The Estonian capital of Tallinn is a relatively recent find, a city that was pretty much hidden from our travelling radar during the years of the Soviet Union. But when the Cold War ended it certainly sprang to life very quickly and became a hit with tourists, for many reasons – it’s an attractive city with lovely architecture, there are both interesting and unusual things to do. We’ve collated our tops tips into a Tallinn guide to help you plan you visit. Tallin is featured in our best European cities to visit post.
View over Tallinn’s Old Town by Amanda Kendle
Museums in Tallinn
The Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn is in a very modern building and is just five years old. It covers Estonian art from centuries ago right up to modern times.
Model of the Kumu Art Museum
The Museum of Occupations is worth visiting to understand the tumultuous history Estonia has lived through in the relatively short period between 1940 and 1991. It houses an excellent permanent exhibition but also has interesting temporary exhibitions.
The Estonian Open Air Museum just outside of Tallinn features old-style houses typical to the area – when you see the wooden and stone buildings and imagine how cold they must be in an Estonian winter, you’ll be glad you didn’t have to live in one. There are also some impressive windmills to be seen.
The Kalev Chocolate Museum sounds pretty tempting.
Architecture and Other Sights in Tallinn
Simply wandering through the streets of Tallinn will keep your camera busy – there are numerous interesting buildings and views around the city. For example, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a particularly photogenic building – perched on top of the hill, it’s a Russian orthodox building from 1900 and seeing this is almost as good as going to Russia itself.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral by Amanda Kendle
Nearby, the impressive Toompea Castle houses the Estonian parliament. The castle walls extend from Toompea Hill and include many towers like Pikk Herman. The entire hill and surrounds form part of the UNESCO World Heritage site and you can access several viewing platforms and walk along parts of the Old Town wall.
Towers in Tallinn by Amanda Kendle
The Kadriorg Palace was home to Catherine I of Russia and today includes a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia, and it is housed within an enormous park that’s well worth taking a stroll through.
Eating and Drinking in Tallinn
There are numerous restaurants and bars across Tallinn and a quick stroll around the Old Town is an easy way to find one, but if you’re after a suitably medieval experience, Sian recommends the Olde Hansa. It’s unashamedly aimed at tourists and ex-pats but the food is good, the theme is well-executed and the whole experience is fun.
Olde Hanse Restaurant by sian
Sian also gave us a tip for a great wine bar in Tallinn – so great that she proclaimed it her favourite wine bar in the world! The Gloria Wine Bar is actually many things: a restaurant, a guest house, a cigar bar, a wine shop and finally a wine bar. It’s beautifully decorated and may just be like no wine bar you’ve ever visited before!
Gloria Wine Bar by sian
And finally, if you’re looking to warm up on a chilly day, try a hot chocolate at the Chocolaterie Pierre. They also have good cakes but even for me, one of those genuine gooey hot chocolates is enough without the cake!
Where to Stay in Tallinn
View from Baron’s Hotel restaurant
Day Trips from Tallinn
I recommend a day trip to the city Tartu, the second largest city in Estonia, which can by reached in around two and a half hours by express coach from Tallinn. Here you can visit the crooked Art Museum, the Student’s Lock Up at the University and follow some literary highlights.
Tartu’s crooked Museum of Art by Amanda Kendle
The Finnish capital of Helsinki is a two hour ferry ride across the Baltic sea. As Finland can be pricey, we’ve even some tips for free and cheap things to do in Helsinki.
Your Tips for Tallinn
If you’ve already discovered the pleasures of Tallinn, do leave us your favourite tip in the comments below.