Want to know how trams are made? Or marzipan? Or climb into a submarine to make your friends jealous? Most of these examples are a bit eccentric, but that just proves the fact Tallinn has some awesomely weird museums, and quite a few of them haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. A wide selection of different sights offers days of education and fun. It doesn’t matter whether you like plants or old missile bases, you can find some interesting stuff.
Generally, an entrance to a museum will be granted for roughly five euros with discounts to students and pensioners, some museums also offer a family ticket. The prices vary a lot depending on how new the museum is, how many things are interactive and breakable and how much time it will take to go through the whole area.
Only a few bigger museums are opened every day, usually it is better to plan something else for Mondays, since it will be likely you’ll be left sobbing sadly outside of the closed museum doors.
Photo credit: Bastion Passages
With the oldest traces of humans dating back to 11,000 years, Estonia is well.. very old. And therefore we have a lot of old things to be proud of. From the first then thousand years, the things don’t vary that much, though, it’s mainly tools made of rocks and later on, iron. Written down history of the area begun with the Northern crusades in the 13th century. After this, the lands were conquered and ruled by many different kings and queens – the Danish, German, Swedish, Polish-Lithuanian and Russian rule have all influenced and shaped this small country a lot. To find out all about these different times, we have built quite a few museums.
The History Museum has a permanent exhibition which they have focused on exactly 11,000 years of history. Yes, they’ve narrowed it down. This is the best overview about Estonia you can find. If you for some reason don’t feel like going through the whole museum (you should, there’s an interactive time capsule), you can easily become an expert of Estonia by just walking along the Börsi käik street right next to it, where every important happening in Estonia has been marked down on the ground. During summers, the history museum is opened every day 10-18, tickets are 4/2 euros.
The Bastion Passages museum offers a different view of happenings centuries ago, mainly a dimly lit underground view, this is because the museum is in a 17th century fortification tunnel. We do know Tallinn is filled with these sorts of tunnels, how many exactly , we are uncertain, currently almost 400 meters are opened to the public. The passages tour is considered one of the coolest tours of Tallinn, since you travel through time in a cart (time travel seems to be a popular theme for museums). Booking in advance is recommended, since the groups get filled up quickly during summers. The Kiek in de Kök tower at the start of the tunnels offers an overview of military history of 13-18th century Tallinn. Opened from Tuesdays to Sundays, 10-17.30. The ticket prices vary depending on either visiting both the tower and passages or just one of the attractions.
Hammers and Sickles
Photo credit: Like a Local
The Soviet occupation has left a huge mark in Tallinn and all of Estonia. Now, the monuments of famous communist leaders have been removed and Soviet propaganda is only shown in museums (and the train station market).
The Museum of Occupations is just a short walk out of the Old Town. The small country of Estonia has been occupied four times all together, all during the 20th century, and to give an overview of all of these different eras, the Museum of Occupations has done a very good overview. Things from different times are all on display – from Nazi uniforms to suitcases of people who headed to Siberia. This is a serious and eyeopening museum. Tickets are 4/2 euros, opened Tuesdays to Sundays 10-18.
But since the Soviet times weren’t all that sad, it wasn’t constantly raining, your neighbour didn’t disappear every other day, the KGB museum on top of hotel Viru does offer a more look into a more ironically fun aspect of the Soviet times. The museum focuses on the hotels history and working conditions as well as the surveillance machinery used to spy on the hotel rooms by the KGB. And those things are funny. If you imagine a low budget made-for-television Bond movie, you’ll get Soviet spying equipment. Nowadays, it is pretty hilarious. 8 euros per tour and pre-booking needed!
In the Open
Photo credit: Open Air Museum
Estonians love to boast about the beautiful landscapes of the country. With half of the land covered with trees and quite a lot with bogs, its understandable. Quite a lot of the history and development of Estonia is to do with farms and peasant life. To live in the country with no alarm clocks and cars and neighbours in a ten kilometer radius seems to be the Estonian dream.
To find out more about the peasant life, how people lived hundreds of years ago and how some people still live, head to the Rocca al Mare Open Air museum. You can peek into all sorts of different farm-houses brought here from different areas of Estonia. Take a look at Estonian traditional clothing worn by all the workers there. The Open Air museum also has village swing, which looks scary at first, but trust me, it is a lot of fun. Estonians are born with the knowledge of using such swings perfectly. Try it out as well! The open air museum is at a beautiful location and it is open air, so pick a sunny day to visit. Prepare quite a lot of time for it, since it is pretty big (we have a lot of different types of farm houses). The museum is opened every day 10-17, tickets are 6/3 euros. To get there, take the bus 21 or 21B from Balti Jaam to Vabaõhumuuseum.
