In 2023, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, will take over from Grenoble as European Green Capital. After several years of bidding, Tallinn has been rewarded by the European Commission for its efforts and recognised as a pioneering city in sustainability. It beat 15 other cities including Krakow (Poland), Sofia (Bulgaria), Helsingborg (Sweden) and Logroño (Spain).

The Portuguese city of Valongo and the Dutch city of Winterswijk will receive the European Green Leaf, which recognises the efforts of smaller towns and cities of between 20,000 and 100,000 inhabitants.

To reward its green commitment, Tallinn, as European Green Capital, will receive a €700,000 fund to invest in implementing the necessary improvement measures to continue on its path to climate neutrality, as the city aims to reduce 40% of its emissions by 2030.

tallin green capital 2023

What aspects are taken into account when nominating a European Green Capital?

The European Green Capital Award is an initiative launched by the European Commission in 2010 to raise awareness of the need to improve environmental practices in urban areas. The ultimate goal is to encourage cities to work towards a greater commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability.

The awards are based on 12 environmental indicators: air quality, noise, waste management, water management and treatment, nature and biodiversity, sustainable mobility, green growth and eco-innovation, sustainable land use, energy efficiency, climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation and governance.

tallin green capital

Why is Tallinn worthy of this title?

The Estonian capital impressed the international jury with its comprehensive approach to more sustainable governance. Its commitment to green spaces, free public transport and the circular economy are some of the aspects that influenced its victory.

Estonia is one of the most environmentally conscious European countries and one of the most committed to caring for its biodiversity. Tallinn, its capital city, in addition to having an impressive and exquisitely preserved medieval historic centre that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, currently has a network of green areas, parks and public gardens that occupy almost 30% of the city. Most of them are located in the belt of bastions surrounding the old town, a real green corridor that contributes to improving the quality of life of its inhabitants. In addition, the city has a very ambitious project underway to link other surrounding natural areas that are currently separated, in order to better combine urban space and green areas.

tallin green capital 2023

Another factor that played a major role in the decision is that Tallinn is one of the few European cities with completely free public transport for its inhabitants. Charging electric cars is also free in Estonia. Two facts that have contributed to a considerable reduction of emissions in the country. Tallinn is also a benchmark in waste management and in recent years has implemented strategic plans to reduce noise pollution, taken various measures related to water, air quality and the development of the circular economy.

“For us, a green capital means that Tallinn is welcoming, comfortable and clean – a city of the future”.

Mihhail Kõlvart, Mayor of Tallinn.

Discovering the city: what to see in Tallinn?

With a population of almost 400,000 inhabitants, Tallinn is not only the capital of Estonia, but also the largest city in the country. It is a coastal city, bathed by the waters of the Baltic Sea and located on the Gulf of Finland. Since the country gained independence in 1991, after the Soviet era, the city has not only advanced in sustainable development, but has also transformed itself in many other ways.

It’s a small city, which can be comfortably seen in a couple of days, although once you arrive, you’ll probably want to enjoy it for longer. If you want to experience the European Green Capital 2023 first hand, don’t hesitate to travel to Tallinn and stroll around its impressive red-roofed old town.

Its medieval historic centre retains its original original 13th century structure and is one of the best preserved in Europe. Tallinn was a very important trading centre, a member of the Hanseatic League, and it is this trading past that shaped the city today with its defensive structures and old houses built by merchants.

tallin houses

At the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town is Raekoja Plats or Town Hall Square, which is one of the most beautiful places in the city. A square square with brightly coloured facades and restaurants with terraces, it was and still is the meeting point of the city. Among the various buildings is the Burchart Pharmacy, one of the oldest in the world.

Strolling through Tallinn’s Old Town is like stepping back in time. Walking along its cobbled streets you can discover some particularly beautiful corners, such as Pikk Street, Saiakang Alley or Katarina Passage.

Another must-see in Tallinn is the city walls that surround the old town. The orginal city walls that have been preserved stretch over 2 km. with large circular towers and 6 gates that once gave access to the city. Among them is the 14th century Viru Gate, which leads to Viru Street, one of Tallinn’s most popular shopping areas with shops and restaurants.

Although the walk along the city walls is spectacular, the best views of the city are from the viewpoints at Toompea, a hill that divides Tallinn’s Old Town into a lower and a higher area. Among the most popular viewpoints are the Kohtoutsa viewpoint and the Patkuli viewpoint, from which there is a spectacular view of the sunset. Also on Toompea Hill is the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, with its distinctive domes and beautiful stained-glass windows and mosaics, and Toompea Castle, which now houses the Estonian Parliament.

what to see in tallinn

Away from the centre you’ll find Kadriorg Palace, an 18th-century Baroque palace built as a summer residence for Tsar Peter the Great and his wife Catherine. Inside, it houses various museums and exhibitions, and is surrounded by well-kept monumental gardens.

Another thing to see in Tallinn if you want a bit of a contrast to the old city is the Kalamaja y Telliskivi Creative City, which is right next door. Kalamaja was a former factory and warehouse area that now has a trendy atmosphere with museums, shops and cafés. Similarly, Telliskivi has also been transformed from an industrial area into a creative and cultural centre.

Tallinn: typical and tasty food

Traditional food in Tallinn, like in the rest of Estonia, is characterised by its simple, mainly rural origins. Black bread, pork and smoked fish are very typical. Other common ingredients include mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage and wild berries.

If you’re travelling to Tallinn, one of its most popular dishes is marineeritud irajas: marinated eel served cold and usually accompanied by a salad. Herring, salmon and smoked trout are also popular, usually served with bread and butter. If you’re more of a meat lover, try Mulgikapsad, which is a dish of roast pork, sauerkraut and boiled potatoes; Verevost, the typical Estonian blood sausage; or Sült, a traditional dish of pork in jelly. And if you want to combine meat and fish, be sure to order Silgusoust, a dish combining herring, sour cream and pork belly.

Other travel tips for Tallinn

The weather in Tallinn is famous for its long, cold and snowy winters. During this time of year the average maximum temperature is below 3ºC, with February being the coldest month of the year. Although the city is beautiful in winter, with its lights and Christmas markets, if you’re not a fan of the cold, the best time of year to visit Tallinn is in summer. The warmest time of year is from late June to mid-August, when temperatures average between 13°C and 21°C (55°F and 70°F on average).

There are plenty of hotels in Tallinn to stay in. One of the best areas to stay in Tallinn is the Old Town, within the city walls, where most of the sights are located. The central area of Tallinn, which lies to the southeast of the Old Town, is the city’s more modern business district with a wide range of hotels and restaurants. Another interesting choice is the Kalamaja district, a more bohemian area, close to the sea, where there is a wide range of art and culture.

Tallinn is a city full of charm that looks like something out of a fairy tale. It does not disappoint. Get inspired by these exciting destinations. Come and visit it and discover for yourself why it has been chosen as European Green Capital.

tallin architecture