As you might expect, plenty of things to do in Tallinn, as one of the Baltic capitals, are available for the traveler to experience, whether they are there for a couple of days or an extended period of time. Furthermore, you can cater your sightseeing or experiences to those that really interest you—Tallinn is compact enough that you can fit in a lot in a short period of time and very easily and conveniently.
Things to do in Tallinn include sights, activities, and experiences, each designed to add to your trip, whether that is knowledge about history or culture, beautiful photographs, or memories you’ll carry with you forever.
The ideas below will help you choose what to do when you visit the Estonian capital city.
1. Explore Old Town: One of the Top Things to Do in Tallinn
Any traveler would be remiss if they skipped Tallinn’s old town, the historic heart of the city, on their visit there. And actually, there are so many things to do in the historic center alone, if your visit is short, you may be interested in concentrating your efforts here.
Old Town Tallinn is divided into the upper part and the lower part, and you’ll stretch your legs and get in a workout traversing the cobblestone streets and the inclines and declines as you explore. You’ll see everything from picturesque alleyways to grand defensive structures; shops, museums, and cafes and restaurants are interspersed throughout.
2. Climb Old Town Tallinn’s Towers
The medieval city of Tallinn is evident in its remaining structures, some of them in the form of towers that were built along the city wall. Twenty towers out of the original 46 of Tallinn’s original defenses still stand today, and travelers can visit the Nunna, Sauna, and Kuldjala towers and walk almost two kilometers of the remaining city wall. Ascend into the towers to experience one of the most popular things to do in Tallinn.
You’ll get an idea of what it was like to live in Tallinn during the Middle Ages and the feats of engineering and constructed required to build such structures during such a time—especially ones that have withstood the ages like these have.
Learn about military history at the Kiek in de Kok and the Fortification Museum.
The Kiek in de Kok tower is an unmissable part of Tallinn’s old town landscape. With its meters-thick walls with cannonballs still embedded in its sides, this former artillery tower is full of character—and it contains a museum linking other towers. For lovers of military history, a visit to Kiek in de Kok is a must.
3. Go Back in Time at the Old Pharmacy
Whether you need something for a cough or want to learn about pharmacy practices of the past, do stop by the Old Town Tallinn Pharmacy, which has been continually in business since the 15th century. You can browse, for free, the small exhibition there, and enjoy knowledge in the fact that you can partake in 21st-century medicine, not that from the Middle Ages. It one of the top things to do in Tallinn.
4. Meet Old Thomas at the Town Hall Tower
Tallinn will never leave you longing for a view, and the Town Hall tower, with its over a hundred stairs, made only for the stout of heart, will offer you one. As famous as the tower is, the weathervane at the top may be even more famous. Called Old Thomas, the original weathervane from the 16th century, now serving its retirement in the town hall, has made way for a younger weathervane to keep up tradition.
5. Get a Postcard View from the Viewing Platforms
Again, if you’re seeking a view, Tallinn’s old town will grant your wish many times over. Viewing platforms are things to do in Tallinn that many people seek out first when they arrive.
The Kohtuotsa viewing platform is one of these—head to the eastern portion of the hill to find it and to see postcard-perfect views of the lower old town.
Many people like the nearby Patkuli viewing platform better. It pays to visit both for the best experience.
The Piiskopi viewing platform offers less complex views, overlooking a park that was once the moat surrounding the town.
6. Visit Tallinn’s Many Churches
Important churches in Tallinn reflect its history as well as offer even more tower views. They’re one of the things to do in Tallinn that will help you connect with the city’s history.
St. Olaf’s Church originally dates from the 13th century and is named for a Norwegian king. Its steeple is legendary for being one of the tallest in Europe at the time it was built. In the warm-weather months, visitors can climb the stairs to the viewing platform to look at the surrounding old town neighborhood.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The red and white decorative work capped off with onion domes makes Alexander Nevsky Cathedral unabashedly Russian Orthodox in nature. Built when Estonia was a part of the Russian Empire, it was used for the Orthodox Christian worshipers as well as a way to situate a symbol of the empire prominently in Tallinn’s historic center.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
St. Mary’s Cathedral is one of the old town’s most notable structures. Visit to view the interior, or buy a ticket to climb the steps to the tower for, yes, views from above.
St. Nicholas’s Church is now a museum of religious art and sometimes a concert venue. Though it was originally built as a fortified church, it suffered during WWII and was restored in the 1980s to take on the role it has today.
7. Take in a Museum
Tallinn’s museums range from the traditional to the high-tech and interactive. Whether you’re looking for a multi-media experience or a contemplative stroll through halls of fine art, Tallinn won’t disappoint. Museums are one of the things to do in Tallinn that can be enjoyed whatever the weather, so have a couple on hand as a plan B if it rains or otherwise becomes unpleasant to be outside.
