A visit to the beautiful city of Tallinn in Estonia will transport you to a medieval fairy tale city with Tallinn top attractions offered in every street
Estonia is one of the smallest nations in Europe but boasts one of the most incredible Old Town across the European Continent with its capital Tallinn. The main reason for Tallinn having become so popular is that its the only European capital with well preserved medieval gates, city walls, buildings and streets that seen taken directly from the Middle Ages! That’s also why it was one of the first Eastern European cities to be awarded the UNESCO World Heritage sites status
In its long history, Tallinn’s original castle was built on the 13th century in Troompea Hill. Due to the need to fortify city from incoming attacks on the 14th and 15th century, when it was dominated by the German religious orders, Tallinn’s old town fortress had city walls 2.4km long, 46 guard towers and 8 fortified gates! Even if switched hands frequently after the 16th century, Swedish, Russian Empires and then the Soviet Union, Tallinn was never taken by force or destroyed. Tallinn’s old town still has 20 of those mighty towers and 1.9km of the original wall still remain, such as half of the fortified gates.
So check my travel advice about Tallinn top things to do and my recommended itinerary for 2 days in Tallinn, so for a long weekend or a city break it’s just perfect. And can also be combined with Riga and Tallin for one week trip in the Baltics.
BEST TIME TO GO TO TALLINN
Summer, from June to September, has the best temperatures around 20 degrees and more, with cool nights with circa 10 degrees as you are very close to the Baltic sea. It will also be the busiest in terms of tourists, but still its the best season to go. March to May might be a good and cheaper alternative as the days get longer and there is less chance of rain. versus Autumn and Winter.
HOW TO GET TO TALLIN & GET AROUND:
The best way to go to Tallin is by air to the international airport and given its rising popularity several airlines fly to Tallinn frequently, sometimes via Riga or Helsinki. Air Baltic also operates plenty of flights in between the Baltic Countries capitals (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) Tallinn’s airport is circa 15-20 minutes to the Old town, with a taxi costing around 10€. There’s also Uber for slightly less. And as the cheapest option a bus 2€.
The 2nd best way to Tallinn is by ferry, as Tallinn’s harbor has 19 different connections to several Finland and Sweden cities. A ferry trip from Helsinki to Tallinn takes around 2 hours being the fastest one. The main ferry company doing these connections is Finland with Tallink & Silja ferry , so check their site for schedules, prices and bookings (click on the link). From the Tallinn ferry terminal to the Old town its 30 minutes walking or 10 minutes with a taxi or Uber that will cost 5€.
In case you want to come from Riga, bus or train connections from Riga to Tallinn are possible, taking around 4h30 minutes to 5 hours with tickets costing around 10€. Check local Ecolines company website for bus times and prices.
Once in Tallinn, you don’t need to worry about it in the old town, as car traffic is forbidden except for residents and delivery vans. Tallinn Old Town is anyway best done on foot, only if you venture out to other attractions does a Taxi, Uber or a bus come in question. That way you don’t lose any wonderful narrow street.
WHERE TO STAY IN TALLINN:
The Old Town of Tallinn is of course is the best option to stay in Tallinn as you will be right in the middle of the action to visit all the top attractions. A 3-star hotel in Tallinn will cost around 60-80€ for a room, a hostel 30-40€ per room. You can also stay outside the old town but close to the main gates, city walls, there are good modern hotels next to the main entrances.
2 DAYS ITINERARY TALLINN
Tallin’s old Town is still almost fully encircled by the city walls or the hill. The best place to start is usually at one of the main gates: Viru Gate or at the Great Coastal Gate. In case you are in Tallinn Old Town center, then start at the Town Hall square. Here is a Tallin old town map just to get you better located.
DAY 1 IN TALLINN
Day 1 of the Tallinn itinerary will be mostly focused on seeing the top attractions of Tallinn’s Old Town, climbing the steep to Troompea Hill for the best views of Tallinn from the castle area. It seems a lot to take in but once you start seeing these amazing sights in Tallin, you won’t stop easily.
The most known and picturesque gate from Tallinn, Viru Gate is the main gateway between the Old Town and an iconic place for pictures right in the morning and start your daily tour,
HELLEMANN TOWER AND TOWN WALL WALKWAY
Right after the Viru Gate, on your right side, you can have a walk along the city walls section of Hellemann Tower for 200 meters long for great views of the city wall section and part of Tallinn Old Town. The main tower has a small art gallery near the staircase that’s worth a look.
