Free Things to do in Tallinn

Estonia’s capital Tallinn is one of the very few places in the world that effortlessly combines living history with modern living. Its amazingly well preserved Old Town and its wonderfully modern infrastructure are sure to capture your heart. As if that wasn’t enough to make you fall in love, there is also a plethora of free things to do in Tallinn. Read on to discover what they are!

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Churches

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be religious for this one. In fact, less than 20% of the Estonian population identifies as religious. So you may find it surprising that the city has so many churches and cathedrals. These churches and cathedrals cover several religious denominations. Some of them have even switched between denominations at different periods in time.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. St Simeon and St Anna the Prophets Church K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Church of Bishop St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker

Religion aside, these buildings cover many different architectural styles and all have immaculate interiors. Some may look rather small and unassuming from the outside but inside are ridiculously ornate. Some, like St Olaf’s and St Mary’s have an entrance fee, whereas others like St John’s are free to enter. Either way, it’s still free to admire and take photos from the outside. The Visit Tallinn website has more information about entry fees and opening hours for churches in Tallinn.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. St Paul and St Peter's Cathedral K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Old Town

The Tallinn Old town is one of the world’s most well preserved medieval towns, which makes it an absolute treat for the senses. As soon as you step onto its cobbled streets, you really do feel like you’ve walked into another century.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Old City Stone Wall K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Old Town Street

While wandering around the town, there are many things to discover. Like St Catherine’s Passage, Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) and the Danish King’s Garden, just to name a few. The town also contains Europe’s oldest pharmacy, Raeapteek (Town Hall Pharmacy). It was run by the same family for 330 years!

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Vabaduse väljak/Freedom Square

At the south end of the Old Town is a public square with monuments to Estonian independence struggles and victories. The open-air Freedom Square is a local gathering place and has been the site for celebrations and demonstrations.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Independence War Victory Column at Freedom Square K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. St John's Church at Freedom Square

It’s a great place to visit during the day but at night it comes alive. Flashing lights have been installed on poles in the square and the victory monument gets lit up as well.

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Harjumägi/Harju Gate Hill and Toompea Hill

Harjumägi/Harju Gate Hill lies right behind the victory monument of Freedom Square and offers a great view over modern Tallinn.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Harjumägi/Harju Gate Hill at night

If you continue walking away from the square, you’ll hit Toompea Hill. It forms the northern border of the Old Town and is home to the Toompea Castle. The Castle is now used by the Estonian parliament.

Free Things to do in Tallinn – City Parks and Gardens

Although Tallinn is a fairly small city, it is packed with green spaces! A lot of them are small sculptured gardens, like Tammsaare Park, where people mainly sit around admiring trees. Others however are important gathering places with monuments and historical remnants. There are also walking trails and lookouts. Probably the most interesting part of some of these parks is how they came to be.

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Commandant’s Garden (Komandandi Aed) and Governor’s Garden (Kuberneri Aed)

In between Harjumägi/Harju Gate Hill and Toompea Hill are two small gardens. Commandant’s Garden was named for the house on its corner where the Commander-in-chief used to live.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Komadandi/Commandant's Garden

The Governer’s Garden is beside Toompea Castle and used to be joined with the Castle Gardens until they were destroyed.

Two Parks in One: Linda’s Hill (Lindamäe Park) and Deer’s Park (Hirvepark)

These two parks are historical heavyweights in Tallinn. They are located within the same city block on the embankment of the former Rootsi/Swedish bastion. Linda’s Hill gets its name from A Weizenberg’s sculpture, called Linda, in the north of the park. Memorial ceremonies for Soviet repression victims have historically always taken place near the sculpture. It also has 250 year old trees.

Deer’s Park was the site of the first organised demonstrations against the communist party in 1987. Those demonstrations sparked anti-soviet sentiment and independence protests. A chain of events that eventually led to Estonian independence is 1991.

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Police Garden Park (Politseiaia)

The Police Garden Park was previously known as the Military Vegetable Garden. As you can guess, it was used to grow vegetables for the police. It now contains walkways, fountains, a skate park and giant, people-size clay pots.

Photo by Madis Veltman
Children’s Park (Falgi Park)

This park was created in the mid-nineteenth century by filling in a pond with sand and planting some trees. It was bombed then refurbished in the mid-twentieth century as a garden with the ‘Circle For the Flowing Water’ fountain and children’s playgrounds.

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Sneli Park/Toompark

The biggest of Tallinn’s inner-city parks, known as Sneli Park or Toompark, creates the northern border of the old town. It was once a fortification for the city and the park’s Sneli Pond is all that remains of the moat that used to protect the city. This park also contains the Kohtuosta, Patkuli and Piiskapi viewing platforms. These platforms offer great views over the city and the Baltic Sea.

