Estonia is just waiting to be discovered

Estonia is just waiting to be discovered. The capital, Tallinn, makes a fantastic base for explorations of the country and so great is its range of attractions - particularly for such a compact city - that you will surely want to linger. You can expect one of Europe’s best preserved medieval centres here, museums, the most exciting nightlife in the Baltics, activities galore - including beaches - and, not too far away, the beautiful Lahemaa National Park. Although a perfect year round destination, summer is the optimum time to visit.

The best places to visit in Estonia

The Old Town

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn
The onion-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an unforgettable feature of Tallinn's Old Town

Start your Estonia experience in Tallinn’s characterful Old Town, which is divided into two: the lower town, whose winding cobbled streets are run through with needle-spired churches and handsome merchant’s houses; and Toompea, the former hilltop stronghold which is centred on the main square Lossi plats, itself dominated by the onion-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Elsewhere in the Old Town, all streets lead to Raekoja plats, where you should endeavour to climb the Town Hall tower for the best citywide views. Within easy reach of Toompea Hill, the Hotel Telegraaf, Autograph Collection offers comfortable, stylish rooms, first-class dining and a sauna, making this one of the best places to stay in the entire country.

Seaplane Harbour

Tallinn’s single most exciting attraction, and one of the most unmissable places to visit, is the astonishing Seaplane Harbour, a hangar housing a huge collection of fishing boats, submarines, mines, biplanes and all other manner of seaborne transportation. Funky lighting, dramatic walkways and lots of interactive exhibits all add to the sense of drama. A cavernous space, the hangar itself is full of history, as it was built by the Russians during World War I to house the Tsar’s formidable fleet of sea planes.

KUMU

The grounds of KUMU art museum
A great option for art fans visiting Estonia is KUMU, a cutting-edge museum grafted into the side of a limestone cliff in Tallinn’s Kadriorg district

If art fans are wondering where to go in Estonia, a great option is KUMU, a cutting-edge museum grafted into the side of a limestone cliff in Tallinn’s district of Kadriorg. This former ‘European Museum of the Year’ offers three permanent exhibitions that trace Estonian art from 1700 onwards, though the most absorbing one is the fourth floor gallery displaying works from the period of Soviet occupation. In addition, up to ten temporary exhibitions, where the focus is primarily on international artists, are held here each year. The building itself is a wonder, its sweeping circular frame made from local natural materials including wood, dolomite and copper.

What to eat and drink in Estonia

Verivorst

Verivorst
Verivorst, the Estonian national dish, is made up of sausages oven-roasted with potatoes and accompanied by mulgikapsad (sauerkraut) and a red berry jam.

The national dish is a type of sausage called verivorst. A staple winter dish – though hugely popular around Christmas – the sausages (a combination of barley, onions, allspice and blood) are usually oven-roasted with potatoes and accompanied by mulgikapsad (sauerkraut) and garnished with a red berry jam. Tallinn’s Old Town is packed with great places to eat the dish, but one highly recommended establishment is Vanaema Juures (“Grandma’s House”), a cosy, and very traditional, cellar restaurant.

Kiluvoileib

Kiluvoileib
Kiluvoileib is made by topping Estonian black (or rye) bread with egg butter, hard-boiled egg, onion and a sprat fillet

One of the dishes to try when in Estonia is kiluvoileib, which roughly translates as “sprat sandwich”. This tasty snack is traditionally prepared with Estonian black (or rye) bread coated with egg butter, which is then topped with slices of hard-boiled egg, onion and a freshly caught sprat fillet from the nearby Baltic sea. You can find this dish in both street food outlets and restaurants throughout the country.

Vana Tallinn

The most traditional of all Estonian drinks is Vana Tallinn, best described as a dark brown liqueur with hints of rum and other delicious spices. As the name suggests, the drink hails from the capital, having been distilled here since 1960 under the guiding hand of renowned liqueur artist Ilse Maar. All hand produced, it takes a month for each batch to come to fruition.

Top things to do in Estonia

Lahemaa National Park
An unmissable day-trip from Tallinn is Lahemaa National Park, with its forests, shimmering lakes, pristine beaches and wild bogland

An unmissable day-trip from Tallinn is Lahemaa National Park, an hour’s drive east of the city. Skirting the northern shoreline of the Baltic, Estonia’s oldest national park packs in virgin forests, shimmering lakes and pristine beaches, wild bogland, and scattered fishing villages; there’s some spectacular wildlife too, including brown bears, wild boar and lynx.

There’s nothing Estonians love more than a trip to the sauna, so one of the best things to do is to join them! There are dozens of saunas all over the country, including one in almost every hotel, but one of the best is Kalma, Tallinn’s oldest public baths; get naked (if you so wish), pour the water over hot stones and feel the temperature rise. Don’t forget to take a cold shower afterwards.

One of the most fun things to do in Estonia is to head underground to Tallinn’s Bastion Tunnels; used as bomb shelters during World War II, it’s now possible to take a guided tour through this atmospheric maze.

One of the most interesting things to do, meanwhile, is to take a walk around the capital’s Kalamaja neighbourhood, which incorporates the Telliskivi Creative City, a collection of disused factory buildings that are now home to a cosmopolitan mix of artist’s studios, galleries and shops, restaurants and bars; a good time is guaranteed.

Hidden gems in Estonia

One of the best alternative things to do in Estonia is to visit one of Tallinn’s many speciality museums, such as the engaging and interactive Museum of Puppetry Arts. As well as exhibits of masks, props and puppets, visitors can try their hand at being an actor, director or even a stagehand. Better still, sit back and enjoy a performance of this wonderful craft. One of the really unique things to do in Tallinn’s Old Town is to take a guided ghost-hunt tour with spooky specialists Ronk Ronk. (It’s more fun than scary.)

Go deeper

Contrary to popular belief, Estonian is not related to Russian but instead is one of just three languages (along with Hungarian and Finnish) that belong to the Finno-Ugric group of languages. A few simple words to help you get along include tere (hello), vabandage (goodbye), polun (please) and aitäh (thank you).





Published: July 26, 2022

Where to Stay

Book Now From 187 USD / night

Related Articles

Explore

The Best of Baku: How to Spend Three Days in Azerbaijan's Charismatic Capital

Explore

10 Unbeatable Reasons to Visit the Balkans

Explore

How to Enjoy the Very Best of Germany's Cities This Summer

Marriott Bonvoy Logo

Free Membership, Unlimited Possibilities

Earn points you can redeem for unrivaled experiences and free nights at our extraordinary hotel brands.

Join for Free
Follow us: