We’ll be honest with you–we might not have been looking forward to our trip to Tallinn that much. It’s not that the city isn’t incredible with plenty of culture and great things to do. No, the problem was that our visit happened to fall in November–a notoriously dark and cold time in Estonia.
Despite the weather that made us want to crawl up in our Airbnb and hibernate, we ended up exploring a lot of Tallinn. It’s a really great city to visit–we’d just recommend learning from our mistake and visiting during the summer time.
So if you find yourself in Estonia’s capital, here is what should be on your list.
About Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is far and away the largest city in Estonia, and with its population of over 434,000 people, it makes up almost 33% of the entire Estonian population. In many ways, Tallinn showcases both the old and new histories of Estonia.
The Old Town, dating back to the 13th century, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just outside of the city center, the brutalist style architecture from the Soviet era reflects much of the mid-20th century. Yet today, Tallinn is one of Estonia’s cities that is leading the charge into the information technology sector.
13 Wonderful Things To Do In Tallinn, Estonia
1. Start your day in Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square)
Raekoja Plats is right in the heart of Old Town Tallinn, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The square is home to various markets and festivals during the year, including a medieval market during Old Town days in the summer, and a vibrant Christmas Market that starts in mid-November.
Fun Fact: It’s rumored that one of the first public Christmas trees was first put up in Raekoja Plats during the 15th century.
2. Stroll through St. Catherine’s Passage
St. Catherine’s Passage is a narrow passageway that takes you back to medieval times while walking through it. Most of the buildings along it were built between the 15th and 17th centuries, and are remarkably well preserved. The entire passage is only about 400 feet long and it’s lined with charming shops belonging to local artists.
3. Take the Tallinn Free Walking Tour
The Tallinn Free Walking Tour is a great way to see the main sights of the city with a guide who helps provide historical context. The tour is in English and runs every day at 12:00 PM. Just make sure to leave your guide a tip!
4. Admire the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Like many Orthodox churches, the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is exceptionally beautiful. It was built between 1895 and 1900, You’ll need to take your pictures outside, as photography is not inside the cathedral. It’s free to enter, and there is even a little gift shop for those who want to take something home with them.
Fun fact: when the main bell was installed in 1898, it took 500 soldiers to hoist it into place since it weighs over 16,000 kilograms!
5. Lookout over the city from Kohtuotsa viewing platform
Tallinn is full of great vantage points, some are free and some you have to pay to enjoy. We really loved the view from Kohtuotsa viewing platform and it was completely free.
Be warned that it was a little crowded, so make sure to show up early if you don’t want other people in your pictures.
6. Visit the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour
The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour is a maritime museum featuring interactive exhibits. It’s a great place to visit if you are traveling as a family, since both kids and adults will love this place!
7. Visit the Viru Gates
If you’re looking for a beautiful place to take a picture, Viru Gates is your spot! These beautiful gates allowed entry into the city back in the day, and today they served as a remnant of Tallinn’s remarkably preserved medieval past.
It gets really crowded here but the people watching is awesome!
8. Treat your sweet tooth at Maiasmokk, the oldest cafe in Tallinn
Maiasmokk Cafe first opened its doors back in 1864, making it the oldest cafe in all of Tallinn! And if that’s not enough draw to get you to want to visit, consider this: the pastries at this place are divine, and the atmosphere makes you feel like you’re in Paris.
We ordered an almond croissant and a chocolate glazed cinnamon pretzel. Both were delicious, but the almond croissant was definitely best.
9. Sweat it out at the public sauna
We love the sauna culture in Tallinn. And while we were lucky enough to have a sauna in our Airbnb, many people don’t.
The Kalma Sauna is a great public sauna to visit if you want to experience Tallinn’s relaxing sauna culture for yourself. Entry to the public sauna is €8.50 from Monday – Thursday and €10 from Friday – Sunday.
10. Get out of the city and visit Lahemaa National Park
If you want to really see what Estonia is all about, then you’ll need to get out of Tallinn’s city limits. Estonia’s land is approximately 50% forests and 20% bogs, making Lahemaa National Park the perfect place to visit if you want to experience the natural terrain in Estonia.
We did a day trip with Prangli Travel and we were so glad that we got to see the Estonian wilderness. Our favorite part of the day was the stop at Jägala Waterfall, a beautiful waterfall with an orange color caused by organic matter in the water.
11. Experience Tallinn’s thriving craft beer scene
Many people might not know this, but Estonia actually has a growing craft beer scene. Tallinn in particular has a great selection of local beers, with plenty of microbreweries to choose from.
We really loved Beer House. The beer is brewed fresh in house, plus they just have a really cool atmosphere. During the weekends they often have entertainment.
12. Try Estonian Food
Estonian food has a strong Russian influence, but with a unique twist that is unique to this region of the world. Stop by one of the many popular Estonian restaurants in Tallinn (we like Leib Restaurant and Ribe) to experience the cuisine for yourself.
13. Have your morning coffee with a view
We love cool coffee shops. It’s one of the best ways to have downtime while still experiencing a new city. That’s why we couldn’t resist coming to Cafe Pikk 29.
In addition to being right down the street from our Airbnb, it also has comfy chairs, delicious cappucinnos, and amazing views of Old Town.
Tallinn is a truly beautiful city. While it is definitely less expensive than the Nordic countries and Western Europe, prices have risen a lot in the past 10 years. It’s no longer a highly affordable city (in our opinion) so be prepared to spend a little more on lodging than you might in other Baltic countries.
Also, learn from our mistake and visit during the summer months 🙂 It’ll be busier, but at least the weather will be warm and bright.
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