So, Tallinn is your next travel destination! Whether you’ve been here before or not, you surely must be interested in discovering some out-of-the-ordinary places. You wouldn’t have landed on this page otherwise.
We’ll do our best to meet your expectations and take you on an unforgettable journey to our city’s unique sights.
1. Dive into Estonian cultural heritage at the Estonian Open-Air Museum
If you’re even slightly interested in Estonian history and culture, a visit to the Estonian Open-Air Museum is a must. It’s a reconstructed village showcasing Estonian architecture from the 18th to the 20th century. There are almost 80 exhibits, the oldest being a 300-year-old chapel from the Noarootsi parish.
You can enter all of the buildings, which are furnished just like they were in the past, and the “locals” there will tell you about their traditions and history. There’s even a tavern serving delicious traditional fare.
Photo credit: Estonian Open-Air Museum
2. Travel back in time at the KGB Museum
The KGB was the notorious national security agency of the Soviet Union. Everyone born before 1980 still remembers them, and those who are younger have heard all the stories.
This museum is essential for understanding the incredible measures the KGB took to protect Soviet Estonia – in other words to totally oppress its citizens.
The location of the museum itself is also significant: it was where the KGB had a secret room for listening to important guests’ phone calls.
Photo credit: sokoshotels.fi
3. Spend a day at a bog
A bog is a type of wetland that features rather frequently in Estonian nature. In fact, bogs are so common that there are several near Tallinn to choose from.
Despite being the closest – around a 30-minute bus ride from the centre – the Pääsküla bog will make you feel as if you’re hours away from city’s busy streets. Other popular bogs include Kakerdaja and Viru, which are both roughly an hour by car from Tallinn.
I assure you that a bog walk is something worth squeezing into your schedule: first, because you’ll get a genuine impression of Estonian nature, and second, because bogs are truly spectacular.
Photo credit: Kalev Külaase
4. Get cultural at Kultuurikatel
Previously a power plant, the unorthodox ‘Culture Cauldron’ hosts various events including workshops, fashion shows, concerts, art happenings, and more. Check out their website to see what’s coming up.
While you’re in the neighbourhood, go and see the roof of Linnahall – it’s where the local youth hang out. Offering an uninterrupted view to the sea, it’s the perfect place to watch the sun set (or rise).
Photo credit: Kultuurikatel
5. Find out why we have a Museum of Occupations
Many people don’t know that Estonia was occupied more than once. This museum was established to tell the story of our small nation’s journey to independence.
The permanent exhibition covers the German and Soviet occupations, as well as the Singing Revolution that eventually led to our independence. There are also temporary exhibitions that change regularly.
Right now the museum is being expanded, and by 2018 it will be twice as big and have a new name: Vabamu (that’s short for Vabaduse Muuseum, which translates to ‘Museum of Freedom’).
Photo credit: Bobo Boom
6. Relax like a local in Kalma saun
Kalma saun is one of the oldest public saunas in Tallinn, dating back to 1928. Although the building has been renovated several times, it’s still a place of history and tradition.
As a foreigner you might find it odd to sit in a small, hot room with other naked people (there are separate saunas for men and women), but for an Estonian it’s a completely normal and enjoyable pastime.
If you want to say you’ve truly experienced Estonian culture, then some time at a sauna is a must.
Photo credit: Mikael Korhonen
7. Take home a unique souvenir
During the last decade, local products have become really popular among both locals and tourists in Estonia. Little boutiques that sell local designers’ creations have been popping up like mushrooms after a storm. Krunnipea, Tali, Nu Nordik, Eesti Esindus, and Les Petites are just a few of them.
If you’re more into beauty and skincare products, you’ll find Estonia’s best cosmetic brands at Pillerkaar.
Don’t be tricked into buying “local amber” – go get an authentic local souvenir from one of these shops instead.
Photo credit: Sincerely Bitter
8. Try milli-mallikas at Valli Baar
This will most probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience because once you’ve tried it, you won’t want to again. Ever. Well, that’s just my experience. If you consider yourself a trooper, you might even grow to like it… Or at least endure it.
Anyhow, it’s something you should definitely do in Tallinn; it’s how you gain the locals’ respect.
Photo credit: mylastdestination.eu
9. Shop like a Soviet at the Balti Jaam market
Even though the original site is currently under construction and won’t be reopened until summer 2017, you can still visit a small-scale version of the Balti Jaam market in the DEPOO building next door.
It’s one of those places where you can find anything and everything, from fresh produce to second-hand clothing, antiques, Russian beauty products, home-made jams, and so on. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, go to see the hustle and bustle.
10. Take part in the national Song and Dance Festival
The Estonian Song and Dance Festival takes place every five years and is the biggest and most important cultural event in the country. It’s also one of the largest choral events in the world, with over 30,000 performers and 80,000 audience members, who often sing along.
The song festival tradition started during the Estonian national awakening in the middle of the 19th century and has carried on until today. It’s a huge festival where national songs and dances are performed in front of a huge audience. It’s a sight to behold!
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Opening photo credit: Kevin Jaako