ST CATHERINE’S PASSAGE
One of the most picturesque medieval streets in Tallinn is St. Catherine’s Passage that is located near the place of the church where a church once stood with the same name. There a few handicraft shops here, but the magic is really on the arched lane, that is almost half hidden between Vene street and Hellemann Tower.
On Vene street direct, there is one of the most charming places in Tallinn, the Mastet’s courtyard, accessed via a small tunnel. Its traditional handicraft shops and café add to the beauty of the courtyard. One of my favorite sights in Tallinn Old Town.
TALLINN TOWN HALL AND TOWN HALL SQUARE
The most iconic place in Tallin is the Tallin’s Town Hall and its square. The imposing Town Hall dates from 15th century and is only Gothic Town Hall across Northern Hall. The colorfoul square buildings are slightly older but bring a great beauty to this squrare with plenty of cafés and restaurants, is clearly one of the top attractions in Tallinn for me. You can visit its spectacular interior in July and August (no photos allowed)
HOLY SPIRIT CHURCH
I just love the shape of this 14th century church and its lovely facade clock, unique in the whole city of Tallinn. It’s just one street to the right of the Town Hall Square. I found the interior nice but not spectacular. There is also this little alley near it that’s simply picturesque for a picture.
ESTONIA HISTORY MUSEUM
The national history museum of Estonia is not only in not only one of the most beautiful buildings of Tallinn known as the Great Guild Hall, dating from the 15th century, but also hosts the true essence of Estonia, where you can experience in a quite compact and pragmatical 11,000 years history of this part of the World, No need to be a history buff, you will love it! And a special treat is that you can see the main history facts of Estonia on a narrow street to the left of the Great Guild as you go past a tunnel – Börsi Kaik is the name.
One of the many beautiful viewpoints of Tallin Old Town is in Kohtuotsa, just after climbing the castle hill. It shows part of the walls, city center and eastern part of the city. The best perspective is for me when looking to the left of this platform. with the tower of St Olav’s church, the highest of Tallinn at 124 meters, stands out. More about it later on!
ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL ALEXANDER NEVSKY
The cathedral Alexander Nevsky was built in 1900 to celebrate the Russian empire rule over Estonia and in honor of this famous Russian prince, this is now the most beautiful orthodox church in Tallinn and worth visiting inside , as beautiful as most Russian churchs in St Peterbursg or Moscow (no photos allowed inside by the way).
Located on Toompea Hill, its was originally a stone fortress built on the 13th century by German Knights, but then Toompea Castle got its baroque palace look during the times of the Russian empress Catherine, the Great. The castle is now the seat of the Estonian Parliament and one of the best sights to see in Tallin, with the 46 meters high Pikk Hermann Tower also a great attraction. Pikk Hermann symbolises that whoever holds the tower, rules Estonia. I really liked the contrast of the baroque palace with the medieval fortress, that can be better seen of a walk down the hill.
KIEK IN DE KÖK FORTIFICATIONS AND DANISH KING GARDENS
Kiek in de Kök is probably one OF the most legendary Tallinn places, as it possesses 3 towers and underground tunnels. The most famous is Maiden’s Tower now an artist corner and bar. Across the gate you can access the Stable Tower and Gate Tower in a large beautiful courtyard that is known as the Danish King’s Garden as it was here that Valdemar, king of Denmark camped before conquering Toompea Castle and according to the legends it was here that Denmark’s future flag dropped to give the Danes the victory! One of my favorite areas in Tallinn! And really like the praying monks spread around the courtyard and the nice tunnels nearby.
Probably one of the most lovely Tallin panorama views can be seen from Patkuli ‘s viewpoint right at the nothwestern edge of Toompea Hill. It’s one of my favorites as you can see a vast part of city walls, St. Olav’s church and many of the typical red rooftops of Tallinn. Try to come in the afternoon when the sun is on the opposite side, but prepare to share it with plenty of other tourists as its a popular spot.
ST NICHOLAS CHURCH
Another iconic church in Tallinn, the 13th century St Nicholas church is one of the largest in the city and holds some great interiors and a lovely square outside. The highlight is the Dance of Death from Bernt Notke. It also features organ or choir performances over most weekends, definitely worth a look.
