Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and is becoming popular! And that can hardly be otherwise! Tallinn is known for its beautiful medieval center, where you can walk for hours through the narrow streets, hidden courtyards, along former city walls, churches and old merchants houses. But there are also hip neighborhoods like Telliskivi and Noblessner, former industrial areas transformed into creative places with cool museums, street art, design stores and galleries. Tallinn is the cool city of Estonia where you can go sightseeing and keep exploring! In this article you’ll read everything you want to know about Tallinn in Estonia, including the best tips for things to do in terms of art, history, culture, cool neighbourhoods, good restaurants, attractions and other sights in Tallinn.
What to do in Tallinn Estonia? 35 sights, attractions and tips
Almost thirteen years ago I came to Tallinn for the first time for a work visit. Little time did I have to really see anything of the city. That’s why I’ve always wanted to come back, go sightseeing and discover attractions in new neighborhoods in Tallinn. When I was invited by VisitEstonia, I couldn’t resist to fully immerse myself in Tallinn and create a list of best things to do in this Estonian capital.
- What to do in Tallinn Estonia? 35 sights, attractions and tips
- Things to do in Vanalinn – Tallinn’s old town
- Attractions and sights in Toompea hill Tallinn
- Things to do in Kadriorg District Tallinn
- Kalamaja district in Tallinn Estonia
- Things to do in Telliskivi Tallinn | 5 sights & attractions
- Things to do in Noblessner Port Tallinn | 4 sights & attractions
- Rotermanni Quarter
- Things to do in and around Tallinn Estonia
- Restaurants Tallinn Estland
- Hotels in Tallinn Estonia
- How to get around in Tallinn
- How to reach Tallinn Estonia
- Pin and save for later
- More about Estonia
Things to do in Vanalinn – Tallinn’s old town
Tallinn is located on the Gulf of Finland and is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. The old town Vanalinn, consists of two parts, the higher part Toompea hill, the cathedral mountain, and the lower town, separated by a city wall. Tallinn was a Hanseatic city for many years and this can still be seen in the lay out of the city. In the old town of Tallinn you walk along numerous attractions and sights such as city walls, canon towers, narrow alleys, hidden courtyards and old merchant’s houses. The center gives you the feeling to go back in time and enter the Middle Ages.
Raekoja Plats – Town hall square – typical things to do in Tallinn
This image of Tallinn you have certainly come across before. Raekoja Plats is the central square of Tallinn and is surrounded by colored houses and the 15th century town hall, which is also the oldest town hall in the Baltic States and Scandinavia. From the Raekoja Plats you can easily start your sightseeing tour and walk right into the different streets of Tallinn’s old town.
Extra Tallinn tips: Make sure to have a look at the pharmacy, located on the northern side of the square. It is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, which is still in use
This entrance gate, built in the 14th century, was part of Tallinn’s former city wall. Most of the gate was demolished in the late 19th century to make room for traffic. These two towers remained standing and have become a symbol of the city since. Of course, you should come here very early in the morning to take the best pictures, but I’ll save this for a next time. Viru gate is the place where you leave modern Tallinn behind and enter the medieval city. Before the gate you will find a small flower market and after the gate you will come to the shopping street, Viru Tänav, which leads to the Raekoja Plats.
St. Catherine’s Alley
This is one of the alleys that you should know about in advance, otherwise you will walk right past it. St Catherine’s alley is a small medieval alley, where also the 700 year old monastery of the same name is located. This courtyard used to be the workshop of the craftsmen and still there are small stores with hats, ceramics and glass. Recommended to have a look!
This is what squares must have looked like centuries ago. Masters courtyard, the courtyard of the craftsmen, is a hidden gem and sight in the city of Tallinn. The medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, colored walls and many flowers make it an idyllic place to take pictures or sit on the terrace at the Chocolaterie de Pierre. These kind of places are the type of sights you want to see and what makes Tallinn so unique to visit!
