Things To Do In Tallinn

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Tallinn is getting pretty popular, and there is a heap to do there.  Here are our top picks for things to do in Tallinn.  These are based on what we did there, and what we found out from talking to locals and other travellers.

 

Free Walking Tour

One of the good things to do in Tallinn when you first arrive is the free walking tour.  It helps to orientate you to the city, and you’ll find out a bit more about its history and culture. Tours are tip based, so you don’t pay anything up front, and at the end of the tour give the guide a tip based on how much you think it was worth.

Traveller Tours runs these tours daily, starting at 12 midday outside the tourist information centre, and they go for 2-3 hours.

 

Old Town

The old town of Tallinn is a UNESCO world heritage listed site.  It’s also really damn impressive.  If you do a free walking tour you’ll see a fair bit of it.  But it’s worth spending a few hours just wandering the streets and seeing what else you can find. There are generally some good street stalls set up, and a lot of cafe’s and bars scattered throughout the city, particularly on the streets just surrounding the old town square.

  • Tip:  If you do the free walking tour, you’ll see a lot of the main sites of the old town. But you won’t go past Viru gate, so wander down Viru Street and check it out later. There are also a lot of restaurants and bars down Viru Street, most of which have a really good atmosphere.

Cool things to see in the old town include…

The old town square and town hall. The square was the old market square, and has been holding markets since the middle ages. It hosts various markets and medieval days throughout the year, particularly around christmas, when they have the christmas markets.

Tallinn city wall and the city gates. In medieval times the city was fortified by a city wall, and much of the wall still exists today. Check out Viru Gate, at the entrance to Viru street, and Kiek in de Kok tower, as you walk up Komandandi tee from Freedom Square.

Viru Gate. @Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA

Toompea Hill

Toompea Hill.  @Wikimedia Commons

Toompea Hill is a hill in central Tallinn that overlooks the city. As well as offering a great view, the hill is now the base of the Estonian Government.

The main attractions on the hill include:

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral: A Russian Orthodox Cathedral that was built in the late 19th century.  It’s one of the most impressive buildings in all off Tallinn. It’s open from 8am every day, and free of charge to go inside.

The viewing platform: Probably the best view of the city, provided you can fight your way through the hoards of tourists that are trying to get the exact same shot that you are.

Danish King’s Garden: Just next to the hill, this old garden is famous for its history. Legend has it that in a battle here during the Danish invasion, a flag fell from the sky and turned the battle in favour of the Danes. That flag later became the national flag of Denmark, which is now the oldest continually used national flag of any country in the world.

Kings Garden.  @Wikimedia Commons

Museum of occupations

The museum of occupations in Tallinn.  @Wikimedia Commons

If you’re doing a trip through the Baltics, it’s worth paying a visit to at least one of the museums of occupation. You’ll find them in each of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. The museum in Tallinn is full of detail regarding both the German and Soviet occupation of Estonia, which lasted from 1940 to 1991. There’s a lot of information, and it gives you a feel of what daily life would have been like. If you’re a history buff like us then you’ll love it.

Entry to the museum costs €6.50 for an adult.  It’s open Monday to Sunday, from 10am to 6pm.

**If you’re interested in the history of Tallinn**  Read:  A brief history of Tallinn

Bike tours around Tallinn

Something cool that we did in Tallinn was hire a bike and do a bike tour. City Bikes do bike hire, and also offer a number of self guided GPS tours in and around Tallinn. Some of the tours are quite long – the tour out to Lahemaa national park is around 80km round trip, so double check how far you need to go before setting off. It’s a great way to see more of Tallinn and its surrounds.

Day trip to Helsinki

If you have enough time, a lot of tourists take the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki for the day and explore the Finnish capital. There are three companies that run ferries daily, and the trip will take 2-3 hours depending on which ferry you take. Tickets generally cost between €30 – 50 for a return trip. To check prices, head to Direct Ferries, where you can compare prices and times between all three companies, and book online.

Interestingly, lots of locals make this trip too. Some live in Tallinn and work in Helsinki. Others live in Helsinki and do their shopping (particularly for alcohol) in Tallinn.

  • Tip:  If you have a bit more time for your trip, you can always stay overnight in Helsinki.  We did.  It’s a little pricier than Tallinn, but a cool way to see a bit more of the city.  

Soviet Statue Graveyard

The Soviet Statues.  @Wikimedia Commons

This was really cool And when we did it, a little off the radar (although that never lasts long).  At the fall of the Soviet Union, Estonians gathered up all of the old Soviet statues, and they dumped a lot of them in this ‘graveyard’, a little way out of the city and just behind the old Estonian History Museum.

It’s a great look into the past, and you can find statues of many of the old Soviet leaders, including Lenin and Stalin.

It’s a little more difficult to find – around 5km out of the city.    You can get bus number 5, or even get a taxi there.  The place you’ll need to get to is Maarjamäe Castle (put it into google maps so you can see where it is).  The statues themselves are just behind the building, and you should be able to walk around the side of the building to the back.

  • Disclaimer: It’s been a little since we’ve been.  It looks like they are trying to make a display out of the soviet statues.  So double check with a tour guide or hostel staff to make sure you’ll still be able to see them.

Lahemaa National Park

Lahemaa national park lies 70km to the east of Tallinn. A day trip here is a great way to see some of the natural beauty of Estonia. There are plenty of hikes and coastal walks you can do.

It is possible to get to the national park via public transport. However, the park is huge, so which bus connections you take will depend on where exactly you want to go. If you’re going to take the public transport, we’d strongly advise chatting to either someone at your hostel / hotel or someone at the information office to find out exactly which route you need to take for what you want to see.

Alternatively, there are plenty of day tours that run to the park from Tallinn. The tours are a little expensive at around €55. But they do take all the hassle out of the transfer, and it can be really helpful to have a guide to show you around the park. Est Adventures and Traveller Tours both run tours daily to Lahemaa.