Tallinn was our first Baltic country destination and we could not have been more impressed.
For a start, the medieval Old Town is just amazing.
The narrow cobble stoned streets are lined with colourful buildings, shops, restaurants and attractions. Many staff are dressed in old peasant clothes. There are winding staircases going up towers to amazing views of the city. It felt like we had stepped back in time and this may be the most beautiful Old Town I have ever explored.
If you can drag yourself away from the Old Town, there are many other great attractions scatted around including many great things to do in Tallinn with kids. We found Tallinn to be a very family friendly city.
Below you will find our guide to what to do in Tallinn including all of Tallinn’s top attractions. We also cover the best hotels in Tallinn, where to eat in Tallinn, how to get here and around and many other details to help you have a great stay in this beautiful city.
Below are our list of Tallinn things to do from our own experiences visiting this city.
If there is one MUST see in Tallinn, this is it. Tallin’s Old Town is just beautiful. It’s declared to be one of the best preserved medieval town in Europe, and I would believe it. It’s stunning.
The area is quite compact, but once inside, it seems to go on and on and on with beautiful little streets, churches, museums and buildings to explore. It’s wonderful.
Below are some of the things to do in Tallinn’s Old Town that we visited.
The big Town Hall and the associated square is a site worth visiting in itself. It’s a beautiful location in the centre of town. We couldn’t resist the climb up the Town Hall Tower – although I wished we had!
It’s a spiral staircase up to the top. It is quite a climb as the steps become quite steep. At the top, there is just a tiny platform within the tower with an edge that falls over the top of the stairs with no railing. We went up with the kids (S walked it all fine), and I was terrified at the top that they would fall. It was not easy to get a good view without going into the tower windows, so I didn’t see anything as I was too busy gripping the kids! Without kids, it would have been good though!
This big church is the one that can be seen from a lot of Tallinn. It towers above the Old Town and is actually one of the tallest churches in the world. In fact, at one point it was the tallest building in the world!
The inside of the church is quite lovely. You can also climb the tower which is what I did. I left the others at the bottom this time after being scared at the Town Hall Tower climb. There is over 1000 steps and it is quite a climb. The views at the top are well and truly worth it and, despite being higher than the Town Hall Tower, I found it easier as the steps were more uniform and less steep. The top was also more solid.
There is a definite Tallinn must see attraction.
This cool little museum gives a great introduction to how Estonians have lived, the history of the country and warfare. I was very saddened to read facts like 1/4 of the population of this country was wiped out during World War II. I also learned more about Soviet times and how Estonia regained its independence.
The museum is quite interactive with films and interactive displays. There is also a kids’ area with drawing and activities, so this museum works well for families.
This 14th century church is very beautiful and just opposite the Guild Hall.
We couldn’t come to Tallinn’s Old Town and not walk along a section of the wall. This is a great place to do it.
There is a reasonable size section you can walk along and a tower to climb. This was the easiest tower we climbed, but also the one I would skip if you are conserving your energy as the view are not as good over the Old Town.
This interesting museum is housed in one of Tallinn’s cannon towers making it nearly worth the entry cost just for the location alone.
The museum shares Tallinn’s seafaring past and has lots of model boats which were a hit with Mr 3. There are also some tables set up for kids where they can draw and colour in meaning J and I were able to enjoy some of this museum too. There is a cafe on the top which is a fabulous location for a coffee (or local brew).
This big church, also on top of a hill in the Old Town, is Estonia’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral and it is just stunning. It was by far the most spectacular church we visited in Tallinn.
The outside of this church, built in 1900, makes for quite a site with its colours and onion dome, however the inside is where it really shines – literally. It was built in this prime location to show the local population who was in charge. Today, it makes for quite a sight and is worth a visit.
This museum is all about the history of Tallinn. Unfortunately, we could not visit this museum as it was shut all the days we were in Tallinn, but it would definitely be on my list of what to see in Tallinn.
One of the many cool things about the hotel where we stayed, Original Sokos Hotel Viru, was the hotel’s history. It was the first skyscraper in Estonia and the international hotel in Soviet times. Thanks to this past, it has an interesting association with the KGB who would work at the hotel monitoring what was going on, what the guests were up to, who they talked to and what interaction they had with locals.
