Tallinn (/tʌlˈɪn, tæˈlɪn/)[lower-alpha 1][5][6] is the most populous and capital city of Estonia. Situated on a bay in north Estonia, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea, Tallinn has a population of 437,811 (as of 2022)[1] and administratively lies in the Harju maakond (county). Tallinn is the main financial, industrial, and cultural centre of Estonia. It is located 187 km (116 mi) northwest of the country's second largest city Tartu, however only 80 km (50 mi) south of Helsinki, Finland, also 320 km (200 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, Russia, 300 km (190 mi) north of Riga, Latvia, and 380 km (240 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden. From the 13th century until the first half of the 20th century, Tallinn was known in most of the world by variants of its other historical name Reval.

From top: Tallinn Old Town, skyline of downtown Tallinn, Song Festival Grounds, St. Nicholas Church and the medieval defensive walls, Kumu Art Museum, Residence of the President in Kadriorg
Location within Europe
Location within Baltic Sea region
Location within Estonia
Coordinates: 59°26′14″N 24°44′43″E
Country Estonia
First confirmed written record1219
First possible appearance on map1154
City rights1248
  MayorMihhail Kõlvart
  Total159.2 km2 (61.5 sq mi)
9 m (30 ft)
  Rank1st in Estonia
  Density2,800/km2 (7,100/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Tallinner (English)
tallinlane (Estonian)
Resident registration (July 2022)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+3 (EEST)
ISO 3166 codeEE-784
Gross regional product[3]2021
 - Total€16.166 billion
 - Per capita€37,034
City budget€1.140 billion[4]

Tallinn received Lübeck city rights in 1248,[7] however the earliest evidence of human population in the area dates back nearly 5,000 years.[8] The medieval indigenous population of what is now Tallinn and northern Estonia was one of the last "pagan" civilisations in Europe to adopt Christianity following the Papal-sanctioned Livonian Crusade in the 13th century.[9] The first recorded claim over the place was laid by Denmark after a successful raid in 1219 led by King Valdemar II, followed by a period of alternating Scandinavian and Teutonic rulers. Due to the strategic location by the sea, its medieval port became a significant trade hub, especially in the 14–16th centuries, when Tallinn grew in importance as the northernmost member city of the Hanseatic League. Tallinn Old Town is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[10]

Tallinn has the highest number of startup companies per person among all capitals and larger cities in Europe[11] and is the birthplace of many international high-technology companies, including Skype, Bolt and Wise.[12] The city is home to the headquarters of the European Union's IT agency,[13] and to the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. In 2007, Tallinn was listed among the top-10 digital cities in the world,[14] and in 2022, Tallinn was listed among the top-10 "medium-sized European cities of the future".[15]


The Danish flag falling from the sky during the Battle of Lindanise (Tallinn), 15 June 1219. Painted by C. A. Lorentzen in 1809.

In 1154, a town called قلون (Qlwn[16] or Quwri[17][18]) was recorded in the description of the world upon the world map (Tabula Rogeriana) commissioned by the Norman King Roger II of Sicily and compiled by Arab cartographer Muhammad al-Idrisi, who described it as "a small town like a large castle" among the towns of 'Astlanda'. It has been suggested that one possible transcription, 'Qlwn', may have denoted a predecessor of the modern city[19][20] and may somehow be related to a toponym Kolyvan, which has been discovered from later East Slavic chronicles.[21][22] However, a number of modern historians have considered connecting any of al-Idrisi's placenames with modern Tallinn erroneous, unfounded, or speculative.[23][7][24][25]

Henry of Livonia, in his chronicle (ca. 1229), called the town with the name that is also known to have been used up to the 13th century by Scandinavians: Lindanisa (or Lyndanisse in Danish,[26][27][28] Lindanäs in Swedish and Ledenets in Old East Slavic).

The Icelandic Njal's saga—composed after 1270, but describing events between 960 and 1020—mentions an event that occurred somewhere in the area of Tallinn and calls the place Rafala (probably a derivation of Rävala, Revala, or some other variant of the Estonian name of the adjacent medieval Estonian county). Soon after the Danish conquest in 1219, the town became known in the Scandinavian and German languages as Reval (Latin: Revalia). Reval was in official use in Estonia until 1918.

The name Tallinn(a) is Estonian. It has been widely considered a historical derivation of Taani-linna, meaning "Danish-castle" (Latin: Castrum Danorum), conceivably because the Danish invaders built the castle in place of the Estonian stronghold after the 1219 battle of Lyndanisse.[lower-alpha 2] The Finnic element -linna, like Germanic -burg and Slavic -grad /-gorod, originally meant "fortress", but has been used as a suffix in the formation of town names.

In international use, the English and German-language Reval  as well as the Russian analog Revel (Ревель) were all gradually replaced by the Estonian name after the country became independent in 1918. At first, both Estonian forms, Tallinna and Tallinn, were used.[29] Tallinna in Estonian denotes also the genitive case of the name, as in Tallinna Sadam ('the Port of Tallinn').


The first archaeological traces of a small hunter-fisherman community's presence[8] in what is now Tallinn's city centre are about 5,000 years old. The comb ceramic pottery found on the site dates to about 3000 BCE and corded ware pottery around 2500 BCE.[30]

The lesser coat of arms of Tallinn depicts the Dannebrog cross.

Around 1050 AD, a fortress was built in what is now central Tallinn, on the hill of Toompea.[17]

As an important port on a major trade route between Novgorod and western Europe, it became a target for the expansion of the Teutonic Knights and the Kingdom of Denmark during the period of Northern Crusades in the beginning of the 13th century when Christianity was forcibly imposed on the local population. Danish rule of Tallinn and northern Estonia started in 1219.

In 1285, Tallinn, then known more widely as Reval, became the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League – a mercantile and military alliance of German-dominated cities in Northern Europe. The king of Denmark sold Reval along with other land possessions in northern Estonia to the Teutonic Knights in 1346. Reval was arguably the most significant medieval port in the Gulf of Finland, the second-most important port being Turku[31] Reval enjoyed a strategic position at the crossroads of trade between the rest of western Europe and Novgorod and Muscovy in the east. The city, with a population of about 8,000, was very well fortified with city walls and 66 defence towers.

A weather vane, the figure of an old warrior called Old Thomas, was put on top of the spire of the Tallinn Town Hall in 1530. Old Thomas later became a popular symbol of the city.

In the early years of the Protestant Reformation, the city converted to Lutheranism. In 1561, Reval (Tallinn) became a dominion of Sweden.

During the 1700–1721 Great Northern War, plague-stricken Tallinn along with Swedish Estonia and Livonia capitulated to Tsardom of Russia (Muscovy) in 1710, but the local self-government institutions (Magistracy of Reval and Estonian Knighthood) retained their cultural and economical autonomy within Imperial Russia as the Governorate of Estonia. The Magistracy of Reval was abolished in 1889. The 19th century brought industrialisation of the city and the port kept its importance.

Harju Street in Tallinn old town after the Soviet aerial bombing in March 1944

On 24 February 1918, the Estonian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in Tallinn. It was followed by Imperial German occupation until the end of World War I in November 1918, after which Tallinn became the capital of independent Estonia. During World War II, Estonia was first occupied by the Soviet army and annexed into the USSR in the summer of 1940, then occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944. During the German occupation Tallinn suffered from many instances of aerial bombing by the Soviet air force. During the most destructive Soviet bombing raid on 9–10 March 1944, over a thousand incendiary bombs were dropped on the town, causing widespread fires, killing 757 people, and leaving over 20,000 residents of Tallinn without shelter. After the German retreat in September 1944, the city was occupied again by the Soviet Union.

During the 1980 Summer Olympics, the sailing (then known as yachting) events were held at Pirita, north-east of central Tallinn. Many buildings, such as the Tallinn TV Tower, "Olümpia" hotel, the new Main Post Office building, and the Regatta Centre, were built for the Olympics.

In 1991, the independent democratic Estonian nation was restored and a period of quick development as a modern European capital ensued. Tallinn became the capital of a de facto independent country once again on 20 August 1991. The Old Town became a World Heritage Site in 1997,[32] and the city hosted the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest.[33] Tallinn was the 2011 European Capital of Culture, and will be the 2023 European Green Capital Award.[34] The city has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and takes pride in its biodiversity and high air quality.[35][36]

Panorama of the city centre


Port of Reval in 1853. Painting by Alexey Bogolyubov
Härjapea river, 1889

Tallinn is situated on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, in north-western Estonia.

The largest lake in Tallinn is Lake Ülemiste (9.44 km2 (3.6 sq mi)), which serves as the main source of the city's drinking water. Lake Harku is the second-largest lake within the borders of Tallinn and its area is 1.6 km2 (0.6 sq mi). The only significant river in Tallinn nowadays is the Pirita River, in the eponymous Pirita city district. Historically, a smaller river, called Härjapea, flowed from Lake Ülemiste through the town into the sea, but the river was diverted into underground sewerage system in the 1930s and has since completely disappeared from the cityscape. References to it still remain in the street names Jõe (from jõgi, river) and Kivisilla (from kivi sild, stone bridge).

A limestone cliff runs through the city. It can be seen at Toompea, Lasnamäe, and Astangu. However, Toompea is not a part of the cliff, but a separate hill.

The highest point in Tallinn, at 64 m (about 200 ft) above sea level, is situated in Hiiu, Nõmme District, in the south-west of the city.

The length of the coast is 46 km (29 mi). It comprises three bigger peninsulas: Kopli, Paljassaare, and Kakumäe Peninsulas. The city has a number of public beaches, including those at Pirita, Stroomi, Kakumäe, Harku, and Pikakari.[37]

The geology under the city of Tallinn is made up of rocks and sediments of different composition and age. Youngest are the Quaternary deposits. The materials of these deposits are till, varved clay, sand, gravel, and pebbles that are of glacial, marine and lacustrine origin. Some of the Quaternary deposits are valuable as they constitute aquifers, or as in the case of gravels and sands, are used as construction materials. The Quaternary deposits are the fill of valleys that are now buried. The buried valleys of Tallinn are carved into older rock likely by ancient rivers to be later modified by glaciers. While the valley fill is made up of Quaternary sediments the valleys themselves originated from erosion that took place before the Quaternary.[38] The substrate into which the buried valleys were carved is made up of hard sedimentary rock of Ediacaran, Cambrian and Ordovician age. Only the upper layer of Ordovician rocks protrudes from the cover of younger deposits, cropping out in the Baltic Klint at the coast and at a few places inland. The Ordovician rocks are made up from top to bottom of a thick layer of limestone and marlstone, then a first layer of argillite followed by first layer of sandstone and siltstone and then another layer of argillite also followed by sandstone and siltstone. In other places of the city, hard sedimentary rock is only to be found beneath Quaternary sediments at depths reaching as much as 120 m below sea level. Underlying the sedimentary rock are the rocks of the Fennoscandian Craton including gneisses and other metamorphic rocks with volcanic rock protoliths and rapakivi granites. These rocks are much older than the rest (Paleoproterozoic age) and do not crop out anywhere in Estonia.[38]


