Things to do in Tallinn for free
Tallinn is clearly not going to be remembered as the most expensive city in the Scandinavian region, not if it’s compared to its neighbour Helsinki, but you can’t think of it as the heaven of all poor travelers either. It’s more of a balance between these two for most of the backpackers who ever decide to visit it. Especially if you’re a student or generally a budget traveler, you’ll be very happy to hear this place can be easily discovered with little or no money. All it takes is some free time, a bus or train ticket (or even some hitch-hiking) and patience to let it soak you in. The Scandinavian culture has a lot to offer, even if it’s not your first encounter with the Europe’s northern civilizations. Although most of the tourists first perceive them as very similar and easily mistakable, if you’ve already been to one of these countries you’ll find that there are lots of differences to be discovered. Most of them concern people, their habits and their daily routines – reason for which we’d recommend you to do some hitch-hiking on your way here. As about when you’ve arrived, besides the amazingly fun hostels where you’ll meet amazingly friendly people, you’ll have the pleasure to discover some of the Tallinn’s landmarks of personality with little or no financial effort.
1. There’s a reason why it’s said that the best way to discover the personality of a place is by the people who live it. And since it’s pretty hard to convince the Estonians to get their eyes from the phones and tablets (they’re all in love with technology), the first thing we recommend you is to take a Tallinn Free Tour. Most of the capital cities do it and we’re usually skipping this recommendation, but the Estonians have a very specific modus operandi. The students you’ll meet as volunteers won’t only explain you the entire history of their capital along with presenting the most culturally relevant attractions, but you’ll also hear all kinds of urban legends and myths (to confirm you northerns’ passion for mythology!). You’ll also hear all the weird stuff Tallinn has to offer and if humor and wicked things aren’t quite your alley, you must join the tour even if just for the sake of these hilarious students. Plus, it’s a great start considering you’ll be spending your next few days visiting all kinds of attractions and it doesn’t hurt getting your things prioritized for free. At 12 p.m. everyday at the City Tourist Information Center in Niguliste 2 some happy students waiting to show you the inner characteristics of their home city are going to start the tour (regardless of the holidays).
2. If your biggest dream since childhood was to dance happily and undisturbed from dusk and until the following day, that’s the place you’re looking for. Patarei Prison was initially a 19th century fortress and gun battery and from the outside you’ll say that no one’s ever been here after the beginning of the 20th century at best. And you’re wrong, as the building was closed only in 2005 and rumor has it that the guards simply left. Today this hell hole of a prison is, indeed, abandoned, which makes it easier for you to visit it. The bar you’ll be visiting makes the atmosphere seem like a weird combination between fairlylands, watching the waves crash against the rocks and Hitchcock movies with creepy cells, each telling a different horror story inspired from real facts. Here you’ll have them all – fun, cheap beer, an amazing sunset and the most disturbing bedtime stories to make you wonder.
3. After you’ve connected with the place and wandered along the history’s most feared moments, it’s time to have some fun like a local. Lauluvälijak, or The Song Festival Grounds, as it is known as, is the symbolic place to mark the locals’ love for their national places. Having fun like and Estonian if you are one is not a matter of choice. The Song Festival Grounds is the heart of any National party (even of some major international ones) and if, as an Estonian, you haven’t been here for the last 10 years, your passport (the access is made by a pass) will be taken away. As a tourist, needless to mention, this place is not to be missed if there’s an ongoing festival while you’re in town. The essence of what Estonians most love – beer and music – is to be found here at your discretion and it’s impossible not to love it once you’ve been to at least one concert. The kind of place you may not be very eager to visit at first, but you’ll visit again with every occasion.
4. Kumu Museum and KGB Museum are other major attractions you can’t miss as a tourist. The later one speaks the true, dramatic sroty of a country that has been under the Soviet block for too long. The dystopia created by the discrepancies between the real conditions in which people lived and the international image the regime wanted to build makes it a truly incredible and worth visiting social, political and cultural attraction for anyone out there who is least passionate about historical truths. Kumu, on the other hand, is an eclectic combination of Estonian mixed pieces of art. The museum’s a representation of modern experiences, even the staff uses students to suggest the open minded policy of the artistic field. The broad styles from back to the early 18th century and artworks dating from only a few years ago make it complex and a great destination for anyone in town.
5. Culture Kilometer and Town Wall. Both gathering all kinds of artwork, both inkhorn and urban, are amazing for whenever you’ve got a free afternoon. The second one’s a huge medieval wall speaking of the true inner identity of the old town, very well preserved and pretty impressive. For only €3 you can go on the parapet for a wall walkway that you won’t regret. The sight’s very bohemian and kind of vintage from here, so it’s like paying for some time traveling.
Ironically named Culture Kilometer, this place is a collection of graffiti and street art, the best way to see the differences between the old and the new Estonian culture and its developing tendencies. As a sign of cultural respect for these new artistic manifestations, the Wall as built in 2011 when Tallinn was the Culture Capital of Europe in order to encourage the youth to explore their cultural and artistic potential at its fullest extent. An everlasting competition between the local urban artists, the place is periodically cleaned to be rearranged and painted. You should visit these two attractions during the same day. The huge style difference emphasizes their particularities instead of making the second look inferior, as you may be tempted to think.