The hotel offers a tour which is open to everyone (although hotel guests get a discount). We visited the 23rd floor where the KGB had an office. This floor is not accessible by elevators and was like a hidden floor.
This one hour tour was a very interesting insight into how things were during Soviet times and what some of the differences are with Estonia today.
There are tours throughout the day in various languages. It cost 8 euros for hotel guests, 10 euros for everyone else. Our kids were free. More information here.
This beautiful big park is a quick tram ride from Tallinn’s Old Town. It is worth the ride with lots of open space, a great kids’ playground and many attractions, especially art museums. Some of these are listed below.
The Kadriorg Art Museum is home to Estonia’s national collection of art by non-Estonian artists. The collection is housed in the Kadriorg Palace, an Italianate Baroque created for Peter the Great after Russia took control of Estonia in the 18th century.
The displayed collection is not large, and focuses on Renaissance era European works, especially works by Dutch and Flemish artists, and later works by Russian painters prior to the 20th century, plus some miscellaneous works. However, the real star is the palace itself, which has various rooms decorated to recreate the feel of different eras – from Tsarist palace to home and office of the Estonian President, prior to the Russian occupation from 1940. Together, the palace and the art make for an interesting one or two hour visit.
There’s not much to appeal to kids, however, although some might find it interesting. A room where you can touch marble and bronze pieces might be interesting to young kids. They might like the French style garden in the rear (which can be accessed free) to run around in while someone pops inside.
The Mikkel Museum is housed nearby in what was once the kitchen block for the Kadroig Palace. It is built around the national porcelain collection and the collection of Joseph Mikkel, a private collector who donated his collection in 1994.
It has more Dutch and Flemish Renaisance pieces, plus some Italian drawings as well. The bulk of the collection is the ceramics and Chinese porcelain. It’s a small museum and, as I’m not much a fan of porcelain, I didn’t find it that interesting. It is not child friendly.
This cute little children’s museum is by the playground in Kadriorg Park. It’s lots of fun for preschoolers and kids up to about 8 with a playroom area with lots of different things to do and the “museum” part which has activities like a pretend shop, post office and old fashioned camera.
There’s plenty of cars and trucks which made our son happy as well as a track to play with them all. There is also a drawing room. This was one of our kids’ top things to do in Tallinn, although I am not sure I would call it a museum.
We also did a hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour while in Tallinn as it was included with out Tallinn Card, was the easiest way to get to the Open Air Museum and Tallinn Zoo and included some interesting commentary.
It was good in that it goes to a wide range of attractions and we were able to listen to information about the city as we drove around. The kids also very much enjoyed the double decker bus. However, if you do it with young kids sit right by a door! The bus takes off or doesn’t stop at all unless you are right by the door ready to get off before the stop.
One of the best things to do in Tallinn if you would like to get of the city is definitely the Estonian Open Air Museum. This open air museum is located about 15 minutes drive from Tallinn and is a great way to spend a half day.
This vast plot of land is home to recreated 18-20th century villages. We all enjoyed looking around the different dwellings and learning more about how life used to be. I also loved that it was quite a tree filled, rural area which made me feel like I was getting to see a bit more of Estonia than just the capital.
After being disappointed by our previous open air museum experience, I was surprised just how much we loved this one. There were just so many buildings to explore and everything was well sign posted. We could have spent quite awhile here as the kids loved looking in every building and we enjoyed learning more about Estonia.
This pleasant zoo is also in a lovely location not far from the Open Air Museum. It’s home to many Nordic animals as well as some others such as elephants, black bears and wallabies. A highlight was seeing polar bears, although unfortunately their enclosure wasn’t the best. Another highlight was lots of baby animals.
Tallinn Zoo is a lovely place to wander, see animals and let off some steam if you have kids in tow. We all enjoyed this attraction and, if you can pull yourself away from the Old Town, then it’s worth a look.
The easiest way to get here or the open air museum is via the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing.
