The Estonian capital boasts a vivid nightlife, an exquisite cultural side and unforgettable dining experiences. History lives hand in hand with the modern world – the old town dates to the Hanseatic period, while skyscrapers and luxurious hotels rise nearby. Contemporary art, 18th century traditions or a walk through a bog – Tallinn has it all!
Christmas Market in the Old Town
Pay attention to the star of the market – the Christmas tree. It is put up in this square every year since 1441. Each forest charmer is special, as the tree to be decorated is picked out in a competition. The visitors of the cosy Christmas market can go skating, enjoy hot drinks and buy patterned mittens as souvenirs. There’s no wonder Forbes has placed it among the 10 best Christmas markets in Europe – voted as #1 in 2019! And this year Estonia marks 800 years since Tallinn was first mentioned in written sources, so every guest of the city is invited to the celebration.
Fotografiska Museum and Telliskivi Creative City
The industrial complex has become an artistic hotspot with great restaurants, design stores and creative workshops. Keep your phone close – you’ll want to take photos of the graffiti adorning the walls of the buildings. On a Saturday morning, get up early to find a gem in the flea market.
The Fotografiska Museum with roots in Stockholm is a place for grasping the power of the photograph, and for feasting on good food and music. Those who feel creative and free-spirited at heart will want to stay here for hours.
The Noblessner district changes as quickly as the nearby sea. In the Soviet times, there was a secret submarine factory, but in October the invention factory opened. Virtual reality makes it possible to use not just your eyes, but arms and legs to understand the phenomena of physics and imagine driving the first car, a steam train or piloting a hot air balloon. In the historical district, KAI Art Centre has just opened its doors. It is where contemporary Estonian art resides, while the surrounding cafes offer culinary trips from Estonia to as far as Japan.
Estonian Open Air Museum
Just a 15-minute drive from the city centre will take you to a museum that feels like going back in time. Fourteen buildings allow its visitors to get a sense of how people lived in the 18th to 20th century. It is a real village with a pub, a church, a school, a mill, a fire station and a shop. In winter, all kinds of activities are available, sleigh rides being one of them.
KUMU Art Museum
Estonian classics co-habit this place with modern pieces – KUMU is both a national gallery and a contemporary art centre. The building itself is a true work of art – made of limestone and copper, it can be deemed a masterpiece of modern architecture.
The construction of the tower was completed in 1980 when the sailing regatta took place in Tallinn during the Moscow Olympics – the whole world had to see it! If you’ve always dreamed of being a newscaster, you can record a story in a real studio and send it to your friends – it would make a great birthday greeting. The walk 175 metres above the ground is indeed thrilling – hooked in safety harnesses, the most adventurous can take a walk along the edge of the roof of the tower.
Maritime Museum and Seaplane Harbour
Call it one of the most exciting sea museums in Europe without hesitation – an authentic submarine called Lembit, a century-old icebreaker and a seaplane are some of the exhibits here. The remains of the oldest ship in Estonia show the ravages of time, and once you’re done with the museum, take a photo dressed in a sailor’s uniform, check out the aquarium or dine at the restaurant. The museum and the Seaplane Hangar have been recognized with a number of awards: Europa Nostra Grand Prix 2013, Special Commendation from the European Museum of the Year 2014 and others. The museum itself is located in a historical seaplane hangar.
Rising 120 metres above sea level, you’ll enjoy a view of the city, the sea, Lake Ülemiste and even the airport. The cars have heating installed, so you can enjoy the ride in the wintertime and feel toasty – as if you’re by a fireplace. The cars are accessible by a wheelchair or a stroller as well.
KGB Museum and Prison Cells
The KGB museum is located in Hotel Viru, and it tells a story of two parallel worlds – happy people on paper and the sharp Soviet reality. KGB prison cells where Estonian politicians and intellectuals were tortured are also part of the exhibition. The spooky prison cells in the basement remain a symbol of the communist terrors until today.
Along with parks and manicured gardens, inside the city there’s wild nature, winter silence and peace with a 4 km long trail and a watchtower on the outskirts of a pine forest. There is a twice-as-short trail too, which is easy to navigate while pushing a pram, with notice boards displaying information about the surrounding nature. If you happen to see a cranberry sprouting through the snow, it’s yours to eat – the sour pop will make you jump with excitement!
There’s no such thing as the dark season in Tallinn. On the contrary – there’s light, warmth and positive energy. The arches of churches resound with music, theatre halls are filled with chattering, while the refreshing beer is swapped for the thick, dark porter, which is a great match for chocolate desserts. Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) is taking place from Nov 16 to Dec 2, 2019, it’s worth watching it and getting to know the Tallinn!