11 Things to see in Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn has a lot of charm, but is often overlooked by travelers. That's a shame because the Estonian capital offers a lively mix of old church towers, glass skyscrapers, baroque palaces and trendy eateries and bars. This makes Tallinn the perfect place for history lovers, shopaholics, romantic couples and people who like to go out. For a former Soviet city this place is more modern than I expected it to be: not only was Skype invented here, but also the airport is equipped with the second fastest internet in the world.
It's about time that I write down the 11 most beautiful things to see in Tallinn!

 

things to see in Tallinn

1. The Estonian Open Air Museum

If you want to learn more about the history of this Baltic state, this museum is exactly what you’re looking for. It consists out of 76 buildings, spread over 80 hectares of forest land, which tell the story of hundreds of years of history. It’s so big that there’s a church, inn, fire department and a few school buildings here. The museum is open daily from 11 am to 8 pm, but during the winter season and holidays there are special opening hours. So take a good look at the opening times before planning a weekend to Tallinn!

estonian open air museum tallinn

Do you want to know what Estonian life looked like many years ago? Then you have to come here!

2. Alexander Nevski Cathedral

This richly decorated Russian Orthodox church was completed on Toompea Hill in 1912, when Estonia was still part of the Tsar Empire.
Until today, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the best and most impressive examples of Orthodox architecture in Tallinn. The towers house the most powerful church bells in Tallinn. One of these eleven clocks even weighs fifteen tons and is the largest church bell in the city. It’s therefore no wonder that this is one of the main things to see in Tallinn.

alexander nevski cathedral things to see in tallinn

This Russian Orthodox cathedral is a bit different from the other typical European churches!

3. The city center and the square of the town hall

Striking churches, red tiled roofs and elegant glass towers form the unique skyline of Tallinn. In the summer, this panorama becomes even more colorful due to the green leaves of the trees and in the winter the snow creates a fairytale landscape. The streets seem to be made to get lost. The square of the town hall has been the center of this former Hanseatic city since the Middle Ages. Stroll around the Raekoja or walk through the Viru gate to reach the enchanting Old City, which was once surrounded by a 1.5 mile long wall with 45 towers. Of these, 26 remain, which together with the various church domes of Tallinn make it look like a fairytale city.
Once you have seen enough history, the new city center Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square) is a beautiful (and perhaps welcome) change!

things to do in tallinn

And if you’re visiting around the Christmas period… The Christmas market on the central square is beautiful!

4. Kadriorg Palace

The Kadriorg Palace was built by Charles the Great for Catherine I of Russia. Both the Estonian and German name of the palace mean “Catherines Valley”.
This palace is the cream of the crop in terms of palace and park design in the history of Estonian architecture. Originally the Kadriorg Palace served as a summer residence and since its construction in 1725 it has been very well preserved. It was specially designed to resemble the Italian palaces of that time and, together with the surrounding gardens, they are splendid examples of tsarist extravagance. It won’t take long until you’re imagining yourself in St. Petersburg. Now, it houses the Estonian Art Museum and hundreds of artworks from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries.

tallinn things to do kadriorg palace

The Kadriorg Palace lies just outside the city center, but it is well worth the short hike (or you can take the bus)!

5. The St. Olav Cathedral

In parts of the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries, the Cathedral of St. Olav was the tallest building in the world with its height of 124 meters or 407 feet! Today it remains an iconic landmark and one of Tallinn’s main attractions. The impressive spire is visible from miles away and to make it even more beautiful you can climb it to enjoy a breathtaking and unique view of the city.

saint olav cathedral tallinn

The highest peak in the old city center of Tallinn still is the one from the Saint Olav cathedral.

6. Sokos Hotel Viru

At first glance, this hotel looks like just a giant matchbox. Appearances are deceptive, because this was the headquarters of Intourist, the only organization that allowed tourists to be accommodated at the time of the Soviet Union. The 23rd floor was used by the KGB as a radio center where they could listen to the hotel guests. 60 of the 516 rooms in total were also equipped with espionage equipment and even a few tables in the restaurant were equipped with microphones. Although the KGB left the hotel in 1991, the secret spy room was only found in 1994. Today you can still book a night in the hotel, buy you don’t need to worry about the KGB no more. But you can still visit the KGB room on top of the building! After your guided tour, you’ll get to see the skyline of Tallinn. One of the best views possible!

sokos hotel viru tallinn attractions

The stories seem to come straight out of a spy film, but the top floor of this hotel was actually used to spy on the guests of the hotel!

7. Toompea Castle

Located on the hill of the same name, this castle was built by the Danes in the thirteenth century. Because of this, the castle is sometimes called Castrum Danorum: Castle of the Danes. In the twentieth century it was extended so that the government could sit here. If you book in advance you can visit the castle for free. You can also attend sessions of the parliament.

toompea castle tallinn top things to do

A pink exterior? Why not?!

8. KUMU Kunstimuuseum

This museum was founded in 2006 and two years later it already won the European Museum of the Year Award. Here, you’ll find the most important collection of Estonian art in the country, starting from the eighteenth century. In addition, there are always different exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Even if you’re not so interested in art, it’s quite a beautiful building to see.

kumu kunstmuseum tallinn

The KUMU museum not only has a nice art collection inside, the exterior is beautiful too!

9. The Tallinn television tower

With a height of 314 meters (1030 feet), this is the highest building in the country. You can take the elevator to the 21st floor and from 170 meters  (558 ft) altitude you can take in the impressive view of the city, but also wonder at the Gulf of Finland.

television tower tallinn things to do

Take the elevator to the top floor and enjoy a panoramic view of the beautiful Baltic city.

10. Pirita Beach

At barely seven kilometers from the city center you can really relax on the beach. Pirita Beach is Tallinn’s largest beach and is easily reached by bus. If you want to get away from all the intrigues of the Cold War, Pirita Beach is the perfect place to do so.

pirita beach tallinn

Do you want to escape from the city center for a bit? Go to Pirita Beach! It’s beautiful during the winter and the summer.

11. Day trip to Finland

Estonia and Finland are separated only by the sea. Do you feel like discovering Scandinavia too, but don’t you want to spend a fortune on accommodations? Then take the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki! You certainly have enough time in one day. There are some attractions, but they’re all close to each other and can be seen rather quickly. Make sure to also visit a sauna: a heavenly experience!

day trip tallinn helsinki

Which cathedral is the prettiest in your opinion? The one from Helsinki, or the one from Tallinn?

TIP:

If you plan to use public transport regularly and visit several museums, a Tallinn Card can be quite interesting. For a day ticket, adults pay 25 euros and children up to seventeen years pay fourteen euros. It’s also possible to buy a card for several days. You can buy them on the official website.

Book trips in Tallinn

Do you want to book some tickets already? Or maybe plan in a nice tour through the most beautiful parts of Tallinn? Be sure to take a look at these tours and excursions:

 

» All tours and excursions in Tallinn

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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