the seat of power for the region of Estonia ever since the early 13th century.  Tradition states that whoever’s flag flies from the Tall Hermann Tower of the castle rules the region.  It is home to Estonia’s parliament and the Estonian flag is raised daily.

Kohtuotsa and Patkuli Viewpoints

The balcony viewing platforms run along Toompea Hill and Kohtuotsa offers views across the rooftops of Lower Town as well as Tallinn beyond the Old Town Walls while Patkuli shows the towers along the town walls and Tornide Väljak Park.  The Kohtuotsa platform is one of the best places to get photos over Tallinn and get a feel for the contrast between the medieval Old Town and the more modern architecture and newer neighborhoods that surround it.

Medieval Walking Tours

There are free walking tours (Tales of Reval) that usually depart at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, and 2:30 pm from the Town Hall Square.  (Tour donations are usually expected for the tour guide’s time)  The tour guides are dressed in medieval garb and are in character as they guide groups on an entertaining journey through 800 years of history.

Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn

Kumu Art Museum

Kumu Art Musuem is one of the largest museums in Estonia and one of the largest art museums in Northern Europe.

Estonian Open Air Museum

Estonian Open Air Museum

Estonian Open Air Museum is a life-sized reconstruction of an 18th-19th century rural/fishing village, which includes a church, tavern, schoolhouse, several mills, a fire station, twelve farmyards and net sheds.

Seaplane Harbor Museum, Tallinn

Seaplane Harbor Museum

Seaplane Harbor Museum is a modern maritime museum, it is a pleasant walk from the Old Town.  The route goes through one of Tallinn’s oldest quarters, Kalamaja (Fish House), known for its wooden architecture.  Unique seaplane hangars, a tour aboard a World War II era submarine, and an around-the-world virtual adventure are some of its attractions.

HopOn HopOff Bus, Tallinn

HoHo – HopOn HopOff

HoHo – HopOn HopOff Bus is one of the best ways to get an overview of Tallinn.  Audio commentary is in ten languages.  Free Wi-Fi.

Videos About Tallinn

Top Things to do in the Old Town

Tallinn: The Most Beautiful City in Europe?

How to Use Public Transport in Tallinn like a Local

Tallinn: The European Capital 2023

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