The Guild Houses on Pikk
Beautiful architectural attractions can be found on the street Pikk in Tallinn. This was in fact the street of the guild and rich merchants. Nowadays you can still admire the beautiful 15th century merchant and guild houses with facades. From the large guild, the guild of the artisans to the notorious brotherhood of Black-Heads (a reference to the African Saint Mauritius, the patron saint of the brotherhood) for young unmarried merchants. On the walls you will find information signs with explanations that are worth reading. A number of buildings house a museum or event space.
One of the sights you should not miss in Tallinn is the Helleman Tower. Here you can walk on the old city walls while overlooking the old city. Via a narrow staircase you climb up and pass a few rooms with information about the history of Tallinn. Once at the top, you walk about 200 meters from one tower to another. A visit does not take long but is very rewarding!
Tallinn tips: The most beautiful view can be found on the top floor of the Hellaman tower. This in fact offers panoramic views of Tallinn, with the different church towers rising above the city.
St. Olaf church
St. Olaf Church, named after the Norwegian King Olav II, is one of Tallinn’s most striking attractions and landmarks, because of its 124-meter-high tower. Today, you can climb the 232 steps to the tower for fantastic views of Toompea and the lower city. Keep in mind that the tower was closed to visitors in 2021.
St. Nicholas church (Niguliste kirik)
This 13th century church is located in a large square, on Ruutli street and is surrounded by nice restaurants and a small park. During World War II, St. Nicholas Church was badly hit by Sovjet bombing but later rebuilt. Today the church serves as a museum of religious art. Personally I am not so much interested in this type of art but the exterior of this Gothic church is one of the sights you definitely want to see in Tallinn.
Pikk Jalg – long leg gate
For a long time the upper town and lower town were separated by gates. In this way, the elite on the Domberg managed to control the lower town and its citizens. The Luhike jalg was the gate for pedestrians and the Pikk Jalg (long leg gate) was the only major road connecting both parts of the city.
Attractions and sights in Toompea hill Tallinn
Toompea hill is a hill and the former upper town of Tallinn. In the time of the German Empire, this was the place for the elite. They looked down on the traders and workers in the lower town. Nowadays this area of Tallinn houses government buildings, embassies and some interesting sights, attractions and other things to do.
Viewpoints – best things to do in Tallinn
Toompea has two viewpoints that are worth visiting. From the Patkuli Viewing Platform you overlook the western part of Tallinn and have a good view of the city walls, towers and the Gulf of Finland, where the cruise ships are docked. The Kohtuotsa viewpoint, in the north, offers yet another view of the city. From here you look straight at the streets, orange-tiled houses and sights of Tallinn. Both points are within walking distance of each other and are prefect photo spots! You don’t want to miss these viewpoits during your sightseeing in Tallinn.
Since the 13th century, this has been the seat of power. And still the Estonian parliament houses here. The castle was built in the 18th century, on the 13th century fortress placed by the Danes. You will notice, an interesting combination of structures and styles. On one side you see a baroque pink palace and if you walk down a little more, you see the old moat, city walls and towers.
Fact: The flag at the top of the Pikk Herman tower (long Herman), one of the corner towers, tells you who is in power. Today, of course, the flag of Estonia hangs here but looking at history, this was not always the case. Several flags have hung here over the years.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – best things to do in Tallinn
I think this is one of the most beautiful churches in Tallinn. The Alexander Nevsky is a colorful and richly decorated Orthodox Russian church, totally different from all the other churches in the city. When Estonia was part of the Russian empire and the call for independence grew, the Russian Tsar had this church built, as a form of display of power. And that right across from the Toompea Castle. Not only the outside is impressive, inside you will find a totally different world, with many Russian Orthodox visitors.
