Estonia’s capital and largest city, Tallinn is home to around half a million people (almost a third of Estonia’s total population).
The history of Tallinn stretches back many centuries and you can still see many well-preserved remnants of its medieval past. It was the northernmost capital of the Hanseatic League and part of the Swedish and Russian empires. The 20th century saw both Nazi and Soviet occupations.
Nowadays, Tallinn is internationally regarded for its IT sector (Skype originated here) and for its manufacturing industries and port. Tourists are attracted by it’s awe-inspiring architecture, great shopping opportunities, plethora of cafes and modest gay scene.
Estonia is considered by many to be the most liberal former Soviet country when it comes to issues surrounding LGBT rights. A “cohabitation agreement” is in place which offers the same protections as marriage, mins the right to the term marriage and joint adoption. The equal age of consent is 14.
Anti-discrimination laws are in place and public opinion is coming around to the idea of gay marriage, with the divide in opinion closing up with each poll. Most Ethnic Estonians and young people are pro marriage equality and ethnic Russians and older generations tend to be against it.
Despite it’s small size Tallinn does have a small selection of gay bars, clubs and a sauna. These are a short distance from the Old Town centre with the bars and clubs quite far apart from each other.
In comparison to other Eastern European cities, public attitudes are relatively relaxed. Tallinn is, however, nowhere near the same level as Berlin or Amsterdam so some prudence is advised.
Baltic Pride is the official pride celebration for the three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and it rotates between the three capitals (Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius). It will be held this July in Tallinn and is popular with politicians and the public alike.
Tallinn Airport (TLL) or Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport is located 5km southeast of the centre of Tallinn. It is well connected to European hubs by flag carriers and offers a wide range of connections through budget carriers.
You can take bus number 2 into the city centre from in front of the passenger terminal. Singles cost €2 and can be purchased from the driver. Services depart Monday to Friday from 6.49am to quarter past midnight and on weekends and holidays from 7.15am to 11.40pm. Journeys take around 15 minutes.
Taxis are quite reasonably priced due to the airports proximity to the city. A taxi hailed at the airport should cost in the region of €15 although pre-booking will allow a more reasonable rate. Taxi rates are not regulated so do make sure that you receive a fair deal and avoid unofficial taxi companies.
Tallinn is a popular destination for Baltic Sea cruises. It also offers scheduled ferry connections to St Petersburg, Stockholm and Helsinki. The Tallinn to Helsinki route is especially popular with Finnish tourists who come to take advantage of the cheaper alcohol available in Estonia, hence why this route can be rowdy.
You can take the number 2 bus into the city centre from the terminal on to the city centre. About 700m walk from Terminals A and B is the nearest tram stop for lines 1 and 2. Taxis operate here but take the same precautions that you would anywhere and be wary of unofficial drivers.
Baltic Station (Balti Jaam) is Tallinn’s main railway station and offers sleeper connections to Moscow and St Petersburg. You can connect at Valga for services on to Riga. Rail Baltica is a high speed rail network scheduled to begin construction in 2019 linking Tallinn to Poland via the other Baltic states.
The old town of Tallinn, where most tourists tend to stay, is compact and most sites are close together. This is the best way to really get a feel for the place as you lose yourself in the winding back streets. To get to the best views, however, there are some steep banks and the cobbled streets could cause problems for those with mobility issues.
By public transport
You will only need public transport if travelling to sites further afield or in bad weather. Tallinn has a well connected and integrated public transport network of busses, trolley busses and trams. Services run from 6am until 11pm (with some services running until midnight).
There are 3 types of tickets- Single rides ( €2 and valid just for that journey), Smartcard (pre-paid card for a €2 deposit that allows discounted trips) and the Tallinn Card. If you plan to visit a lot of museums and do a lot of travelling the Tallinn Card is for you as it offers free entry to sites and unlimited travel, starting at €25 a day.
Taxis can be pre-ordered, hailed on the street or found at taxi ranks. Rates vary between taxi companies but should be printed on the window of the cab. In a registered taxi, a white card with the drivers face and name should be on the dashbord. The driver should also be able to print you a receipt (if he can’t, you can claim for a free ride).
For a list of recommended hotels to stay in Tallinn, please check out our Gay Tallinn Hotels page.
The old town – a UNESCO world heritage site, and Tallinn’s biggest draw. Here you will find impressive medieval architecture, winding streets, breathtaking viewing platforms, and a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars. Beautiful both in summer and winter.
Toompea Hill and Castle – overlooking the city is the limestone hill which houses the Estonian government’s offices and parliament. Each building is constructed in a differing architectural style indicative of the era they were constructed in.
St Olaf’s Church – allegedly the tallest building in the world between 1549 to 1625, St Olaf’s is one of Tallinn’s most iconic sites. From 1944 to 1991 it’s tower was used as a KGB surveillance point.
Town Hall Pharmacy – one of the oldest running pharmacies in Europe. Not only can you get your hands on conventional medicines etc, there is a restaurant and an antique’s shop in the building.
KUMU – The main branch of Estonia’s museum of art is held in an imposing contemporary building in Kadriorg park. It has an excellent selection of Estonian art (most notably socialist realist style works) with an equally interesting selection of foreign works.
Museum of Occupations – when traipsing through the colourful streets of the old town, it is easy to forget about Tallinn’s turbulent past. The Museum of Occupations is an informative and eye-opening account of both the Soviet and Nazi occupations.
DM BAAR – a quirky and unique spot to catch a drink. This bar is dedicated to synth-pop legends Depeche Mode with a playlist of only Depeche Mode songs, a drinks menu named after only Depeche Mode songs, and Depeche Mode memorabilia for decor. It goes without saying that you should visit here if you like Depeche Mode.
Estonian Open Air Museum – a great way to spend a sunny day. This museum is a short and pleasant bus ride from the city centre and is one for the history buffs. It recreates a traditional 18th century village with actors playing such role as farmer and schoolmaster.
The most pleasant weather is between May and September however July and August brings droves of tourists to the city. That being said, the sight of Tallinn’s medieval towers dusted in snow is a beautiful sight to behold and there is still plenty to do here.
November and December hosts the world famous Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival bringing a whole host of cultural activities to the city. The definitive Tallinn event is the Estonian Song Celebration where thousands gather to sing traditional choral pieces. It is held every 5 years with the next event scheduled for 2019. Book in advance!
Estonia is within the Schengen visa area. As it is part of the European Union, its visa requirements fall inline with what you would expect from most EU states.
Estonia is part of the eurozone. There is a good selection of banks and currency exchangers to choose from. Most larger stores, restaurants and hotels accept card payments but it is always a good idea to keep some cash on you just in case.
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