Tallinn has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with mild, rainy summers and cold, snowy winters.[39] Winters are cold, but mild for its latitude, owing to its coastal location. The average temperature in February, the coldest month, is −3.6 °C (25.5 °F). During the winters, temperatures tend to hover close to freezing, but mild spells of weather can push temperatures above 0 °C (32 °F), occasionally reaching above 5 °C (41 °F) while cold air masses can push temperatures below −18 °C (0 °F) an average of 6 days a year. Snowfall is common during the winters, which are cloudy[40] and characterised by low amounts of sunshine, ranging from only 20.7 hours of sunshine per month in December to 58.8 hours in February.[41]

Spring starts out cool, with freezing temperatures common in March and April, but gradually becomes warmer in May, when daytime temperatures average 15.4 °C (59.7 °F), although nighttime temperatures still remain cool, averaging −3.7 to 5.2 °C (25.3 to 41.4 °F) from March to May.[42] Snowfall is common in March and can occur in April.[40]

Summers are mild with daytime temperatures hovering around 19.2 to 22.2 °C (66.6 to 72.0 °F) and nighttime temperatures averaging between 9.8 to 13.1 °C (49.6 to 55.6 °F) from June to August.[42] The warmest month is usually July, with an average of 17.6 °C (63.7 °F).[42] During summer, partly cloudy or clear days are common[40] and it is the sunniest season, ranging from 255.6 hours of sunshine in August to 312.1 hours in July although precipitation is higher during these months.[43][41] As a consequence of its high latitude, at the summer solstice, daylight lasts for more than 18 hours and 30 minutes.[44]

Fall starts out mild, with a September average daily mean of 12.0 °C (53.6 °F) and increasingly becomes cooler and cloudier towards the end of November.[40] In the early parts of fall, temperatures commonly reach 16.1 °C (61.0 °F) and at least one day above 21 °C (70 °F) in September. In late fall, freezing temperatures become more common and snowfall can occur.

Tallinn receives 700 mm (28 in) of precipitation annually, which is evenly distributed throughout the year although March, April and May are the driest months, averaging about 35 to 37 mm (1.4 to 1.5 in), while July and August are the wettest months with 82 to 85 mm (3.2 to 3.3 in) of precipitation.[43] The average humidity is 81%, ranging from a high of 89% to a low of 69% in May.[45] Tallinn has an average windspeed of 3.3 m/s (11 ft/s) with winters being the windiest (around 3.7 m/s (12 ft/s) in January) and summers being the least windy at around 2.7 m/s (8.9 ft/s) in August.[40] Extremes range from −31.4 °C (−24.5 °F) on 10 January 1987 to 34.3 °C (93.7 °F) on 30 July 1994.[46]

According to a 2021 study commissioned by the British price comparison site Uswitch.com, Tallinn is the most unpredictable of European capitals in terms of weather conditions, with a total score of 69/100; the high score is mainly due to the high number of rainy days in the city and the variation in the duration of sunshine. Riga and Helsinki took second and third places.[47][48][49]

Climate data for Tallinn, Estonia (normals 1991–2020 and extremes 1805–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 9.2
Average high °C (°F) −0.7
Daily mean °C (°F) −2.9
Average low °C (°F) −5.5
Record low °C (°F) −31.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 56
Average rainy days 10 8 9 12 11 13 13 14 17 18 16 12 153
Average snowy days 19 18 13 5 0.4 0 0 0 0 2 11 18 87
Average relative humidity (%) 89 86 80 72 69 74 76 79 82 85 89 89 81
Average dew point °C (°F) −6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 29.7 58.8 148.4 217.3 306.0 294.3 312.1 255.6 162.3 88.3 29.1 20.7 1,922.7
Average ultraviolet index 0 1 1 3 4 5 5 4 3 1 0 0 2
Source 1: Estonian Weather Service[42][43][45][41][46]
Source 2: Weather Atlas (average ultraviolet index),[50] Time and Date (dewpoints, 2005-2015)[51]

Administrative districts

Map of the districts of Tallinn
District Flag Arms Population
(November 2017)[52]
Area[53] Density
Haabersti45,33922.26 km2 (8.6 sq mi)2,036.8/km2 (5,275.3/sq mi)
Kesklinn (centre)63,40630.56 km2 (11.8 sq mi)2,074.8/km2 (5,373.7/sq mi)
Kristiine33,2027.84 km2 (3.0 sq mi)4,234.9/km2 (10,968.5/sq mi)
Lasnamäe119,54227.47 km2 (10.6 sq mi)4,351.7/km2 (11,270.9/sq mi)
Mustamäe68,2118.09 km2 (3.1 sq mi)8,431.5/km2 (21,837.5/sq mi)
Nõmme39,54029.17 km2 (11.3 sq mi)1,355.5/km2 (3,510.7/sq mi)
Pirita18,60618.73 km2 (7.2 sq mi)993.4/km2 (2,572.8/sq mi)
Põhja-Tallinn60,20315.9 km2 (6.1 sq mi)3,786.4/km2 (9,806.6/sq mi)

Tallinn is subdivided into eight administrative districts (Estonian: linnaosad, singular linnaosa). The district governments are city institutions that fulfill, in the territory of their district, the functions assigned to them by Tallinn legislation and statutes.

Each district government is managed by an elder (Estonian: linnaosavanem). They are appointed by the city government on the nomination of the mayor and after having heard the opinion of the administrative councils. The function of the administrative councils is to recommend to the city government and commissions of the city council how the districts should be administered.

The administrative districts are further divided into subdistricts or neighbourhoods (Estonian: asum). Their names and borders are officially defined. There are 84 subdistricts in Tallinn.[54]


Tallinn is the most populous, primate, and capital city of Estonia.

Largest ethnic groups[55]
Ethnic groupPopulation (2022) %

The population of Tallinn on 1 January 2021 was 438,341.[1] It is the most populous and primate city of Estonia, and the 59th most populated city in the EU.

According to Eurostat, in 2004, Tallinn had one of the largest number of non-EU nationals of all EU member states' capital cities. Ethnic Russians are a significant minority in Tallinn, as around a third of the city's residents are first and second generation immigrants from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union; a majority of the Soviet-era immigrants now hold Estonian citizenship.[56]

Ethnic Estonians made up over 80% of Tallinn's population before World War II. As of 2020, ethnic Estonians made up over 52% of the population. Tallinn was one of the urban areas with industrial and military significance in northern Estonia that during the period of Soviet occupation underwent extensive russification of its ethnic composition due to large influx of immigrants from Russia and other parts of the former USSR. Whole new city districts were built where the main intent of the then Soviet authorities was to accommodate Russian-speaking immigrants: Mustamäe, Väike-Õismäe, Pelguranna, and most notably, Lasnamäe, which in 1980s became, and is to this day, the most populous district of Tallinn.

The official language of Tallinn is Estonian. As of 2011, 50.1% of the city's residents were native speakers of Estonian, whereas 46.7% had Russian as their first language. While English is the most frequently used foreign language by the residents Tallinn, there are also a significant number of native speakers of Ukrainian and Finnish.[57]

Population 3,2506,95412,00015,30024,00045,90058,800119,800283,071478,974400,378401,694406,703426,538430,805434,562437,619437,811


Religion in Talinn (2021)

  Unaffiliated (64.4%)
  Orthodox & Old Believers (23.8%)
  Lutheran (6.0%)
  Catholic (1.15%)
  Others Christian (1.7%)
  Muslims (1.15%)
  Others Religions or Unknown (1.8%)


Rotermann business district

Tallinn has a highly diversified economy with particular strengths in information technology, tourism and logistics. Over half of the Estonian GDP is created in Tallinn.[58] In 2008, the GDP per capita of Tallinn stood at 172% of the Estonian average.[59] In addition to longtime functions as seaport and capital city, Tallinn has seen development of an information technology sector; in its 13 December 2005, edition, The New York Times characterised Estonia as "a sort of Silicon Valley on the Baltic Sea".[60] One of Tallinn's sister cities is the Silicon Valley town of Los Gatos, California. Skype is one of the best-known of several Estonian start-ups originating from Tallinn. Many start-ups have originated from the Institute of Cybernetics. In recent years, Tallinn has gradually been becoming one of the main IT centres of Europe, with the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE) of NATO, eu-LISA, the EU Digital Agency and the IT development centres of large corporations, such as TeliaSonera and Kuehne + Nagel being based in the city. Smaller start-up incubators like Garage48 and Game Founders have helped to provide support to teams from Estonia and around the world looking for support, development and networking opportunities.[61]

Tallinn receives 4.3 million visitors annually,[62] a figure that has grown steadily over the past decade. The Finns are especially a common sight in Tallinn;[63] on average, about 20,000–40,000 Finnish tourists visit the city between June and October.[64] Most of the visitors come from Europe, though Tallinn has also become increasingly visited by tourists from the Asia-Pacific region.[65] Tallinn Passenger Port is one of the busiest cruise destinations on the Baltic Sea, serving more than 520,000 cruise passengers in 2013.[66] From year 2011 regular cruise turnarounds in cooperation with Tallinn Airport are organised.

Eesti Energia, a large oil shale to energy company,[67] has its headquarters in Tallinn. The city also hosts the headquarters of Elering, a national electric power transmission system operator and member of ENTSO-E, the Estonian natural gas company Eesti Gaas and energy holding company Alexela Energia, part of Alexela Group. Nord Pool Spot, the largest market for electrical energy in the world, established its local office in Tallinn. Tallinn is the financial centre of Estonia and also a strong economic centre in the Scandinavian-Baltic region. Many major banks, such as SEB, Swedbank, and Nordea, have their local offices in Tallinn. LHV Pank, an Estonian investment bank, has its corporate headquarters in Tallinn. Two crypto-currencies exchanges officially recognized by the Estonian government, CoinMetro[68] and DX.Exchange[69] have their headquarters in Tallinn. Tallinn Stock Exchange, part of NASDAQ OMX Group, is the only regulated exchange in Estonia. Port of Tallinn is one of the biggest ports in the Baltic sea region,[70] and the largest cargo port of Estonia, the Port of Muuga, which belongs to the same entity, is located in the neighboring town of Maardu.[71] Old City Harbour has been known as a convenient harbour since the medieval times, but nowadays the cargo operations are shifted to Muuga Cargo Port and Paldiski Southern Port. There is a small fleet of oceangoing trawlers that operate out of Tallinn.[72] Tallinn's industries include shipbuilding, machine building, metal processing, electronics, textile manufacturing. BLRT Grupp has its headquarters and some subsidiaries in Tallinn. Air Maintenance Estonia and AS Panaviatic Maintenance, both based in Tallinn Airport, provide MRO services for aircraft, largely expanding their operations in recent years. Liviko, the maker of Vana Tallinn liqueur, strongly associated with the city, is based in Tallinn. The headquarters of Kalev, a confectionery company and part of the industrial conglomerate Orkla Group, is located in Lehmja, southeast of Tallinn. Estonia is ranked third in Europe in terms of shopping centre space per inhabitant, ahead of Sweden and being surpassed only by Norway and Luxembourg.[73]

Notable headquarters

Among others:

  • NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE)
  • eu-LISA, the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice[74][75][13] is based in Tallinn.
  • Skype has its software development centre located in Tallinn.[76]
  • Telia Company has its IT development centre located in Tallinn.[77]
  • Kuehne + Nagel has its IT centre located in Tallinn.[78]
  • Arvato Financial Solutions has its global IT development and innovation centre located in Tallinn.[79]
  • Ericsson has one of its biggest production facilities in Europe located in Tallinn, focusing on the production of 4G communication devices.[80]
  • Equinor has announced moving the group's financial centre to Tallinn.[81]
  • Bolt
  • Alexela
  • LHV


Institutions of higher education and science include:

  • Baltic Film and Media School
  • Estonian Academy of Arts
  • Estonian Academy of Security Sciences
  • Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre
  • Estonian Business School
  • Estonian Maritime Academy
  • Institute of Theology of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics
  • Tallinn University
  • Tallinn University of Technology
  • Tallinn University of Applied Sciences


Tallinn was a European Capital of Culture for 2011, along with Turku, Finland.


Tallinn is home to more than 60 museums and galleries.[82] Most of them are located in Kesklinn, the central district of the city, and cover Tallinn's rich history.

One of the most visited historical museums in Tallinn is the Estonian History Museum, located in Great Guild Hall at Vanalinn, the old part of the city.[83] It covers Estonia's history from prehistoric times up until the end of the 20th century.[84] It features film and hands-on displays that show how Estonian dwellers lived and survived.[84]

The Estonian Maritime Museum provides a detailed overview of nation's seafaring past. This museum is also located in city's Old Town, where it occupies one of Tallinn's former defensive structures – Fat Margaret's Tower.[85] Another historical museum that can be found at city's Old Town, just behind the Town Hall, is Tallinn City Museum. It covers Tallinn's history from pre-history until 1991, when Estonia regained its independence.[86] Tallinn City Museum owns nine more departments and museums around the city,[86] one of which is Tallinn's Museum of Photography, also located just behind the Town Hall. It features permanent exhibition that covers 100 years of photography in Estonia.[87]

Estonia's Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom is yet another historical museum located in Tallinn's central district. It covers the 52 years when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.[88] Not far away is another museum related to the Soviet occupation of Estonia, the KGB Museum, which occupies the 23rd floor of Sokos Hotel Viru. It features equipment, uniforms, and documents of Russian Secret Service agents.[89]

Tallinn is also home to two major natural science museums – Estonian Museum of Natural History and Estonian Health Care Museum, both located in Old Town. The Estonian Museum of Natural Science features several seasonal and temporary themed exhibitions that provide an overview of wildlife in Estonia and around the world.[90] The Estonian Health Care Museum features permanent exhibitions on anatomy and health care; its collections and displays cover the history of medicine in Estonia.[91]

Tallinn is home to several art and design museums. The Estonian Art Museum, the largest art museum in Estonia, consists of four branches – Kumu Art Museum, Kadriorg Art Museum, Mikkel Museum, and Niguliste Museum. Kumu Art Museum features the country's largest collection of contemporary and modern art. It also displays Estonian art starting from the early 18th century.[92] Those who are interested in Western European and Russian art may enjoy Kadriorg Art Museum collections, located in Kadriorg Palace, a beautiful Baroque building erected by Peter the Great. It stores and displays about 9,000 works of art from the 16th to 20th centuries.[93] The Mikkel Museum, in Kadriorg Park, displays a collection of mainly Western art – ceramics and Chinese porcelain donated by Johannes Mikkel in 1994. The Niguliste Museum occupies former St. Nicholas' Church; it displays collections of historical ecclesiastical art spanning nearly seven centuries from the Middle Ages to post-Reformation art.

Those that are interested in design and applied art may enjoy the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design collection of Estonian contemporary designs. It displays up to 15.000 pieces of work made of textile art, ceramics, porcelain, leather, glass, jewellery, metalwork, furniture, and product design.[94] To experience more relaxed, culture-oriented exhibits, one may turn to Museum of Estonian Drinking Culture. This museum showcases the historic Luscher & Matiesen Distillery as well as the history of Estonian alcohol production.[95]

Danse Macabre by Bernt Notke on display at St. Nicholas' Church


The Estonian Song Festival (in Estonian: Laulupidu) is one of the largest choral events in the world, listed by the UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It is held every five years in July on the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluväljak) simultaneously with the Estonian Dance Festival.[96] The joint choir has comprised more than 30,000 singers performing to an audience of 80,000.[96][97]

Estonians have one of the biggest collections of folk songs in the world, with written records of about 133,000 folk songs.[98] From 1987, a cycle of mass demonstrations featuring spontaneous singing of national songs and hymns that were strictly forbidden during the years of the Soviet occupation to peacefully resist the oppression. In September 1988, a record 300,000 people, more than a quarter of all Estonians, gathered in Tallinn for a song festival.[99]

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (Estonian: Pimedate Ööde Filmifestival, or PÖFF), is an annual film festival held since 1997 in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. PÖFF is the only festival in the Nordic and Baltic region with a FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Association) accreditation for holding an international competition programme in the Nordic and Baltic region with 14 other non-specialised festivals, such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice. With over 250 feature films screened each year and over 77500 attendances (2014), PÖFF is one of the largest film events of Northern Europe and cultural events in Estonia in the winter season. During its 19th edition in 2015 the festival screened more than 600 films (including 250+ feature-length films from 80 countries), bringing over 900 screenings to an audience of over 80, 000 people as well as over 700 accredited guests and journalists from 50 countries. In 2010 the festival held the European Film Awards ceremony in Tallinn.


