What to see in Tallinn in one day
After my first trip to Tallinn, I decided that I would never go there again: I was bored. Then I accidentally ended up there again and fell in love with the city.
Now I’m ready to come to the Estonian capital every year: it’s a very comfortable city for travelers. You can wander around the center for hours. There are districts where you can admire medieval architecture, modern design and art.
I’ve been to Tallinn three times and have put together an itinerary that allows you to see a different city: medieval, designer and hipster. The walk starts in the Rotermanni quarter, goes through the Old Town and ends in the Telliskivi district. On the way you will see Viru Street, Town Hall Square, St. Katharina Alley, sculptures of monks in the Danish King’s Garden, the Dome Cathedral and look at Tallinn from Patkuli Lookout. I advise you to save the route in your Tripadvisor account.
The route looks small, only 4 km, but in fact you will walk a lot: most likely you will want to turn into alleyways in each neighborhood. Google says it will take you about an hour to get there, but I’d put at least 5 hours on the route. Almost every geo-point is a few sights or interesting buildings nearby that will take time to see.
Tallinn is often visited by ferries from St. Petersburg and Helsinki. The port is a seven-minute walk from the Old Town and five minutes from the start of the route. Public transport is not necessary.
The Baltic Station, where trains from St. Petersburg and Moscow arrive, is a three-minute walk from the Old Town.
The Rotermann Quarter is a former industrial quarter with boilers, mills and warehouses, which can now be called an example of modern architecture. Rotermanni is an example of how beautiful a city can be when old and new architecture are skillfully combined. The warehouses and production facilities have been restored and redesigned. Now there are expensive offices, stores, and restaurants.
It’s a pleasure to walk around the block. There are only eight lanes, and you can walk around in 10 minutes. But I always want to linger in Rotermanni at least for a cup of coffee. On one of my visits, I stayed here on purpose.
Viru Gate. There are about a dozen entrances to the Old Town, but the Viru Gate is the most beautiful and ceremonial. Once it was the main gate in the fortress wall, which protected medieval Tallinn. Now it’s a real time portal. Just now you were on a modern street, which is swarming with traffic, and in two steps you find yourself in mysterious alleys with stone sidewalk and houses that are 400-500 years old .
Old Town is the most famous and oldest part of Tallinn. The medieval center was built more than 600 years ago and remained intact: there are houses, squares, churches, stone-paved streets, 18 fortress towers.
The concentration of attractions in the Old City is like in a museum. It is a ready setting for fairy tales and historical movies – dozens of movies were shot here. Among them are “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” “The Snow Queen” and “The Three Fat Men.
From the Viru Gate to the center of the Old Town, Viru Street is unprecedentedly wide for old Tallinn. There are many stores and bars there.
St. Katharina’s Alley. There are dozens of alleyways in the Old Town, but this one is probably the most famous. The small alley, only 135 meters long, is decorated with small arched slabs. They give St. Catherine’s Alley an original look and photogenic.
The entrance to St. Catherine’s Alley is easy to miss: it’s small and inconspicuous. It’s better to peek at the map.
The alleyway is bounded on the left by the wall of the former Dominican monastery of St. Katharina. The monastery now operates as a museum. It is open from May to September. Entrance costs 1 €
On the walls of the alley are tombstones of former burials. Why they were placed there, I never understood. Perhaps for more atmosphere.
Town Hall Square is the most famous square in Tallinn, the central place of the Old Town. In the center is the medieval city hall, along the perimeter – old houses and many cafes, which are always crowded with tourists. As in Moscow, all the tourists go to Red Square, so in Tallinn, all seek Town Hall Square. For Christmas there is a fair with Christmas trees, lights, souvenirs and mulled wine. The square is said to look especially atmospheric and fabulous at that time.
For me, Town Hall is too crowded, but on every visit to Tallinn I go there anyway. It always has a festive and at the same time peaceful atmosphere. Medieval Tallinn and idle touristy modernity in the form of hundreds of gawkers in cafes balance each other out.
You can get inside the Town Hall with a guided tour. There is a burger hall, where ceremonial receptions were held, and the hall of the magistrate, where medieval officials met. Tourists can also see the kitchen and basement hall, where the magistrate kept wine to control the sale of alcohol.
Also on the square is the famous town hall pharmacy. It works since the 15th century. It is easy to miss it – I advise you to look for the pharmacy on the map.
The pharmacy works as a medical store and museum. Admission is free. In the museum section, vials of dried deer penis, dog feces, burnt hedgehogs, and other witchcraft ingredients with which medicine men supposedly cured illnesses are on display. I don’t know if the exhibits are real, but they look quite authentic.