If you have the time, it is also very possible to go on a day trip to Helsinki. There are many ferries that run between the two places and you can easily pop over for the day. More details about the ferry below and you can also read my guide to Helsinki.
We had Tallinn cards that start at 31 Euros for 24 hours and 39 Euros for 48 hours. These are a good deal if you plan on visiting attractions outside Tallinn Old Town especially as the hop-on hop-off bus tour is 19 Euros by itself. It includes everything above apart from the KGB Museum Tour and all public transport.
Having a Tallinn Card just made things so much easier. It was great to be able to walk in any of the Tallinn attractions without worrying about pulling out our cash and even better to be able to hop on buses and trams without worrying about how to buy a ticket. We didn’t get cards for the kids as they were just about always free.
More information here.
We stayed at Original Sokos Hotel Viru in Tallinn which is a great choice for families or anyone else who want an ultra central, quality hotel with an interesting history.
We loved having the option of a great family room here which beds and space for all four of us. We also enjoyed the many facilities such as restauarants, bars and an entire shopping centre at the base of the hotel. There are also welcome gifts for kids, a kids’ playroom and books to borrow.
Best of all, though, was staying somewhere historic and getting to understand the history of the hotel via the KGB Museum tour as described above.
You will have absolutely no problem finding a Tallinn restaurant – they are everywhere! They are generally very good value as well. We found things substantially cheaper than in Scandinavia where we just came from.
We can particularly recommend the following two restaurants as being family friendly:
Taking the ferry between these two destinations could really not be easier. We caught the Linda Line. It was a quick and very smooth 2.5 hour ride and there is usually the option of a 1.5 hour ferry (it was getting emergency repairs so we were changed to this boat). There were plenty of seats, a snack bar, some duty free shopping and some big screen TVs. There was hardly anyone on board when we took it.
There was no fuss at either end and it was straight on and off. Just brilliant!
We caught a Lux Express bus from Tallinn to Riga and it could not have been easier. It took about 4.5 hours with a 15 minute break in the middle and was very comfortable. I was impressed by the internet in the bus and the cool seat back entertainment systems. It was like being in a very spacious plane. I watched a movie and did work all the way to Riga!
They also have buses to other points in Europe. Read more about getting around the Baltics here.
It is very easy to get around Tallinn. We caught buses and trams without a problem. It was made even easier with our Tallinn cards. I found google maps the easiest way to work out which tams and buses to catch where.
From the ferry terminal, we had to catch a taxi. That was not so nice! The different taxi companies can set their own prices and should have a visible sign in the back window of the prices.
We were not given a choice of taxi when we got out of the terminal. I was not too worried as at most, even with the most expensive taxi company I had read about, I expected to pay about 7 Euros. This ride cost a whopping 19 Euros for less than 2 kilometres! So be very vigilant.
Tallinn is an awesome place to visit with kids. There are many things to see in Tallinn which work perfectly with kids – as you can see from above.
The museums we visited had activities for children. Young kids are free to most attractions and on public transport. There are some beautiful outdoor spaces which are not hard to find and our kids were very much welcomed everywhere. We found this a very easy place to be with our kids.
The Old Town is quite magical and even our preschoolers loved it, especially as they are massive Frozen fans and they loved that Olav had a church 🙂 Otherwise their favourite attractions were the children’s museum and the neighbouring playground at Kadriorg Park and the Open Air Museum. They really loved looking through lots of houses.
We loved Tallinn. The magical Old Town is just amazing and we loved every moment. It was hard to pull ourselves away – although we are glad we did.
We very much enjoyed the other things to see in Tallinn. Kadriorg Park is beautiful and a great way to spend a sunny afternoon with kids. The Open Air Museum was also a massive hit with all of us.
Our stay was also made much more enjoyable by staying at the Original Sokos Hotel Viru. It was very cool to be staying somewhere with the KGB past that this hotel has and quite a learning experience as well. It’s very easy to forget that Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. The city is so alive and beautiful and not at all drab and lacking character like I imagined places in the old Soviet Union to be.
Tallinn totally surpassed any expectations I had and we loved our time here. The only problem? We couldn’t stay longer.
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