Eastern Europe is becoming trendier by the day… with a buzzing art scene, heaps of culture, delicious national dishes and architecture a plenty, where should you start? Here are our top 10 things to do in the capital of Estonia, Tallinn.
1. Get lost in Tallinn’s Old Town
The main attraction of Tallinn is the Old Town. It is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and dates back to the 13th century! In just one day you can explore most of the places of this magical medieval town. First, visit the Kohtuotsa platform in the upper part of Old Town to take photos of red rooftops, the harbour and the city’s modern tall buildings. In the lower part of Tallinn’s Old Town you will find the hidden St Catherine’s passage. This small but enchanting passage connects Müürivahe street (where the handmade kint market is located) and Vene street. The alleyway transports you back in time with its tombstones hanging from the walls, quirky art shops where you can watch local craftsmen making things such as pottery, and a couple of authentic Estonian places to eat.
There are plenty of other narrow and charming cobble stone streets in the Old Town, so just explore the area and don’t be afraid to turn down the smallest and narrowest roads – these are the most interesting ones!
2. Get a glimpse of how people used to live in Tallinn’s countryside.
Go to the Open Air Museum in Rocca al Mare. Close to the city centre, you can experience how Estonian countryside life used to be in the 18th century. Spread out across 79 hectares of land, there are farm houses, a mill, a church, a school house and even an Inn in which you can eat traditional Estonian food such as “mulgipuder” (mashed potatoes with bacon and groats) and herring with black bread. There are always special events and celebrations taking place at the Open Air Museum in Rocca al Mare, so have a look at their website before you visit and enjoy a day experiencing traditional rural Estonian life.
3. Up in the Sky above Tallinn
Whilst you are in Tallinn, visit the city’s TV tower. TV tower is located in Pirita and can be easily accessed by the buses number 34A, 38 and 49 from city centre or by taxi. It is the tallest building in Estonia (314 meters).
If you’re a thrill-seeker who likes heights, you can actually walk around the edge of the TV tower (which is 175 meters above the ground). You will be attached to a safety harness during the walk, just in case you take a wrong step!
For those not so keen on heights, learn about the history of Estonia and the TV tower (it has a special history for Estonians) from the interactive multimedia devices within. Or treat yourself to a delicious meal at the restaurant while enjoying the spectacular view of Tallinn.
4. Escape the hustle and bustle of Tallinn.
Take time out from the hustle and bustle of Tallinn in Kadriorg. All you need to do is jump on the tram number 3 from the city centre and you will be there in 10 minutes. In Kadriorg you will find plenty of green parks, ponds, amazing places to eat and museums.
The main attraction is the baroque style Kadriorg Palace, which dates back to the 18th century. It was originally built as a summer house for Russian Tsar Peter the Great. Now it is a museum of foreign art. Another museum that is worth visiting is KUMU, where you could spend all day looking at different exhibitions.
From Kadriorg Palace you can walk down to the seaside to enjoy the sunset and then head back to town for dinner or a night out.
5. Climb up the stairs of St. Olaf’s Church.
For another amazing view of Tallinn, visit St Olaf’s Church and climb the stairs to its viewing platform. This Gothic-style church was once the tallest building in the world (during 1549-1625). For just €2 and around 250 steps (60 meters above ground) you can enjoy more spectacular views of Tallinn’s Old Town and harbour. It’s a great photo spot, and also allows you to get some exercise in!
6. Go local with a visit to Tallinn’s Kalamaja District.
If you want to see how locals live then head to Tallinn’s Kalamaja district. It is located just outside Tallinn’s Old Town. Here in Kalamaja you will find cute wooden-houses, museums, shops and bohemian cafes – which makes it a popular place to hang out amongst locals.
If you really want to experience something different then head to Kalma’s wood-fired public sauna. It was built in 1928 and is still open to the public. You probably won’t find any tourist there, but you will find some Estonians who will tell you all about the sauna traditions while enjoying a beer. Take your own beer and a snack with you and really get to experience a little slice of Estonia (don’t forget to take your own towel!).
7. Get creative in Telliskivi Creative City
Telliskivi Creative City is one of the most well known and popular areas in Tallinn. It used to be an old industrial site which has now been turned into an area with different studios, workshops, shops, clubs, bars and restaurants. There is always something happening and it gets very lively at the weekends! You are sure to meet creative and innovative people who like to make new friends. It’s the perfect place to wander around, enjoy drinks in different bars and meet new people, or maybe take a yoga class or attend some workshops.
8. Have a wild night out, Tallinn style!
Join the infamous Tallinn pub crawl and have a wild night out. It’s a sure fire way to meet other travellers, especially if you are a solo traveller. Pub-crawls start from the backpacker hostels – and there are plenty to choose from! Pub-crawls have hosts who will guide you to the different pubs and clubs and make sure that you are safe and having a good time. These nights are fun but be warned, they can get a bit wild…
9. Explore Estonia’s bogs and get down with nature.
Estonia is a land of bogs! Around 20% of the country is covered in them, and the closest one is at the suburbs of Tallinn. Bus number 33 will take you there in 30 minutes – get off at the Hiiu bus stop and from there you can use GPS to guide you to the bog or just ask locals on the street. You can choose from a 2 km or 4 km wooden path way that will guide you though the bog, where you can spot animals, rare birds and interesting plants. Make sure that you stick to the wooden path so you won’t get lost. Information boards about the nature and the bog line the path, as well as an observation tower where you can have a rest and enjoy beautiful views of Estonian countryside. Perfect for nature-lovers.
10. Explore Tallinn’s navy life
Our final Tallin tip? Head to the Seaplane Harbour museum. It one of the most popular and visited museums in Estonia, a high-tech and interactive museum educating visitors about Estonian’s naval history. There are plenty of activities for kids and adults, so no matter what age you will be entertained! The main attraction is a submarine that you can climb inside and experience what life on a submarine would be like. You can also try on different Estonian navy uniforms! Quite often the museum has temporary exhibits along side with permanent displays. The Seaplane Museum is located in Tallinn’s Kalamaja district so after visiting the museum, you can find a nice hipster cafe to enjoy some food and relax.