Get wonderfully lost in Tallinn’s charming Old Town (Vanalinn in Estonian) with its small cobble-stoned alleys, city gates and small passages. Walk past impressive churches and cathedrals, colorful merchant houses, almond vendors, street artists, museums and many souvenir shops. Walking in Tallinn’s Old Town feels like walking in an open-air museum. Get ready to travel back in time!
So, let me take you past a few highlights of Tallinn’s Old Town!
The first highlight for me were the cobble-stoned alleyways! How lovely with the colorful merchant houses and a bright blue sky!
I visited the main branch of the City Museum, a well-organized museum with stories about Tallinn’s Hanseatic past, local heroes, the plague, occupations etc.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This gorgeous Russian-orthodox cathedral lies directly opposite the pink parliament building (no coincidence!). In front of the cathedral stairs four old Russian ladies were begging for money from orthodox believers and tourists. A strong contrast to the wealth of the cathedral filled with golden details, icons and frescoes.
St. Catherine’s Passage
There are many passages in the Old Town but St. Catherine’s Passage (Katariina Käik) was the most beautiful one: a small passage with old stone tombstones from the Dominican monastery on one side and a small terrace and artisans studio’s on the other side.
I received a warm welcome by a Dome church volunteer. This small church houses a number of ‘coats-of-arms’ of Estonia’s noble families. I also decided to climb the winding stairs leading to the church tower providing a beautiful view on Tallinn’s Old Town.
Museum of Occupations
This small museum lies just outside the Old Town, but covers the three occupations by the Sovjets, the Nazis and then again the Sovjets. I found it quite interesting, since I admittingly did not know much about this part of history. The Estonians became finally independent in 1991. That’s only 23 years ago!
Raekoja Plats (Town Hall sq.) is not really a highlight, but it cannot be missed. It’s a large square full of restaurants with staff dressed in traditional medieval ropes. It’s touristy and over-priced, but still a good place to have a drink in the sun.
Townwall Tower and Walkway Cafe
Another highlight of Tallinn was the Townwall Tower and Walkway Cafe. How many times can you drink a cup of coffee on a medieval townwall? Nearby the cafe is the Short Leg Gate Tower (being short legged myself I love that name!). To be honest, there is not much to see, but it’s suppose to be the most haunted building in Tallinn with stories about crucified monks and black dogs with burning eyes. Gotta love a bit of ghost stories and creepiness.
Patkul lookout and Court sq. lookout
Both lookouts offered splendid free views across Tallinn and the sea. There were definitely two of the main highlights of Tallinn’s Old Town!
The people of the Old Town
Despite its name, the Old Town is far from old, stuffy and quiet. It’s vibrant and full of street musicians and artists, friendly medieval-dressed waiters and of course many many tourists (some are on segways)! Don’t miss Old Town in the evening, when (if possible) it becomes even more beautiful and fun!
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Some final Old Town tips by BoB!
– Don’t wear high heels
– Bring your own water (water in the touristy shops is expensive!)
– Explore Tallinn’s Old Town by foot to truly soak up the ‘medieval’ atmosphere and explore the different sights more extensively. If short in time, you can also do the highly recommended Lonely Planet Old Town walking tour.
– If you want to have the opportunity to ask questions: do the Tallinn Free Walking Tour, starting every day at noon at the City Information Point.
– Try the delicious almonds at one of the many stands
Recommended further reading
Explore the hipster neighborhood of Kalamanja in Tallinn!
Do a day trip from Helsinki from Tallinn
And…. just get wonderfully lost!
I really loved Taillinn it is so quite! Sounds like you had fun. If you have more time also go to other areas then the old town for the beach, the Old prison and the museum with a real submarine inside.
Yes, I had loads of fun! Also visited the Kalamaja area with the Old Prison and Museum :). Didn’t have the time to go to the beach (although there was a mini one at the Old Prison), but there is always a next time!
Looks amazing! Blue skies with nice houses and buildings <3
Thanks Laurens! Appreciate you stopping by :)
St. Catherine’s Passage indeed is beautiful, just like all the other parts of the Old Town. Next time you should visit the art museums and the old cloister just 15 minutes from Tallinn city centre, they’re quite impressive! In my opinion, even more than the ones in the city centre. <3 Tallinn!
Will do Aniek! <3 Tallinn indeed!
I loved getting lost in Tallinn’s Old Town! We didn’t go to any of the museums on our visit, but fortunately I live just four hours away in Riga so I can go back soon :-)
Hi Heather, cool! Yes, I also met a few people who combined a few cities :). Would love to visit Riga some day!
Tallinn is a great town and if you have blue skies then the red roofs make in fairy like. I remember sitting on the city walls and overlooking the cities turrets and I also like the the way this town is divided in to an upper and lower part. Another great tip might be using the super quick boat ferries from Helsinki to Tallinn or vice versa :-)
Yes, it’s a true fairy-tale town :)! Also did a day trip to Helsinki which was loads of fun. Only a short 90 minute ferry ride!
How charming! Reminds me of St. Augustine in a way. I love the coziness of narrow cobblestoned streets :)
Hi JP! Had to look up St. Augustine, but seeing those photo’s I can imagine why Tallinn reminds you of that place :)!
Tallinn is one of my favorite destinations in Europe. Once I spend a whole month there as a student at the National Opera wardrobe. The old town has a really nice atmosphere.
Hi Hanna, that is so cool! We talked about ‘How great student life in Tallinn must be’. You’re lucky you’ve experienced some :)!
What a nice post! It’s always good to hear kind words for your home country. :) And you’re totally right, no high heels in the old town, if you don’t want to loose them.
Hi ya Kardri! Yes, high heels are no good there! I’ve only been to Tallinn, but I must say I’m quite curious to the rest of Estonia! There were also some cool day trips from Tallinn, but I just had too little time! Hopefully, another visit soon ;)! If I ever go there, I may ask you for tips!!