Costs a tour of an old pharmacy for a group of up to 30 people
The Danish King’s Garden is a small park in the upper part of the Old Town. People come there for the large statues of monks. They look mysterious and spooky. There is a 13th-century legend about a battle during the reign of the Danes associated with the place. When the Danish troops began to lose, the bishops prayed to God and a red and white Danish flag descended from heaven. God’s sign encouraged the soldiers and helped them to victory. Admission to the garden is free.
It is customary for monks to throw a coin and make a wish. In my opinion, they make great selfies. It’s particularly colourful there in the evening, with the city covered in darkness and the sculptures lit up from inside.
Toompea Castle and Long Hermann. Toompea Castle is the seat of the Estonian parliament. Tourists can get inside with a free guided tour by appointment. Tours are conducted in Estonian, English or Russian, Monday through Thursday from 10:00 to 16:00 and on Fridays from 10:00 to 15:00 . To visit will need a passport or driver’s license.
Most tourists do not go to the castle for the parliament, but for the tower of its fortress wall. It is called Long Hermann. This is the standard name for buildings in the Old Town: there is both the Fat Margaret Tower and the Long Leg Street.
The tower was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, but it is perfectly preserved. It is now considered a symbol of Estonian independence. Every morning the national flag is raised on the tower.
You can get into the Long Hermann Tower
Long Herman almost always closed to the public. Tourists and citizens are allowed there only once a year – on the national flag day, June 4. You can see the tower up close from the Governor’s Garden, which is open to all.
Lookout points Kohtuots and Patkuli. In the upper part of the Old Town, Vyshgorod, there are two observation decks within a three-minute walk of each other.
Both offer a view of half of the Old Town, the Baltic Sea and the ferries at the port. But the views are slightly different: from Kohtuotsa you can see the business center with high-rises, but not from Patkula.
View from Patkuli. The tallest tower is the Church of St. Olaf. It is not on the itinerary: since September 2019 it is closed for restoration
On the way to the viewpoints of Kohtuotsa and Patkuli you will see the Dome Cathedral. Admission costs 2 €. On Saturdays there are organ concerts, admission also costs 2 €
Telliskivi is a hipster neighborhood with lots of cafes, workshops and design stores. It’s a territory for two kinds of art: contemporary street art and gastronomy. Such neighborhoods are often referred to as creative spaces. Tourists come to Telliskivi to see the beautiful graffiti and eat at local cafes. In warm weather, you can swing in hammocks there.
Like Rotermanni, Telliskivi was also once an industrial area. Now it’s home to modern theaters, an independent choreographic scene, music groups, and designer stores – seemingly less expensive than those in Rotermanni. There are also fairs, concerts, exhibitions, and a flea market on Saturdays.
There’s also the Fotografiska photography center in Telliskivi, a franchise of the famous Stockholm museum. In September, it hosted the exhibition “Truth is Dead” by London photographer Alison Jackson, with scandalous photos allegedly from the lives of celebrities. In reality all the pictures show look-alikes, and the exhibition hints that we live in a post-truth world where it is difficult to distinguish reality from lies.
Kumu Art Museum. The modern high-tech museum building was opened in 2006. Objects of Estonian art of the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 20th century and the works of art of the Soviet period are exposed there. Exhibitions of modern Estonian artists and sculptors are also regularly held in the museum.
costs a ticket to the Kumu Museum
costs a kilo of smoked octopus
Next door to Telliskivi is the street food district Depo. There used to be a train depot there, and almost all the establishments are located in former carriages or shipping containers. Unusual, but when I was a kid I often rode in a coach, so I preferred to eat at Telliskivi rather than at the Depot.
All the sights of Tallinn. What can you see in the Estonian capital in 1 day?
Despite the fact that Tallinn is considered the most modest European capital, there are many historical and architectural attractions and modern entertainment.
A leisurely stroll through the Old Town will take you all day. Town Hall Square in Old Tallinn is one of the most beautiful medieval buildings in Europe.
And if you come to Tallinn with your family, don’t forget to check out the Maritime Museum and the zoo. The kids will love it here.
Also in Tallinn, a great SPA-hotels and nice beaches. It has a lot to do, both in summer and winter.
IMPORTANT: up-to-date information about opening of borders between Russia and Estonia for all tourists, as well as those who can already travel there at the moment, see here.
A brief look at Estonia’s capital
The capital city of Tallinn is a modern seaport city on the Gulf of Finland.
Its population is 410 thousand people. Estonians, Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Germans and Finns live here. It is the cultural, scientific, political center of Estonia.
