Things to do in Tallinn, Estonia


We went on an adventure exploring the Baltic Republics (plus Poland). From Milan, we flew to Tallinn the capital of Estonia. From Tallinn, a bus to Riga, Latvia, another bus to Kaunas, Lithuania, and a final bus to Warsaw, Poland to catch a train to Krakow, Poland. (These will be linked later!)


Arriving in Tallinn, Estonia, the first thing we notice - no one is wearing mask! In a time of a worldwide pandemic, country lockdowns, travel restrictions, social distancing, and wearing mask...no one is wearing a mask!! It truly feels like COVID doesn't exist here. And in reality, does it!? Luca and I feel strange, uncomfortable but also a bit free; Jake is happy to be on an adventure!

We take a trolley from the airport to the Old Town.


We try to see and do as much as we can when capital hopping. We like to learn about the local culture, taste the local flavors, but also hit all the touristy spots for photos. 


The following is your must do things in Tallinn, Estonia:


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1 - Free Walking Tour

We love to take the free walking tour when we arrive in a city. It's a great introduction to the city, to the country, and helps you orientate yourself and decide what you want to see/do later. 

Within this free walking tour, you’ll explore Old Town and get many of the great stories of the town. We also walked up Toompea Hill and checked out all the lookouts. 

Our guide told us about the history of Estonia and the people who live there. The funniest was the guide describing Estonians and how socially awkward they are... She said an introvert Estonian, when having a conversation, will primarily stare at her OWN shoes. An extrovert instead will primarily stare at YOUR shoes. LOL!! They have a bit of trouble with eye contact ;) 

 

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Tallinn has taken their medieval history and made it an opportunity. 

In Old Town you will find knights, maidens, wagons, and dragons! It's fun!! A bit touristy, sure, but the locals truly seem to love it. 


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It doesn't matter how old the town, McDonald's will find a way. 


2 – Explore Old Town

Tallinn was once the home to wealthy merchants settling from Germany and Denmark and is one of the most well preserved medieval and Hanseatic towns in Europe. Winding cobblestone streets and enchanting architecture, it’s a 13th century masterpiece!! 


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Tallinn Town Hall & Old Thomas - It is the oldest town hall of the Baltic region and Scandinavia. Old Thomas is the weathervane on top with a magical story of its own! There was an actual man named Thomas, a peasant who won an archery competition and the hearts of all the local women. He was a very humble, kind man who took great care of the city and people. 


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Raeapteek pharmacy - oldest continuously running pharmacies in Europe.

 

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3 - Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral built in a typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire – so it’s actually fairly new – “new”. The Estonians don’t love the cathedral. It was built by their Russian oppressors to show their supremacy and they built it on the best spot possible - right in front of Estonian parliament. It became a great eyesore for Estonians, reminding them who was the boss. 


So when Estonia gained independence in 1991 there were plans to tear it down. But every day the area was flooded with tourist – taking photos, making the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral the most photographed object in Estonia ~ one man’s eye sore is another man’s eye catcher ~ and it was decided to be kept. 

 

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4 – Toompea Hill

Toompea Castle + Governor’s Garden + Cathedral of St Mary the Virgin 

Once a home for Tallinn rulers and conquerors, today the castle is home to the Riigikogu (the Estonian parliament). It sits atop this beautiful limestone cliff which overlooks the city. Ever since the German Knights of the Sword first built a stone fortress here in 1227-29, every foreign empire that ruled Estonia used the castle as its base.

 

The castle has been revamped countless times through the centuries, but still retains the basic shape it was given in the 13th and 14th centuries. 


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From the Governor's Garden at the castle's southern edge, the 46-metre Pikk Hermann tower comes into view. The tower is a vital national symbol: tradition dictates that whichever nation flies its flag over Pikk Hermann also rules Estonia. Each day at sunrise the Estonian flag is raised above the tower to the tune of the national anthem.

 

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Cathedral of St Mary the Virgin – possibly the oldest church in Estonia was founded in 1219 by the first wave of Danish forces and also sits on Toompea Hill. 

 

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5 - Ghost Story Tour

A medieval town, there are a lot of great legends of Tallinn and ghosts hanging out in the city. We opted for the tour with a guide for the narrated stories. My favorite ghost story took place at  Rataskaevu 16 where the devil himself got married. The room remains locked to this day, the window boarded from the outside world, and no one dares take a peek through the keyhole! 

 

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6 - Seaplane Harbour & Museum

AKA The Estonian Maritime Museum – huge seaplane hangars house the Lembit submarine, seaplanes,  the Maasilinn ship (i.e. the oldest sunken ship discovered in Estonia’s waters); and numerous other genuine items, like sail ships, boats and naval mines.


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Luca LOVED this place!!


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7 – KGB Museum in the Viru Hotel:


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Not so much of a museum, but a very entertaining tour in the Viru hotel (I mean, our guide was fantastic and made all the difference) – you can’t visit this museum solo, you must do the guided tour. But it’s worth it! The KGB used to operate surveillance in the Viru hotel to listen into guests' conversations throughout various guest rooms and locations in the hotel. 


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There's basically this secret floor that no one knew existed and is dedicated today to, well, tours. Ha! A mysterious legend filled with rumors that after independence from the Soviets were CORRECT! It’s fun, highly recommend the tour!  

 

8 – Kadriorg Park and Palace


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A beautiful walk away from the Old Town…A gorgeous palace on a perfectly landscaped park. The palace was founded by Russian Tsar Peter I in 1718 and houses an art museum. Designed by Italian architect Niccolo Michetti, the palace and surrounding manicured gardens are a humbling example of Tsarist extravagance. 


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9 – Telliskivi Creative City

The area behind the train station, this is more of a neighborhood to be explored rather than an exact place to visit. It is considered a hipster paradise with street art, trendy restaurants and bars, shops, flea markets, and plenty of annual events (think plays, music, festivals). It’s a true creative hub worth an exploration and lunch away from Old Town. We really enjoyed ULO

 

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What to skip: Linnahall (relic of Moscow Olympics). There's nothing to see!! A broken down concrete building. We ran that day so it wasn't miles wasted, but it's seriously not worth it. You've got graffiti and rubble and a lot of blocked off fencing. So I guess if that's what you're in to, okay. 

(picture courtesy of TripAdvisor - my phone decided to lose its mind and wouldn't turn on).

Skip the Beer Garden too. The place looks fun and smells great but it's disgusting! 

 

Here's a few more random photos from Tallinn, Estonia:


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^ This is what my boys look like when I have to work for a few hours. LOL!

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^ at 3 different restaurants we were left love notes from our waiter/ress. And they say Estonians are socially awkward!? We think they're sweet *hearts* 

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^ just a funny "Barking" sign we crossed while walking to the train station. 

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^ and as always, YES, Jake is quite comfortable traveling!

If you're traveling onward to Riga, Latvia, you’ll need to take a bus. There is no train!! We were recommended to take LuxExpress (good choices); you can also search Ecolines and Flixbus for options!