Eesti Rahvusraamatukogu - National Library of Estonia

Digital Memory


International Seminar DIGITAL MEMORY
and CCS docWorks User Group Meeting 2017

Invitation | Programme | Visits | Participants | Contacts | Exploring Tallinn



 Exploring Tallinn



Tallinn the capital of Estonia, is located in Northern Europe in the north-eastern part of the Baltic Sea region. Area of Tallinn - 159,2 km² (Estonia 45 227 km²).

The population of Tallinn is 439 705 (01.12.2015).

Nationalities living in Tallinn: Estonian 53.2%, Russian 38%, Ukrainian 3.4%, other 5,3%.

Estonian’s offcial language is Estonian. Russian, Finnish, English and German are also understood and widely spoken.

One third of Tallinn´s population feels an affiliation to a religion.

Among the religious population Orthodox Christians and Lutherian Christians are the most prevalent.

It is not easy to determine the beginning of Tallinn history. The location probably attracted attention as a suitable port area long before first written sources mention a settlement there in 1154. However the first fortress was built here almost a thousand years ago in 1050 (then known as Reval), the city started flourishing in the 14th century, when Tallinn was the home of well-off German merchants. Acting as the "gate" between the west and the east, this coastal town has been an attractive location throughout history.

The major part of the historic city centre, nowadays often referred to as the medieval pearl of Europe, was built at that time. Remarkably preserved and almost unchanged, the unique old town of Tallinn was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list in 1997.

The places, where you will be spending your time in Tallinn, are mostly covered with Wifi, so when taking a break, or having a cup of coffee you can easily check your e-mails, or surf the net.

More facts and figures of Tallinn

More information about Estonia

How to get there?
By Sea

The Tallinn-Helsinki sea-line is one of the busiest international passenger routes in the world. Ferries cross the Gulf of Finland between Tallinn and Helsinki several times a day, covering the distance in roughly 2 to 3 hours. Ferries between Tallinn and Stockholm depart every evening, with the trip taking approximately 15 hours. Passenger terminals are located within walking distance of the medieval Old Town. A walk from the port to the city centre takes about 20 minutes. Bus no. 2 connects the port’s A-terminal to the city centre, departing approximately every 30 minutes from 7 am until midnight. Tickets can be bought from the driver for €2 (€1 for student). A taxi from the terminal to the city centre costs about €5 to €10.

By Air

The city's international airport, Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport, provides excellent facilities and a wide variety of services. Its convenient location – just 4 km from the city centre – means transport to most destinations takes surprisingly little time.

Bus no. 2 makes the trip from the airport to the city centre and port approximately every 20 minutes and operates from ~6:30 am until midnight. Single journey tickets can be bought in cash from the driver for €2 (€1 for student).

A taxi stand can be found just outside the arrivals hall. The fare from the airport to the city centre is about €5 to €10. Read more about Tallinn's taxis here.

Tallinn on the map



Old Town

Like most cities with an eight-hundred-year-old past, Tallinn is a patchwork of historic areas. The city's pride and joy is without a doubt its Medieval Old Town.



Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square)

Picturesque Town Hall Square has been the undisputed hub of Old Town for the last eight centuries.

Historically it served as a market and meeting place, and was the site of at least one execution (resulting from a dispute over a bad omelette). Find the round stone marked with a compass rose in the middle of the square. From this spot, with a little stretching and bending, you can see the tops all five of Old Town's spires.

Today, the square remains the social heart of the city, a venue for open-air concerts, handicraft fairs and medieval markets. For several weeks each winter Tallinn's Town Hall Square is filled with an elaborate Christmas Market where visitors can buy gifts, listen to concerts, meet Santa or drink hot, spiced wine. Even CNN has named the Tallinn Christmas Market one of the most beautiful markets in the world.

Take a virtual tour of Town Hall Square


Tallinn Town Hall

Nothing says power like the impressive, Gothic Town Hall that dominates medieval Tallinn's main square.

It was built in 1402-1404 as a meeting place for the ruling burgomeisters and has been a showpiece of the city ever since. Nowadays the Town Hall – the only intact Gothic town hall in Northern Europe – is used mainly for concerts or for entertaining visiting kings or presidents.

Look closely at the top of the spire to spot the Old Thomas (in Estonian Vana Toomas) weather vane, one of the most famous symbols of Tallinn who has been standing at attention here since 1530. According to legend, the model for the figure was a popular town guard called Old Thomas. As a peasant boy, Thomas excelled at the springtime contests involving firing crossbow bolts at a painted wooden parrot on top of a pole – a challenge organised by and for Tallinn's Baltic German elite of the time. Unable to receive a prize because his low-born status, Thomas was rewarded with the job of town guard for life.


Patkuli viewing platform

This is the best vantage point for viewing Tallinn's fairytale Town Wall and towers, St. Olav's Church and the harbour area.

Located on the north side of Toompea hill, the platform sits visibly on a limestone cliff. On the right, the Town Wall and its defensive towers stretch off into the distance. On the left lie the city's Kalamaja and Pelgulinn areas, with the railway station as a landmark.

See also Piiskopi viewing platform and Kohtuotsa viewing platform.


St. Olav´s Church and tower

Once upon a time, from 1549 to 1625 to be precise, this 14th century Gothic church was the tallest building in the World. But it's gigantic, 159-metre spire, meant as a signpost for approaching ships, also turned out to be a very effective lightning rod. Throughout the church's history lightning hit the spire repeatedly, completely burning down the structure three times.

Nowadays its smaller, 124-metre spire 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 area.

The church itself dates back to at least 1267 when it is thought to have served a group of Scandinavian merchants who settled in the area. Various legends insist the church got its name from either the giant or the mysterious stranger who built it, however it was in fact dedicated to King Olaf II of Norway.

Its current shape and size were set in the 16th century. Inside are high, vaulted naves and a historicist interior design that dates to after the 1830 fire.


Kiek in de Kök

This massive, 38m-high cannon tower houses an extensive museum of the town's fortifications, weapons and medieval-era life.

Anyone interested in walls, towers, cannons and the like should drop into the tower-turned-museum.

Kiek in de Kök is also the starting place for visitors interested in the fascinating system of hidden tunnels (Bastion Passages - that run underneath the old bastions of Toompea hill.


Bastion Passages

Kiek in de Kök is also the starting place for visitors interested in the fascinating system of hidden tunnels that run underneath the old bastions of Toompea hill. Back in the 1600s (during the time of Swedish rule) attack was a constant worry, so city planners constructed high bastion walls around the outside of the fortified city. They also installed tunnels under the base of the walls so they could safely move soldiers and ammunition to where they were needed, not to mention spy on the enemy.


Estonian Maritime Museum - Fat Margaret´s Tower

Standing guard at the north end of Pikk street are two of Tallinn's most impressive defensive structures, the Great Coastal Gate (Suur Rannavärav) and Fat Margaret tower (Paks Margareeta).

They were built not only to defend the city from the seaward side of town, but also to impress any visitors arriving via the harbour.

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's cannon tower.

The origins of Fat Margaret's name are a mystery. Some theories insist it was named for one of its larger cannons, while others hint at a cook called Margaret who once worked here.

In any case, the tower has served a number of different functions throughout its history. It has been used a storehouse for gunpowder and weapons, and used as a prison. Now it's home to the Estonian Maritime Museum, which provides a detailed look at the nation's seafaring past.


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. In 2012 the hangars were rewarded with best concrete building of the year title.

On the outdoor area visitors can tour a collection of historic ships, including the Suur Tõll, Europe's largest steam-powered icebreaker.

See more sightseeing


The climate in Tallinn is characterized by a cool spring with little precipitation.

For the latest forecast please see the homepage

Important phone numbers and local information

In case of an accident or sudden illness, call for an ambulance or the police free-of-charge from any phone: 112.

Tallinn Tourist Information Centre + 372 645 7777

Area code for phone calls from abroad: +372

Customs info +372 880 0814

Bus station 12550

Airport + 372 605 8888

Port of Tallinn +372 631 8550

Tallinn Public Transport

Tallinn Transport Map

About taxi services in Tallinn

Tallinn on the map

Eesti Rahvusraamatukogu - National Library of Estonia