Tallinn, Estonia | Baltic Cruise

The first stop on our Baltic Cruise was Tallinn, Estonia.  Former Soviet-occupied Estonia is one of the least visited countries in Europe. Recently, it has gotten a tourism boom from cruise ships, and the availability of cheap plane tickets from other parts of Europe. It’s well deserved as I found Tallinn to be extremely charming. This post will be both a recap of our time spent in Tallinn, along with a guide for future cruisers who want to explore this city on their own.

Tallinn is a very walkable cruise port. You don’t even need to use public transportation. The cruise terminal is about 1/2 mile from Old Town, most of which is on flat, well paved sidewalks. From the Cruise Terminal just follow the signs to the “Old Town” and you’ll get there quick. Most cruise ships offer a shuttle for around $8-12 round trip. I don’t think that’s a very good value. They drop you off at Fat Margaret’s Tower, which is just off the main road. Plus, the bus won’t leave until it is full and we were easily able to slowly walk to the tower well before any of the tour buses dropped off the first passengers. There is also a Hop On, Hop Off bus here. I wouldn’t recommend this as the buses can’t drive in to Old Town and all of what you want to see is probably in that area. Seriously, save your cash for fun things and work off some of the food you’ve probably been eating on your cruise ship.

So we started our day at Fat Margaret’s Tower. This tower, built in the 14th century, has 5m thick walls and is a whopping 82m in diameter. At one point, Tallinn’s harbor was just outside of Fat Margaret’s Tower, and this tower certainly provided the town with a great defense against attacks!

From Fat Margaret’s Tower, my husband and I decided to walk up to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This is a steep walk, but if you do it this way the rest of the day you will be walking downhill. We used our phones to GPS the route. If you are worried that your phone won’t work, you can download the route ahead of time in Google Maps and it will work offline. And just look at this passage! Nobody else was walking here with us since we opted to take the steep hill up. This was great. Definitely felt like we were back in medieval times.
At the top of the hill is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This was one of the only crowded places we saw while in Tallinn. Probably because this church is absolutely gorgeous. It is a Russian Orthodox church and was built during the time that Estonia was under Russian rule. Because of that a lot of Estonians consider the church a reminder of the country’s dark past.
You can go inside of the church for free. I don’t have any pictures of the inside because there was a service going on. Russian Orthodox services are usually around 3 hours long and you can’t sit down during them, which I found really interesting. The inside of the church is cool. Nothing spectacular or anything that will blow you away, but since it is free it is worth stopping in to check it out.
The Estonian Parliament building is right next to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It’s not super spectacular, but it is worth noting since you will be in the same parking lot with it taking pictures most likely.
From the cathedral we walked down to see some of the old city walls. We just followed the signage. This is something that Tallinn has done a great job on for tourism. There are signs everywhere pointing you to other popular places. Easy!
If you want to walk the city walls you can do so here. We skipped since we’ve walked on the city walls in Rothenburg ob der Tauber before and this was basically the same thing. If you have never done this, I highly recommend it. It’s very cool to experience. It is €10 per person to climb, which is another reason we skipped it. We did it in Rothenburg for free, so we didn’t feel that it was worth €20 total to do something we’ve already done before.
In this little courtyard (Virgin’s Square) there are all of these statues of creepy hooded figures with no faces. No idea why, but it is interesting.
From the courtyard we decided to talke the alleyway down to Tallinn Old Town. We went to Old Town Square first. Not a whole lot of activity we were interested in there. You’ll see some people selling lots of cheap stuff and you can find some overpriced food here. We stopped into the oldest continually running pharmacy in the world. It’s free to look around and it is connected to some antique stores. It was pretty neat to see all of the antiques.
On your way you will see all kinds of little passageways like this. So cute!
Town Hall Square
More Town Hall Square. As you can see, quite busy. It seemed like all of the ship’s tour groups congregated here, so we quickly moved on.
This was the entrance to the oldest pharmacy with the cool antique stores. It is free to enter. Definitely go in here to see the old Soviet Era military antiques. If you are a collector the prices here aren’t bad either.
After that we walked through Catherine’s Passage which is said to be one of the best walks in Tallinn. I don’t know if I would call it that, as our walk up to the cathedral was far more charming in my opinion, but it was interesting. Lining the streets you’ll see local artists selling everything from paintings to sweaters.
There are also old tombstones lining some of the walls. You can read about them from a plaque on the wall.
At the end of the passage you’ll come out and see the “sweater wall”, which is just a row of vendors selling sweaters, mittens, hats, scarves, etc. Anything woolen basically. This is where I would buy a sweater if you want one honestly. You can haggle with them and get a good price.
For the rest of the day we walked up and down the side streets just looking at what the shops had to offer. Nothing else really appealed to us and I’m a big advocate of only doing what you think you’ll enjoy. However, there is plenty of time to enjoy more things. After visiting Alexander Nevsky Cathedral you could walk over to Toompea Hill and get a good view of Tallinn. You can pop into St. Olaf’s Church and climb the tower if it is open. You can head over to one of the many parks and relax in the shade, or you can visit the KGB Museum. We originally had planned to visit there. However, there is only 1 English tour a day and tickets were sold out. You can buy them in advance online and I highly recommend doing so. The museum is in the Viru Hotel and you can only see the museum on a tour. The museum is near the port which would make it an ideal stop either on your way to or from the Old Town area.
Overall, Tallinn was a nice relaxing way to kick off our cruise. It reminded me a lot of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is my favorite little town in Germany. Probably because they are both preserved medieval towns and you can walk the old city walls in both towns. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Tallinn, but believe me, you’ll want to take the day nice and easy if St. Petersburg is your next stop, because you’ll need lots of energy for those two days! The total amount of money we spent in Tallinn was €12. €10 on a Christmas ornament (our must get souvenir) and €2 on two bottles of Coke and two candy bars at the gas station across the street from Fat Margaret’s Tower (our treat while we relaxed and used some free wifi). We spent 4 hours in Tallinn walking around and I felt like it was the perfect amount of time for us. This was my husband’s 5th time in Tallinn and my first, so it was a good balance of sight seeing for me while trying not to bore him to death with the same stuff. We got back on the ship just around lunch time which was perfect as we ate lunch on the ship and didn’t have to spend money out in port!

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