Top sights to enjoy an escape in Tallinn
The breathtaking capital of Estonia, Tallinn, is possibly one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe. The encompassing medieval stone walls, sky-scraping church bell towers, and winding cobblestone streets opening into squares and courtyards will certainly cause visitors’ jaws to drop in awe. Continue reading to learn the top sights to enjoy during an escape to Tallinn.
Enter Tallinn’s marvelous old town through Viru Gate, which was part of the city’s 14th-century extensive defense system. Though a portion of the Viru Gate was demolished to allow for horse-drawn traffic, the towers of the gate remain. The area around Viru Gate is now home to market stalls selling woolen mittens, sweet smelling roasted nuts, and numerous restaurants.
The Old Town has to be the top draw for visitors to Tallinn. Featuring beautiful architecture and locals dressed in medieval clothing, the Old Town somehow escapes feeling overly touristy or kitschy that other cities with costumed workers might experience.
Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform
For the best view of Tallinn, and to take your own stunning photo for Instagram, head to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform. Located on Toompea Hill, visitors will be treated to unobstructed views of the harbor, bell towers, and the terra-cotta colored roof tiles. This is also a popular spot for local musicians to hang out, providing some background music to the view.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Also located on Toompea Hill, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is relatively recent addition to the medieval old town, it was completed only in 1900. This Russian Orthodox church has distinct, black onion domes that can be easily spotted towering above Tallinn. The interior of the church can be visited, although visitors should first check service times and be respectful of private services as this is an active church. Visiting the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is free of charge.
St. Olaf’s Church
St. Olaf’s Church is one of the most important structures in Tallinn, and is the city’s largest medieval building. This well-preserved church was likely built in the 1200s and is notable due to its high church tower that has been struck by lightening numerous times throughout its history. St. Olaf’s Church is not open for visitors during the winter (open from April until October) and is free of charge. Visitors can climb the narrow stairs to the top of the church for a beautiful view over Tallinn’s Old Town.
Town Hall Square
Stunning in every season, but particularly during the annual Christmas market, Town Hall Square has been the heart of Tallinn since the 13th century. Though no longer acting as the city’s marketplace, the Town Hall Square sees bustling activity with café chairs and tables spilling into the square in the summer, numerous tour groups, and occasional festivals. The surrounding architecture is also stunning; keep an eye out for dragons on the Town Hall!
Promenade along the Tallinn Town Wall
Visitors can climb a portion of Tallinn’s wall to explore the towers and enjoy beautiful city views. The wall was formerly 2.4-km long and had 46 towers; while not as magnificent as it once was, it still is impressive at approximately 1.9-km long with around 20 towers remaining. It really is a privilege to walk these ancient defensive walls. Opening hours for the Tallinn Town Wall vary depending on the season.
Located next to Alexander Nevsky Church, the present Toompea Castle was built in the late 1700s. This understated castle features a salmon pink exterior, white details, and the national flag and crest. The castle can be visited on weekdays, but visitors must book ahead of time. A large park can be found next to Toompea Castle, providing visitors with a bit of a green reprieve from city life.
Telliskivi Creative City
Located a bit off-the-beaten-path, Telliskivi Creative City should be visited by those interested in seeing the creative side of Tallinn. Telliskivi is a complex of former warehouses turned into boutiques, restaurants, live music venues, and cafés, and all are beautifully decorated with street art.
Port of Tallinn
Visitors arriving to Tallinn via ship will likely spend at least some time walking through the Port of Tallinn. The Sadama District (harbor district) is a bustling area of Tallinn with travelers coming from and going to boats. Several affordable hotels and restaurants can be found in this area, as well as the Museum of Estonian Architecture (located in the Rotermanni Quarter). The Museum of Estonian Architecture focuses on contemporary architecture and has frequently changing exhibitions.