World's largest kiluvõileib, some 20 m in length, created at Tallinn Town Hall Square on 15 May 2014[100]

The traditional cuisine of Tallinn reflects culinary traditions of north Estonia, the role of the city as a fishing port, and historical German influences. Numerous cafés have played a major role in a social life of the city since the 19th century, as have bars, especially in the Kesklinn district.

The martsipan industry in Tallinn has a very long history. The production of martsipan started in the Middle Ages, almost simultaneously in Tallinn (Reval) and Lübeck, both member cities of the Hanseatic League. In 1695, marzipan was mentioned as a medicine, under the designation of Panis Martius, in the price lists of the Tallinn Town Hall Pharmacy.[101] The modern era of martsipan in Tallinn began in 1806, when the Swiss confectioner Lorenz Caviezel set up his confectionery on Pikk Street. In 1864, it was bought and expanded by Georg Stude and now is known as the Maiasmokk café. In the late 19th century martsipan figurines made by Tallinn's confectioners were supplied to the Russian imperial family.[102]

Arguably, the most symbolic seafood dish of Tallinn is vürtsikilu ("spicy sprat") – salted sprats pickled with a distinctive set of spices including black pepper, allspice and cloves. The making of traditional vürtsikilu is thought to have originated from the city's outskirts. In 1826, the merchants of Tallinn exported 40,000 cans of vürtsikilu to Saint Petersburg.[103] A closely associated dish is kiluvõileib ("sprat-butter-bread") – a traditional rye bread open sandwich covered with a layer of butter and vürtsikilu as the topping. Boiled egg slices and culinary herbs are optional extra toppings. Alcoholic beverages produced in the city include beer, vodka, and liqueurs (such as the eponymous Vana Tallinn). The number of craft beer breweries has expanded sharply in Tallinn over the last decade, entering local and regional markets.


What can arguably be considered to be Tallinn's main attractions are located in the Tallinn Old Town (divided into a "lower town" and Toompea hill) which is easily explored on foot. The eastern parts of the city, notably Pirita (with Pirita Convent) and Kadriorg (with Kadriorg Palace) districts, are also popular destinations, and the Estonian Open Air Museum in Rocca al Mare, west of the city, preserves aspects of Estonian rural culture and architecture. The historical wooden suburbs like Kalamaja, Pelgulinn, Kassisaba and Kelmiküla and revitalized industrial areas like Rotermanni Quarter, Noblessner and Dvigatel are also unique places to visit.

Toompea – Upper Town

Stenbock House on Toompea hill is the official seat of the Government of Estonia

This area was once an almost separate town, heavily fortified, and has always been the seat of whatever power that has ruled Estonia. The hill occupies an easily defensible site overlooking the surrounding districts. The major attractions are the medieval Toompea Castle (today housing the Estonian Parliament, the Riigikogu), the Lutheran St Mary's Cathedral, also known as the Dome Church (Estonian: Toomkirik), and the Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

All-linn – Lower Town

This area is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and the authorities are continuing its rehabilitation. Major sights include the Town Hall square (Estonian: Raekoja plats), the city wall and towers (notably "Fat Margaret" and "Kiek in de Kök") as well as a number of medieval churches, including St Olaf's, St. Nicholas' and the Church of the Holy Ghost. The Catholic Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul is also in the Lower Town.


Kadriorg is 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) east of the city centre and is served by buses and trams. Kadriorg Palace, the former palace of Peter the Great, built just after the Great Northern War, now houses the foreign art department of the Art Museum of Estonia, the presidential residence and the surrounding grounds include formal gardens and woodland.

The main building of the Art Museum of Estonia, Kumu (Estonian: Kunstimuuseum, Art Museum), was built in 2006 and lies in Kadriorg park. It houses an encyclopaedic collection of Estonian art, including paintings by Carl Timoleon von Neff, Johann Köler, Eduard Ole, Jaan Koort, Konrad Mägi, Eduard Wiiralt, Henn Roode and Adamson-Eric, among others.


This coastal district is a further 2 kilometres north-east of Kadriorg. The marina was built for the Moscow Olympics of 1980, and boats can be hired on the Pirita River. Two kilometres inland are the Botanic Gardens and the Tallinn TV Tower.


A CAF tram in Tallinn (Pärnu maantee street) in 2018.

City transport

The city operates a system of bus (73 lines), tram (4 lines) and trolley-bus (4 lines) routes to all districts; the 33 kilometres (21 mi) long tram system[104] is the only tram network in Estonia.[105][106] A flat-fare system is used. The ticket-system is based on prepaid RFID cards available in kiosks and post offices. In January 2013, Tallinn became the first European capital to offer a fare-free service on buses, trams and trolleybuses within the city limits. This service is available to residents who register with the municipality.[107]


The Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport is about 4 kilometres (2 miles) from Town Hall square (Raekoja plats). There is a tram (Line Number: 4) and local bus connection between the airport and the edge of the city centre (bus no. 2). The nearest railway station Ülemiste is only 1.5 km (0.9 mi) from the airport. The construction of the new section of the airport began in 2007 and was finished in summer 2008.


The port of Tallinn is one of the busiest cruise and passenger harbours in Northern Europe with over 10 million people passing through in 2016.

Several ferry operators, Viking Line, Tallink and Eckerö Line, connect Tallinn to Helsinki, Mariehamn, Stockholm, and St. Petersburg. Passenger lines connect Tallinn to Helsinki (83 km (52 mi) north of Tallinn) in approximately 2–3.5 hours by cruiseferries.


Railway platform at the Tallinn Baltic Station

The Elron railway company operates train services from Tallinn to Tartu, Valga, Türi, Viljandi, Tapa, Narva, Koidula. Buses are also available to all these and various other destinations in Estonia, as well as to Saint Petersburg in Russia and Riga, Latvia. The Russian railways company operates a daily international sleeper train service between Tallinn – Moscow.

