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10 things to do and see in Tallinn

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10 things to do and see in Tallinn
10 things to do and see in Tallin

Imagine a city with a medieval village, the red roofs and the old fortified walls, palaces, narrow streets with craft shops, some big  basilica, a castle. This is Tallinn, capital of Estonia, touristic, open and relaxed  destination. It’s small (you can visit it in a few hours) but it has many things to see, that’s why is the ideal destination for a different weekend.

Enjoy the Old City starting from  the Town Hall Square, the must see of any visit in Tallinn. Discover the history of the city through the Vene and Pikk Tänav streets, with the palaces of the ancient guilds and St. Catherine’s Passage, extraordinary work. You can stop to meditate a few minutes in the three churches in the city: the Holy Spirit, S.Olav and Orthodox Cathedral. If you get hungry, you can test the Estonian cuisine with its meat dishes, sauerkraut and potatoes.

And if in a few hours you have seen everything,  you can start again or admire the clear and frozen waters of the Baltic Sea. This scenery will give you the chance to reconcile yourself with nature.

In this page we show you the 10 things to do and see during a visit in Tallinn.

If you are looking for a hotel in Tallin, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 1600 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

The Tallinn Town Hall

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The Tallinn Town Hall (Raedoka) with the square Raekoja Plats is the heart of the Old Town of the Estonian capital.

The Tallinn Town Hall
The Tallinn Town Hall

It’s not only  the oldest civil building in Tallinn but also the only one in Gothic style in the whole Northern Europe. Built in 1248,  the octagonal tower was added in 1627, on the top of which is proudly shown Vana Toomas (Old Thomas), guardian of the City Hall and the city. Today, the Tallinn Town Hall plays no political-administrative role but hosts events, ceremonies and a museum which tells the story of the city.

Where: Raekoja Plats
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: City Hall: from July 1 to August 31, from 10 am to 4 pm . Sundays excluded. Closed on 14/07 and 24/08.
Ttower: from May 1 to September 15, daily from 11 am  to 6 pm . Closed on 23 and 24/06
Tickets own Hall:  € 4 ; Tower: €  3 . Free entrance with Tallinn Card

The Old Town in Tallinn

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From 1200 to 1500 Tallinn was a thriving commercial center and the proof in in its Old City. Churches, palaces, the brotherhoods locations, street names, are the same of the past. It’s a must see the Town hall, the most beautiful and important building in Tallinn located in the square

The Old Town in Tallinn
The Old Town in Tallinn

Nearby there’s the Church of the Holy Spirit (Pühavaimu kirik) of the XIV century with an octagonal tower which houses a bell  of the 1433, the oldest one in Estonia. Don’t miss, inside,  the triptych altar by Bernt Notke. The Old Town is surrounded by almost 2 km of walls with 16 of the 46 towers that defended the city. Today many of these have been transformed into hotels, cafés and restaurants where you can enjoy a beautiful view over the rooftops of the capital.

The Kadriorg in Tallinn

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The Zar “Peter the Great” loved his wife Catherine so much and he gave her the Kadriorg (“Valley of Catherine” in Estonian), a magnificent park with a building just outside the Old Town of Tallinn. His wife used to spend her summer in the elegant red and white residence, inspired by the Italian villas of the ‘700,  after Estonia’s conquest by the Russians.

The Kadriorg in Tallinn
The Kadriorg in Tallinn

During the centuries it had different function, it was also closed and renovated several times, but nowadays the Kadriorg houses two museums: that of Foreign Art (Italian paintings, Russians, Germans, Dutch and Flemish) and KUMU, National Art Museum, which houses the largest collection of Estonian art of the country.

The visit of the  museums allows you to go through the magnificent rooms of the palace such as the Great Hall with the ceiling decorated entirely around the theme of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Where: A. Weizenbergi
How to get there: by feet in the old town
When – Hours:  From May to September: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm ; Wednesday 10: 00 am -8: 00 pm . From October to April: Wed 10: 00 am -8: 00 pm ; Thu-Sun 10:00 am -5:00 pm
Tickets: adults € 4.50; reduced € 2.50. Mikkel Museum: adults € 2.50; reduced € 1.50.
Kadriorg Palace + Mikkel Museum: adults € 4.80; reduced € 2.90. Free entrance with Tallinn Card

The Basilica of St. Nicholas in Tallinn

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Not far from the Old Town Square there’s one of the oldest places of worship in Tallinn, the Basilica dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari. Nowadays the church in Orthodox style is  known much more as a museum of religious art and an auditorium with perfect acoustics where you can enjoy concerts of classical music.

The Basilica of St. Nicholas in Tallinn
The Basilica of St. Nicholas in Tallinn

Inside the museum don’t miss the main altarpiece (XV century) by the Lübeck master, the late Gothic altarpiece dedicated to St Mary, and, above all, the “Danse Macabre” by Bernt Notke: one of the masterpieces of Estonia’s art, even though you might not like to see some skeletons dancing with the Pope, the Emperor King, the Bishop and a young woman!

