The 48 Best Things to Do in Tallinn, Estonia

View of Tallinn
View of Tallinn | © kavalenkava/Shutterstock
Elizabeth Georgian

The breathtaking capital of Estonia — Tallinn — is possibly one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe. The encompassing medieval stone walls, sky-scraping church bell towers, and winding cobblestone streets opening into squares and courtyards will certainly cause visitors’ jaws to drop in awe. Continue reading to learn the top sights to enjoy during an escape to Tallinn.

1. Viru Gates

Architectural Landmark

Enter Tallinn’s marvelous old town through Viru Gate, which was part of the city’s 14th-century extensive defense system. Though a portion of the Viru Gate was demolished to allow for horse-drawn traffic, the towers of the gate remain. The area around Viru Gate is now home to market stalls selling woolen mittens, sweet smelling roasted nuts, and numerous restaurants. The gates are a key stopping point on any good Tallinn city tour.

2. Old Town

Architectural Landmark

shutterstock_331780052-kavalenkava

The Old Town has to be the top draw for visitors to Tallinn. Featuring beautiful architecture and locals dressed in medieval clothing, the Old Town somehow escapes feeling overly touristy or kitschy like other cities with costumed workers might experience. Book an Old Town walking tour to discover the area with a local expert.

3. Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform

Architectural Landmark

For the best view of Tallinn, and to take your own stunning photo for Instagram (don’t forget to add the hashtag #visitestonia), head to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform. Located on Toompea Hill, visitors will be treated to unobstructed views of the harbor, bell towers, and the terra-cotta colored roof tiles. This is also a popular spot for local musicians to hang out, providing some background music to the view.

4. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Cathedral

Also located on Toompea Hill, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is relatively recent addition to the medieval old town — it was completed only in 1900. This Russian Orthodox church has distinct, black onion domes that can be easily spotted towering above Tallinn. The interior of the church can be visited, although visitors should first check service times and be respectful of private services as this is an active church. Visiting the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is free of charge, and it also features on all of the city’s walking tours.

5. St. Olaf's Church

Church

St. Olaf’s Church is one of the most important structures in Tallinn, and is the city’s largest medieval building. This well-preserved church was likely built in the 1200s and is notable due to its high church tower that has been struck by lightening numerous times throughout its history. St. Olaf’s Church is not open for visitors during the winter (open from April until October) and is free of charge. Visitors can climb the narrow stairs to the top of the church for a beautiful view over Tallinn’s Old Town, and get a local’s insight on a guided tour of the city.

6. Town Hall Square

Architectural Landmark

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Stunning in every season, but particularly during the annual Christmas market, Town Hall Square has been the heart of Tallinn since the 13th century. Though no longer acting as the city’s marketplace, the Town Hall Square sees bustling activity with café chairs and tables spilling into the square in the summer, numerous tour groups, and occasional festivals. The surrounding architecture is also stunning; keep an eye out for dragons on the Town Hall!

7. Eating out

Restaurant, Northern European, French

Boasting some of the best restaurants in the three Baltic states, eating out is certainly one of the best activities offered in Tallinn. Visitors can indulge in anything from traditional Estonian cuisine to Indian or medieval fare. Some of our top restaurant suggestions include Ribe, Rataskaevu 16, and Olde Hansa. You can also book a 3-Hour Estonian Food Tour to discover the biggest hidden gems in town.

8. Promenade along the Tallinn Town Wall

Architectural Landmark

Visitors can climb a portion of Tallinn’s wall to explore the towers and enjoy beautiful city views. The wall was formerly 2.4-km long and had 46 towers; while not as magnificent as it once was, it still is impressive at approximately 1.9-km long with around 20 towers remaining. It really is a privilege to walk these ancient defensive walls. Opening hours for the Tallinn Town Wall vary depending on the season.

9. Toompea Castle

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Located next to Alexander Nevsky Church, the present Toompea Castle was built in the late 1700s. This understated castle features a salmon pink exterior, white details, and the national flag and crest. The castle can be visited on weekdays, but visitors must book ahead of time. A large park can be found next to Toompea Castle, providing visitors with a bit of a green reprieve from city life. You can visit the castle as part of the city’s historical walking tour.

