Visiting Tallinn - What to See and Do
(Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport TLL, Estonia)
The enticing Baltic city of Tallinn
has a fascinating history with ties to Sweden
and now Estonia
. Each of these cultures has left its mark on Tallinn, whose 12th-century Old Town historic core is one of Europe's finest.
The UNESCO Old Town is the undisputed star of the city, but there is also a thriving modern side contained within its medieval walls. Trendy boutiques, art galleries, museum-type attractions and a solid café culture provide lots of Estonian cultural entertainment for visitors. Tallinn is really a gem of a travel destination because it has a little taste of everything, and most of it is presented with true style.
The city's nightlife is as rowdy or sophisticated as anything in the world. It is a joy wandering within the walls of the Old Town, bar-hopping or searching out your next new favourite coffee café. Classical symphonies play alongside underground Estonian indie bands just doors apart. Prices are reasonable and mass-tourism has yet to sully the unique hipness of this capital city.
Ten things you must do in Tallinn
- The city's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. It contains the historic highlights such as Toompea Castle and the Gothic-style Town Hall, alongside modern venues that serve amazing coffee and very stylish fashion. This is a beautiful district with something for everyone.
- The Estonian Open Air Museum is the ideal place to get a feel for the folklore traditions of the Estonian people. Traditional 18th-century architecture has been used to recreate a small village that includes farms, windmills and churches, all within its park-like grounds. The folklore performance group puts on a great show every day to preserve the traditions of this unique culture.
- There are a lot of amazing medieval buildings and attractions in Tallinn's Old Town, and the Dome Church is one of the more interesting. This Gothic beauty, also known as St. Mary's, is worth a visit just to check out the 100 or so medieval coats of arms hanging inside the church. It is also the city's oldest church.
- The other church in Tallinn not to miss is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The highlight here is the outstanding collection of religious mosaics and golden icons on display. As the church dominates the Upper City's skyline, it also rewards visitors with wonderful views of the city.
- Kadriorg Palace was once the home of Peter the Great, one of Russia's greatest tsars. A visit out of town to this opulent site is well worth the effort, as its grounds are as regal as anything in Europe. The Art Museum of Estonia also keeps a large portion of its art collection on display here.
- Estonia's traditional seat of power is Toompea Castle, a 12th-century beauty sitting atop Toompea Hill. This is as high as you can go in Tallinn, so it is worth trekking up to the castle just for the views alone.
- The heart of the Old Town is the Raekoja Plats, the main square that is lined with pleasant cafés and bars. Also onsite is the Town Hall, built in 1371. It is a marvellous structure, while inside is the Tallinn City Museum, offering an insight into the diverse history of this amazing city.
- Tallinn Zoo makes a nice change of scenery from the medieval sights of the Old Town. It is actually a decent zoo, with a huge herd of mountain goats and other animals like elephants and lions.
- Tallinn has beaches, too. They are best at the peak of summer, when spots like Pirita and Stroomi fill up with locals soaking in the rays. You can certainly swim in the clean Baltic waters here. The marina at Pirita Beach is also a beehive of summer activity, with yachts coming and going.
- Another natural getaway right on the edge of the city is the Tallinn Botanical Gardens. Its huge greenhouse keeps conditions spring-like all year round, even in the dead of winter. The outdoor gardens are the highlight, with lots of walking paths and hundreds of different plants, trees and flowers.