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The 11 Best Museums In Tallinn

Published by: Bounce14 December, 2022
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The capital of Estonia and its most populous city, Tallinn, is an innovative metropolis where a creative and vibrant urban environment meets the old world. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, you’ll be captivated by its majestic merchant houses, ancient buildings, medieval churches, and natural beauty. It provides ideal opportunities to work and organize conferences with cutting-edge facilities but has also managed to preserve its medieval treasures.

The famous Old Town should be on top of your must-visit list. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the best-preserved medieval town in Northern Europe, with Gothic spires, spectacular architecture, old city walls, and cobblestone alleyways. It is also home to exciting museums, intriguing art galleries, baroque palaces, and restaurants, making the Old Town a year-round destination you shouldn’t miss.

With around 250 museums in Estonia, it might be daunting to find the best museums in Tallinn. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you make the most of your trip, highlighting some free and budget-friendly options to consider. Once you’ve dropped off your bags at luggage storage in Tallinn, you can embark on a memorable cultural adventure.

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Tallinn City Museum

Tallinn City Museum isn’t just one structure narrating the lively history of Estonia’s capital. It consists of several sites throughout the city, giving visitors an insight into the town’s past from the earliest times to the present day. It includes a photography museum, a museum of children, a life museum, a Russian museum, and more.

Overall, the collections of Tallin City Museum include around 150,000 objects and artifacts related to the history of the city. If you don’t have enough time to explore all museums, the main site is a 14th-century merchant house in the historic Old Town. Its permanent display presents the capital’s history from when it was founded to the re-establishment of the country’s independence in 1991.

Location: Vene 17, 10123 Tallinn, Estonia

Estonian Open Air Museum

A fifteen-minute drive from the center of Tallinn will take you to a picturesque site highlighting Estonia’s rural way of life and architecture. The Estonian Open Air Museum covers fourteen farms that provide visitors with a glimpse of how families in Estonia lived in the old days from the 18th to the 20th century. It’s like a living community with a church, a schoolhouse, a fire station, an inn, a shop, mills, and fishing sheds by the sea.

Not all the features and facilities at the Estonian Open Air Museum are only for a show. You can actually sample traditional Estonian delicacies at the inn, buy handicrafts, and ride horses. It is open year-round, from Tuesday to Sunday, between 10 AM and 5 PM, offering lovely shops, events, and entertainment for all ages.

Location: Vabaõhumuuseumi tee 12, 13521 Tallinn, Estonia

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Kumu Art Museum

Opened to the public in February 2006, the Kumu Art Museum of Estonia aims to preserve and interpret unique Estonian art from the 18th century to the present. It is the country’s largest and most impressive exhibition space, allowing visitors to access quality contemporary art and learn about art history.

The Kumu Art Museum serves as a museum of contemporary art and a national art gallery with displays spread throughout different building floors. Take the lift and view the Baltic German artistic heritage displays from the 18th and 19th centuries. It also features an overview of Estonian art from the first half of the twentieth century. The fourth floor will introduce you to the art of the 1990s and Soviet Estonian art, whereas the fifth floor includes the Gallery of Contemporary art with regular exhibitions.

In addition to the art galleries, Kumu also boasts the Great Hall, Education Center, and the Kumu Auditorium for films, theatrical performances, and concerts. It is open daily except for Mondays, from 10 AM to 6 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and 10 AM to 8 PM on Thursday.

Location: Weizenbergi 34 / Valge 1, 10127 Tallinn, Estonia

Kadriorg Art Museum

Art reveals much about history, especially every era’s culture, trends, and societal values. For art lovers and history enthusiasts who want to discover Tallinn’s colorful past through unique art pieces, head to the Kadriorg Art Museum. It’s another art gallery and museum in Tallinn, just a stone's throw away from Kumu Art Museum. Near Tallinn Train Station, it is housed in Kadriorg Palace, an early 18th-century Baroque palace that plays a significant part in Estonia’s royalty history.

Kadriorg Art Museum is the only one of its kind in Estonia to be dedicated to early European and Russian art. It features century-old collections of paintings, sculptures, and applied art, as well as porcelain and glass. Besides the exhibitions, the museum offers guests the Palace Music Concert Series.

Location: Weizenbergi 37 10127 Tallinn

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Estonian History Museum – Great Guild Hall

The Great Guild Hall is one of medieval Tallinn’s most prominent historical buildings and is part of the Estonian History Museum, also referred to as Eesti Ajaloomuuseum. While the building has been a popular venue for cultural events for over 600 years, it wasn’t until 1952 that it was commissioned to be one of the locations for the museum. Nearly six decades later, the building underwent refurbishing and restoration between 2010 and 2011.

For years, the Estonian History Museum at the Great Guild Hall has been the go-to spot for historians due to its vast collection of items that are part of Estonia’s history. This includes the country’s currency, from banknotes, coins, rubles, krona, and ancient silver coins to pistols and rifles. Exhibitions, concerts, and themed events are also occasionally held in the venue.

Location: Pikk 17, 10123 Tallinn, Estonia

Maarjamäe Castle

Constructed in 1874, the Maarjamäe Castle is currently part of the Estonian History Museum in Tallinn. But before it became a museum, Maarjamäe Castle was called Strietberg, one of the favorite summer destinations in Tallinn. It also became the Russian Count Anatoli Orlov-Davydov’s summer residence and named the place Marienberg until it became Maarjamäe in the late 1930s.