10. Local Beer

Brewery

The Baltics are well-known for their ever expanding craft beer scene, with Estonia leading the pack. Delicious craft beer can be enjoyed throughout the city and during specialty craft beer events. One of the most beloved Estonian craft breweries is Põhjala Brewery, while SIP Wine and Beer Shop is also a great option for beer lovers in Tallinn. Book a craft brewery visit and tasting session to gain a little expert insights into local brewing techniques.

11. Telliskivi Creative City

Architectural Landmark

Located a bit off-the-beaten-path, Telliskivi Creative City should be visited by those interested in seeing the creative side of Tallinn. Telliskivi is a complex of former warehouses turned into boutiques, restaurants, live music venues, and cafés, and all are beautifully decorated with street art. Join the North Tallinn Guided Bike tour to discover the area’s hidden gems.

12. KGB Museum in Viru Hotel

Museum

KGB Museum
© Play Among Friends Paf/Flickr
The Baltic States have faced a challenging recent history, with Estonia only regaining its freedom from Soviet occupation in 1991. Located in Viru Hotel, the KGB Museum illustrates the secret headquarters kept by the KGB in numerous hotels throughout the former Soviet Union. The museum displays spy equipment and other objects from the Soviet times. Visitors must book in advance, and the museum can be visited from Tuesday through Sunday.

13. Kalamaja District

Architectural Landmark

Though previously a closed border zone, the Kalamaja District has enjoyed rejuvenation in recent years as Tallinn’s hipster neighborhood. Excellent restaurants and shops can be found among traditional wooden homes. Visitors looking for a meal while in Kalamaja should stop by Cafe Moon for perfect Nordic dishes. This area features prominently on the Tallinn Winter Bike Tour.

14. Port of Tallinn

Museum

Visitors arriving to Tallinn via ship will likely spend at least some time walking through the Port of Tallinn. The Sadama District (harbor district) is a bustling area of Tallinn with travelers coming from and going to boats. Several affordable hotels and restaurants can be found in this area, as well as the Museum of Estonian Architecture (located in the Rotermanni Quarter). The Museum of Estonian Architecture focuses on contemporary architecture and has frequently changing exhibitions.

15. Kumu

Museum

Kunstimuuseum (‘Art Museum’), or Kumu for short, is the largest art museum in the Baltics and so well worth a visit. Opened in 2006, it met with immediate acclaim, earning the European Museum of the Year award in 2008. The main collection features Estonian works from the 18th century onward, while temporary exhibitions focus on modern and contemporary art from all over the world. But the building itself is arguably as remarkable as the art: it’s a seven-story circular, ultramodern glass building that is somehow in harmony with its historical surroundings. Recommended by Valentine Baldassari.

16. Go to the beach

Natural Feature

Though the Baltic sea is barely visible from the Old Town, Tallinn is a coastal city; tourists and locals alike enjoy the easily accessibly seashore. The busiest is Pirita, which sometimes attract thousands of visitors a day. And for good reason: the 2km strand has great facilities like playgrounds for children, lockers, and equipment rental but also an amazing view of the Gulf of Finland. Another option is Kakumäe, the furthest and therefore quietest beach reachable with bus 21. Swimming is entirely possible…for those who don’t mind water temperatures around 20° Celsius. You’ll take along Pirita beach on the Tallinn Bicycle Sightseeing Tour. Recommended by Valentine Baldassari.

17. Go on top of the TV Tower

Architectural Landmark

For more great views of the city and the Gulf of Finland, climb (not literally—there’s an elevator) to the 21st floor of the TV Tower near the Pirita suburb. It’s the tallest building in Tallinn and its viewing deck, 170 meters above the ground, offers an astonishing 360 degree panorama, enabling visitor to see the city in a new light. Make sure to visit on a clear day, as the view isn’t nearly as impressive otherwise. There’s also a restaurant, so why not have coffee or a meal above the city? You can book your Walk on the Edge Attraction Ticket via the link below. Recommended by Valentine Baldassari.

18. Seaplane Harbour Museum

Museum

Housed in impressive seaplane hangars, this museum presents exhibits of Estonia’s maritime history from its humble beginnings to Soviet times and beyond. What’s really great is being able to actually visit the ships, including a 1936 submarine and a replica of a pre-World War II seaplane. There’s also a range of activities that make the visit perfect for kids too, including aviation simulators and old uniform replicas visitors can try on. The outdoor area contain even more historic ships. The museum is extremely modern, notably in its adoption of a clever system for time-pressed visitors: everyone gets a card they can swipe on every display to get the explanations emailed to them. Recommended by Valentine Baldassari.

