Tallinn: A Hidden Gem of the Baltic States

Tallinn: A Hidden Gem of the Baltic States

Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia, a small country located in Northern Europe. Estonia shares land borders with two countries: Russia to the east and Latvia to the south. It also has a maritime border with Finland across the Gulf of Finland to the north, and with Sweden across the Baltic Sea to the west.

Tallinn is situated on the northern coast of Estonia and is known for its charming Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Compared to the other Baltic capitals, Tallinn has a unique blend of old-world charm and modern innovation. Its Old Town is one of the best-preserved medieval city centers in Europe, while the rest of the city has a modern and vibrant feel. In terms of size, Tallinn is smaller than both Riga, the capital of Latvia, and Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. However, Tallinn is known for its efficient public transportation and walkability, making it easy for visitors to explore the city on foot. Additionally, Tallinn stands out from its Baltic neighbors with its thriving tech industry and startup scene. It is a hub for technology and innovation, with modern infrastructure that supports the growth of the startup ecosystem.

Short History

Tallinn has a long and varied history. The city was founded in the 13th century by Danish traders and was originally called Reval. Over the centuries, it was ruled by various powers including the Teutonic Knights, the Swedish Empire, and the Soviet Union. During World War II, Tallinn was heavily bombed by Soviet forces, causing significant damage to the city. However, much of the Old Town was restored in the decades following the war, and Tallinn became part of the newly independent Estonia in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, Tallinn is a popular tourist destination known for its well-preserved medieval architecture and vibrant modern culture.


Tallinn’s architecture reflects its colorful history and varied cultural influences. The city has a well-preserved medieval Old Town and one of the best-preserved medieval city centers in Europe. The Old Town is characterized by its narrow cobblestone streets, Gothic spires, and colorful merchant houses. The city also has examples of Baroque and Rococo architecture, which were popular during the city’s time as a Swedish territory in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the early 20th century, Tallinn became a center of Estonian national awakening and Art Nouveau architecture, also known as Jugendstil, became popular. Today, the city has a mix of historical and modern buildings, including several examples of contemporary architecture such as the Tallinn City Hall and the Kumu Art Museum.

Museums and Galleries

Tallinn offers a wealth of museums and galleries to explore, showcasing the country’s history and cultural heritage. Here are some worth mentioning:

  • Kumu Art Museum: Kumu is the largest and most impressive art museum in Estonia. It houses an extensive collection of Estonian art from the 18th century to the present day, as well as international contemporary art exhibitions. The building itself is a work of art, with its modern architecture and stunning views of Tallinn.
  • Estonian Open Air Museum: This museum showcases Estonia’s rural heritage, with over 70 buildings from different regions and time periods. Visitors can learn about traditional Estonian crafts, folk music, and cuisine. The museum is located in a beautiful forested area just outside of Tallinn.
  • Estonian History Museum: The Estonian History Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of Estonia, with exhibits on topics such as the country’s independence, the Soviet occupation, and the Estonian people’s struggle for freedom. The museum is located in the Great Guild Hall in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town.
  • Tallinn City Museum: This museum explores the history of Tallinn from its founding to the present day. Visitors can learn about the city’s development, architecture, and cultural heritage through interactive exhibits and multimedia displays. The museum is located in a beautiful medieval building in the heart of the Old Town.
  • Seaplane Harbour: The Seaplane Harbour is a maritime museum located in a historic seaplane hangar. It features a wide range of exhibits related to Estonia’s maritime history, including old ships, submarines, and seaplanes. Visitors can also explore a real submarine and take part in interactive exhibits.
  • Museum of Occupation: The Museum of Occupation explores the period of Soviet and Nazi occupation in Estonia. The museum features exhibits on topics such as the Soviet secret police, the Nazi occupation, and the Estonian resistance movement. The museum is located in the former KGB headquarters in Tallinn’s Old Town.
  • Niguliste Museum-Concert Hall: This museum is located in a Gothic church and is dedicated to medieval art and music. Visitors can admire the church’s stunning architecture and see the famous painting “Danse Macabre” by Bernt Notke. The museum also hosts regular concerts of early music.

