What to see in Tallinn in 3 days

What to see in Tallinn in a day

After my first trip to Tallinn, I decided I would never go there again: I was bored. Then I accidentally ended up there again and fell in love with the city.

Now I’m ready to come to the Estonian capital every year: it’s a very comfortable city for travelers. You can wander around the center for hours. There are districts where you can admire medieval architecture, modern design and art.

I’ve been to Tallinn three times and have put together an itinerary that allows you to see a different city: medieval, designer and hipster. The walk starts in the Rotermanni quarter, goes through the Old Town and ends in the Telliskivi district. On the way you will see Viru Street, Town Hall Square, St. Katharina Alley, sculptures of monks in the Danish King’s Garden, the Dome Cathedral and look at Tallinn from Patkuli Lookout. I advise you to save the route in your Tripadvisor account.

The route looks small, only 4 km, but in fact you will walk a lot: most likely you will want to turn into alleyways in each neighborhood. Google says it will take you about an hour to get there, but I’d put at least 5 hours on the route. Almost every geo-point is a few sights or interesting buildings nearby that will take time to see.

Tallinn is often visited by ferries from St. Petersburg and Helsinki. The port is a seven-minute walk from the Old Town and five minutes from the start of the route. Public transport is not necessary.

The Baltic Station, where trains from St. Petersburg and Moscow arrive, is a three-minute walk from the Old Town.

The route

The Rotermann Quarter is a former industrial quarter with boilers, mills and warehouses, which can now be called an example of modern architecture. Rotermanni is an example of how beautiful a city can be when old and new architecture are skillfully combined. The warehouses and production facilities have been restored and redesigned. Now there are expensive offices, stores, and restaurants.

It’s a pleasure to walk around the block. There are only eight lanes, and you can walk around in 10 minutes. But I always want to linger in Rotermanni at least for a cup of coffee. On one of my visits, I stayed here on purpose.

Viru Gate. There are about a dozen entrances to the Old Town, but the Viru Gate is the most beautiful and ceremonial. Once it was the main gate in the fortress wall, which protected medieval Tallinn. Now it’s a real time portal. Just now you were on a modern street, which is swarming with traffic, and in two steps you find yourself in mysterious alleys with stone sidewalk and houses that are 400-500 years old .

Old Town is the most famous and oldest part of Tallinn. The medieval center was built more than 600 years ago and remained intact: there are houses, squares, churches, stone-paved streets, 18 fortress towers.

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The concentration of attractions in the Old City is like in a museum. It is a ready setting for fairy tales and historical movies – dozens of movies were shot here. Among them are “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, “The Snow Queen” and “The Three Fat Men”.

From Viru Gate to the center of the Old Town runs Viru Street – unprecedentedly wide for old Tallinn. There are many stores and bars.

St. Catherine’s Alley. There are dozens of alleys in the Old Town, but this one is probably the most famous. The small alley, only 135 meters long, is decorated with small arched ceilings. They give St. Catherine’s Alley an original look and photogenic.

The entrance to St. Catherine’s Alley is easy to miss: it’s small and inconspicuous. It’s better to peek at the map.

The alleyway is bounded on the left by the wall of the former Dominican monastery of St. Katharina. The monastery now operates as a museum. It is open from May to September. Entrance costs 1 €

On the walls of the alley are tombstones of former burials. Why they were placed there, I never understood. Perhaps for more atmosphere.

Town Hall Square is the most famous square in Tallinn, the central place of the Old Town. In the center is the medieval city hall, along the perimeter – old houses and many cafes, which are always crowded with tourists. As in Moscow, all the tourists go to Red Square, so in Tallinn, all seek Town Hall Square. For Christmas there is a fair with Christmas trees, lights, souvenirs and mulled wine. The square is said to look especially atmospheric and fabulous at that time.

For me, Town Hall is too crowded, but on every visit to Tallinn I go there anyway. It always has a festive and at the same time peaceful atmosphere. Medieval Tallinn and idle touristy modernity in the form of hundreds of gawkers in cafes balance each other out.

You can get inside the Town Hall with a guided tour. There is a burger hall, where ceremonial receptions were held, and the hall of the magistrate, where medieval officials met. Tourists can also see the kitchen and basement hall, where the magistrate kept wine to control the sale of alcohol.

Also on the square is the famous Town Hall Pharmacy. It works since the 15th century. It is easy to miss it – I advise you to look for the pharmacy on the map.

The pharmacy works as a medical store and museum. Admission is free. In the museum section, vials of dried deer penis, dog feces, burnt hedgehogs, and other witchcraft ingredients with which medicine men supposedly cured illnesses are on display. I don’t know if the exhibits are real, but they look quite authentic.