St Mary’s Cathedral
Also known as Tallinns Cathedral, the Lutheran church St Mary was rebuilt several times. That created a mix of architectural styles, dating from the 13th century to the 18th century Baroque style. For years, the Estonian elite was buried here. Today, you can visit the church and climb the 69-meter high Baroque bell tower for scenic views
Kiek in de Kök
An unusual name for sure! Kiek in de Kök is Low German for “Look in the kitchen”. Lower German was the common language spoken in the Hanseatic cities (including Tallinn) during the Middle Ages. It was the name of one of the gun towers, which was part of the former city wall, because it allowed the soldiers to look into the kitchens of the surrounding houses. Today, Kiek in the Kök is a museum complex and one of Tallinn’s main attractions. The museum includes 4 cannon towers and is a place where you can learn all about the defenses and military history. It is also possible to visit the 17th century underground corridor system, by guide.
Extra Tallinn tips: Make sure to have a look at the post office for a picture. A beautiful building with pastel green colors.
Things to do in Kadriorg District Tallinn
Are you looking for some greenery? Less than 2 kilometers from the old town you will find the Kadriorg Park, known for the Kadriorg Palace. The Russian Tsar Peter the Great had the park and palace built for his wife Catherine I, after he conquered Estonia. It is a wonderful area to take a break, wander along the green promenades and sit on a bench around the swan pond. Especially on weekends, it is a popular place for young and old to gather.
More than 300 years ago Tsar Peter the Great had this baroque palace built for his wife. Kadriorg therefore means Catherine’s valley. Today it is an art museum. But even if you don’t feel like visiting a museum, it’s worth it to admire the rose-red colors and architecture. Don’t forget to walk to the back of the palace. Here you will find a beautiful palace garden.
Tallinn history tips: Are you interested in history and want to know more about Peter the Great and the time of the Russian Tsars? At the Peter the Great museum you can take a look at the house where he and his wife lived during the construction of the palace.
Kumu art museum
The Kumu art museum is one of the best things to do in Tallinn if you are into art. The futuristic building, consisting of glass, limestone and copper, was designed to fit perfectly into the landscape. And it succeeded. Kumu consists of seven floors of art from Estonia, starting from the 18th century. Fantastic to spend a morning or afternoon here getting inspired by artists you probably know little or nothing about. The museum won the European Museum of the Year Award almost immediately after opening.
Tallinn art tips: Interested in modern art? Then make sure to get inspired in the Estonian Museum of Contemporary art, an institution that wants to build a bridge between official art institutions and alternative galleries. Opinions about the exhibitions are divided, but that’s exactly the point!
Behind the Kadriorg Palace there is the Presidential Palace of Tallinn. Because it is still the official residence of the president himself, it is closed to the public. However, you can take pictures of the outside and observe the changing of the guard.
Kalamaja district in Tallinn Estonia
What used to be a district where you didn’t want to be seen, is now the hipster district of the city. Located behind the train station, Kalamaja is known for its beautiful wooden houses, which attract wealthy families and artists. Nice to stroll around, take pictures and experience a different side of Tallinn.
Things to do in Telliskivi Tallinn | 5 sights & attractions
I had heard a lot about this neighbourhood and I couldn’t wait to visit. Telliskivi Creative city is a former industrial area in the Kalamaja district that was transformed into a creative hub, where many startups and creative companies have found their way. You will find trendy stores, cool restaurants and coffee bars, art spaces, theaters and lots of cool street art. Maybe even a bit comparable to the cultural area Aparaaaditehas in Tartu. Take your time to go sightseeing in Telliskivi in Tallinn, as you can enjoy yourself here for hours. These are my tips for best things to do in Telliskivi Tallinn.
Fotografiska Tallinn Photography Museum
The Fotografiska museum is without a doubt one of the top museums. And especially if you love photography, it is one of the best things to do in Tallinn. Fotografiska opened in Stockholm in 2010 and now has museums in New York, Tallinn and soon Berlin. Many exhibitions travel therefore from country to country.
