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Old Town Tallinn

The most well-known location to visit in Estonia is certainly Old Town in Tallinn. I have covered numerous 'old town' locations across Europe but I am still very fond of Tallinn's. I have been fortunate to see it in all seasons - and the summer and winter are both particularly enviable times to visit. If you can catch Old Town square with bright clear blue skies or with snow falling down onto the Christmas Market consider yourself fortunate. 

I would recommend some aimless wandering around the crooked streets. Some highlights include Old Town square, the Estonian History Museum, the Kalev Store and attached Kohvik Maiasmokk (oldest cafe), the Tall Hermann tower particularly at sunset, and the views above Old Town (e.g., Patkuli viewing platform). A few suggestions for you:

  • Get a hot chocolate at Maiasmokk the oldest café in Town

  • Visit the one of the oldest pharmacies in the world on the square and see some strange preserved items like a scorched hedgehog

  • See the most famous painting in Estonia, the Dance of Death in St. Nicholas' church

  • Stand and view the entrance of the Viru Gate

  • Walk up to the two lookouts over Old Town and the sea harbor

  • Go up to the top of Tallinn Town Hall for a view and then stop in below for some great elk soup at the medieval Ill Draakon

  • Take a walk in the park along the outside of the city walls along the water's edge and see the Red Bridge and views of the historical buildings above

  • Walk through the narrow St. Catherine's passageway for the classic alleyway view of Old Town

  • Of course, take in the main square and the flood of tourists wandering around

Around Tallinn

There are many sites to see around the city. Make sure not to miss Kadriorg park and a walk along the water going towards Pirita at sunset. Here are a few other suggestions:

Occupation Museum – This is a must do if you want to get an understanding of the Estonia’s history within the USSR. Be forewarned, the times described here were bleak. But, a visit here is very important to get an understanding of Estonia’s identity and resilience.

 

KGB Museum – How often do you go to a museum at the top of a hotel? This place is unique as they describe the times of Hotel Viru while under the Soviet regime and the elaborate methods of spying on guests. The place is virtually as the Soviets left it after a quick departure. A nice view of the city is also provided. The visit takes place as a tour after joining downstairs.

 

Sea Harbor Museum – Even if airplanes and boats are not necessarily your thing you will likely enjoy this museum. The building itself is an architectural marvel and layout and design makes it worth the visit. You can walk through a WWI era submarine, view ice-sailing vessels, and be presented with a multi-media overview of Estonia’s maritime history. This is definitely a top site to visit in Tallinn.

 

TV Tower – You can see the tower off in the distance from the city looking down the shoreline towards Pirita. You get there via a nice drive down the coast and through the woods. At the top, you are afforded the highest view in Estonia. It is interesting in part for the view and also the journey out there.

 

Pirita – Seeing this upscale side of Tallinn with its trendy restaurants, shoreline, nice neighborhoods, and forests is recommended if you are spending extra time in Tallinn. Maybe a nice meal at NOA or even just a walk. Also located here were water-based sports for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. See if you can spot the remaining Olympic symbol in the marina.

 

Balloon Tallinn – If it is a sunny day and you want a great view of Old Town you can take the balloon for a ride straight up and down. It is about a 15-20 minute trip and you can get a 360 view of the city and coast.

Outside Tallinn

Vilijandi

A very attractive city in south-central Estonia. 

Tartu

Estonia's second largest city and home to its oldest and most well-known university, Tartu University.

This city does indeed feel like a college town with a lot of history.

Saaremaa

Estonia's largest island accessible from the mainland by ferry. A beautiful island to explore and a historic castle in Kuressaare the main city.

Lahemaa

The first designated national park in the former Soviet Union. This is a large expanse east of Tallinn where you can hike, take in the seashore, pick blueberries, or check out some of the historic manners.

Haapsalu

Beautiful seaside city with elegant historical houses and nice, long seaside boardwalks.

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