Where: Niguliste
How to get there: by feet in the old town
When – Hours: From Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am  to 5 pm.
Tickets: Adults € 3.50; children € 2.00. Free entrance with Tallinn Card

The Orthodox Church in Tallinn

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This church is definitely one thing to see during your visit in Tallin, but you have to know that the inhabitants of the Estonian capital don’t like this cathedral dedicated to St. Alexander Nevsky Yaroslav.

The Orthodox Church in Tallinn
The Orthodox Church in Tallinn

From the top of Toompea Hill ,this church overlooks Tallinn, and that was the will of the Russian : a church close to the statue of Martin Luther. There were many  symbolic reasons to place it: it meant that the Russian Orthodox Church was more powerful than the Lutheran one; that the Russians had conquered Estonia and controlled them from the above. So this beautiful Orthodox Cathedral is deeply hated for many reasons, and for years the residents of Tallinn have asked (in vain) to demolish it. If you are lucky to go there just before a Mass, you can hear the 11 bells ringing together in a perfect way.

Where: of Toompea Hill
How to get there: by feet from the old town or by public transport
When – Hours: everyday 8 am – 7 pm
Tickets: free entrance

Vene and Pikk Tänav street in Tallinn

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Tallinn has a small historic center and you’ll pass throught  the two most famous streets of the capital more than one time : the Pikk Tänav and Vene. In the Pikk Tänav street there are the buildings that housed the guilds, corporations of merchants citizens.

Vene and Pikk Tänav street in Tallinn
Vene and Pikk Tänav street in Tallinn

Don’t miss the big Guild (No. 17) and that of St. Olaf (No. 24), the oldest in the city, and the Renaissance building of the House of Blackheads, which takes its name from its patron San Maurizio, who converted to Christianity and for this was persecuted. At number 71 there is the most beautiful building, a Gothic complex known as the Three Sisters. You should visit  the St. Olav’s Church too , at the crossroad with the Lai. The other most famous street is the street Vene, with the passage of St Catherine, a small street with arcades with ancient buildings and craft shops.

The Toompea Hill in Tallinn

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If you want to enjoy a beautiful view of the rooftops in  Tallinn you have to a climb towards the hill of Toompea, Estonia’s mythical place.  According to legend it was  built stone by stone by princess Linda to bury his heroic commander Kalev. You can get there in two ways: the Jalg Pikk (Long Leg), a ramp protected by walls and defended by a fortified gate or the stone stairs of Luhike Jalg (Short Leg).

The Toompea Hill in Tallinn
The Toompea Hill in Tallinn

Once on top you can visit the remains of the Castle, the Orthodox Cathedral Alexander Nevsky and Toomkirik, the oldest church in Estonia which gives its name to the hill. It has always been the political center of the Baltic country, and today the hill houses the Parliament building and the government.

Defensive Towers in Tallinn

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The names will seem strange to you, but as always, everything has an explanation. The defensive walls (almost intact) were built to defend Tallinn during the centuries more dangerous than ours.

Defensive Towers in Tallinn
Defensive Towers in Tallinn

Nowadays there are just twenty towers, almost all used as restaurants, hotels, and museums. The two most famous are “the Fat Margaret” (Paks Margareeta) and “Peek in the Kitchen” (Kiek in de kök).

The first is named after the squat shape due to the thickness of the walls of almost 5 meters. The second is called in this way for its height that allowed the guards to peek into the homes of the people. A place of honor has also  “Pikk Hermann”, which from the top of Toompea Hill has the task and the honor to wave the Estonian flag.

Things to eat in Tallin

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We have to be honest: from an aesthetic point of view, the Estonian cuisine may not be very inviting. Normally it’s difficult to identify at first what you have on the table, so before you choose it, you’d better  to know what you are ordering.

Things to eat in Tallin
Things to eat in Tallin

On the menu you will find almost always these words:

Marineeritud angerjas: marinated eel in pieces

Keel hernestega: ox tongue

Sült: Boiled pork gelatin. For pigs they means bones, legs and head.

Verivorst: black pudding sausage and berry jam

Mulgikapsad: sauerkraut stew and pork served with boiled potatoes.

Silgusoust: sprat (fish) of the Baltic with bacon.

Karask: sweet with barley bread.

Kali: Estonia coke non alcoholic.

Vana Tallinn liqueur that local put it everywhere with the excuse that it’s cold.

After that, head isu! that is, Bon appetit as the Estonians use to say.

Where to sleep in Tallinn

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Tallinn offers a good choice of hotels in all categories even if it’s a small capital

Where to sleep in Tallinn
Where to sleep in Tallinn

Prices start from 60 Euros for a double room in a 2 or 3 star hotel, but if you choose well you could find great opportunities for the hotel  in the center at the same price. Our advice is to choose a hotel in the Old Town, so you can move by feet  and without using bus or taxi.

If you are looking for a hotel in Tallin, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 1600 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com