Whether you’re interested in art, history, or maritime culture, there is something for everyone in Tallinn’s museums.

Landmarks and Monuments

Tallinn is a city with a variety of cultural and historical landmarks and monuments. Here are some of the most interesting ones:

  • Toompea Castle – This castle, located on a hill overlooking the city, was built in the 13th century and served as the residence of the ruling authorities of Estonia. Today, it is the seat of the Estonian Parliament.
  • Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – This Orthodox cathedral, built in the late 19th century, is one of Tallinn’s most recognizable landmarks with its onion domes and intricate façade.
  • St. Mary’s Cathedral – This medieval cathedral, also located on Toompea hill, dates back to the 13th century and is the oldest church in Tallinn.
  • Town Hall Square – This historic square is the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town and features colorful buildings, outdoor cafes, and street performers.
  • Kadriorg Palace – This baroque palace, built in the 18th century for the Russian Empress Catherine I, is now home to the Estonian Art Museum.
  • Tallinn City Walls – The city walls were built in the 14th and 15th centuries and served as a defensive structure for the city. Today, visitors can walk along the walls and enjoy views of the city.
  • Kumu Art Museum – This modern museum, located in the Kadriorg district, features a collection of Estonian art from the 18th century to the present day.

Tallinn offers a wealth of cultural and historical landmarks and monuments, from medieval churches and castles to modern art museums. Visitors to the city can explore its splendid history and architecture while enjoying its vibrant contemporary culture.

Parks and Green Spaces

Tallinn offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature and green spaces. Here are some of the most notable parks and green areas in Tallinn:

  • Kadriorg Park – This park is the largest and most popular in Tallinn, and features a stunning palace, gardens, fountains, and walking paths. It is a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
  • Pirita Promenade – This scenic promenade is located along the Pirita River and offers stunning views of the Tallinn skyline. It is a popular spot for walking, jogging, and cycling.
  • Old Town Square – While not a traditional park, the Old Town Square is a charming and historic public space that is worth a visit. It is surrounded by beautiful buildings and is a hub of activity in the city.
  • Stroomi Beach – This sandy beach is located on the outskirts of Tallinn and offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
  • Botanical Garden – The Tallinn Botanical Garden is a beautiful green space that features a wide variety of plants and flowers from around the world. It is a great place to learn about nature and enjoy a peaceful stroll.
  • Nomme Adventure Park – This park is a great place to experience the thrill of outdoor adventure. It offers a range of activities, including zip-lining, tree-top walks, and rope courses.
  • Tallinn Zoo – The Tallinn Zoo is a popular attraction that features a wide variety of animals from around the world. It is a great place for families to spend a day learning about animals and nature.

Overall, Tallinn has a wide variety of parks and green spaces that offer visitors a chance to relax, explore nature, and enjoy the outdoors. From historic public squares to sandy beaches and adventure parks, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Tallinn’s parks and green areas.


As Tallinn is an inland city located in northern Estonia, far from the coast, there are no beaches in or nearby Tallinn. The nearest beaches are located on the northern coast of Estonia, which is about 50 kilometers away from Tallinn. Some of the popular beaches in the area include:

  • Stroomi Beach – Located in the district of Põhja-Tallinn, this sandy beach is one of the most popular beaches in the area. It offers a picturesque view of the Gulf of Finland and has several amenities such as playgrounds, sports fields, and beach volleyball courts.
  • Pirita Beach – This is one of the longest and most popular beaches in Tallinn. It is located in the Pirita district and offers a wide range of activities such as beach volleyball, windsurfing, and sailing.
  • Kakumäe Beach – This beach is located about 10 kilometers west of Tallinn, and it offers a peaceful and relaxing environment. It has a long and sandy beach with several amenities such as changing rooms, cafes, and playgrounds.
  • Harku Lake Beach – This is a popular lake beach located about 10 kilometers southwest of Tallinn. It offers a tranquil environment surrounded by forests and hills, and it is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and picnics.
  • Kaberneeme Beach – Located about 30 kilometers northeast of Tallinn, this sandy beach offers a beautiful view of the Baltic Sea. It is known for its clear water and peaceful atmosphere, and it is ideal for swimming and sunbathing.
  • Valgeranna Beach – This is one of the most popular beaches in Estonia, located about 200 kilometers south of Tallinn. It offers a long and sandy beach with crystal-clear water, surrounded by a pine forest.
  • Pärnu Beach – This is another popular beach located about 130 kilometers south of Tallinn. It offers a wide range of activities such as beach volleyball, windsurfing, and water skiing, and it is known for its beautiful sand dunes and crystal-clear water.