19. Patarei Prison

Architectural Landmark

Also in the Kalamaja district, this 19th-century sea fortress was used as a prison from 1919 to 2004. It’s probably the best place in the world to get an idea of what a Soviet prison was like. It is dark, gloomy, and more than a little oppressive, but surprisingly emotional. Visitors can go on their own but booking a tour makes the experience all the more affecting thanks to the guides’ in-depth knowledge of the prison’s history, as well as the possibility of accessing parts of it single visitors aren’t allowed in. For something a little different, book an escape game at Patarei Prison, for example with Blue Drum. Recommended by Valentine Baldassari.

20. Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Located on Toompea Hill, mainland Estonia’s oldest church, also known as the Dome church, was established in the 13th century but repeated modifications have turned it into a fascinating mix of architectural styles; for instance, a baroque spire was built in the western part of the nave in the late 18th century. From that very 69-meter spire visitors can admire a stunning view of Toompea and the Old Town, especially of the Alexander Nevsky orthodox cathedral. Recommended by Valentine Baldassari.

21. Danish King’s Garden

Architectural Landmark

Legend says that in 1219, at the location of this lovely garden, as the Danes were losing a battle, the heavens gave them their flag and the battle then turned in their favor. And that is how Denmark got its flag. Whatever the truth about this story—we suspect a flagmaker’s involved, not God—it makes for a charming anecdote about one of the Old Town’s most quiet, secluded corners. The park itself is popular with locals as a place to hang out, with its benches and grassy areas. It’s bordered by the old town walls on one side and a panorama of Old Town rooftops on the other. All in all, it’s a charming place to relax in after or during a long day of sightseeing. Recommended by Valentine Baldassari.

22. Enjoy Tallinn’s nightlife

Architectural Landmark

Tallinn has beautiful architecture and culture but it’s also an active city with many bars and clubs. Most of the nightlife is concentrated in the Old Town, though the district of Kalamaja is gaining traction. For a city of its size, Tallinn has a lot to offer in terms of going out. Good bars include Labor, where drinks are served in test tubes and beakers, and trendy Red Emperor, but there are many, so don’t hesitate to explore. For clubbing, there’s everything from mainstream to underground. Check out, for instance, the iconic Club Studio. Recommended by Valentine Baldassari.

23. Kadriorg Park

Park

Kadriorg Park is one of the biggest and most beautiful parks in Europe. If you want to relax surrounded by nature, you should look no further than here. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

24. Estonian Open Air Museum

Museum

After learning more about Estonian history and culture make sure to visit Estonian Open Air Museum and experience it all yourself. There is no better place in Estonia to see everyday lives of the villagers in the 18th-20th century. You can even visit an old village tavern and try out the traditional Estonian dishes prepared by local cooks. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

25. The Russalka Memorial

Architectural Landmark

The Russalka Memorial is one of the most iconic places in Tallinn. This monument was built in 1902 by Amandus Adamson to honor the people who died in 1893 when Russian warship Rusalka (Mermaid) sank on its way to Finland. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

26. Freedom Square

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Freedom Square is a very important historic place in Tallinn. This plaza was known as Victory Square during the Soviet era and it hosted all the military parades which celebrated holidays like Victory Day and October Revolution. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

27. Tallinn Zoo

Zoo

Tallinn Zoo is a great place to see animals from all over the world in one place. It is the biggest zoo in Estonia, housing more than 13,000 animals, and is perfect for all ages. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

28. St. Nicholas’ Orthodox Church

Church

St. Nicholas’ Orthodox Church was designed by famous architect Luigi Rusca and built in the early 19th-century. It is one of the most iconic churches in Tallinn, which perfectly translates the true spirit of the city, with all the turbulent history and magnificent culture. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

29. Estonian History Museum

Museum

Estonian History Museum is located in the 15th-century Great Guild Hall, which is already an important historic monument in Estonia. Inside you can find the most important exhibits from Estonian history since prehistoric times, so there is no better place to learn all about this spectacular Baltic State. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