The Palace was opened as a history discovery center on the Republic of Estonia’s 100th anniversary. The Estonian Film Museum is situated in the park, and the historical castle was renovated. Visitors at the Maarjamäe Castle are welcome to explore the eight rooms representing an overview of the significant events of the area through texts, interior designs, and artifacts.

Location: Pirita tee 56, 12011 Tallinn, Estonia

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Estonian Maritime Museum

Former sailors and captains initiated the founding of the Estonian Maritime Museum in 1935. Today, it is one of the country’s largest and most famous museums, thanks to the fascinating Seaplane Harbour exhibition. The Seaplane Harbour is stationed in North Tallinn by Tallinn Bay, featuring over a century-old hangar old hangar of seaplanes.

One of the main features of the Estonian Maritime Museum is the Lembit submarine constructed by the British Vickers-Armstrongs shipyard in 1937. It also houses the Maasilinn shop, the oldest sunken ship obtained in the waters of Estonia, a Short 184 seaplane, and many other genuine items, such as naval mines, boats, and sailships. It’s a family-friendly museum with an outdoor space and a play area for young visitors.

Location: Vesilennuki tänav 6, Põhja-Tallinna linnaosa, Tallinn

Estonian Museum of Natural History

Get up close and personal with nature and its treasures at the Estonian Museum of National History. It’s one of the best museums in Tallinn, especially for those curious about the natural world. It boasts a collection of approximately 330,000 items; each holds unique evidence of an event or species that existed at a certain place and time. The items and specimens at the museum have been collected for around 200 years.

You can marvel at the permanent exhibition on three floors. It includes the geology exhibition on the second floor, the hall of Estonian Mires, and the biodiversity of the country’s meadows and forests. Take your time to explore, and it will be a worthwhile experience.

Location: Lai 29a, 10133 Tallinn, Tallinn, Estonia

Carved Stone Museum

There are more than one means to explore a town’s history, and in the case of the Carved Stone Museum, it is through decorative carved stones. It’s one of the many galleries in the Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum, located in the Inger Bastion tunnel.

With carved stones being one of the leading export articles of the city during medieval times, these decorative fragments have a story behind them. Exclusive in the Carved Stone Museum is The City of Ruins exhibition, presenting more than 600 decorative stones once part of the Tallinn Old Town. Also featured are portals, pillars, coats of arms, decorated window jambs, and 16th to 19th-century tombstones.

Location: Vabaduse väljak, 10130 Tallinn, Estonia

Museum of Puppetry Arts

The Museum of Puppetry Arts is undoubtedly the perfect gallery in Tallinn for dolls, puppets, and theatre enthusiasts. It is, after all, the only museum in Estonia for such attractions. It’s part of the Estonian Theatre for Young Audiences, previously known as the Estonian State Puppet Theatre, Estonian Puppet and Youth Theatre, or NUKU Theatre.

The purpose behind the establishment of the Museum of Puppetry Arts is to store and display puppets used in theatres. Be prepared to be introduced to various Estonian theatre masks, television puppets, shadow theatre, and exhibitions of puppeteers’ jubilee and dolls from abroad. Also included is a firsthand view experience of puppet makers at work. The Museum of Puppetry Arts is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Location: Nunne tänav 4, Kesklinna linnaosa, Tallinn

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Estonian Health Museum

Estonian Health Museum is the only gallery in Estonia dedicated to promoting health-focused activities and popularizing health-related knowledge in an engaging and modern way. It creates the perfect learning environment for kids, students, and adults alike. The Union of the Medical Societies of Estonia established the museum on March 4th, 1928, in two buildings in the Tallinn Old Town.

A Heart to Heart About Your Body, the Estonian Health Museum’s permanent exhibition, showcases schematics, wax or plastic anatomic models, original plastinated organs, and electronic and mechanic interactive exhibits teaching human anatomy. It’s open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Location: Lai 30, 10133 Tallinn, Estonia

What are the best free museums in Tallinn?

Visiting Tallinn’s cultural attractions doesn’t have to be very expensive. In fact, it can be free! Some museums offer special discounts and promotions, while others provide free tickets on certain days or special events.

Besides being free for children under seven, any museums in the collections of Tallinn City Museum can be accessed without a ticket on May 18th, International Museum Day. If you arrive early, entrance is only 1€ on Tallinn Day, May 15th.

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Which are the best museums in Downtown Tallinn?

It’s hard to pick the best museum in Downtown Tallinn, as each offers something unique and exciting. But you can start with the Great Guild Hall, which houses the Estonian Historical Museum. Then you can head to Tallinn City Museum, a two-minute walk from the Guild Hall.

Are there any cheap museums in Tallinn?

The best thing about visiting Tallinn museums is that most of them are inexpensive and suitable for travelers on a budget. If you’re one of them or hoping to save more on your trip, check out the Estonian Museum of Natural History. Adult tickets cost less than $10, and $5 for discounted tickets. You can also buy a family ticket for around $16, while children up to nine years old are free to enter.

Explore Tallinn Museums

Tallinn will keep you busy and entertained all day long with so many beautiful places and fascinating sights worth exploring (and don't miss the shopping and dining. Choosing the city’s top places to visit isn’t an easy feat, but this guide should help if you want to begin your adventure at the best museums in Tallinn.

Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly cultural institution or free attractions to take your friends and family, these Estonian museums won’t disappoint. Most of them are just a short walk away from each other, so you can start your walking tour beginning at the Old Town.

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