Costs a tour of an old pharmacy for a group of up to 30 people

The Danish King’s Garden is a small park in the upper part of the Old Town. People come there for the large statues of monks. They look mysterious and creepy. There is a 13th-century legend about a battle during the reign of the Danes associated with the place. When the Danish troops began to lose, the bishops prayed to God and a red and white Danish flag descended from heaven. God’s sign encouraged the soldiers and helped them to victory. Admission to the garden is free.

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It is customary for monks to throw a coin and make a wish. In my opinion, they make great selfies. It’s particularly colourful there in the evening, with the city covered in darkness and the sculptures lit up from inside.

Toompea Castle and Long Hermann. Toompea Castle is the seat of the Estonian parliament. Tourists can get inside with a free guided tour by appointment. Tours are conducted in Estonian, English or Russian, Monday through Thursday from 10:00 to 16:00 and on Fridays from 10:00 to 15:00 . To visit will need a passport or driver’s license.

Most tourists do not go to the castle for the Parliament, but for the tower of its fortress wall. It is called Long Hermann. This is the standard name for buildings in the Old Town: there is both the Fat Margaret Tower and Long Leg Street.

The tower was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, but it is perfectly preserved. Now it is considered a symbol of independence of Estonia. Every morning the national flag is raised on the tower.

you can get into the Long Hermann Tower

Long Hermann is almost always closed to the public. Tourists and citizens are allowed there only once a year – on the national flag day, June 4. You can see the tower up close from the Governor’s Garden, which is open to all.

Lookout points Kohtuots and Patkuli. In the upper part of the Old Town, Vyshgorod, there are two observation decks within a three-minute walk of each other.

Both offer a view of half of the Old Town, the Baltic Sea and the ferries at the port. But the views are slightly different: from Kohtuotsa you can see the business center with high-rises, but not from Patkula.

View from Patkuli. The tallest tower is the Church of St. Olaf. It is not on the itinerary: since September 2019 it is closed for restoration

On the way to the viewpoints of Kohtuotsa and Patkuli you will see the Dome Cathedral. Admission costs 2 €. On Saturdays there are organ concerts, admission also costs 2 €

Telliskivi is a hipster neighborhood with lots of cafes, workshops and design stores. It’s a territory for two kinds of art: contemporary street art and gastronomy. Such neighborhoods are often referred to as creative spaces. Tourists come to Telliskivi to see the beautiful graffiti and eat at local cafes. In warm weather, you can swing in hammocks there.

Like Rotermanni, Telliskivi was also once an industrial area. Now it’s home to modern theaters, an independent choreographic scene, music groups, and designer stores – seemingly less expensive than those in Rotermanni. There are also fairs, concerts, exhibitions, and a flea market on Saturdays.

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There’s also the Fotografiska photography center in Telliskivi, a franchise of the famous Stockholm museum. In September, it hosted the exhibition “Truth is Dead” by London photographer Alison Jackson, with scandalous photos allegedly from the lives of celebrities. In reality all the pictures were of look-alikes, and the exhibition hints that we live in the post-truth world, where it is difficult to distinguish reality from lies.

Details

Kumu Art Museum. The modern high-tech museum building was opened in 2006. Objects of Estonian art of the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 20th century and the works of art of the Soviet period are exposed there. Exhibitions of modern Estonian artists and sculptors are also regularly held in the museum.

costs a ticket to the Kumu Museum

costs a kilo of smoked octopus

Next door to Telliskivi is the street food district Depo. There used to be a train depot there, and almost all the establishments are located in former carriages or shipping containers. It’s unusual, but when I was a kid I often rode in a coach, so I preferred to eat at Telliskivi to Depo.

What to see in Tallinn in 2-3 days

Tallinn is a beautiful European city that has preserved the monuments and sights of the Middle Ages. At the same time there are modern entertainment and shopping centers, many restaurants and cafes. Tallinn is easy to get to by bus, train or organized tour. Therefore, the capital of Estonia is a great option for a short European vacation. Let’s tell you how to spend 2-3 interesting and busy days in Tallinn.

The first day

The introduction to Tallinn is worth starting with the exploration of the Old Town – the main attraction of the capital. It is divided into Upper Town and Lower Town, and together they form a single medieval town center, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an example of a preserved mercantile city in Northern Europe.

Here it is a pleasure just to walk along the narrow cobblestone streets, admire picturesque views from numerous observation decks, enjoy delicious traditional cuisine in one of the cozy restaurants. Be sure to visit the main attractions of the Old Town.

The Town Hall building and the square

You will in any case get to this place while walking around the Old Town, even if you don’t go to it purposefully. This is the main town square, which was formed back in XII. It is always noisy and crowded, there are many cafes and restaurants around, street performers, and tourists are looking for a special plate on which you can make a wish.