30. Oldest pharmacy in Europe

Architectural Landmark

This pharmacy, located in Town Hall Square, was opened in 1422 and is still operating! It is by far the oldest one in Europe, so if you want to learn what people used as medicine hundreds of years ago, be sure to stop by. Of course, you can purchase modern products just like in any other Tallinn pharmacy. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

31. Kiek in de Kök

Architectural Landmark

Kiek in de Kök is a huge 38-meter-high cannon tower, which is now a museum. If you are interested in walls, cannons, and medieval exhibits, you must drop by this place, which is also a starting point of a hidden tunnels system which runs through Toompea Hill. It features on several walking tours of the city. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

32. Niguliste Museum

Museum

Niguliste Museum is located in an old church from the 13th century, which has been renovated to serve as an art museum. It is the perfect place to get to know Estonian history and walk in one of the oldest churches in the country. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

33. Peter the Great House Museum

Museum

Peter the Great House Museum is the oldest museum in Tallinn, offering a brilliant collection of items which belonged to Peter I, the Russian Tsar, and his wife Catherine I. The couple stayed in this old manor in the early 18th century, making this site a historical heritage today. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

34. Marzipan Gallery

Art Gallery

Marzipan Gallery really is what it sounds like. Everything inside is made from marzipan, including figures of famous people like Vladimir Putin. Entry is free and food and drink is available for purchase inside. It is one of the most authentic places in Tallinn and one of few museums in the world to utilize the confectionary in its craft. Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

35. The Culture Kilometer

Architectural Landmark

Venture off the beaten tourist track and onto this less traditional 2.5-kilometer route which shows a different side of Tallinn, telling the story of its industrial history and its growth into a modern bohemia. You’ll see abandoned structures from the Soviet era left to ruin, and remnants of railroad tracks going nowhere, but as you walk on, you’ll also see several Soviet factories transformed into bohemian cafés and other thriving community spaces. You’ll see the shells of old buildings completely covered in colorful graffiti, as well as the squeaky-clean facades of newly incorporated upscale residential buildings. Officially starting at Linnahall car park and ending at Port Noblessner, the Culture Kilometer offers visitors an insightful look at Kalamaja’s true character: an ever-evolving neighborhood where culture, art and industry merge. Recommended by Alexa Smith.

36. Linnahall Building

Architectural Landmark

Linnahall was built as a sports and concerts venue for the 22nd Moscow Summer Olympic Games in 1980, and still stands right on Tallinn’s seafront like a friendly ghost from the Soviet era. Though it’s little more than a shell now, it remains a favorite under-the-radar stop for locals, especially at absurdly early hours on summer mornings. Sound a little crazy? Once you’ve watched the sunrise from the rooftop of Linnahall, you’ll understand what’s got everyone out of bed at 5am to visit a defunct stadium: a beautiful rosy panorama of the sea, the old town, the new skyscrapers and the factories, is without a doubt worth a sleepless night. Recommended by Alexa Smith.

37. Kalamaja Kalmistupark (Kalamaja Cemetery Park)

Park

Once the city’s oldest cemetery, Kalamaja Cemetery Park is now a beloved picnic spot and a popular playground for local kids. Though the land served as a cemetery for over 400 years and was the resting place for thousands of graves, in the mid-20th century the graveyard was completely flattened and destroyed by the Soviet authorities. A restored chapel stands as a lone memorial in the park, the only reminder of the area’s former identity. Today, this expansive park has blossomed into the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon strolling and having fun with your family outdoors, or to get a peaceful moment to yourself if you need a break from the city. Recommended by Alexa Smith.

38. The Energy Discovery Centre

Architectural Landmark

Located in Tallinn’s 102-year-old power plant, The Energy Discovery Centre is an electrifying attraction for the whole family. With 130 interactive displays, one-of-a-kind lightning demonstrations, and their own out-of-this-world virtual planetarium, the Energy Discovery Centre is a fantastic educational experience that transports its visitors to different planes, planets and realities. Especially recommended for families with little Einsteins-to-be! Recommended by Alexa Smith.

