One of northern Europe's most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns, TALLINN never fails to make a positive first impression. Tallinn boasts myriad cultural attractions, historical sights and entertainment options, but retains an absorbing intimacy and is easy to explore on foot.
The largely pedestrianized Old Town (Vanalinn) is Tallinn's heart. An enjoyable, atmospheric and ultimately addictive jumble of medieval churches, striking cobblestone alleyways, slender steeples, barrel-shaped towers and gabled merchants' houses, it was once enclosed by medieval walls, of which significant stretches still survive. Its street plan is a confusion of curving streets and interconnecting passageways.
From the main square, the Raekoja plats, your best plan is to amble down any of the adjacent alleyways that take your fancy, emerging onto sinuous streets like Pikk, Lai and Vene – each lined with tall, quietly imperious medieval warehouses. Must-visit attractions include the entertaining history displays at the Tallinn City Museum and the show-stopping medieval artworks in St Nicholas's Church. Above the old town looms Toompea, hilltop stronghold of the German knights and bishops who nominally controlled the city during the Middle Ages.
Beyond the medieval core, much of Tallinn is bland and uninteresting, with notable exceptions, namely the park and palace at Kadriorg and the Botanical Gardens above the beach resort of Pirita – all located in the eastern suburbs. The Estonian Open-Air Museum is the one unmissable attraction in the west.
Despite being the capital of an independent Estonia from 1918 to 1940 and again from 1991, modern-day Tallinn is a hybrid creation. Its name, derived from the Estonian taani linnus, meaning "Danish Fort", is a reminder that the city was founded by the Danes in the thirteenth century, and since then political control has been for lengthy periods in the hands of foreigners – Swedes and particularly Germans have left lasting influences. Russians, meanwhile, continue to make up around 45 percent of the population, and the Russian language persists as an ever-present shadow culture.
June, July and August are the most popular times to visit Tallinn, but year-round cultural attractions and vibrant nightlife ensure that it's a rewarding weekend destination whenever you visit.
Tallinn is a beautiful city which has preserved its history. One of the highlights of Tallinn is the Medieval Old Town. However, there are interesting attractions in each area of the city. Tallinn is divided into different districts, each with its own character and sightseeing spots.
This district is mainly a residential area with large panel buildings of Väike-Õismäe, mainly built during the 1970s. Lake Harku and an extensive beach area at Kakumäe, also the Kopli Gulf all make it a great recreational place. Attractions include Rocca-al-Mare Kaubanduskeskus which is the largest mall in the city and Premia Ice Hall where the family can enjoy an indoor ice rink.
Kesklinn could be considered the city center, since it serves as a home to the Medieval Old Town and port suburbs. Visitors can admire the red roofed buildings and stone paved streets. You can also admire wooden and stone houses. Most of the historical attractions are located in this district. Visitors should be sure to check out the St. Catherine's Passage which represents true medieval time period. Dating back to 1404, the Tallinn Town Hall shouldn't be missed. The Dominican Monastery is the oldest building in Old Town, which is really saying something. Maarjamäe Palace contains part of the interesting Estonian History Museum. The beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Great Guild Hall are worth tours. If you feel like trying out your luck, head to Bally's Casino or Admiral Casino to try to strike it rich.
Located next to the center, this district has several apartment buildings that date back to 1930s and single family houses dating back to 1950s. The industrial part of this area is rather extensive. Southern part is given to the Tondi area of military barracks. One of the best restaurants in the city is located in this district; Bazar is decorated like an Arabian bazaar, complete with a belly dancer.
Lasnamäe is the largest area. This eastern section of Tallinn has several out of the way attractions. Visitors shouldn't miss the Kadriorg Palace , which was built in the Northern Baroque style in 1718. The Kumu Art Museum is located close to the palace and has impressive exhibits.
Mustamäe is the oldest residential region with large panel houses from the 1960s. It is also the home of Tallinn Technical University and numerous scientific institutions. There is great shopping at the Järve Keskus .
Dating back to the end of the 1800s, this area used to be a separate city until 1940 when it was united with Tallinn. The area is covered with sand and pine groves and has mainly single family houses. It is considered as one of the most prestigious areas of Tallinn.
This is a beautiful area in Tallinn. You can enjoy beaches, yachting and a lot of sporting opportunities. The Tallinn Botanical Garden is a beautiful feature, with around 8000 species of plants. Another lovely landmark is the St. Brigitta's Convent , which is historically significant and used for concerts and fairs.