I was blown away by the great exhibition This Empty World/Inherit the Dust by photographer and director Nick Brand. In this exhibition, he captures in a special way the impact of humans in places where animals used to live. The photos were taken at two different moments in time and merged later. However, the moments were captures at exactly the same location. In the first phase, a set was built, in Kenya, among other places, through which animals from the region found their way after time. After the animals were captured on camera, the sets were converted but the camera remained in place. A second series was photographed with a cast of people from local communities. The final result asks attention to the desperate situation of wildlife and the devastating consequences of development. Fascinating and intriguing!
But the pieces of the Scandinavian artist Helene Schmitz and the exhibition with work of different Estonian photographers were also worth it. In Thinking like a Mountain Helene Schmitz uses photography to show the influence of industry on the beautiful nature of Iceland and Sweden.
On the website you can find an overview of all the exhibitions. But believe me, even if you don’t know the photographer, the exhibitions are of world class and beautiful.
Extra Tallinn tips: On the roof terrace of Fotografiska there is a restaurant with a terrace and view of Tallinn. Also the coffee shop and museum store downstairs are nice places to spend time. Make sure to save some room in your suitcase for one of the nice museum books!
Baltic Station Market – Food market
This unusual building houses a cool food market with 300 different stores. There is a separate area for fruits and vegetables and meat and fish. And a street food hall with numerous stalls where you can taste and buy all kind of things. On the top floor you’ll find a section with vintage clothing, antiques and art. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Tallinn if you are into food.
Enjoy street art
Telliskivi is known for its cool street art. You can walk along the artworks. Or if you want to know more about the thoughts behind the works, it is interesting to take a street-art tour.
Shopping in Telliskivi
The large halls in Telliskivi are the home of hip stores with design, clothing, music, books, art cosmetics and other gadgets. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, it’s a great way to observe Estonian style.
Depoo is the food street of Telliskivi. Train cars and containers are the setting for restaurants and food trucks. Especially on weekends it is the place-to-be. Terraces are packed and there is live music everywhere.
Curious about nice places to eat and drink? In the following article you can read my tips for the best restaurant in Telliskivi Tallinn.
Things to do in Noblessner Port Tallinn | 4 sights & attractions
Another surprising district with interesting sights and things to do is the Noblessner Sea Quarter in Tallinn. Noblessner port used to be an industrial area with 12 submarine factories, built by order of the Russian Tsar in 1912. For years the area was closed to the public. But today the factories house museums, boutique stores and restaurant. Also here you can easily spend a morning or afternoon, walk along the boulevard, eat in great restaurants and get inspired by the many creative places. There are also regular events and markets. These are my tips for things to do in Noblessner port in Tallinn.
Kai Art Centre
Kai Art Centre is the cultural heart of Noblessner port. Inside you’ll find modern art exhibitions, a cinema, a bakery and some restaurants.
Proto Invention Factory
In Proto Invention Factory everything revolves around virtual – reality, where you experience the greatest inventions of through the years. You can walk on the bottom of the ocean, pilot a hot air balloon or race a 19th century steam engine through underground passages. This way you follow in the footsteps of famous scientists. For kids? Definitely! But it’s also one of the fun things to do in Tallinn if you are looking for something different.
Have a look at interior design store Shishi
This is where you’ll definitely want to drop in. Shishi is a Norwegian/Estonian interior design brand, which is sold in the best department stores in the world. In this hall in Nosblessner port you’ll find vases, candles, candlesticks, plants and trees: Lots of beautiful things to decorate your home with. For the lovers, there is also an annual Christmas collection. Perhaps not handy to carry in your luggage, but in any case nice to get inspired.
Dancing in Hall
Into electronic music and feel like going out? Then you definitely want to check out the line up of Technoclub Hall, one of the better clubs in the region.
This former industrial area, located between the old town and port, has become a new destination as well. You’ll find apartments, restaurants with nice terraces and the Museum of Estonian Architecture. The perfect place for a drink!
Tallinn tips and good to know! Keep in mind that most museums sights in Tallinn are closed on Mondays.
