The center of Tallinn has a medieval feel and charm that sweeps you away to another time and world. Tallinn has a rich history that is remarkably preserved and showcased for visitors. Although Estonia was a Soviet state for many years, the people feel themselves more Nordic. This mix is evident throughout the city and brings contrasting styles and cultures to the architecture.
However, it is the medieval architecture that really captures the imagination as the city has never been razed or pillaged. Tallinn also offers cultural and city experiences that everyone can enjoy with a few glorious hours. One of the best ways to see Tallinn is with guided Tallinn tours that give a richer experience and save time, especially if you only have a few days to see the city.
There are over 1.5 million visitors to Tallinn each year and Old Town Tallinn is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. As over 300 ships visit Tallinn each summer, cruise ship passengers will also benefit from organized Tallinn tours as the time goes very fast. Guides can enlighten you to the secrets, history, and interesting information that abound in the city. Creating your perfect Tallinn tour should start with choosing from the array of amazing attractions.
Here are a few Must See Sights in Tallinn:
Hundreds of exhibits portray the military and maritime Estonian history. The airplane hangars, built in 1916 were Peter the Great’s fortress which was the first large scale, reinforced shell of concrete in the world. Charles Lindbergh landed here in the 1930’s.
The Cathedral and Tower of St Mary the Virgin (the Dome Church)
The Dome Church (Toomkirik), on Toompea hill is from Medieval times and is a historically fascinating viewing spot of the Pelgulinn and Kalamaja areas.
This means “a hiding place, in Estonian” and was used by outlaws and criminal in the 18th century as a safe haven because its forest offered a secret space for them.
This means “fish house, in Estonian” and is on the Bay of Tallinn. Up until the 1870’s, when the railroad linked St Petersburg with Tallinn, the city was the hub for fishing in Tallinn. The railroad brought huge factories to the area and Kalamaja’s, well kept homes were built in a colorful wooden style for the factory workers of the region.
Kiek in de Kok
Medieval tower viewing spot. This cannon tower means “Peek into the Kitchen”. While guarding the city from this tower, guards said they could see down into the kitchens of the houses below from their chimneys. The Museum has a display of medieval weapons and is an entry point to the hidden Bastion Tunnels under Toompea Hill. This is also a great place to buy souvenirs.
Some of these tunnels were built during the time of Swedish rulers in the 1600’s. A train will take visitors through these medieval tunnels to see original defense equipment and the future of the tunnel system. The secret tunnels were built to protect the men and ammunition from enemies and were posts for spying on enemy activity. In 1936 the passages were converted to air raid shelters for protection from the Soviets. They were equipped with fresh running water, ventilation and phone systems. Toilets and bedrooms were added also. The Bastion area is now a park.
A breathtaking view of Old Town’s city skyline from this spot. You will also catch a glimpse of the Gulf of Finland in the background. One of several fantastic photos stops.
Patkuli Viewing Platform
Located in an ancient area of Tallinn, the views of the city walls, towers and the port are out of a fairy tale. There are 157 steps to the top and this is another great photo stop.
St Olav’s Church and Tower (Oleviste Church)
The highest building in the skyline of Tallinn makes this one of Tallinn’s best viewing spots. This Gothic church from the 13th century was once the world’s tallest building. The church’s 159 meter steeple was struck by lightning 3 times and the church burned to the ground. The current 124 meter spire keeps this as one of the tallest buildings and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city.
Estonian History Museum – Great Guild Hall
The museum is in the 15th century Great Guild Hall. The guild consisted of “married” German businessmen who controlled the town’s politics. The museum’s extensive collection includes history from the prehistoric to the present time. Look for the dragon pillar, door knockers of a lion head, and a large porch. Spend some time in the fun courtyard.
Estonian Maritime Museum
The sea is a very important part of Estonia’s past and future. On the four floors of the tower of Fat Margaret are displays of a 1950’s trawler wheelhouse, fishing equipment, and diving gear. Take the trek up to the top for an exquisite view of Old Town and the harbor.
Holy Spirit Church
The intricate clock on the face of this 14th century church is the oldest landmark in the city. The inside includes special carved wood and an exceptional altar crafted by Bernt Notke, a famous artist from Lubek. The church was part of the Holy Spirit Almshouse that cared for the elderly and sick. It was the church of the commoners.
St. Nicholas’ Church (Niguliste Museum)
German’s settled here back in 1230. The church was also considered a fortress but was bombed during World War II. After the 1980’s restoration, it became a museum of religious artifacts such as altar pieces, a fine but scary painting from Bernt Notke called Dance with Death (Danse Macabre) and chandeliers in the baroque style. The Silver Chamber is where the city’s craftsmen display their art works.
Tallinn TV Tower
This 314 meter tower hosts interactive exhibits of Estonian history, a story of the tower in 3D, and a café with a platform for viewing that is one of the tallest spots in the country. There is a special presentation that shows the view magnified by 10. Outdoor performances, exhibits and concerts are held here.
Tallinn Botanic Garden
Next to the TV Tower, the River Pirita is a nature lover’s paradise with thousands of local and rare foreign plants. Medicinal, seasoning/spice plants and beloved houseplants are on display in the outdoor gardens and the Greenhouse. Picnic areas are available for public use. To get the most from your visit, choose a guided tour offered in Estonian, Russian, English and Finnish. 2 nature trails were created, 3.9 km and a 2.5 km long for strolling through the 15 habitats, some of which are the pine forest, grassland, oak forest and a fern valley.
4 responses to “Creating the Perfect Tallinn Tour – Part One”
I love Tallinn. I went on a day trip from Helsinki because I had time to kill and Helsinki wasn’t doing it for me. It was my own fault, it was the middle of winter and there was hardly anyone on the street let alone many things to do. But my trip to Tallinn was incredible. To wander around the old town in the middle of winter with snow and ice everywhere was kind of magical in a way. At lunch the old lady who prepared my food gave me a shot of something (I have no idea what it was) to warm me up. Let’s just say it did the trick, to my stomach at least! I encourage everyone to get to Tallinn if possible, even if it’s in the dead of winter!
There are so many indoor activities in Tallinn that keep you out of the cold that it most certainly is not a problem. For example here is a list of some great indoor activities – http://estonianexperience.com/tours-category/indoor-activities-in-tallinn/
I learned so much about Talinn. Thank you! Rashi
Happy to hear you enjoyed the article. As I always say, when you are in a city one of the best ways to really learn more during your time is to take a guided tour. My first time in Tallinn I just walked by myself to get a feel for the city. The next time I took a private tour from Estonian Experience and I learned so much more about the attractions I was seeing. It is always worth it to take a guided tour…..