Things you must do during a trip to Tallinn

thewelltravelledman tallinn estonia

Tallinn is a truly beautiful city, caught with a perfect combination of incredible Soviet history and a new, modern culture with a thriving society. The city is notorious for stag-dos, with tourists flocking to the Northern part of Estonia largely for its cheap booze more than its uniquely-stunning architecture. But its cultural value should not be overlooked. Here are a few must-dos on the list when visiting the Baltic city.

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Take a trip to the old town

Tallinn old town is full of quaint little shops, restaurants and historic monuments that put it at the top of most people’s list of sites to see when visiting the city. As well as some stunning architecture, the old town offerS something else that you seldom get in European capital cities – tranquillity.

I’ve visited Estonia three times now, twice in the peak of winter and once in the summer, and I would thoroughly recommend a walk through the old town during winter. As you go to Spain for sun in the summer, when you visit Estonia in winter time you know you’re going to get snow. There is something quite magical about being in a thriving country, in the heart of the capital city walking down near-empty streets with snow falling peacefully around you.

Tallinn old town is also the site of the city walls, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. If there is one part of Tallinn that feels like a typically-crowded tourist spot, it’s at the top of the walls. It is a beautiful site that gives you great views across the city, but with its amazing scenery comes popularity, so be prepared to battle with other camera-snapping tourists for the best shots.

TV Tower

Photo by Bernt Rostad. License: CC BY 2.0.

The last couple of decades have really seen Estonia prosper since the Soviet Union dissolved, allowing for its own culture to blossom. Tallinn has staged the international ‘Baltics Weekend’ festival, hosted the 2002 Eurovision song contest and was even selected as the venue for Atletico and Real Madrid’s 2018 European Supercup tie. A hugely significant year, in particular, was 2011, where Ronny Kaiser won the last EPT tournament to famously be held in Tallinn. Estonia got accepted into the EU and Tallinn was named European Capital of Culture 2011.

Despite the city developing its own cultural identity though, there are certainly still some great places to visit from the Soviet era, the TV Tower being one.

It was built and eventually completed by the Soviets in 1980 and stands at 314 metres high. At its base, you often find historical or cultural exhibitions. Visitors take a lift to the top, where a door gives you the option to view the surrounding scenery for miles around the enclosed skyroom. From inside, a 360-degree view can be seen stretching across the City and out in all directions into the Baltic sea.

One last thing to mention, across the floor of the upper room of the tower is multiple glass squares. So, if you are feeling brave you can walk across them with the 1115ft drop in clear view below.

The largest outdoor history museum in the world

This is not exactly how it sounds. Tallinn has museums, many of which are well worth a visit. But it is not home to the world’s largest outdoor museum. What I meant by this is that with the Soviet occupation being so recent, reminders of those times are scattered absolutely everywhere. A walk through a forest near where I was staying ended up with us stumbling upon (what I assume was) a huge, underground aircraft hangar.

On the main road approaching Tallinn from the east, huge structures by the sea that almost look like giant ramps to launch boats from can been seen. Statues, old buildings, signalling towers, former military bases and who knows what else can be found simply by walking around the city and exploring – many of which are almost completely intact.

All you historians out there, forget reading books and visiting museums, experience the real thing in Tallinn.

Sun, sea and sand – often without the sun!

It is not known for its white, sandy beaches, but Estonia does have some beautiful stretches of coastline (the southern city of Parnu in particular). The sun may not be shining all the time, and you’ll be lucky if temperatures are above the 25-celsius mark, but nevertheless, the beaches provide a great place to take a walk and enjoy the views. The Pirita district of Tallinn situated outside of the city is where you want to go for this.

Estonia is a beautiful country and forgive the cliche, but Tallinn is a city like no other. You get history. You get the modern buzz of a rapidly-developing and technological country. You get amazing views, beautiful nature, beaches, forests, restaurants and bars, with a culture that is unique to that area of Europe. It is absolutely worth a visit, but just make sure you bring your hat and gloves if you go in the winter!

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