Five things to do in Tallinn, Estonia

  • Tondiraba Ice Hall in Tallinn, Estonia © WCF / Richard Gray

As Tallinn looks set to host its second major curling competition in the shape of the European Championships, it's worth asking why Estonia’s capital has been chosen to host another WCF event.

The city’s distinct architecture is one of its most famous features where you can see a mix of both old and new structures. But there is a lot more to Tallinn than looking at the buildings. So, we look at five things to do in Tallinn when you are visiting for Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2018.

1. Take a walk around the Estonian Open Air Museum

Let’s get the most touristy sight out the way first. What makes the Open Air Museum so unique is the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. The museum shows off the history of the city while immersing itself in the nature of the woods nearby. It’s a few miles from the city centre, but it’s a welcome break away to some nearby nature. It’s a throwback to the times of farming in the area, displaying Estonia’s farming history.

Price: 7 euros (adult).
Distance to venue: 8 miles (17 minutes car journey).
Distance to city centre: 5 miles (10 minutes car journey).
For: A quiet history trip surrounded in nature.

2. The forgotten past of Linnahall

From the quaint, to the beautifully grotty. Linnahall is like very little architecture in Tallinn, hence making the list. In a city renowned for how pretty it looks, Linnahall is the ugly stepsister smoking cigarettes behind her parents’ back.
It is a polarising place to visit due to its appearance, but despite being not very easy on the eye, it’s worth visiting for the Soviet style, the modern history and the graffiti art. The reason why it’s worth seeing is, it will be fully renovated next year and the charm of the current building will likely disappear. So, it’s worth seeing before it goes.

Most importantly, Linnahall is one of the Soviets biggest contributions to Estonia. Like many sites in Estonia, it has a lot of influence from its years as part of the USSR. It was originally built in time for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, where the city was used for the sailing events during the Games. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it became a multi-use arena, which held music concerts until 2010 and even had its own ice hall until 2009. In an alternative universe, the 2018 games would be held in the Linnahall. Instead it’s an abandoned spectacle.

Price: Free.
Distance to venue: 5 miles (10 mins car journey).
Distance to city centre: 1 kilometre (3 mins car journey, ten mins walk).
For: Abandoned history lovers.

3. Step into the fairytale-esque Old Town.

The Old Town is the bread and butter of Tallinn’s tourism, but for good reason. There is so much to see in this part of the city centre. There are towers and churches everywhere, with the pick of the bunch being the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on the west side of the town. However, if you want to get a view of the whole city, it would be worth checking out St Olaf’s Church which sits in the northern part of the Old Town. But there’s much more to it than churches. There’s plenty of museums and squares to visit. And if there was ever a sign that Estonia looks after its citizens, it would be that they have the Estonian Health Care Museum. The latter is a great place to take children as it has a number of interactive games.

Price: Free.
Distance to venue: 4.5 miles (19 mins car journey).
Distance to city centre: It is the city centre.
For: Traditional tourists who like something pretty.

4. Hang out in Tallinn’s answer to Camden Town – Telliskivi Creative City

This is definitely more for the alternative audience, but still something a bit different. The reality is, most cities have an old town, or a castle, or a beautiful church. They can look incredible, but what is a bit different from the traditional tourism traps? Tallinn’s is Telliskivi Creative City.
A creative hub not too dissimilar to parts of Berlin (with graffiti art being championed) and similar to trendy London boroughs like Shoreditch and Camden (in terms of the markets, the eateries and the craft breweries), it’s a refreshing place to relax, see some art and have a drink. With a number of unique businesses in the area too, you might come home with some unique shopping gifts. It’s the home of alternative culture. Even better, it’s a five-minute walk from the main train station and Kalamaja, which is full of “Tallinn houses” which exist nowhere else in the world.

Price: Free to go to.
Distance to venue: 5 miles (19 mins car journey).
Distance to city centre: 1.3 miles (8 mins car journey, 20 mins walk).
For: The smug trendsetters.

5. Visit the award-winning futuristic art museum, Kumu.

Short for “Kunstimuuseum”, it’s understandable why it was abbreviated to the snappier “Kumu”. The modern building was opened in 2006 and was designed by a Finnish architect. Even if art is not your thing, visiting the museum to see the building will be worth it.

For the art fans, you will find Estonian art dating back to the 1800s to the present day, including from the occupation period which ended in the nineties which influences a lot of the art made at the time. The Kumu won the European Museum of the Year award in 2008 – so it is clearly doing something right.

Price: 8 euros (adult), 6 euros (concessions: includes pensioners and students)
Distance to venue: Just over 2 miles (12 mins car journey, 44 mins walk)
Distance to city centre: 1.5 miles (11 mins car journey, 30 mins walk)
For: Art lovers and architect snobs.

It’s worth noting that there is a lot to eat in Tallinn too with a few recommendations from locals and tourists here:

Rataskaevu 16: It’s the number-one rated restaurant in Tallinn. They are so confident in their culinary capabilities, they named the restaurant after its street address. If you want the best food, it’s probably going to come from here. The best thing about the menu is how local the recipes are. Most are national dishes, so if you want a taste of the real Tallinn, it will be here. The food is a little pricey, but it’s probably worth it.

Trip advisor ranking: #1 of 874 restaurants in Tallinn.
For: Eating the local food.

Vegan Restoran V: It’s worth mentioning this restaurant as – you guessed it – it caters to vegans. Apparently, the food is so great, non-vegans have enjoyed the menu too.

Trip Advisor ranking: #3 of 874 in Tallinn.
For: Vegans.

Hotokas: Simply, it’s street food that’s good on the go. It’s cheap, it’s tourist friendly with lots of options to get something familiar, but also something closer to local cuisine. You can get a chili dog and fries! It may not be the most inspired choice when travelling to Estonia, but it’s comfort food and the reviews back it up on the taste.

Trip Advisor ranking: #17 of 874 in Tallinn.
For: A quick bite.

F-hoone: Again, low prices and reservations should be made if you’re desperate to come here – which says a lot about the food. Nestled in the aforementioned Telliskivi area, it’s a restaurant for everyone’s tastes. Catering to traditionalists, pub grubbers and those who fancy normal restaurant food – F-hoone’s got you covered.

Trip Advisor ranking: #48 of 874 in Tallinn.
For: A group of compromisers.

Exercise in: Pirita, Kadriorg.

Kadriorg is a little closer to the city centre and to the host venue, but also happens to be smaller than another potential running route. Pirita (just east of the city centre) lies right on the coast, boasting views of marinas. It even has a beach! Although, it is hardly going to be useful on a November afternoon in the Baltics.

By feature writer, Michael Houston