Overall, while Tallinn is not located near any beaches, there are several beautiful beaches within driving distance of the city, offering a variety of activities and picturesque views.

Shopping Districts

Tallinn is a charming and lively city known for its old-world charm, fascinating history, and modern amenities. The city offers a range of shopping options, from modern shopping centers to quirky boutiques and traditional markets. Here are some of the best shopping districts in Tallinn:

  • Old Town: The cobblestone streets are lined with quaint shops selling souvenirs, handicrafts, and traditional Estonian goods.
  • Viru Keskus: Viru Keskus is one of the largest shopping centers in Tallinn, located in the heart of the city. The center has over 100 shops, including fashion boutiques, electronics stores, and a large supermarket.
  • Solaris Centre: Solaris Centre is a modern shopping center located in the city center, featuring a range of fashion and lifestyle stores, as well as a cinema, restaurants, and cafes.
  • Telliskivi Creative City: Telliskivi Creative City is a trendy and bohemian neighborhood that has been transformed into a hub for creativity, design, and innovation. The area features a variety of boutique shops, art galleries, and vintage stores.
  • Balti Jaama Turg: Balti Jaama Turg is a vibrant indoor market located near the Old Town, offering a range of goods, including fresh produce, handicrafts, and antiques.

Visitors to Tallinn can explore the city’s historic Old Town, trendy neighborhoods, and modern shopping centers to find unique souvenirs, fashion items, and other goods.

Food and Drink

Tallinn offers a unique and diverse range of traditional Estonian cuisine and international dishes to suit every taste. Here are some must-try foods and drinks when visiting Tallinn:

  • Black bread – Estonian traditional dark rye bread with a distinct flavor.
  • Smoked fish – Estonians love smoked fish, especially salmon and trout.
  • Pea soup – A traditional hearty soup made with dried peas, pork, and potatoes.
  • Pickled herring – A popular dish usually served with boiled potatoes.
  • Kama – A traditional Estonian dessert made from roasted grains, usually mixed with yogurt or curd.
  • Mulled wine – A hot spiced wine, perfect for warming up on a cold winter day.
  • Vana Tallinn – A traditional Estonian liqueur made with rum, vanilla, and various spices.
  • Craft beer – Estonia has a thriving craft beer scene, with many breweries producing unique and flavorful beers.

In Tallinn, you can find many restaurants and cafes that offer traditional Estonian cuisine as well as international dishes. Be sure to try some of the local specialties to get a taste of Estonian culture.


Tallinn has a well-developed public transportation system that includes buses, trams, trolleys, and trains. The city’s compact size also makes it easy to navigate on foot, and many popular attractions are within walking distance of each other. Taxis are widely available, and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Bolt are also popular options.

One unique way to explore Tallinn is by bicycle. There are several bike rental shops throughout the city, and many dedicated bike lanes and paths make it easy and safe to cycle around. Additionally, the city offers electric scooters for rent, which provide a fun and convenient way to get around.

For those who want a more leisurely and scenic way to travel, the Tallinn Old Town can be explored on a horse-drawn carriage ride. These rides provide a unique perspective of the historic district and its landmarks, and can be a romantic option for couples.

Overall, the best ways to move around Tallinn depend on personal preference and the destination. Public transportation is a great option for those on a budget or in a hurry, while walking or cycling may be preferred by those looking to explore at a more leisurely pace.


Tallinn is generally considered a safe city. However, like in any city, it is always advisable to take basic safety precautions such as staying aware of your surroundings, avoiding unlit or isolated areas at night, and keeping valuables secure. Additionally, it is always a good idea to check for any specific safety concerns or warnings before travelling to any destination.

