Touring Tallinn: Walking the old city

It should come as no surprise that Tallinn is not a hot bed of tourism in the cold depths of mid-January. The sun is out only a few hours each day, the thermometer hovers around –10° C (~15° F) and the winds howling through the narrow streets of the old city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) made actually being a tourist quite a challenge. Apparently I was the only one who was bothered, however. Even with the cold and the wind and the snow the locals seemed to be enjoying the few hours of daylight they had, many actually staying outside on purpose to go ice skating. Apparently it simply was not that cold for them.

Ice skating in the snow - Tallinn, Estonia
Ice skating in the snow

The Old City’s history goes back to the 13th century. The old city walls still exist in some areas and walking along them can make for a fun excursion. And even the more modern – albeit still quite old – construction of merchant houses, churches and other structures offer up a great, easily walkable city to explore. The quaint cobble-stoned streets are mostly off-limits to cars which makes the walking even easier. Of course, when covered in snow and ice they’re also more slippery; be careful.

The old city walls, with the Nevsky Cathedral in the background
The old city walls, with the Nevsky Cathedral in the background

In 1918 the movement for Estonian independence was launched in Tallinn and in 1920, when that independence was realized, the town became the capital of Estonia. There is a large square just off the edge of the old city celebrating that independence with a massive column. The fact that it has a decidedly Russian style and feel to it (at least I thought so) makes it only slightly ironic a way to celebrate throwing off that yoke of foreign rule.

We are independent. And we celebrate by erecting a column which looks just like the ones you used to build here!

With only a few hours of daylight available much of my time in town was spent meandering the narrow streets in glow of twilight or under the cover of night. Sure, it got colder at that point (no real surprise there) but it also was arguably prettier, too. I’ve never met a town where that lighting wasn’t spectacular, and Tallinn was no exception.

A great glow at twilight
A great glow at twilight
City Hall, well illuminated and dominating the town square
City Hall, well illuminated and dominating the town square

I also visited the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour Museum as part of the trip. It was interesting enough that I wrote it up as a separate post. Look for it soon. And definitely stop by to visit if you’re in town; completely worth it.

After a quick dinner and a local beer at Porgu (pretty tasty and a cool vibe in the basement) I was done for the night. Jet lag was kicking my ass and I had to be up early the next morning to continue onward. Riga was next up on the agenda and I had a flight to catch.

More photos on Google+ and Facebook.

More stories available from the Baltic Beers trip, too.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Love Tallinn. Went for my 30th last year and got engaged there too. Ensure you get the Tallinn Card which gives you free public transport, access to museums (inc seaplane harbour), a free tour, cycle hire, boat hire (although probably not fun in -10oC) and vaious mueums discounts.

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