Tallinn was founded in the XII century, at different times was called Kolyvan, Lindanise, Revel.
In the search form below, you can see flight schedules:
Old Town in 1 day: photo with description
If you come to Tallinn for one day, you go straight to the Old Town. Here are the main attractions.
The historic center of Tallinn is divided into Lower Town and Upper Town. In the Lower Town lived artisans, and in the Upper, or Vyshgorod – the nobility.
Viruks Gate is one of the most important tourist attractions. They divide the old and new Tallinn.
In fact, the gate itself has long been demolished when they laid a line for the horse-drawn tramway. What remains are the towers of the pre-gate fortification.
Immediately behind them is the lively Viru Street, which leads to Town Hall Square.
Town Hall Square
The center of the old city is Town Hall Square. Over the years the square has changed several names: Forum, Market, Old Market, New Market, German Market, Swedish Market.
The main attraction of Town Hall Square is the Gothic Town Hall building. It was built over 600 years ago and is considered to be the only surviving building in the Gothic style in Northern Europe.
And from the Town Hall Square you can see Tallinn’s five main spires: Oleviste, Holy Spirit, Niguliste, Town Hall and the Dome Cathedral.
A couple of weeks before New Year’s Eve, a Christmas fair opens here, where souvenirs and local delicacies are sold and you can try hot cinnamon mulled wine. For the joy of children there is a merry-go-round and a tall Christmas tree.
In the corner of Town Hall Square is the oldest functioning pharmacy in Europe. It began to function in the XV century.
The pharmacy is still in operation. In the premises of the pharmacy there is a museum of medical instruments.
Church of the Holy Spirit
On the facade of the Church of the Holy Spirit there is the oldest clock in the city. Despite the fact that five centuries have passed they still show the exact time. Inside the church, there are over 50 paintings devoted to biblical subjects.
The Three Sisters are three houses of unusual construction that share common walls. They are built in the Hanseatic style, each house has a high gable roof.
In the history of the Three Sisters has changed a lot of owners. It is now home to a popular designer hotel.
St. Olaf Church
The tallest spire in the Old Town is on the Church of St. Olaf or Oleviste, as it is also called. The spire is 124 meters high. At one time the city officials forbade erecting churches higher than Oleviste. The church was built in the 16th century, the spire served as a landmark for ships that entered the harbor of Tallinn.
There is an observation deck on the Oleviste tower, it is open from 10 to 18 hours. Cost: 4 euros.
Purchase health insurance for the trip is available here:
The Dome Cathedral is considered to be the main Lutheran church of the Old City. In the 13th century on this site stood a wooden church. Later, the monks built a stone church. The walls of the Dome Cathedral are decorated with wooden coats of arms of noble families, on whose funds the temple was built. Many are buried in the cathedral.
If you go up to the observation deck of the Dome Cathedral, you can see a beautiful view of the city. Cost: entrance to the cathedral – 2 euros, entrance to the observation deck – 5 euros.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built in 1900 and is dedicated to the salvation of Russian Emperor Alexander III in a railway accident.
The cathedral stands on Toompea Hill and is considered to be the largest church building in the Baltics. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built in Neo-Byzantine style, is a cathedral of the Estonian Orthodox Church and is subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate.
Opposite the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Toompea Castle, which rises in the center of Tallinn on the hill of the same name.
It was built in XIII century by the Danish King Valdemar II. The tallest tower of the castle – the Tower of Long Hermann – reaches 100 meters above the sea level. Now the parliament of Estonia sits in Toompea Castle.
Kaarli Church is a Lutheran church built in the neo-Gothic style in the 19th century. Classical music concerts and divine services are held here.
Kik-in-de-Kök fortress tower
The tower now houses the Armoury Museum. From here you can also start guided tours through the dungeons of Tallinn.
And in the XV century city guards watched from the tower the kitchens of the city houses. It’s no coincidence that “Kik-in-de-Kök” translates from Saxon as “peek into the kitchen”.
This is a former Lutheran church, named in honor of St. Nicholas – the patron saint of sailors. It was built in the XIII century, and during the Great Patriotic War was badly damaged.
After the restoration in 1984 in the church Niguliste opened a concert hall and museum.
View from the Kohtuotsa Lookout
To see the Old Town at a glance, climb up to the observation deck on Toompea Hill. There are two of them – Kohtuotsa and Patküla.
Kohtuotsa Lookout is included in the tourist routes of Old Tallinn. And this is no accident. It offers a beautiful view of the tiled roofs of the Lower Town.
The observation deck on the Patküla Stairs is located near the railway station. From it one can see the sea port and the city fortress wall.
View from the observation deck of Patkühl
And finally wander through the streets of Old Tallinn. For example, visit Katariina’s Alley, where you will find many stores selling knitwear and shops selling glass, leather and ceramic souvenirs.
In order not to get lost in Tallinn’s Old Town, use the map. On it are all the objects to visit, photos with descriptions is located above. It also offers a circular walking route. If necessary, you can print out the map and take it with you. The map can be downloaded at the link.
The train schedule can be found here:
A 2-3 day trip on your own in the summer
If you have 2 or 3 days to spare, you will find a lot to see in Tallinn today.
Two kilometers from the Old Town you will find Kardiorg Park. The original name of the park was Ekaterinental, in honor of Peter I’s wife Catherine.
The main attraction of Kardiorg is the palace-museum of Peter the Great. Ticket prices and opening hours can be clarified on the museum website.
The Kumu Museum of Contemporary Art is located in Kardiorg Park. In the creative building of the museum works of Estonian artists are on display.
You can find out about open exhibitions, opening hours and ticket prices on the museum’s website.
Not far from Old Town is a cozy neighborhood of colorful wooden houses called Kalamaja.
It used to be a fisherman’s village. Now it’s a neighborhood where creative bohemians live. Various times Kalamaja was home to Alexander Blok and Sergey Dovlatov.
The main square of modern Tallinn is Freedom Square. Installed the Victory Monument commemorates the victory of the Estonian army against the Red Army. Also on Freedom Square is the Church of St. John.
Rotermanni is a quarter with modern architecture, which is located near the historical part of the city.
It used to be home to factories and workshops, whose buildings remain in the area, though no longer in operation.
After renovations, Rotermanni is now home to trendy restaurants and cafes, a boutique Kalev chocolate store, and modern office buildings.
Find out what Estonian unicorns look like and take a walk through the modern neighborhoods by booking a guided tour of the modern Estonian capital.
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Pirita is a coastal area of Tallinn, located 7 km from the Old Town. A sailing regatta was held here during the Olympics of the 1980s.
Pirita is a district of SPA hotels. On Pirita seafront the citizens of Tallinn like to walk and relax and here is the best beach in Tallinn with fine clean sand.
The height of the Tallinn TV Tower is 314 meters. At the top is an observation deck.
What to see with the kids?
In Tallinn, children are not bored. They will love to explore the medieval towers in Old Town and the submarine at the Maritime Museum. There’s also a delicious marzipan museum, zoo and botanical garden.
Maritime Museum is considered the most popular museum in the country. You can stay here for several hours with children.
The main part of the museum is located in the Flying Harbor. This is a huge hangar that contains an exhibit with a real submarine and seaplane. Interactive exhibition tells about the history of Estonia. A fascinating tour through the museum will allow you to learn even more.
The icebreaker moored to the harbor is also part of the museum. You can walk on it and look into all the compartments.
Fat Margaret Tower
The other part of the museum is in Old Town and is located in Fat Margaret’s Tower.
Flying harbor Address: Vesilennuki, 6 Coordinates: 59.451395, 24.738410 Fat Margaret Tower Address: Pikk, 70 Coordinates: 59.442541, 24.749485
The small Tallinn Zoo has a lot to see: an African elephant and a Siberian tiger, a polar bear and a striped hyena.
There is also a ropes course on the territory of the zoo, which can also be visited with children for an additional fee. For more information on the zoo website.
The NUKU Puppet Museum and Theatre is more than 60 years old. In the museum you can see not only puppets but also special antique machinery for puppet theaters. You can also take your children to one of the shows. Repertoir and ticket prices can be found on the website.
Museum of marzipan
Children will love the Kalev Marzipan Museum in the Old Town.
Here you can not only buy marzipan products, but also see how they are hand painted. Shop-museum is open daily from 10.00 to 21.00
Legends of Tallinn
Older kids will be interested in the interactive museum “Legends of Tallinn”.
It is located in the basement of a house near Town Hall Square. In the performance with the use of light and pyrotechnics actors tell, including in Russian, the legends of the ancient city.
Learn more about show times and prices here.
In the Tallinn Botanical Garden, which is located near the TV Tower, you can find more than 4,500 species of plants. The area of the garden is about 120 hectares.
The botanical garden is open from 10.00 to 20.00 (in autumn and winter – 11.00-17.00). The cost is 5 euros for an adult.
Watch a video walk through the interesting places of the city:
It is impossible to see all the interesting places of historical and modern Tallinn in one short trip. If you come on your own once, you’ll want to come back.