Town Hall

The main decoration of the square is the town hall building, which is no longer used for its intended purpose. You can visit the museum located in it and see the medieval halls with frescoes, as well as climb to the observation deck located in the tower. From there you have a beautiful view of the entire old city.

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Church and Tower of St. Olaf

The cathedral was built in the 13th century and is perfectly preserved from that time. The main attraction is its tower, which was once the tallest building in the world. Because of its height, it was often struck by lightning and burned down. Now, by law, no building in the historic center can be taller than St. Olaf’s Church. Currently, the height of the tower reaches 124 meters, at this height is an observation deck, which can be accessed by anyone for 3 euros.

St. Olaf's Church and Tower

Town Hall Pharmacy

The exact date of opening is unknown, but by 1422 this apothecary had already passed to a third owner, making it the oldest continuously operating apothecary in Europe. Inside, some parts of the medieval interior – wooden beams – have been preserved, as well as several historical exhibits. The pharmacy has a museum where you can learn about medieval medicines and buy souvenirs. But most importantly – it still works for its intended purpose.

City Hall Pharmacy

Dome Cathedral

The main church of the city, built in the early 13th century. Its interior has preserved many monuments of the Middle Ages – coats of arms of different epochs, funerary stones, amazing stained-glass windows. Once in the cathedral were buried eminent people, so, here are the graves of Adam Johann von Kruzenstern, Jakob Pontussohn Delagardi and other famous military leaders, discoverers and politicians. The attraction of the cathedral is its organ, every Sunday you can attend a concert and hear great music. In the tower of the Dome Cathedral there is an observation deck, the entrance costs 5 euros.

Dome Cathedral

The second day

After getting acquainted with the historical center of Tallinn, we recommend to go to a museum. There are quite a few of them in the city, everyone can choose the ones that interest him most. If you can not decide, we recommend to visit the most popular museums of Tallinn.

Lennusadam Museum

Flying harbor is a branch of the Maritime Museum. There are 2 in total: a historical exposition in Fat Margaret Tower and an interactive part in the museum, the building for which was converted from the former seaplane hangars. Almost all of the exhibits here can be touched and interacted with by hand. You can explore a submarine, a seaplane, an icebreaker, climb on the captain’s bridge, and learn how to build routes for ships. Near the building is a working port, so you can look at the ships in action. It will be interesting not only for children but for adults as well.

Lennusadam Museum

KUMU Art Museum

Kumu (the name is short for kunstimuuseum – art museum) is the largest national art repository in the country. The permanent exhibition consists of both classic pieces from the early 18th century and whimsical works by contemporary Estonian artists such as Adamson-Eric.

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KUMU Art Museum

On the third floor, you’ll find a treasure trove of works from the early 18th century to the end of World War II. On the fourth floor is an exhibit showing art from the Soviet era. Temporary exhibitions occupy the 5th floor and change about every month.

Estonian History Museum

Historical Museum of Estonia consists of four branches. The main one is located in the Maarjamäe Castle and the other three – the Great Guild Hall, the Museum of Cinema, the Museum of Theatre and Music. The exhibits in the main branch tell about Estonia’s long road to independence. Around the castle is a large park with 21 sculptures of leaders of the Communist movement.

Estonian History Museum

Day Three

The third day of your stay in Tallinn, we suggest you devote to entertainment and go to the zoo and the TV Tower.

Tallinn Zoo

In this large zoo, live 8000 specimens of different animals. Here you will meet feathered, furry and four-legged friends (including lions, leopards and African elephants). Rare species of goats and sheep are unusual assets. The zoo strives to make the animals as comfortable as possible, so where possible they are kept in spacious aviaries rather than cages.

Tallinn Zoo

This is the best place to see local animals – bears, bobcats, owls, eagles, which you are unlikely to notice in the wild. There is a children’s zoo where toddlers can interact with the animals under the supervision of staff, as well as a cafe and a souvenir store.

Tallinn TV Tower

A place that is a must visit for all fans of extreme entertainment.

In the TV Tower, at a height of 175 meters there is the highest open balcony in Northern Europe where you can walk, of course, with insurance. From there you can see the whole city and in good weather you can even see Finland.

Tallinn TV Tower

In addition, the TV Tower has an interactive exhibition about the history of Estonia, a restaurant with the best view in Tallinn and an outdoor playground.

What else to see in Tallinn?

If you still have time left, explore Tallinn. For example, you can go to the Pirita district. There you can walk through a green park, rent a kayak and float on the river, and in summer, swim in the sea (if you don’t get scared of the chilly water) and sunbathe on the beach. For those who are interested in nightlife, we have already written about nightclubs and bars in Tallinn.

Tallinn Clubs

Sculpture lovers we can advise to admire the most beautiful and famous monuments in Tallinn. In good weather, you can spend time in the green parks. And if you want not just to see the main sights, but to learn more about the city and the country, go on a guided tour.

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