DAY 2 IN TALLINN
Day 2 in Tallinn should be mostly dedicated to visit the western section of the old town and also go out of the old city walls for some special sights like a unique maritime museum or discover new perspectives of Tallinn’s castle.
GREAT COASTAL GATE AND FAT MARGARET’S TOWER
Probably it will be your first sight when coming to Tallinn as its usually through here that most visitors enter. The big tower is the famous Fat Margaret due to its overwhelming. It also has a small maritime museum of interest but its main attraction is now a rooftop bar at the top of the tower!
ST OLAV’S CHURCH AND TOWER
St. Olav’s church tower for me the best place to see the old town in every direction as its the tallest church tower in Tallinn at 124 meters high. Dating from 1267, the church interior is nice but dates from 1830 already after a fire detstroyed it. The highlight here are the views from St. Olav’s tower are simply stunning!
TOWN WALL NUNNA, SAUNA AND KUJDALA TOWERS
Just some 200 meters away from St. Olav’s church, this is probably the most spectacular Tallinn city walls section. With 6 towers in just a space of 250 meters it really shows how powerful the defense system from Tallinn’s fortress was. I walked outside the city walls and if you want you can climb the city walls to see the towers more in detail. The best view of these town walls is either from St Olav’s church tower or Patkuli.
SNELLI PARK AND TOOMPEA CASTLE
I must say that doing Snelli Park was the most pleasant surprise in Tallinn. Usually visitors stop at Patkuli viewpoint and either continue to the city walls ahead or back to the hotel, so you will be with plenty of space away from the touristic routes. The main reason why is not only because it’s a lovely green park but is also the best place the medieval Toompea castle of Tallinn. I must say that Toompea Castle from this perspective, looks much more interesting , kind of taken from a Hollywood film!
SEAPLANE HARBOR AND ESTONIAN MARITIME MUSEUM
It’s a magnificent location for a maritime museum, as these were huge seaplane hangars that were out of usage after some years. So what better place to exhibit a submarine, a viking replica ship and many naval defenses and missiles? Also the seaplane hanging from the ceiling is simply stunning. By the way even the famous Charles Lindbergh landed here! For me the best and most educational museum in Tallinn. It’s a 10 minutes walk from the Great Coastal Gate.
TALLIN BEACH WALK
After seeing the Seaplane Harbor museum, it’s very nice to have a walk by the Baltic sea coast for some fresh sea breeze in a lovely promenade until you reach the Great coastal gate area again. I even saw some people swimming… brave ones!
This is the most symbolic square of Tallinn, as Freedom square was were people gathered to claim for independence and celebrating here in 1991 its achievement. Best seen at the end of the day, just when you cross again the Viru Gate in the direction of Tallinn city center.
OLD TOWN AT NIGHT
It’s a glorious sight to end your trip in Tallinn, walking some of the iluminated parts of the old town at night. For me the Tallin town hall looks even more spectacular than during the day, albeit the sky on this night was pretty special too!
MY 5 BEST TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE BEST TALLIN EXPERIENCE:
Entry to Tallinn’s cathedrals and churches is free, you only need to pay for climbing the towers so enjoy the interiors and the stunning views for just a couple of euros.
Using Tallinn Card could be a good option if you pretend to visit some museums, additionally to the itinerary above and have included entry included for most top attractions. Tallinn card info here
Book a medieval dinner at Old Hansa and step back in time to the era of Knights, Ladies and plenty of Ale / Beer!
Kadriorg Museum is 15 minutes by taxi outside the Old Town, being an interesting art gallery installed in a baroque palace built by the Russian emperor Peter the Great, can be visited once you are done with the old town or if you have ideally an extra day or 1/2 day.
There are many small lanes, tunnels, gate passageways and lovely architecture buildings – go off the beaten path to get that special picture!
Drop me a message or a comment if you need any other informations!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE :
Trakai is one of the top attractions in Lithuania and the Baltics, check how to get there and what to see
Visit the capital of Lithuania and be amazed by the top sights of Vilnius, as you walk around the old town in a very easy itinerary to follow
My name is Renato Azambujo. I live currently in Hamburg, but was born and raised in sunny capital of Portugal, Lisbon. I also lived in Switzerland for some years, before settling in Germany for the last years.
I am huge passionate about travel, photographer and a global explorer, always looking to the next destination.
I have so far visited over 70 countries across the 5 continents, because I really love knowing about new places, interact with different cultures and get to know myself better after each journey.