Last week I visited Tallinn, Estonia’s capital. A city that is not well known, and I didn’t know what it had to offer either. Turns out, Tallinn is an undiscovered gem! It has a medieval center with charming cobblestone alleys, as well as some very hip neighborhoods full of street art and industrial architecture.
Tallinn has several neighborhoods, but the city is quite small so everything is within walking distance. We booked a studio through Airbnb on the border of the old town and Rotermann Quarter. It was the perfect location: within walking distance from all sights in the old town, but just a 10-minute walk from the ferry terminal as well. Which came in handy, since we had to be at the ferry terminal at 6:45 in the morning for our trip to Helsinki. Furthermore, we had lots of bakeries and restaurants closeby to choose from.
We spent 4 nights here, but as mentioned also visited Helsinki for a day, leaving us around 2,5 days to explore Tallinn. That was enough to explore most of Tallinn’s sights. Below you will find our 10 favourite ones, grouped by neighborhood.
Tallinn is most famous for its old town, that still has a lot of buildings from medieval times. The best way to explore it, is to simply wander around the small cobblestone streets (make sure to wear comfy shoes!). Some of the highlights in the old town:
- 1. Town hall square obviously houses the town hall. A pretty building, that most stood out to me because of the amazing dragon-shaped gargoyles. The square is surrounded by colorful, old buildings, most of which house restaurants with terraces to catch some sunshine if you’re lucky. There’s also an old pharmacy on the square, that has a very small free museum inside.
- Make a quick stop at the 2. House of the Brotherhood of Blackheads. This building belonged to a guild of merchants and foreign traders, and it dates back to the 14th century. It has a beautiful entrance.
- 3. St. Catherine’s Passage is a bit difficult to find, but this small alley is worth the search. It is lined with medieval residences and still has a medieval atmosphere. Unfortunately, lots of tourists and tour groups visit it, so I was not able to get a decent picture.
- Admire the windows of 4. Maiasmokk Kohvik, the city’s oldest bakery. In one window is a moving miniature ferris wheel, in another one you will find a model train landscape. Not just window shopping but actually visiting the café is also highly recommended. The cakes taste amazing and prices are not even that high!
- Visit the viewpoints. On top of Toompea Hill, you will find several viewpoints. Our favourite was 5. Kohtuotsa, since from this viewing platform you can see most of the old town and its towers.
- 6. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Russian orthodox cathedral. It is very beautiful from the outside, but we thought the inside was a bit plain.
Just behind the central station is a very hip & happening neighborhood, called Telliskivi. We expected it to be small, but it turned out to be pretty big and we spent a full morning exploring it! If you are a street art admirer, like us, this is a true paradise.
There are amazing artworks literally around every corner!
The area also has a lot of cool bars and restaurants, perfect for a coffee break or lunch. They are often housed in old factories and other industrial buildings. In another blogpost I will share our favourite bars and restaurants in Tallinn.
8. Rotermann Quarter
Just like Telliskivi, this neighborhood also has a lot of industrial buildings. However, in Rotermann new, modern architecture has been added right beside the old architecture, creating an interesting contrast and very cool vibe. Rotermann also has some fashion stores, coffee shops, bakeries and restaurants, so you can easily spend half a day here.
This neighborhood feels more authentic than Rotermann or Telliskivi, featuring lots of old wooden buildings. On Kalamaja’s waterfront, you will find 9. Lennusadam, the Estonian maritime museum. There is an exhibition indoors, that apparently houses an authentic 1930’s submarine you can explore. We are not thát interested in boats though, so the entrance price of €15 was not worth it to us. However, I can imagine for families with younger kids and/or on a rainy day, it’s worth it. The museum also has an outdoors exhibition though, that consists of several ships. Two of them are actually in the water and you have to show your museum entrance ticket to access them. However, they also have several real ships set up on the shore, that you can access without a ticket. They are probably not as impressive as the paid ones, but still it was interesting.
As we walked back from Lennusadam to the old town, it started to rain, just as we passed by the former communist prison, 10. Patarei. It turned out tickets were just €5, so we decided to take a look. The place looks very authentic, and the former cells now tell the stories of the inmates that used to be locked up in them. The museum has been thoughfully designed and was pretty impressive.
Tallinn has a lot more sights than just these ánd you can easily visit Helsinki (Finland) for a day by ferry. So all in all, you can easily enjoy yourself in and around this cool city for a few days.