Tallinn: Estonia’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
You’ve never been to Tallinn before? In this article, we’ll tell you why this medieval town amidst the vast forests and mystical moors of Estonia is a beautiful travel destination.
Therefore, we’ve gathered the most interesting facts about this small Baltic state and added our top 10 places of interest in Tallinn as well. Let’s go!
Tallinn in a Nutshell
Estonia lies near Lithuania and Latvia and is one of the three Baltic States in northeastern Europe. The country borders the Atlantic’s inland sea, that is to say, the Baltic Sea. There are also numerous islands, with a total number of 2,222. However, only 20 of them are inhabited. Estonia has a population of about 1.3 million people, with 440,000 of them living in the capital Tallinn.
Interestingly, forests cover about half of the country’s territory. So, it’s only natural that the nature-loving Estonians are very fond of them, to the point of believing that trees have a soul. There is plenty of nature to go around – you can even find the world’s tallest pine tree (46.6 meters) here! Besides the forest landscape, Estonia also features six diverse national parks and many mysterious moorlands, where you’ll also find beautiful lakes. It’s the perfect place for long hikes.
However, this isn’t the only place to go hiking. In Estonia, there is an 820-kilometers-long hiking trail! For nature lovers, this country is the perfect place to clear their heads. But other backpackers will also be in good hands since the country is perfect for a backpacking road trip. When visiting Estonia, Tallinn is a must-see on your trip.
Basically, you can visit the capital all year long. If you prefer warmer temperatures and fewer rain showers, consider traveling between May and August.
Tallinn is the perfect mix of modernity and both cultural and historical features. The district of Pirita even features a sandy beach with changing rooms, loungers and culinary delights. It might get a bit chilly though – after all, the Baltic Sea isn’t known for its warm seawater. Even in summer, the temperatures do not exceed 15 °C.
You can easily get around Tallinn on foot. For longer distances, the public transport network is well-structured – there are buses, trams, and trolleybuses.
We’ve got to tell you about the Estonians’ national dish – the Verivorst, that is to say, a blood sausage. If that’s not your cup of tea, then don’t worry. After all, there are also delicious fish dishes, like salted herring. Just eat your way through Tallinn! You’ll also get the chance to visit exciting events. For example, you can learn more about the country’s food culture at the food fair in May.
The Tallinn Music Week at the beginning of October is also very popular. This indoor festival hosts 200 music acts, making it Northern Europe’s biggest event of that kind!
If you’re a fan of medieval culture, travel to Tallinn in mid-July. A colorful spectacle consisting of traditionally dressed locals, craftsmanship stands, and many entertaining street artists awaits you.
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Tallinn
Now we present you the best attractions in Reval – that’s what the local people call Tallinn. Keep the following in mind: the capital city is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site for nothing. On one hand, it’s Northern Europe’s best-preserved city. On the other hand, Tallinn is simply beautiful and also interesting from a historical point of view. Stay tuned for more!
Old Town Vanalinn
Tallinn’s old town is a real gem. Be it the grandiose 13th- and 14th-century medieval buildings, the winding streets, or the cute restaurants – if you happen to be near Vanalinn, be sure to take a look around there.
Take a stroll on the cobblestone streets of the former trading town and just take in the scenery. Explore the Toompea Hill and its castle, the Alexander Newsky Cathedral, the Town Hall Square, and the Kiek in de Kök Tower. The old town is a real work of art. To give you a deeper insight, we’ve further described these attractions below. It would be a pity not to learn more about them.
Toompea Hill and Tallinn Castle
The landmark of Estonia is the limestone Toompea Hill, where the so-called Upper Town and Tallinn Castle are located. From here you can enjoy the view over the Lower Town and the Gulf of Finland.
The castle was built by the Danes, who conquered the once wooden fortress of King Valdemar II in 1219. The Latin name Castrum Danorum dates back to that time and means “the Dane’s castle”. The Danes expanded the fortress by building stone towers.
The Tall Hermann tower is still in very good condition, despite being nearly 600 years old. Every morning, the flag of Estonia is hoisted at the top of the tower and lowered at sunset, and always accompanied by the sound of traditional songs like the national anthem.
Nowadays, the medieval castle houses the Parliament of Estonia. Nevertheless, it is perfect for taking a quiet walk – especially because of the viewpoint. You should take a few minutes to admire the city from above.
Tallinn Cathedral is also located on Toompea Hill. The Roman-Catholic cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is the church of the Evangelical Lutheran archbishop. Just like Tallinn Castle, the church was first built from wood by the Danes in 1219. Consequently, this must have been the first Christian church in Estonia.
On the walls of the Tallinn Cathedral there are 107 coats of arms, in memory of the German-Baltic aristocrats. Moreover, there also are interesting tombs of famous people from world history. For instance, Pontus de la Gardie and his spouse were laid to rest here.
Alexander Newsky Cathedral
The Russian-Orthodox Alexander Newsky Cathedral is a lot more pompous. It will surely catch your eye because of the colorful details on the façade walls and the five pointed onion domes. The cathedral was built at the end of the 19th century and was meant to show Russia’s influence over the country. Estonia was often under the rule of other countries. After the first Estonian declaration of independence, people considered demolishing the church. However, they didn’t go through with it, and years later it was renovated.
Thank goodness because the interior is a real eye-catcher! Mostly thanks to the detailed, wood carved, and gold-plated iconostases, three beautiful altars, breathtaking paintings, and stunning mosaics. In the tower there are eleven bells – all made in Russia’s capital Moscow. The heaviest of them weighs 16 tons, making it heavier than all the other bells combined.
A long time ago, Tallinn was a securely fortified city due to its city wall. Its construction started in the 13th century and took more than 300 years. It’s crazy how much effort was put into it. Finally, the wall was 2.3 kilometers long and about 16 meters high.
In addition, 40 towers were built – however, only 26 of them remain to this day. The wall has also shrunk by several hundred meters. Nevertheless, the well-preserved ruins of the city wall make for a fairy-tale flair. So be sure to visit it! Go to the art gallery and take the nearby path up to the wall.
One of the most famous city wall towers is the Fat Margaret, which is close to the city gate. It was used for defense and surely lives up to its name – it measures 24 meters in diameter and 20 meters in height. Thus, the tower is wider rather than taller. Apparently, it got its name either because of a cannon or a cook who used to work here.
Spend some more time at the Fat Margaret by visiting the interesting Maritime Museum inside the tower. The rooftop terrace offers a beautiful view and a delicious break at the café.
Kiek in de Kök
The names of the sights are getting more and more hilarious. This one translates to “Look into the kitchen”. The old artillery tower’s name is hilarious both in Estonian and in English, isn’t it?
Contrarily to the Fat Margaret, it is nearly 40 meters high and measures “only” 17 meters in diameter. The name derives from old jokes, saying that you could peer into other people’s kitchens from the top of the tower.
Nowadays, the tower is part of the city’s Fortifications Museum. This includes several other towers, but the Kiek in de Kök houses the associated exhibition. Check out the spooky underground tunnels as well as the Carved Stone Museum.
Balti Jaama Market
If you’re up for some pretty souvenirs or delicious specialties, we recommend Balti Jaama Market. It holds 300 stands, making it really enormous and very well-frequented. No matter if you’re looking for fish, fruit, street food, antiquities, or flawlessly handcrafted products, you’ll find everything your heart’s desires. But if you wish for some less hustle and bustle, go check out the smaller Viru Market on Tallinn’s main street.
Telliskivi may not be the most classic sightseeing spot in the city, but it’s definitely special! The former factory is where the city’s creative art fans gather. You can expect all kinds of exciting events, bars, restaurants and cool stores. We recommend you go for a stroll and admire the beautiful murals or visit the Photography Museum. If you love art, this is the right place for you!
Do you need a break from city life or just want to experience some of Estonia’s nature? We recommend you visit the country’s largest waterfall, the Jägala Waterfall. It is located more than 20 kilometers from Tallinn, but it is definitely a must-see for nature lovers. Especially during winter, the setting becomes magical when the water freezes.
Tallinn is very special. On one hand, the Estonian capital is small but nice. On the other hand, it holds so many places of interest that choosing only ten of them was no easy task. We could go on for hours about the city on the Baltic Sea, but then there wouldn’t be anything left for you to discover. It’s time for a trip to Tallinn, isn’t it? There are plenty of reasons to do so.
Be sure to check out Vanalinn, Tallinn’s old town. There is still so much left to see that we couldn’t list. Our favorites are Toompea Hill with its medieval Castrum Danorum Castle, Tallinn Cathedral, Alexander Newsky Cathedral, and Kiek in de Kök Tower. What a funny name! Just as funny as Fat Margaret and Tall Hermann.
So, now that you’ve found the perfect destination, there’s only one question left: when are you hitting the road? Combine your visit to Tallinn with a tour of Estonia’s most beautiful cities! There’s no easier way to plan your trip than with our WebApp!