Tallinn also has a commuter rail service running from Tallinn's main rail station in two main directions: east (Aegviidu) and to several western destinations (Pääsküla, Keila, Riisipere, Turba, Paldiski, and Kloogaranna). These are electrified lines and are used by the Elron railroad company. Stadler FLIRT EMU and DMU units are in service since July 2013. The first electrified train service in Tallinn was opened in 1924 from Tallinn to Pääsküla, a distance of 11.2 km (7.0 mi).

The Rail Baltica project, which will link Tallinn with Warsaw via Latvia and Lithuania, will connect Tallinn with the rest of the European rail network. A undersea tunnel has been proposed between Tallinn and Helsinki,[108] though it remains at a planning phase.


The Via Baltica motorway (part of European route E67 from Helsinki to Prague) connects Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border through Latvia. Frequent and affordable long-distance bus routes connect Tallinn with other parts of Estonia.

Notable people

Notable People From Tallinn


1900 to 1930

  • Ants Oras (1900–1982), translator and writer, studied pause patterns in English Renaissance dramatic blank verse
  • Vidrik "Frits" Rootare (1906–1981), chess player
  • Andrus Johani (1906–1941), painter
  • Miliza Korjus (1909-1980), Polish-Estonian-American opera singer, Hollywood film actress, nominee for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1938
  • Edmund S. Valtman (1914–2005), Estonian-American cartoonist, won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning
  • Evald Okas (1915–2011), painter, probably best known for his portraits of nudes
  • Evi Rauer (1915–2004), stage, film and television actress and television director
  • Paul Kuusberg (1916–2003), writer, particularly of novellas
  • Ellen Liiger (1918–1987), stage, TV, radio and film actress and theatre teacher
  • Udo Kasemets (1919–2014), Estonian-born Canadian composer of orchestral, vocal, piano and electroacoustic works
  • Jaan Kross (1920–2007), novelist, nominated for the Nobel prize in literature multiple times
  • Vincent Zigas (1920–1983), medical officer in Papua New Guinea during the 1950s
  • Harry Männil (1920–2010), Estonian-Venezuelan businessman, art collector
  • Kaljo Raid (1921–2005), composer, cellist and pastor
  • Vello Viisimaa (1928–1991), opera singer and stage actor, appeared mostly in operettas
  • Olaf von Wrangel (1928-2009), German journalist (NDR) and politician, member of German Bundestag
  • Lennart Georg Meri (1929–2006), politician, writer, film director, statesman, second President of Estonia, 1992 to 2001
  • Eino Tamberg (1930–2010), composer, promoter of neoclassicism in Estonian music

1930 to 1950

  • Uno Loop (1930–2021), singer, musician, athlete, actor, and educator
  • Vladimir-Georg Karassev-Orgusaar (1931–2015), film director and member of the Congress of Estonia
  • Martin Puhvel (1933–2016), literature researcher, professor emeritus at McGill University for old and medieval English literature
  • Ingrid Rüütel (born 1935) folklorist and philologist, wife of former president Arnold Rüütel
  • Peter Peet Silvester (1935–1996), electrical engineer, particularly numerical analysis of electromagnetic fields
  • Jüri Arrak (born 1936), artist and painter
  • Enn Vetemaa (1936–2017), writer, master of the Estonian Modernist short novel
  • Arvo Antonovich Mets, (1937–1997) Russian poet, master of Russian free verse
  • Mikk Mikiver (1937–2006), stage and film actor and theater director
  • Linnart Mäll (1938–2010), historian, orientalist, translator and politician.
  • Ene Riisna (born 1938), Estonian-born American television producer, known for her work on the American news show 20/20.
  • Andres Tarand (born 1940), politician, former Prime Minister of Estonia and Member of the European Parliament
  • Leila Säälik (born 1941), stage, film and radio actress
  • Paul-Eerik Rummo (born 1942), poet and politician
  • Eili Sild (born 1942), stage, film, television and radio actress
  • Kalle Lasn (born 1942), Estonian-Canadian film maker, author, magazine editor and activist
  • Urjo Kareda (1944–2001), Canadian theatre and music critic, dramaturge and stage director
  • Mari Lill (born 1945), stage, film and TV actress
  • Sulev Mäeltsemees (born 1947), public administration and local government scholar
  • Siiri Oviir (born 1947), politician and former Member of the European Parliament
  • Lepo Sumera (1950–2000), composer, teacher and politician

1950 to 1970

Anu Lamp, 2012
  • Urmas Alender (1953–1994), singer and musician, the vocalist of Ruja and Propeller
  • Ivo Lill (1953–2019), glass artist
  • Ain Lutsepp (born 1954), actor and politician.
  • Kalle Randalu (born 1956), pianist
  • Alexander Leonidovich Goldstein, (1957–2006), Russian writer and essayist, resident of Tel-Aviv from 1991
  • Peeter Järvelaid (born 1957), legal scholar, historian and university professor
  • Doris Kareva (born 1958), poet and head of Estonian National Commission in UNESCO
  • Anu Lamp (born 1958), stage, film, TV and voice actress and stage director
  • Tõnu Õnnepalu (born 1962), pen names Emil Tode and Anton Nigov, poet and author
  • Tõnis Lukas (born 1962), politician, Vice-chairman of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica
  • Marina Kaljurand (born 1962), politician, former Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Kiiri Tamm (born 1962), stage, television and film actress and stage manager
  • Tõnu Trubetsky (born 1963), punk rock/glam punk musician, film and music video director and individualist anarchist
  • Ivo Uukkivi (born 1965), stage, film, radio, TV actor and producer, founder and singer with the punk band Velikije Luki
  • Liina Tennosaar (born 1965), stage, film and television actress
  • Juhan Parts (born 1966), politician, Prime Minister of Estonia from 2003 to 2005
  • Mart Sander (born 1967), singer, actor, director, author, artist, and television host
  • Indrek Sirel (born 1970), general of the Estonian Defence Forces

