Selecting the top ten from Tallinn’s many attractions seems like an impossible feat, but we’ve given it a shot! Our list ranges from heritage sites unique in the whole world to fascinating museums and neighborhoods.
The streets, courtyards, and walls of Tallinn’s Old Town
Tallinn’s number one attraction is undoubtedly the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, with its medieval ambience and exceptionally well-preserved street network and city walls. Take your time and stroll along the narrow, cobbled streets, admire the centuries-old architecture, climb towers, and peek into mysterious courtyards and archways – some of which hide romantic cafés, cute shops, or secret gardens.
At the heart of the Old Town is the Town Hall Square, once a market square and the centre of the city’s government. Today, it is a main meeting spot for townspeople and a venue for a variety of events, from the Old Town Days in summer to the fairy-tale Christmas Market. Incidentally, the world’s first public Christmas tree was erected here in 1441.
The Town Hall Square is named after the Gothic Town Hall, which stands on the edge of the square and offers beautiful views of the Old Town from its tower. At the other end of the square is the Raeapteek, one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe and the oldest in Tallinn.
Towering above the rest of the Old Town, Toompea hill has always been a seat of power. Toompea Castle is the seat of the Estonian Parliament. The castle’s tallest tower of the, Pikk Hermann, is a leading symbol of Estonian statehood; the blue-black-white Estonian flag is raised every day at sunrise from the tower to the tune of the national anthem.
The centrepiece of Kadriorg is Estonia’s only Baroque Palace and park ensemble, built more than 300 years ago on the orders of Russian Tsar Peter the Great. Stroll the green promenades, enjoy views of the swan pond, take time out in the rose garden, or admire the landscaping of the Japanese garden. In the majestic halls of Kadriorg Palace, you can get acquainted with the Estonian Art Museum’s collection of foreign art.
Built in a unique seaplane hangar, the Seaplane Harbour is without exaggeration the most impressive maritime museum in the region. Step aboard the 1930s submarine Lembit, explore a variety of naval crafts, and try out interactive exhibits on topics ranging from ships to fighter aircraft.
Just a short walk from the Seaplane Harbour is the Noblessner seafront quarter, a former submarine factory named after its founders Emanuel Nobel (nephew of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize) and Arthur Lessner. Now, you will find a modern urban space, galleries, design shops, a marina, and restaurants where you can enjoy the sunset.
Telliskivi Creative City is one of the locals’ favourite places to hang out. The former factory site is now home to numerous design shops, restaurants, and cultural institutions. Telliskivi is also home to Fotografiska Tallinn, a photographic art centre and satellite-gallery of the internationally renowned photography museum founded in Stockholm.
Next to Telliskivi, across the tramway, is Kalamaja. This is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city known for its colourful wooden houses. Stroll through the streets and enjoy the bohemian atmosphere of the area!
Founded in the nineteenth century by industrialist Christian Abraham Rotermann, this industrial centre has grown into one of the city’s most prominent oases of modern architecture where old and new are skilfully blended. The quarter offers a wide range of shops, cafés, restaurants, and leisure facilities, from beauty salons to sports clubs and cinemas.
Architecture lovers should also stop by the Estonian Museum of Architecture on the edge of the quarter, housed in the former Rotermann Salt Storage building.
The permanent exhibition at the History Museum in the picturesque Maarjamäe Palace tells the history of the Republic of Estonia from its birth to the present day. The Film Museum, located in the same complex, offers a glimpse into the history of cinema. A selection of Soviet-era monuments has also been assembled in the park surrounding the palace.
Next to the History Centre are two memorials: the modern Memorial to the Victims of Communism and the Soviet-era Jääretke Obelisk from 1960. Just a short walk away is Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, the venue of our beloved national song festivals, which feature upwards of 30,000 performers, and many other international events.
The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow included a sailing regatta in Tallinn, and the 314-metre TV tower – the tallest building in Estonia – was completed for the occasion. Today, the tower is home to an experience centre where you can enjoy stunning views, indulge in a cup of coffee or a light meal, visit an interactive exhibition, and even walk suspended on the edge of the tower.
If heights do not appeal to you, you can keep your feet firmly on the ground in the enchanting Tallinn Botanic Gardens, located right next to the tower.
Extra tip: If you’re planning to visit more than one attraction during your trip, buy a Tallinn Card! The card gives you free entry to most of Tallinn’s main sights mentioned in this article. In addition, a Tallinn Card grants you use of public transport and discounts at various excursions, entertainment venues, shops, and restaurants. Find out more.