Põhja-Tallinn is architecturally, historically and socially diverse. This serves as home to Kalamaja, with 1 to 2 story wooden houses. The Pelgulinn area has more modern wooden buildings and areas of multi-story houses. This is also the area of railway station, ports and various industrial buildings.
Tallinn is a diverse city with great cuisine options. Tallinn had a historically important trading location and it was ruled by different countries in different centuries, which resulted in the city learning about a lot of different dishes techniques. Today, visitors can find a wide variety of cuisines.
For a wide variety of dining options visit the Old Town in Kesklinn. There are a number of restaurants, cafes, bars, breweries and wineries around the old part of Tallinn. Kesklinn also has some of the best fine dining. Gloria Veinikelder is a luxury restaurant which has a great wine cellar. Moskva is a stylish restaurant and nightclub. The unique restaurant Admiral offers dining on a steam ship. Olde Hansa offers delicious fare and is set to look like you are eating in the 15th Century, complete with mouth watering dishes such as Arabian Fillets in Fig Sauce. Or simply relax with a cup of coffee at Bogapott , a small artistic shopping gem and cafe.
Enjoy local cuisine at Eesti Maja and Kuldse Notsu Kõrts . For Italian food and pizza visit Restoran Bocca , Controvento , Americana , and Tiina Pizza . Delicious French cuisine is served at Le Château where the staff is dressed up in peasant costumes and the restaurant is decorated to resemble 17th Century France. The lovers of American cuisine won't be disappointed either. Texas Honky Tonk & Cantina brings Texas straight to Estonia. The Soviet times have passed, but the Russian influence remained, Troika Trahter offers Russian fare and a Russian Tavern ambiance including live folk music. Tchaikovsky Restaurant offers both French and Russian dishes.
Kristinne may not be known as a tourist area, but it has several delicious options that may make it worth the trip. For belly dancing, Middle Eastern cuisine and a wide selection of dishes, head to Bazar . The restaurant is aptly named for an Arabian bazaar and is decorated to match. Mandarin offers reasonable priced Chinese food with huge portions. A long queue often forms, but the wait is usually short.
This district offers a beautiful area for dinning. You can find a cafe and enjoy a drink by the Kadriorg Park. For Mexican food Cantina Carramba can't be beat. Cantina Carramba is the place for unique Mexican experience with real drinks from Central America and outstanding interior design.
Tallinn has many historical buildings as well as culturally significant spots. If you want to tour the different locations you can either explore on your own or join a guided tour. Either option will help you discover the fascinating history as well as modern city of this beautiful city.
St. Catherine's Passage
Take your own tour of the area around St. Catherine's Passage . The medieval passage connects Vene and Müürivahe streets and is now filled with artists and cafes. Stop for a drink or to browse the artwork at Bogapott . After resting walk to the Dominican Monastery which is a gothic styled monastery built in 1246 and has interesting exhibits inside. Another close by landmark is the House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads , a Renaissance building. The nearby Great Guild Hall is also worth a tour and houses the Estonian History Museum.
Town Hall Square
The Town Hall Square was used for celebrations, executions and much more even before Tallinn Town Hall was built. Today the square is filled with cute cafes and is often used for events, the square is known for its Christmas Market. The focal point of the square is obviously the Tallinn Town Hall . After exploring the beautiful building head to Town Hall Pharmacy , built in the early 15th Century. You can still purchase pharmaceutical items at the old Pharmacy. A few blocks away is Olde Hansa where you can dine in Medieval ambiance.
The Kadriorg Palace , also called Christine's Palace was built in 1718 and showcases a beautiful Northern Baroque style. After touring the palace head to the Kumu Art Museum where you can enjoy culture. If you are hungry stop by Cantina Carramba for a Mexican feast. If you want to go skating the Jeti Ice Hall can't be beat.
Toompea Castle & Tall Hermann's Tower
No trip to Tallinn is complete without seeing Toompea Castle & Tall Hermann's Tower . Built in 1227, the castle has housed each reigning power and now the Parliament resides here. Close by is the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which is a Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The 1219 St. Mary's Cathedral , also known as Dome Church, is nearby and deserves a tour.
If you would prefer a guided tour, perhaps because you would like more information on different landmarks, there are many options.
Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour (+372 6 10 8616 / http://www.travel2baltics.com/ )
Tallinn Official Sightseeing Tour (+372 6 27 9080 / http://www.citytour.ee/ )
City Bike Tours (+372 5 11 1819 / http://www.citybike.e/ )
Beautiful Bike Tour (+372 5 55 42 111 / http://www.traveller.ee/ )