1970 to date

Harriet Toompere, 2012
Tiiu Kuik, 2007
  • Jaan Tallinn (born 1972), programmer, investor, and entrepreneur known for involvement in Skype and other projects.
  • Jan Uuspõld (born 1973), stage, television, radio and film actor and musician.
  • Urmas Paet (born 1974), politician and Member of the European Parliament
  • Ken-Marti Vaher (born 1974), politician, Minister of Justice 2003–2005 and Minister of the Interior 2011–2014
  • Urmas Reinsalu (born 1975), politician, Minister of Defence from 2012 to 2014, Minister of Justice since 2015
  • Kristen Michal (born 1975), politician, Minister of economic affairs 2015 to 2016 and Minister of Justice from 2011 to 2012
  • Mailis Reps (born 1975), politician, Minister of Education and Research 2002/03 and 2005/07
  • Harriet Toompere (born 1975), stage, television, film actress and writer of children's books
  • Tanel Ingi (born 1976), stage and film actor, performs primarily at the Ugala theatre
  • Katrin Pärn (born 1977), stage, film and television actress and singer
  • Johann Urb (born 1977), Estonian-born American actor, producer and model
  • Carmen Kass (born 1978), supermodel, ran for European Parliament in 2004, president of the Estonian Chess Federation from 2004 to 2011
  • Lauri Lagle (born 1981), stage and film actor, screenwriter, director and playwright
  • Ursula Ratasepp (born 1982), stage, film and television actress
  • Ott Sepp (born 1982), actor, singer, writer and television presenter
  • Katrin Siska (born 1983), musician, member of pop-rock band Vanilla Ninja
  • Priit Loog (born 1984), stage, television and film actor
  • Tiiu Kuik (born 1987), supermodel
  • Pääru Oja (born 1989), stage, film, voice, and television actor
  • Klaudia Tiitsmaa (born 1990), stage, television and film actress

Architects and conductors

Neeme Järvi at Laulupidu, 2009
Siiri Vallner, 2009
  • Valve Pormeister (1922–2002), architect, the first women to influence the development of Estonian architecture
  • Allan Murdmaa (1934–2009), architect, designed Tehumardi war memorial
  • Neeme Järvi (born 1937), Estonian-American conductor
  • Eri Klas (1939–2016), conductor, leader of the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Tõnu Kaljuste (born 1953), conductor, conducted with the Estonian National Opera between 1978 and 1995
  • Andres Mustonen (born 1953), conductor and violinist, artistic director of Mustonenfest Tallinn Tel Aviv Festival
  • Andres Siim (born 1962), architect, designer of the Nissan Center building in Tallinn
  • Paavo Järvi (born 1962), conductor, son of Neeme Järvi
  • Margit Mutso (born 1966), architect, designer of the bus station of Rakvere
  • Elmo Tiisvald (born 1967), conductor, conductor of Opera Studio at Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre
  • Kaisa Roose (born 1969), music conductor with Malmö Opera and Music Theatre
  • Siiri Vallner (born 1972), architect, designer of the Museum of Occupations in Tallinn
  • Anu Tali (born 1972), conductor, music director of the Sarasota Orchestra
  • Eero Endjärv (born 1973), architect, designed the villa in Otepää in Southern Estonia
  • Katrin Koov (born 1973), architect, designer of the Concert Hall of Pärnu
  • Mikk Murdvee (born 1980), Estonian-Finnish conductor and violinist, lives in Helsinki
Irina Embrich, 2013


Twin towns – sister cities

Tallinn is twinned with:[112]

See also


  1. Estonian: [ˈtɑlʲːinː] (listen)
  2. The Danish heritage is also evident in the city lesser coat of arms, depicting the Dannebrog.


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    Books and articles

    • Burch, Stuart. "An unfolding signifier: London's Baltic exchange in Tallinn." Journal of Baltic Studies 39.4 (2008): 451–473.
    • Hallas, Karin, ed.20th Century Architecture in Tallinn (Tallinn, The Museum of Estonian Architecture, 2000)
    • Helemäe, Karl. Tallinn, Olympic Regatta city. ASIN B0006E5Y24.
    • Kattago, Siobhan. "War memorials and the politics of memory: The Soviet war memorial in Tallinn." Constellations 16.1 (2009): 150–166. online
    • Naum, Magdalena. "Multi-ethnicity and material exchanges in Late Medieval Tallinn." European Journal of Archaeology 17.4 (2014): 656–677. online
    • Õunapuu, Piret. "The Tallinn department of the Estonian National museum: History and developments." Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore 48 (2011): 163–196.
    • Pullat, Raimo. Brief history of Tallinn (Estopol, 1999).
    • Tannu, Elena (1990). The living past of Tallinn. ISBN 5-7979-0031-9.

    Travel guides

    • Clare Thomson (February 2006). Tallinn. Footprint Publishing. ISBN 1-904777-77-5.
    • Neil Taylor (2004). Tallinn. Bradt City Guide. ISBN 1-84162-096-3.
    • Dmitri Bruns. Architectural Landmarks, Places of Interest. ASIN B0006E6P9K.
    • Sulev Maèvali. Historical and architectural monuments in Tallinn. ASIN B0007AUR60.
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