39. Balti Jaam Market

Market

If you’re fascinated by the culture and styles of the Soviet Era, come to the Balti Jaam train station flea market for a total throwback. Whatever odd or obscure bits and bobs you’re looking for, your best chance of finding them is right here. From Soviet medals and authentic propaganda posters to secondhand clothes and an eclectic mix of foods, this market is buzzing with activity and is a great stop for any bargain hunter or savvy vintage shopper. Well away from the typical tourists’ trail, Balti Jaam Market gives an exciting new life to Tallinn’s past and yields different treasures to explore every day, just like the neighborhood of Kalamaja itself. Recommended by Alexa Smith.

40. Port Noblessner

Architectural Landmark

At the very end of the Culture Kilometer, you’ll arrive at Port Noblessner. Dating back to 1912, this port served the Russian Navy for many decades, and the area has been closed to citizens for nearly a century due to its military functions. Now you can explore the Port’s harbor and yacht club, check out a show at the Port’s new concert venue, or stop in for a coffee at one of its terrace cafes, where you relax and gaze out at the water. After walking all the way from the Art Museum and taking in everything this area has to offer, a calm, beautiful view and a gentle sea breeze make an ideal ending to your inspiring stroll through Kalamaja’s culture. Recommended by Alexa Smith.

The Best Day Trips from Tallinn

Recommended by Kasparas Asmonaitis.

41. Lahemaa National Park

Park

Lahemaa National Park, located only 50 kilometers away from Tallinn, is one of the most beautiful national parks in Estonia, where you can see various species of animal, including moose, lynxes, and brown bears. Nature is also extremely diverse in Lahemaa National Park, so you can choose to wander through magical forests, explore bogs, or even walk on sandy beaches. It is perfect for a day trip – which you can with pick up from Tallinn, but people who want to experience even more of Estonia’s countryside should consider staying in Lahemaa even longer.

42. Helsinki

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

It might sound crazy but you can reach Helsinki from Tallinn in under two hours. There are plenty of ferries which can take you to the capital of Finland. There are way too many things to do in Helsinki to list them all, but one thing is for sure – everyone can find something they love in Helsinki, from visiting historic museums to hitting local bars to walking around stunning streets to experiencing Finnish saunas.

43. Prangli Island

Natural Feature

Prangli Island is the only permanently inhabited island in Estonia’s north, inviting its visitors for a unique and unforgettable experience. You can visit the local fishermen villages, try traditional fish dishes, walk around sandy beaches and pine forests, and meet the locals to learn more about their customs and culture.

44. Haapsalu

Architectural Landmark

Haapsalu resort town is located on the west coast of Estonia, only one hour and 20 minutes away from Tallin. This small town is a must-visit place if you want to learn more about the unique culture of Estonia and relax on the most beautiful white sand beaches. People who love mechanics and technology should visit the Estonian train museum, which is located in Haapsalu train station, often nominated as the most beautiful of its kind in the whole country.

45. Tartu

Architectural Landmark

Tartu is the capital of students in Estonia, so the best time to visit this city is autumn when all the students rush in for the new academic year and the city comes to life. Visit the oldest university in Estonia, learn more about the country’s dramatic past in the KGB museum, or bring your kids to see some old toys in Tartu toy museum. There are also plenty of wonderful restaurants and bars to try some delicious and traditional Estonian food.

46. Parnu

Architectural Landmark

If you want to take your other half on a romantic date, Parnu is definitely the place to go. The beaches are stunning and there are various activities you can choose from, including windsurfing and playing mini-golf. Also, the food is extremely delicious in Parnu and some locals even come here just for the pizza, arguably the best in Estonia.

47. Soomaa National Park

Park

Soomaa National Park
©Eriks Z/Shutterstock
Soomaa National Park has a wonderful infrastructure, including stroller accessible trails, and is open all year long. During the rainy season, the park floods to the point that it can only be accessed via canoes and boats, adding even more color to the whole experience. People who want to see beavers and their dams can hike the special Beaver Trail.

48. Narva

Architectural Landmark

People who want to see how the Soviet Union once looked, should consider visiting Narva. Most of the buildings were built during the Soviet era and nothing has changed much since, creating a unique atmosphere of older times. People also come to see two huge fortresses, which are only separated by Narva River. The first one, Narva fortress, stands in Narva and belongs to Estonia, while the other one, Ivangorod fortress, is already in the Russian territory.

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