Top 10 Attractions
Are you looking for the crème de la crème of Tallinn Card attractions? The following top-ten list was compiled based on Tallinn Card visitor data from last year and shows which sites were most visited or services were the most used. We recommend, however, that you use it as a starting point, since there's so much more to see and do!
1. Kiek in de Kök
The name of this massive, 38m-high cannon tower literally means “Peek into the Kitchen.” It was so high that Medieval guards joked they could see right down the chimneys and into the kitchens of the houses below.
Visitors to the museum will see examples of Medieval firepower, displays detailing how the city's system of walls and towers developed through the centuries and an exhibit on crime and punishment in Old Tallinn. The museum also serves as the entrance to a fascinating system of hidden tunnels that runs underneath the old bastions at the southern edge of Toompea hill.
2. Tallinn City Tour
These colorful, double-decker buses cruising around Tallinn make exploring the city both easy and fun. With audio commentary available in 10 languages, they let you hop off at any stop, see the surroundings, and then hop back on to continue the tour afterwards. The tours operate on three different lines:
The Blue Line takes you through the historic suburbs of Tallinn to Rocca al Mare, where you can visit the Estonian Open Air Museum, the zoo and a shopping centre. The road back takes you through Kalamaja and makes a stop at the Seaplane Harbour. The Green Line runs from the town centre to the Pirita district and back. Its 12 stops include Kadriorg Park, the Maarjamäe Palace, St.Bridget’s Convent, the Botanic Gardens and the TV Tower. The Red Line, the Town Centre Tour, makes 10 stops covering the city centre, Kumu and Kadriorg Art Museums, Lasnamäe, the port area and Kalamaja.
3. Estonian History Museum - Great Guild Hall
This extensive museum presents Estonia's history from prehistoric times right up to the end of the 20th century. Films and interactive displays show how people here lived, fought and survived over the last 11,000 years.
The museum is housed in the 15th century Great Guild Hall, itself a spectacular relic of Tallinn's past. It is no surprise that this hulking, gabled hall with its gigantic porch and lion’s head door knockers belonged to the Great Guild. Members of the guild, who had to be married German merchants, controlled the Town Council.
The little passage way Börsi käik exhibit “Road of History” highlighting the most important years in Estonian history.
Children can look for the museum’s very own dragon, displayed for centuries on the building’s pillar. Museum’s courtyard presents all things ideal for the little visitors.
4. Oleviste Church (St. Olav's Church) and Tower
Once upon a time, from 1549 to 1625 to be exact, this 13th-century church was the tallest building in the world. But its gigantic, 159-metre spire, turned out to be a very effective lightning rod. Throughout the church's history its steeple has been hit repeatedly by lightning, completely burning down the structure three times. Nowadays its smaller, 124-metre steeple still dwarfs most of Tallinn’s buildings and remains an important symbol of the town. From April to October, visitors can make the vigorous climb to the top of the stone portion of the tower for magnificent and dizzying views of Old Town, Toompea hill and the port.
5. Estonian Maritime Museum
The museum focuses on the all-important sea-faring aspect of Estonia’s history, displaying such things as Neolithic fishing gear, antique diving equipment, and even the entire wheelhouse from a 1950s-era trawler.
The extensive museum covers four floors of the historic Fat Margaret cannon tower, but take the stairs to the roof for a picture-postcard view of the harbour and the Old Town.
6. Tallinn TV Tower
Visitors to the 314 metre tower will start the visit with a 3D film about the tower, get to enjoy an interactive exhibition on the greatest achievements of Estonians through the ages and a fascinating overview of the history of the tower itself before heading up to the viewing platform and café at the 170 metre level – the highest in the country. A special panorama programme magnifies the view by a factor of ten. Visitors can record video greetings in the tower’s television studio and broadcast them globally.
The landmark building is host to concerts, performances, exhibitions and open air events at different times throughout the year.
Combined with the visit to the next door Tallinn Botanic Garden this promises to be a eventful full day out for the whole family.
7. Bastion Tunnels
Like any respectable Medieval town, Tallinn has its share of underground passageways, particularly the defensive tunnel systems built in the 1600s during the time of Swedish rule.
On the tunnel tour, visitors can see some of the old equipment leftover from that era, as well as parts of the tunnel that still retain their more Medieval look. The tour includes a slow-moving train ride, where guests are shown the various stages of the tunnels' past, and even a few decades into their possible future.
8. Holy Spirit Church
This 14th-century Holy Spirit Church is a spectacular structure both inside and out. The elaborate painted clock on its facade is Tallinn's oldest public timepiece, dating to the late 17th century. But don't miss the carved wood interior which includes such treasures as a unique 15th century altar by the famous Lübeck artist Bernt Notke, and one of the oldest pulpits in Estonia, dating to 1597.
The church was originally founded as part of the neighbouring Holy Spirit Almshouse, which tended to the town's sick and elderly. Throughout Medieval times it remained the primary church of the common folk. After the Reformation, it was here that the first sermons were ever given in the Estonian language (as opposed to German), and a catechism published in 1535 by the church's pastor Johann Koell is thought to be the first book in Estonian.
9. Niguliste Museum (St. Nicholas' Church)
Founded by German merchant/settlers from the island of Gotland sometime around 1230, this 13th-century church was designed to double as a fortress in the days before the town wall was built. The building survived the reformationist looting of 1523, but wasn't so lucky in the 20th Century when it was destroyed by World War II bombs.
Since its restoration in the 1980s St. Nicholas' has functioned as a museum specializing in works of religious art, most famously Bernt Notke's beautiful but spooky painting Danse Macabre (Dance with Death). Exquisite altarpieces, baroque chandeliers and medieval burial slabs are also on display, while the Silver Chamber is home to stunning works by members of town's craft guilds.
10. Seaplane Harbour
With the help of modern multimedia, the Seaplane Harbour in the wooden architecture suburb Kalamaja tells exciting stories about the Estonian maritime and military history promising a “sea full of excitement” for the whole family on an area that would take nearly 2 million A4 paper sheets laid down side by side. The museum’s display, that comprises of more than a couple of hundred large exhibits, revitalizes the colourful history of Estonia.
Seaplane Harbour operates in architecturally unique hangars built almost a century ago, in 1916 and 1917, as a part of Peter the Great sea fortress. These hangars are the World’s first reinforced concrete shell structures of such a great size. Charles Lindbergh, the man who performed the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, landed here in 1930s.