Expensive or Cheap

Compared to other European cities, Tallinn can be considered relatively affordable. Prices for accommodation, food, and entertainment are generally lower than in many Western European cities. However, prices can vary depending on the type of establishment and the location within the city. Overall, Tallinn offers a good value for money, especially when compared to other popular European destinations.

Best Time to Travel

The best time to travel to Tallinn is during the summer months from June to August when the weather is warm and pleasant. This is also the peak tourist season, so it’s important to book accommodations and activities in advance. The shoulder season of May and September can also be a good time to visit as there are fewer crowds and the weather is still mild. Winter can be cold and snowy, but it can also be a magical time to visit with the Christmas markets and winter activities. Ultimately, the best time to visit depends on personal preferences and interests.

Date Ideas and Activities

Tallinn offers a variety of activities and experiences for couples looking for a romantic getaway. Here are some date ideas to try in Tallinn:

  • Visit the Old Town – Tallinn’s Old Town offers a charming atmosphere with narrow cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and beautiful city walls.
  • Toompea Castle – This castle is home to the Estonian Parliament and offers stunning views of the city from its hilltop location.
  • Tallinn TV Tower – Take a ride up the TV tower for panoramic views of Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland, and the surrounding forests.
  • Kadriorg Palace – Explore the beautiful baroque palace and surrounding gardens, which also houses the Kumu Art Museum.
  • Patarei Prison Museum – For a unique and chilling experience, visit the former Soviet-era prison to learn about Estonia’s recent history.
  • Estonian Open-Air Museum – Experience Estonian rural life and traditions in this museum, which showcases authentic old farm buildings, windmills, and watermills.
  • Estonian National Opera – Catch a performance at the beautiful opera house in the heart of Tallinn.
  • Tallinn Zoo – Take a stroll through the park-like setting and see a variety of animals from around the world.
  • Tallinn Food Tour – Sample traditional Estonian cuisine, from hearty soups and stews to sweet pastries and cakes.
  • Bike Tour – Explore Tallinn and its surrounding countryside on two wheels, stopping along the way for scenic views and photo opportunities.

From exploring historic landmarks to trying traditional Estonian cuisine and enjoying scenic views, there’s something for every taste and interest.

Fun and Interesting Facts

Tallinn is a city full of fascinating history, culture, and traditions. Here are some fun and interesting facts about Tallinn:

  • Tallinn is known for its well-preserved Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe.
  • The city was founded in 1248 by the Danish king Valdemar II, and it has been a major trading hub for centuries.
  • Tallinn is home to the world’s first public Christmas tree, which was erected in the town square in 1441.
  • The city has a long and fascinating history of maritime trade, and it was a member of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trading confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns.
  • Tallinn is known for its traditional food and drinks, including black bread, smoked fish, and the locally distilled Vana Tallinn liqueur.
  • The city has a vibrant cultural scene, with many museums, galleries, and theaters showcasing Estonian art, history, and music.
  • Tallinn has a strong tradition of song and dance, and it hosts a national song festival every five years, which attracts thousands of performers and spectators.
  • The city is also known for its innovative use of technology, and it was the first city in the world to offer free public Wi-Fi in 2001.
  • Tallinn has a unique and fascinating mix of architectural styles, including medieval, baroque, neoclassical, and modernist.
  • The city has a thriving startup and tech industry, and it has been named one of the best places in the world to start a business.


Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is a charming and historical city with a unique atmosphere that blends medieval and modern influences. It offers something for everyone, from its rich history and culture to its modern and innovative spirit. Tallinn is a city that is constantly evolving and changing, yet it remains rooted in its traditions and heritage. Its cobblestone streets, picturesque Old Town, and numerous landmarks and attractions make it a popular tourist destination in the Baltics. From exploring museums and galleries, to enjoying the city’s parks and beaches, there are plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy. Additionally, Tallinn is known for its delicious food and drinks, as well as its affordability compared to many other European cities. Overall, Tallinn offers a one-of-a-kind travel experience for those looking for history, culture, and charm.