Tallinn certainly attracts the most visitors on holiday in Estonia. Although Tallinn is all in all a relatively cosy capital city, you too will surely long for some peace and quiet. In the following article, we would like to present our Top 10 destinations in the Tallinn area and show you which excursions from Tallinn are most rewarding. And if you are interested in the city itself, click here to get to our article about the most beautiful Tallinn sights.
These are the most beautiful day trips from Tallinn
Let’s start with our top 10 day trips from Tallinn. Our series of the most beautiful Tallinn destinations takes us to enchanted waterfalls, dilapidated ruins, secluded beaches, manor houses and former military installations. By the way, our journey starts west of Tallinn and then we move in an arc to the east, so that you can best combine the Tallinn excursion destinations with each other. Most of the destinations are to the west of Tallinn, but there are also exciting places to the east of the Estonian capital, while there is little to offer south of the city.
Rund 20 Kilometer Luftlinie westlich von Tallinn erstreckt sich die langgezogene Bucht von Lohusalu. In dieser idyllischen Umgebung befindet sich auch die Gemeinde Keila-Joa. Sie ist für ihr Gutshaus bekannt, das aussieht wie eine kleine Ritterburg und das erste historistische Gebäude in Estland. Das Gutshaus diente früher als Sitz des estnischen Außenministeriums und wurde später von der Roten Armee genutzt. Lange befand es sich in einem bemitleidenswerten Zustand, wurde aber vor wenigen Jahren aufwendig restauriert, sodass ihr es heute besichtigen könnt. Ihr könnt hier aber auch übernachten und euch wie ein Adliger fühlen! Das Gebäude wurde übrigens von einem russischen Architekten mit dem schönen Namen Andrei Iwanowitsch Stackenschneider entworfen, der in Sankt Petersburg mehrere Adelspalais schuf.
A park to fall in love with
If there is a manor house, logically there must also be an estate that was administered from here. And that is really something to behold! The park surrounding Fall Castle is around 80 hectares in size. Many Estonians have their wedding photos taken in the idyllic surroundings, and the Keila waterfall (Keila juga) is in no way inferior to the Jägala juga described below.
Only four kilometres west of Keila-Joa is Lahepere Bay, at the south-eastern end of which is one of the most popular excursion beaches in the Tallinn area. Laulasmaa beach is directly adjacent to a pine forest, a picture that you see more often in Estonia. Here you can not only swim or walk through the forest, but also surf.
Arvo Pärt Centre
Arvo Pärt is considered one of the most important contemporary composers and comes from Paide, Estonia, but lived in Berlin for many years. As early as 2010, a foundation was set up to manage his musical archive. In 2018, two Spanish architects designed a spectacular building not far from Laulasmaa beach in the middle of the forest. The architects wanted to create a “balance between the intimacy of the Estonian artist’s compositions and the serene beauty of the landscape” – we think they more than succeeded. You can not only find out about Arvo Pärt and his work here, but are also invited to get creative yourself.
At the western end of Lahepere Bay is the Pakri peninsula. Here, Swedish settlers founded the fishing village of Paldiski (Rågervik in Swedish) in the 17th century. When the area came under Russian control, a naval base was established here. As the bay remained ice-free in winter, many ships anchored here during the cold season. Paldiski is best known, however, because the Soviets set up a submarine harbour here after the Second World War and trained the crews of nuclear submarines here. There were also two nuclear reactors here, which are out of operation today. Paldiski and its surroundings are above all something for real explorers. Here you can go in search of the traces of the peninsula’s former military use relatively undisturbed.
After the Nazis occupied Estonia during the Second World War, they established a regime of terror here in the Tallinn area as well. Just like in other parts of Eastern Europe, the Germans set up a concentration camp here, too, where mainly Jews were imprisoned. Most of them came from the ghettos of Kaunas and Vilnius, so they were not from Estonia but from Lithuania. When the Red Army advanced westwards, the prisoners were executed at the stake. Of the 2000 prisoners still there at the time, only 108 survived the massacre. The Nazis destroyed large parts of the camp before they withdrew, but today you can learn about this place of horror in a small memorial that is permanently accessible.
