Tallinn’s Old Town
Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is a wonderful city to visit. The Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is immensely attractive. It feels like being in a fairytale with its cobbled streets, old city walls, and turrets and towers at every turn.
There are plenty of varied shops and good museums to keep you busy. And there are restaurants everywhere you turn, from medieval-themed eateries to slick and modern establishments. It’s all very touristy, but still absolutely magical. If you get a chance to visit, don’t miss it!
The Old Town is small and easy to stroll around and explore. For a useful guidebook we recommend the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Tallinn.
But there is much more to Tallinn. Outside the Old Town is an attractive bustling city with all the usual facilities. And if, like, us you enjoy being outdoors, there are some fantastic parks and walks to enjoy. Here are our suggestions, based on a recent short visit.
Kadriorg Park, situated east of the Old Town, is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. The park covers around 70 hectares, and contains the beautiful baroque Kadriorg Palace shown above, surrounded by formal gardens. The palace houses the Kadriorg Art Museum, and there are a number of other museums and monuments to discover within the park.
There are excellent criss-crossing paths for strolling around and exploring this lovely place. The park contains some fantastic old trees, ponds, sculptures and an evolving Japanese garden with water features. There are also several cafes to choose from, or plenty of seats for a picnic.
We found it an easy walk from the Old Town (less than half an hour to the entrance to the park). If you prefer to use public transport there is a tram station near the entrance, and several bus stops around the park area. For timetables and information about tickets see the useful Public Transport page at Visit Tallinn.
For more information about the park see the website.
Walk to Pirita and Viimsi
If you want to do a longer walk you can follow easy paths east and then north to Pirita. If you wish you can then continue towards Viimsi. To see the route on a map just search ‘Walk Tallinn to Viimsi’ on Google).
The great thing about this walk is that a regular bus route runs parallel to your paths. So you can go as far as you feel comfortable with, and then go slightly inland to the major road to find the nearest bus stop. The buses are very regular (see Public Transport – Route 1A).
A great place to start is at the impressive Russalka Monument, built as a memorial to those who lost their lives due to the sinking of a Russian warship. The Monument is just north of Kadriorg Park, and can easily be reached on foot (search on Google maps to see its location).
The path is at first an excellent promenade beside the sea wall. You can watch the big ferries coming and going, and there are some interesting sculptures to see.
On reaching Pirita there is a marina and convenient places to stop for lunch. You can also head inland here to see the ruins of the Pirita convent.
If you decide to walk further towards Viimsi you can choose from paths beside the sea or through some lovely shady pine forest.
Just walk as far as you wish, and then find a convenient bus stop to take you back to the city (for timetables see Public Transport – Route 1A). We really enjoyed the contrasts between the busy city centre, the seaside promenade and the shady pine forests.
Tallinn Botanic Garden
Another great way to spend a few hours is to explore the lovey Botanic Garden. This is situated a few miles north east of the city, and can easily be reached by bus (Route 34A – get off at Kloostrimetsa Tee – for timetables see Public Transport).
The gardens are extensive and a great place to stroll. A large part of the site consists of an arboretum, and there is a network of paths through the lovely collection of trees.
There is a large and interesting glasshouse to visit, which contains a small cafe. Then there is a large rose garden with many varieties, some of which have been bred in Estonia, Other areas include a Garden of the Senses, areas showcasing grassland plants and mountain plants, various ponds and a really interesting display on fungi.
For more information about the gardens including opening times and entrance fees see http://botaanikaaed.ee/. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Adjacent to the Botanic Garden is the Tallinn TV tower, which can easily be combined with a visit to the garden.
The tower has a viewing platform and a good restaurant with fantastic views over the gardens, forest, Baltic Sea and Tallinn city. There is also an interactive display about the tower’s history. For more information see Tallinna Teletorn.
Other Parks and Gardens
These are just a few suggestions based on our own (way too short) visit to this lovely city. There are many other parks and gardens within easy reach of the Old Town. Here are some suggestions, together with links for more information.
- Estonian Open Air Museum
- Glehn Park
- Harku Forest Trail
- Hirve Park
- Tallinn Zoo
There are flights to Tallinn from many airports. To search for the best option near you try Skyscanner.
There are regular buses and trams from the airport to the city centre.
We incorporated our visit to Tallinn into a tour of the Baltic by ferry (see Exploring the Baltic Sea by Ferry. The ferries are really good value, so if you can get a flight to Stockholm or Helsinki this is a great alternative way to arrive. And by booking an overnight ferry from Stockholm you can reduce the cost of staying in a Stockholm hotel for a night. To check timetables and compare prices, try Aferry.
For accommodation, there is a very large choice available. We stayed in the Taanilinna Hotel, a characterful and quiet old hotel just off a street in the Old Town. The hotel has individually designed rooms and a good breakfast. It doesn’t have a restaurant, but it is right in the Old Town and there are loads of restaurants all around. We would happily stay there again.
To search the vast choice of accommodation options in Tallinn see this page at booking.com.
If your time is limited, a great way of seeing the city and its surroundings is by a City Sightseeing bus tour. The hop-on hop-off service has three routes and over 20 stops in Tallinn, and you can choose between them as you wish. Three-day tickets are also available. Follow the link for more information.
For a wide range of guided tours in Tallinn, and excursions further afield, see Viator.
We really enjoyed our stay in Tallinn, and would love to visit again one day to explore more of the city’s lovely green spaces. And hopefully next time we will see more of Estonia.
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