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Kadrioru Park

The Kadrioru Park was constructed by orders from a Russian Tsar in the 18th century. It’s design elements span three centuries. Aside from cultural monuments, canals, fountains and ponds, it is home to not just one, but three museums. KUMU (the Estonian Art Museum), Mikkeli Museum and the Kadriorg Art Museum. The later is housed within the Kadriorg Palace, a centerpiece of the park.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Kadrioru Park

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Kalamaja Park

This park can be found in the historical, yet hip Kalamaja area. It used to be the Kalamaja Cemetery but it got a make-over in the 60s. That’s when it became the park that it is today, a tree-lined, relaxing area with children’s playgrounds and an historic bell tower.

Free things to do in Tallinn – Kalamaja

Kalamaja means ‘Fish House’ in Estonian, so can you guess where this area is, right? On the waterfront of course! The former working-class area is now pretty much hipster-ville. The old factories now house museums, cafes and bakeries. So many bakeries. Kalamaja is known for its pastries.

Aside from food, the Kalamaja district is known for its cute and colourful wooden houses which were originally built to house factory workers in the 19th century. It’s also known for its lively culture and nightlife. The area contains bars, restaurants and even a brewery that attracts locals and visitors from around the city.

The Port of Tallinn or Tallinna Sadam is part of the Kalamaja district. One of Tallinn’s premier fresh produce markets, Sadama Turg, is located there. Kalamaja is also home to the neo-gothic Kalju Baptist Church and its own park, Kalamaja Park (mentioned above).

Tallinn Card

So this one isn’t free, but purchasing it gives you free entry to many attractions, like churches and museums that normally charge entry fees. It also lets you use all public transport in the city for free. If you are staying for more than a few days and really really want to see some museums, it may be worth it. If you’re thinking of getting it for free transport, it may not be worth it. Tallinn is a small and very walkable city. You can explore everything mentioned above easily on foot. Tallinn is a very pleasant city to walk around.

Related Post – Tallinn



Check out our other Northern European guides –
Free Things to do in Vilnius
Free Things to do in Riga
Free Things to do in Tallinn
How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter

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Discover Old and New Tallinn

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Komandandi Garden Above Freedom Square

Strangely, the further north I went into the Baltics, the less comfortable the intercity coaches became. At least they were fairly empty which allowed me to stretch out on every ride. This time I had travelled from the Latvian capital of Riga to the Estonian capital of Tallinn. Now it was time to discover old and new Tallinn.

As I exited the bus, I saw ‘Tallinna Bussijaam’ written on the top of the building. While I presume that this is Estonian for bus station, ‘bussijaam’ is also very close to the Cantonese for bus stop. Aren’t languages fun?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Tallinna Bussijaam

I had decided that one way to discover old and new Tallinn would be to walk the 4 kilometres from the bus station to my accommodation near the old town. I’d already been sitting down for several hours so a bit of physical activity was in order. I’m not sure if it was because I was finally acclimatising to the northern European winter weather but Tallinn didn’t seem to feel as cold as Vilnius and Riga had.

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Finding the Old Town

As I do in many places I visit, I’d decided to head straight for the old town. It’s no secret that I love old towns but the old town in Tallinn is particularly special. It’s one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. This was probably a huge factor leading to its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. First Taste of the Old Town

When approaching from the west or the south, Vabaduse väljak or Freedom Square marks the beginning of the Old Town. The Independence War Victory Column can be seen looking over the open-air square. It’s a great point to start to discover old and new Tallinn.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Freedom Square Independence War Victory Colomn

If you follow the small set of stairs up to behind the column, you can look back over the square from the Komandandi Garden and see St John’s Church. Actually, if you’re feeling lazy you could take the ramp to the left of the stairs. But seeing as there are less than 50 stairs, it has to be the easiest climb to a viewpoint that I’ve ever encountered!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. St John's Church at Freedom Square

The ratio of effort to awesomeness-of-view factor here is pretty low. Stepping even further into the garden will give you a view over a lot of the new city. You’ve really got to love low-rise cities!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. City View from Komandandi Garden

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Freedom Square at Night

It’s also worth revisiting the square at night. The whole area gets lit up and has a completely different feel.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. St John's Church in Freedom Square at Night

Even some of the trees in the area get to shine at night.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Trees With Lights near Freedom Square at Night

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Toompea Castle and Russian Orthodox Church

The Komandandi garden and its viewing area are on Toompea Hill. An historic castle, Toompea Castle (Toompea loss in Estonian) sits behind the garden. The Castle has been standing since the 9th century! It currently houses the Estonian Parliament.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. City Wall Near Toompea Castle
City Wall Near Toompea Castle

Right next to that is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Aleksander Nevski Katedraal). It quite obviously stands out in the area, as a Russian style building. A very striking and beautiful one at that.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral

The building was left to rot during the USSR rule over the area, but since Estonian independence in 1991, it has been lovingly restored and looked after.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral at Night

It actually forms quite a stark contrast to some of the other buildings of the old town.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral From the Old Town

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Walking Around The Old Town

As mentioned before, the Tallinn Old Town is one of the most well-preserved in the world. So it is literally like stepping into another century.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Centre of the Old Town

The first things to capture your attention are the cobbled streets and stone walls.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Stone Wall in Old Town

Locals have definitely capitalised on the old-world feel of the town. This has ensured that the Tallinn Old Town is the most touristy of all the Baltic old towns. That’s really saying something considering I was there in winter. I would guess winter is not the high tourist season in the Baltics.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Touristy Centre of the Old Town

While this town board is cute, it’s definitely heading towards cheesy. The cheesiest thing about this old town was all the locals dressed up in medieval clothes. At first, I thought it was rather endearing. Then they just seemed to be everywhere and it started to feel too gimmicky. Especially as many of them were just trying to get you into their establishment.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Stone Tunnel in the Old Town

That doesn’t mean that the town was without charm. In fact, it was quite lovely walking through the cobbled streets and admiring the buildings. Once you get away from the centre of the town, the gimmicky stuff disappears.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Cobbled Street of the Old Town

The Old Town becomes even more appealing at night.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Old Town at Night

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Churches and Religious Diversity of the Old Town

There are quite a few churches and cathedrals representing different religious denominations throughout the Old Town. The aforementioned Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Lutheran St John’s Church are two of them. Then there’s the Baptist St Olaf’s Church and the Roman Catholic St Peter and St Paul Cathedral near the centre of town. To name just a few.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. St Paul and St Peter's Cathedral

All have amazing interiors showcasing different ornate styles. Some even have towers you can climb to get a view over the old town. Visiting them is, of course, restricted during services. To find out more about the churches of the old town, go to the Visit Tallinn website.

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Viru Gate

One of the most important and prominent features of the old city is the Viru Gate. This 14th century gate was once a major defensive feature of Reval. That’s Tallinn’s historical name, used until 1918.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Viru Gates in the Old Town

The Viru Gate essentially represents the start and the end of the Old Town, depending on which side of the gate you stand. From inside the gate, you can look out onto modern Tallinn and the markets just outside the gate. It’s a great point to begin to help you discover old and new Tallinn.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Viru Gate Looking Out to Modern Tallinn

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Modern Tallinn

Beyond the walls of the Old Town is a vibrant, modern Baltic city. The transport options in the city are amazing. With modern buses and trams running regularly.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Modern Tram

There are also quite a few green spots around the city. Although, they’re more like grey spots in the winter.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Kadrioru Park

I would assume that the Kadrioru Park, pictured above, would be lovely and green in Summer and Spring. A walk through this park will bring you to the Kadriorg Palace (Kadrioru loss) which contains the Kadriorg Art Museum.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Kadriorg Palace

Behind the palace are some gardens, which I’m sure look lovely in summer and spring. In winter they are a work in progress.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Kadriorg Palace Garden

Discover Old and New Tallin – The Port Area

Perhaps one of the most surprisingly happening areas in Tallinn is the port area. Although everything is quite spread out, there are several waterside restaurants and pubs dotted throughout the area. There’s also a local fresh produce market, Sadama Turg or Harbour Market, at Terminal C.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and new Tallinn. Nautica Centre at Tallinn Port

In front of the port area there’s a decent size shopping centre called Nautica. It has around 60 shops, including a cinema, cafes, restaurants, bars and a mini golf course!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Patterned Building

Something else that caught my attention when leaving the port area was this building. So much so that I just had to stop and stare for a while.

Ferry to Helsinki

I was told by a ticket lady at Terminal B that there were only two options for sailing to Helsinki. Viking Line and Tallink. They also happened to be quite expensive for a two hour ferry ride. So I walked to Terminal A where I found out that there was in fact a third company, Eckeroline, with ferries serving the route. They were much cheaper too! It’s best to purchase the tickets online as the ticket offices at the port seem to have very short opening hours.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and new Tallinn. Terminal A at Tallinn Port

The ferry ride was comfortable enough and there was free WiFi onboard.

Stay tuned as the adventure continues into Finland

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Final Thoughts

The northernmost Baltic country of Estonia has a lot to offer, both scenically and historically. I think the only thing left to say is, if you get the chance visit Estonia and discover old and new Tallinn for yourself!

You might want to have a look at our list of Free Things to do in Tallinn

and

Check out all the destinations visited on this trip –
Vilnius
Riga
Discover Old and New Tallinn
Helsinki
Kemi
Oulu

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