South of Klooga, and already considerably further into Inlad, is the small village of Padise. In the 14th century, Cistercian monks from what is now Latvia established an offshoot of their monastery in the far north of Estonia. In the course of time, this developed into an important spiritual centre. The monastery was dissolved during the Livonian War and then fell into a slumber. The ruins have been beautifully restored, however, so that today you can get an impression of the former splendour of the complex. Padise is also a popular concert venue in summer. The bell that once hung here in the monastery church is the oldest in Estonia, but today it rings in Harju Risti, west of Padise, in a church that also dates from the 14th century.
Only three kilometres east of Padise is the Rummu quarry with its long lake. There are certainly more beautiful sights in Estonia, but Rummu has become a popular lost place among Instagrammers in recent years and must therefore not be missing from our list. Prison inmates had to mine the Vasalemma marble here. When the prison was closed, work on the quarry stopped and the site fell into disrepair. Today you can visit the prison and the quarry with its turquoise water, go canoeing across the lake and even dive into the underwater world! You can find more information here.
We drive back a bit towards the capital and from there take motorway 2 south to our next destination in the Tallinn area. The “Witch’s Well” of Tuhala is a popular destination for the people of Tallinn and is located in the middle of a landscape that has been settled since the Stone Age. When the snow melts in spring or it rains for a long time, up to 100 litres of water rise to the surface here from underground as if by magic. As if a witch were sitting underground and making the water boil, you can watch the natural spectacle here in the beautiful forest landscape. But whether water actually comes out is a matter of luck.
13 kilometres east of the capital lies the village of Saha, another popular destination in the Tallinn area. The reason for the many visitors is a chapel that dates back to the 15th century in its present form and has managed to retain its original character despite the region’s turbulent history. The church is a grey stone sacred building typical of the region. It is reminiscent of the famous Pirita (Saint Bridget) monastery ruins on the north-eastern outskirts of Tallinn and is, in a sense, a “Pirita in miniature”.
Now we have almost reached the end, but we would like to introduce you to an absolute highlight of our day trips from Tallinn, the Jägala Waterfall. You can reach it easily by car from Tallinn via motorway 1, as it is only 20 km east of the capital. Jägala is the largest waterfall in Estonia, where the river of the same name plunges 8 minutes into the depths. That in itself would be spectacular, but when you consider its width of 50 m, the sight opens up a truly impressive picture. And while many destinations are worth a trip especially in summer, the Jägala juga is especially beautiful in winter, because it partially freezes over. Click here* to go directly to an exciting tour of the waterfalls and other destinations in the area.
Let’s move on to the last and most north-eastern destination of our small top 10 most interesting Tallinn excursions. If you’re looking for some rest and relaxation after all that exploring, Valkla beach is the place to be. Here, too, a pine forest seems to reach almost directly into the sea. You can relax here and enjoy nature. And in the holiday village of the same name you can spend your holidays with the whole family.
Music and book recommendations
This CD contains a selection of the best works by Arvo Pärt and is the perfect introduction to a visit to the Arvo Pärt Centre!
Tallinn itself is an amazing city and we think it seriously lacks some good books. But there are a few titles available that are worth to check. For a quick overview check the Top 10 Tallinn from DK publishers which give you a good peak into the city.
- DK Eyewitness (Author)
- 128 Pages - 01/16/2015 (Publication Date) - DK Eyewitness Travel (Publisher)
The Lonely Planet for all Baltic States is a good resource to check not just for Tallinn but all of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Great recommendations and descriptions.
- Lonely Planet (Author)
- 456 Pages - 07/16/2020 (Publication Date) - Lonely Planet (Publisher)
Neil Taylor wrote a short history of this beautiful Baltic country and its people. Very much worth the read and makes you much better understand your trip.
- Taylor, Neil (Author)
- 256 Pages - 07/12/2018 (Publication Date) - C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (Publisher)
In this book, Estonian-born Finnish author Ilmar Taska deals with the postwar period in Estonia in an unconventional way.