We heard so many great things about the city of Tallinn, Estonia’s capital nestled on the Black sea, and it certainly did not disappoint. Its medieval walls and cobblestoned roads are still in tact in the Old Town, which is full of shops, cafes, and the historic Town Hall Square. We loved Tallinn’s colorful architecture and varying landscape as well as the rich Estonian heritage portrayed. Though Estonia is considered a Baltic nation, many Estonians consider themselves to be Nordic, possibly due to the Scandinavian presence in early years and due to the country’s close proximity to Finland (you can take a 2-3 hour cruise ferry from Tallinn directly to Helsinki).
Top Things to do in Tallinn
The Old Town of Tallinn is still enveloped mainly by the original city walls, making it one of the most well-preserved medieval European cities and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We loved the various towers and gates that still stand around the Old Town, and the rich red colors of many of the roofs combined with the historic cobblestone roads. This is a great place for walking around and soaking in Estonian food and culture.
Tips: Be sure to research the Tallinn card prior to your trip. We found that many of the places we went on our trip were included in this card and probably would have saved us some money!
Town Hall Square
The Old Town Town Hall Square is situated in the middle of Old Town and dates back to the 15th century. The square boasts a variety of bars and restaurants, and hosts markets and holiday concerts.
Tips: Enjoy a cup of tea or a beer at one of the many cafes and people watch. Head there in the morning for lighter crowds.
Tallinn’s historic Town Hall is also located in Town Hall Square. This Town Hall dates back to the 13th century and is the oldest town hall in both Scandinavia and the Baltics. You can take a walk through the museum in the town hall to learn more about the history of Tallinn. The story of what they uncovered when they renevated the attic is quite interesting!
Tips: Pay a little extra to ascend the Town Hall Tower. At 64 meters high, the tower has a tight and spiral staircase to the top, with open galleries and a bell.
Head up to Toompea Hill via the Long Leg Gate Tower to take in the beautiful views of Tallinn’s Old Town: Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform and Patkuli Viewing Platform. Visit some of the cute shops selling souvenirs and other goods native to Estonia at Toompea Hill.
Tips: These areas can get crowded with tourists during the day, so try to visit in the morning or evening.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Located on Toompea Hill, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cupola cathedral that was built in a Russian Revival style by a Russian architect at the end of the 19th century. The cathedral is lavishly decorated with religious mosaics and multiple domes with spires.
St. Mary's Cathedral
Also located on Toompea Hill, St. Mary’s Cathedral is Tallinn’s oldest church and dates back to construction by the Danes in the 13th century. Originally a Roman Catholic church, it converted to Lutheran in 1561 and survived the great fire of 1684, the only building to do so in the Toompea area.
Toompark is a park adjacent to Toompea Hill that is a lovely place for an afternoon stroll and with a nice pond and greenery. It is also next to Toompea Castle and its medieval tower, Tall Hermann, dating back to 1370.
St. Nicholas' Church and Museum
This former medieval church, dating back to the 13th century, was destroyed in WWII bombings and has since been restored into a museum of ecclesiastical art. It also contains notable works for art from late Gothic and early Northern Renaissance.
St. Catherine's Passage
St. Catherine’s Passage is a picturesque and partially hidden passageway that runs alongside what used to be St. Catherine’s Church. This lane is now St. Catherine’s Guild, where various craftsmen and artists make and sell goods like glass, jewelry, ceramics, and quilts. We really liked that the passageway has multiple brick archways across the top and giant tombstones along the wall, providing a true medieval ambience.
Hellemann Tower and Town Wall Walkway
The Hellemann Tower (built in 1410) and Town Wall Walkway is an observation deck and walkway along the eastern medieval walls that surround Old Town. The walkway connects Hellemann Tower to the Tower Behind Monks, and once served as a defensive passage. From atop the city walls, you get to experience a different perspective over the rooftops of Old Town from the viewing platforms at Toompea Hill.
Tips: Be sure to check out Viru Gate, just a minute or two from Helleman Tower.
Estonian History Museum - Great Guild Hall
Located in a 14th century guild hall, the Estonian History Museum highlights Estonian history and culture. It showcases clothing worn through the years and the evolution of the domestic household.
St. Olaf's Church
St. Olaf’s Church is a Baptist church believed to have been built in the 12th century, with a large portion rebuilt during the 14th century. There is a 405-foot tower connected to the church, that is said to have survived several lightning strikes.
Tips: You can pay a small price to climb up the tower, but be forewarned about the roughly 260 steps to the top!
Food and Drinks in Tallinn
Head over to Rataskaevu 16 for a fine culinary experience in Tallinn. They are known for not only their quality of food, but also the great quality of service. The restaurant has a lovely atmosphere and also has a nice wine list.
This cozy steakhouse, located near Town Hall Square, is a nice choice for some comfort food. You can build your own dish, choosing from a variety of meats, vegetables and other sides as well as your choice of sauce. A good go-to dinner spot for a “home-cooked meal”.
This microbrewery is located in Old Town and serves a large variety of beer and Austrian style food, like pretzels and sausages. They are known for their “living” beers - unfiltered and unpasteurized beers and even some of the waitstaff dress in traditional beer hall garb.
Kehrwieder Saiakang Chocolaterie
Located in the Town Hall Square, this cafe offers a variety of light faire, drinks, and fine chocolate. Enjoy a refreshing beer or warm up with a hot pot of tea in the town square.
Where to Stay in Tallinn
Hotel Imperial is located in Tallinn’s Old Town and has spacious and relaxed rooms. The complimentary breakfast had a nice variety and the hotel also contains a restaurant and sauna for guests. We enjoyed the close proximity to Old Town and the ability to pop in and out as we pleased.