Seaplane Harbour Museum
The Seaplane Harbour Museum is one of the most popular things to do in Tallinn. Occupying a seaplane hangar, this enormous building houses planes, seafaring vessels, a submarine, and a number of interactive exhibits that will educate you about Estonia’s maritime history and important events that shaped its reputation as a seafaring nation.
Kumu Art Museum
Several floors of permanent and temporary exhibitions reveal the creativity and spirit of Estonian art through the ages. Be sure to carry your ticket with you as you navigate the museum—you’ll need it for entry and to exit some of the floors, the elevator, and the exhibits. If you want to learn more about Estonian art, the Kumu Art Museum is one of the best things to do in Tallinn for you.
Tallinn City Museum
If you’re interested in the evolution and development of Tallinn as a city, this museum is for you. The merchant’s house that it has been established in dates from the 14th century, and visitors will learn about important periods in the city’s history.
Vabamu Museum of Occupation and Freedom
Learn about Estonia under occupying regimes as well as its fight for independence through the personal histories of individuals throughout Estonia’s history. This museum is a good one to go to if you want to learn more about Estonia under Soviet rule and its fight for independence.
Estonian Jewish Museum
This museum’s purpose is to give an overview of the Jewish population over the course of Estonia’s history as well as to protect and archive materials relevant to their presence and life in the country.
Located in Viru Hotel, this museum offers insight into how the KGB eavesdropped on guests and maintained information on individuals it gathered intelligence on.
Kadriorg Palace Art Museum
The Baroque palace built for Peter the Great is beautiful to look at with its delicate façade and surrounding gardens; inside is a treasure trove of foreign art. A visit to this museum lets you step back in time to the era of Peter the Great.
Estonian Open Air Museum
The Estonian Open Air Museum is one of the best things to do in Tallinn where you can learn about traditional Estonian culture, see traditional architecture, get a feel for how life in Estonia was lived before it became one of Europe’s tech hubs, see demonstrations, and buy traditionally made crafts. It’s especially good when it hosts fairs, as a range of activities can be participated in during these lively events.
8. Find Your Way in Tallinn’s Neighborhoods
Tallinn is made up of various neighborhoods, all with their own personalities. Get outside of the old town to discover different sides of the Estonian capital. Each one offers unique things to do in Tallinn! A few of the most interesting are described here.
Telliskivi is an up-and-coming neighborhood with a focus on small business, art, and creativity. You’ll see plenty of street art here, get the opportunity to buy local designs, and find plenty of cafes, restaurants, and bars.
Here you can visit the Fotografiska gallery of photography, a branch of the gallery of the same name in Stockholm. In addition to looking at photography, you can shop at the gift shop there or patronize the café.
Though it’s officially a part of the Kalamaja District, Telliskivi is separate enough to visit on its own. However, the surrounding and nearby areas are interesting, too! It’s one of the coolest, most exciting things to do in Tallinn.
Kalamaja is just outside of old town and, while it also boasts old architecture and the accompanying history, it has its own feel as well as plenty of new developments mixed into the neighborhood. Here is where you’ll find the Seaplane Harbour Museum as well as other hi-tech centers for modern minds, such as the Energy Discovery Centre and the PROTO Invention Factory. The Noblessner Port area is attached to Kalamaja and also contains restaurants and other points of interest.
The Rotermann Quarter of Tallinn is a sleek combination of old and new, with older industrial buildings filled in with modern structures. This area is one of apartments, shops, and offices, and whether you’re there for a bite to eat, a drink in the evening, some shopping, or another purpose, you’ll find striking angles, intriguing details, and a grand play of light and shadow around every corner.
Kadriorg is a lovely area with wooden houses, shady streets, gardens and parks, and notable sights, including the Kadriorg Palace Art Museum, the former house of Peter the Great, the Kumu Art Museum, and the Presidential Palace.
9. Get a Sense of Soviet History at the Linnahall
Looking for Soviet-era things to do in Tallinn? Tallinn’s Linnahall was built for the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and was originally known as the V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports that was intended to serve the sailing event, along with other structures, given that Moscow itself did not have access to the water to facilitate it. While the building served for a time as a concert venue, it has fallen into disuse.
However, the Linnahall is still an interesting sight for visitors to Tallinn. It represents a major Soviet-era construction project right on the water. Climbing to the top will offer views of the port. Its brutalist construction is also notable, though now it is colored by graffiti and weeds.
10. Get a Two-in-One at the Tallinn Television Tower and Botanic Garden
The Tallinn TV Tower offers something of an interactive experience. Besides its viewing platform, café, and exhibition, a special virtual reality experience awaits those willing to take (virtual) flight around the tower.