The Zoo is just next to the open air museum is a place to find rhinos, elephants, polar bears and other animals usually found in zoos. Probably not the most rememberable zoo in the world, but still good for a fun day out. The zoo is also very contrasted with some cages still dating back to the Soviet era, others being just renovated. During summers, there is a petting zoo for the children, too. Beware, the goats apparently have acquired a love for the taste of pants. Opened every day, 10-17, tickets cost 5.80/2.90 euros.
Pictures at an Exhibition
Photo credit: Like a Local
Tallinn has a wide selection of art museums. Some display handicrafts, some jewelry, others are focused on modern or applied arts. You can also find odd dilapidated warehouses that are turned into somewhat museums of modern art.
KUMU is the biggest art museum in the Baltics with art, sculptures and weird modern applications on four different floors. The museum is focused on Estonian arts. There is a permanent exhibition on the first two floors and the last two floors are meant usually for Soviet and Modern art. The courtyard of the museum and the Kadriorg area, where the museum is located, are quite worth a look themselves. KUMU is opened Tuesdays to Sundays 11-18 (it is opened longer on Wednesdays for no apparent reason), ticket prices vary depending on how many floors you want to visit.
Just next to KUMU, you can also find the Museum of Foreign Arts in the Kadriorg palace. There is a permanent exhibition and moving exhibitions that change quite a lot, too. These vary from Russian masters to Western painters as well. The Kadriorg Art Museum is opened Tuesday to Sunday 11-18 (20 on Wednesdays), the tickets are 4.80/2.80.
CAME stands for Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia and is basically a museum opened inside an old power plant. The CAME museum is only opened during summers since the building doesn’t have any heating, however it is for free and it is odd. The only thing better then seeing arts in this place is stumbling upon the most hipster party you’ll ever see. Art students organize gatherings with odd music, cheap drinks and weird discussions about the newest exhibitions here every now and again. CAME is opened Tuesdas to Sunday, 13-19.
Photo credit: Miia-Milla-Manda
If you happen to be travelling with children, forcing them to only look at medieval arts and old farms is not the best idea. To make sure your children will have a fun time, find one of these museums.
The Puppet Museum is in the same building as the puppet theatre – the museum is brilliantly decorated with puppets from the plays of the museum. Some of the puppets are fun and lovely and from childrens’ TV-shows and plays, but there are rooms filled with borderline-creepy puppets, just to make it fun for adults, too. There is a steam-punk engined show outside of the building. Passing that without taking a look is a sin. It’s amazing! The museum is opened Tuesdays to Sundays, 10-19, tickets cost 5/4.50 euros.
The Miia-Milla-Manda Museum in Kadriorg is meant for the smallest types of people – the 3 to 11 year old ones. If you happen to have one or be one, go to this place, it is fun! The museum is more of a playground. It is opened from Tuesdays to Sundays 12-18, tickets are 2.60/1.60 euros.
Weird and Quirky
Photo credit: K. Haagen, Seaplane Harbour
If you like to seek out the weirdest and oddest things when travelling, we do have a bunch of odd museums.
The latest addition to the list of odd, yet entailing museums is the Seaplane Harbour. The biggest maritime museum of Tallinn just opened up and it is massive. From anti-ballistic missiles to different types of buoys, the museum covers pretty much everything naval. You can climb into a submarine! Prepare around two hours for this thing. Also, after wondering around the museum, the bay area in the back also has quite a few interesting things – a wooden submarine for example. The Seaplane Harour is opened Tuesdays to Sundays, 10-19, tickets cost 10/6 euros.
Patarei Prison can be found just next to the Seaplane Harbour. The notorious prison was closed just a bit more then a decade ago and now is something called a culture park. Inside the culture park is something called a museum.. It is really not a museum. You can wonder in an abandoned prison. It is odd. The ticket is 2 euros, but buy the booklet, too, since there are no info signs or anything in the prison. Getting a guided tour is probably the best idea, really. During summers, the museum is opened every day, 12-19. Also, there is a bar in the back!
If you’ve had enough of museums and would like to know what to eat, where to find the best party spots and what to souvenirs buy to friends and relatives back home, check out our other blog posts. If you feel like something is missing from the list of museums, leave a comment!