A tour of Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn's Old Town | Photo by scanrail
Tallinn's Old Town | Photo by scanrail

A tour of Tallinn, Estonia

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

The streets of Tallinn are the place to go for a taste of a new and different culture, architecture and history. From the medieval Old Town to the stunning beachfront, there is a rich cultural scene in this northern European country. Located on the Baltic Sea, the capital of Estonia boasts winding cobblestone streets, imposing church towers and a fascinating mix of modernity and history that create the perfect vacation spot. 

Start your adventure in the Old Town. This medieval area was once home to wealthy merchants. The 13th-century city plan is still intact, as are various churches, houses, barns and warehouses from the middle ages. Start at the Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum, which was once a 15th-century defensive tower. The museum includes the namesake tower, Maiden’s Tower (Neitsitorn), Stable Tower (Tallitorn), Gate Tower (Väravatorn), the bastion passages and the Carved Stone Museum. The Kiek in de Kök tower was built in the 15th century, but today is six floors of history that chronicle the city’s defense system. Don’t miss touring the bastion passages, which once concealed soldiers and their equipment. They were built in the 17th and 18th centuries and helped to monitor enemy mine activity. 

Next up in the Old Town is St. Olaf’s Church, the city’s biggest medieval structure. It was named after a sainted Norwegian king, Olav II Haraldsson. It dates back to 1267 and is where the reformation started in Tallinn in the early 1500s. Its beautiful Gothic spire towers over the city at 406 feet. This is a great place to look out over the city, but first, you have to climb up the 232 steps to the viewing platform! 

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral | Photo by Rosen Minchev 

Another religious structure in the area is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This stunning piece of architecture is an orthodox cathedral that was built in the Russian Revival style on Toompea Hill. It features four minor domes and a grand cupola, as well as 11 bells, all of which were cast in St. Petersburg. 

Outside of the Old Town is fascinating as well. Head to PROTO Invention Factory. This was a former submarine factory that is now a place to see amazing inventions come to life. This fantasy world will allow you to discover your inner scientist while experimenting with the physical phenomenon. Launch a space shuttle or use air cannons to keep a ball afloat. Both children and adults will love this interactive factory. 

Next up is Fotografiska, the museum of photography. Here you’ll find the perfect blend of art, music, food and design. Linger over some of the world’s best photography, then grab a bite to eat at the restaurant on the sixth floor, which offers great views of the city. Discuss your favorite pieces while savoring food made by one of Estonia’s top chefs, Peeter Pihel. 

Kadriorg Park | Photo by jovannig 

After enjoying the museum, it’s time to get outside for a while. Head to Kadriorg Park, a palace and park with 173 acres. This beautiful palace was built in 1718 on the orders of Tsar Peter I for his summer home. It features a lovely swan pond, lower and upper gardens and various museums on-site, including the Estonian Art Museum. Interestingly enough, the architectural and design styles for the palace and grounds pull from various countries. Here you’ll see Italian terraces, Dutch canals, French-style road networks and Russian-inspired flowers, all in one location. 

From royals to farmers, get the full scope of what Tallinn used to look like. Go from the palace to the Estonian Open Air Museum, located just outside of the city, for a stark comparison of what the commoners lived like. This outdoor museum has 14 farms showing the 18th - 20th century rural way of life. Take a horse and cart ride and go inside the school building from 1887. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop at the Kolu Inn. It was originally built in the 1840s and now serves up local dishes. 

This charming city is the perfect place to learn about northern Europe’s culture, both past and present. Get lost in the winding streets of the Old Town, or rocket into the future at the invention factory. Whatever you decide to do with your time in Tallinn, make sure you’re learning and loving life. That’s what a good adventure is all about! 


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