The Botanic Garden is nearby, so you can combine high-tech with organic delights in one trip.
11. Discover Patarei Prison
Originally a fortress built in the middle of the 19th century, from 1920 to 2002, it functioned as a prison and is a symbol of Nazi and Soviet terror. While it was opened to visitors prior to 2019, it was this year that the prison museum officially opened. Another museum and a research center is planned to open there in the future, both dedicated to the victims of communism.
12. Have a Night Out at the Estonian National Opera
The Estonian National Opera opened in 1913. This building is large—so large, in fact, it was the biggest building in the city upon its establishment. Attend operas for an elegant night out or watch for shows oriented towards children.
13. Sample Local Food and Drink
Sampling local food and drink is one of the best things to do in Tallinn. Treat yourself, discover new favorites, and get to know the city’s food scene.
Try Local Beer
Of course, you can order local beer in any restaurant in Tallinn. But you also have the chance to order beer tastings with a specialist, learn from individual brewers, or tour a distillery.
Try Local Cider
If beer isn’t your thing, you can consider learning about the Estonian cider scene, which is fairly new! Taste ciders while out and about or take an Estonian Cider Route tour, which will take you outside of Tallinn to various places where this beverage is made.
Try Local Wine
Estonian wine might be a bit different than you’re used to. Made not from grapes, but from local berries, fruits, and flowers, instead, it’s in its own special category. You can try locally made wine at Nudist Winery, for example, grab a bottle at a shop selling Estonian products, ask for it at restaurants, or go on a tasting or tour.
Taste Local Liqueurs
Learn about the history of distillation of spirits in Estonia and taste some of its finest examples, including Vana Tallinn, Kannu Kukk, and Kiiu Torn.
Taste Local Food
You’ll certainly enjoy many opportunities to taste local food while in Tallinn. Besides eating out at restaurants serving local cuisine or picking up local products at a supermarket, Tallinn offers plenty of other ways to learn about Estonian food. Consider taking a gastronomic walking tour, attending a food festival, or taking a cooking class.
14. Take a Tour
Tours are one of the best things to do in Tallinn to get a basis of understanding of the capital in particular and Estonia in general. Some options for tours you can take include:
- A free or paid walking tour
- A bike tour
- An art tour
- A medieval Tallinn tour
- A Peter the Great tour
- A Jewish history tour
- A Soviet history tour
15. Get Back to Nature
Tallinn, like all of the Baltic capitals, is a green city, and it’s not difficult to find parks and other spaces close to nature.
Kadriorg Park is a lovely large green space full of gardens, fountains, and even a palace or two. There’s even a stretch of beach here, where you can relax on the sand or a bench and watch the waves.
Kalamaja Cemetery Park
This beautiful area is a popular spot for strolling and enjoying the outdoors on your own or with family.
Kopli Cemetery Park
Take advantage of this park’s walking and bike paths.
Bird-watch, take a swim, or simply enjoy the abundant nature here.
Pirita is most famous for its beach, and you can sunbathe, enjoy watersports, or simply take in the city’s horizon.
16. Shop for Souvenirs and Estonian Design
Estonia does a good job of promoting its folk culture and local designers. And buying local means great opportunities for useful, lasting, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs and gifts.
As you explore Tallinn’s old town and other parts of this city, you’ll encounter handicraft shops, design shops, and, of course, shopping centers. It’s one of the best things to do in Tallinn to help you collect memories and share them later.
Balti Jaam is a covered market in the Telliskivi neighborhood where you can find fresh produce, antiques, including those from the Soviet era, and other items of interest. Nearby in the same area are plenty of design stores and studios perfect for browsing.
If you’re in Tallinn in December, you can also visit Christmas markets in Tallinn to find various folk crafts and other gifts for friends and loved ones.
17. Get Seasonal
Whenever you decide to visit Tallinn, you’ll find the city has unique opportunities for experiencing Estonian culture through festivals and events.
Perhaps the most exciting time of year next to summer is Christmas in Estonia. You’ll see the old town lit up with lights and trees and enjoy the festive atmosphere that descends on Tallinn in December.
Easter in Estonia is a lesser holiday, but accompanying concerts and performances create opportunities for travelers who would like to delve into classical or other types of music.
The spring Restaurant Week is ideal for foodies who would like to sample some of the best foods that Tallinn’s chefs have to offer.
In summertime, the Tallinn City Festival celebrates Tallinn’s culture, history, origins, and development. Games, food, markets, and performances make this a fun festival for visitors.
Before you visit Tallinn, check out annual events calendars for what’s on during your stay. You’ll discover film festivals, music festivals, and other themed festivals that will offer something to do that you wouldn’t be able to experience any other time of year.