Things to do in and around Tallinn Estonia
Pirita Tallinn beach
Did you know that Tallinn also has a beach? Especially in the summer, Pirita is a wonderful place and one of the best things to do in Tallinn. But also on a windy day you can walk through the pine forests, along the beach and take a look at the many surfers. Highly recommended! Curious about more beaches around Tallinn? Have a look here.
Did you find these tips with sights & attractions for Tallinn interesting? About 2 hours drive from Tallinn you’ll find Tartu, the second city of Estonia. Tartu is known as a university city and is also seen as the intellectual cultural capital of the country. In Tartu you will find concert halls, theaters, exhibitions and trendy neighbourhoods with many bars. In the next article you will find my personal recommendations for what to do in Tartu, with great attractions and useful tips for your visit.
Restaurants Tallinn Estland
Tallinn is bursting with nice and good restaurants. And there is nothing better than enjoying a great meal after a day of sightseeing in Tallinn. From cozy restaurants in the center like Pegasus and Rataskaevu 16 to hotspots like F-Hoone in Telliskivi and Lore Bistro in Noblessener port. But there are also high end diners at Mon Repos in Kadriorg and culinary experiences at 180 degrees. In the next article you’ll find my tips for the best restaurants in Tallinn.
Hotels in Tallinn Estonia
Hotel Telegraaf, Autograph Collection
Hotel Telegraaf is the kind of hotel that makes me happy. This former post office has been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel, located in the center of the city. A great starting point if you want to go sightseeing in the old town of Tallinn. The hotel has character and exudes history. There are different types of rooms, modernly decorated with art deco elements. You will also come across old telephones and paintings throughout the hotel. Make sure you reserve a table in the accompanying Restaurant Tchaikovsky. As the name suggests, music plays an important role here. The cuisine consists of a mix of French influences, Russian traditions and Estonian ingredients. It is even in the list of Estonia’s best restaurants.
Hotel L’Embitu is a modern hotel, within walking distance of the old town. The rooms are spacious and the beds lovely. You can also dine in the rooftop restaurant and use the hotel spa for free as a guest.
Looking for a special place to stay? In Iglu park, located in the Noblessner district, you’ll find small but comfortable igloo cottages with a view of the water. You can also use the igloo sauna houses. Very cool!
How to get around in Tallinn
All the sights and attractions in Tallinn’s old town can be explored by foot. And if you don’t mind walking, you can easily walk to other districts such as Kadriorg, Telliskivi and Noblessner to continue your sightseeing in Tallinn. Another great option is to rent an electric scooter. Download the Tuul application and you’ll find one in no time. In addition, cabs and uber’s are quite affordable. Especially in the evening or in case of bad weather you can get to your next destination for a few euros.
How to reach Tallinn Estonia
Air Baltic has regular flights from different destinations. From Tallinn you can also travel to Tartu, the second largest city of Estonia. There are several trains a day, that take you to Tartu within two hours. Or rent a car, like I did, so you can be independent and see even more of South Estonia.
If you are planning a trip to Estonia, make sure to check out South Estonia. A new world will open up with forested areas where you can walk, pick mushrooms and berries, traditions and customs of the Seto’s and Old Believers, small villages around Lake Peipus, delicious local dishes and many friendly people who are ready to offer you a glimpse into their lives. In the next article article you can read my tips for things to do in South Estonia, and why you should definitely visit this region.
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More about Estonia
Did you like this article with tips for Tallinn sights and attractions? And do you want to read more about Estonia? Do you want to read more about Estonia? In collaboration with VisitEstonia I made a fantastic trip through Estonia, visiting different sides of the country. On Passport the World you’ll find many travel tips and inspiration for discovering Estonia. Have a look in the Estonia archive with a comprehensive guide to Tartu, Estonia’s second city, an article with my favorite restaurants in Tallinn, tips to discover South Estonia and an article with 20 tips and things to do aroud Lake Peipsi and the Onion Route. Looking for more sightseeing inspiration in Tallinn? Then check out the website of VisitTallinn for more Tallinn tips.