TV Tower, Tallinn
We (Isa and I) came to the TV Tower on the “hop on, hop off” bus, having seen it from afar and read about the great views to be had from the top. However when we arrived it was to find that there was a 45 minute wait to ascend as only 100 people are allowed up at a time. With infrequent buses we had to choose whether to go up or skip it in order to fit more into our afternoon. We did the latter and although disappointing I think it was the right decision, and we were at least able to enjoy taking photos of the tower from below from all angles.
The tower was built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, because the sailing events for these were held here in Tallinn and broadcasting these worldwide was of course essential. Construction started in 1975 and the tower opened on time on July 11th 1980, 11 days before the start of the regatta. Since then it has become a popular landmark and destination for both tourists and locals. For the latter, when Estonia was still behind the Iron Curtain, it offered a sort of window on the free world, because from the top at night one could catch a glimpse of the lights of Helsinki.
The tower is 314 metres high altogether, with the viewing platform at 170 metres. It is built in concrete and metal, with the concrete part weighing 17,500 tonnes. It was completely renovated between 2007 (when it had to be closed to the public due to safety concerns) and 2012. There is a restaurant at the top and a café in the grounds outside. As well as the tower itself, I enjoyed seeing and photographing elements of the ground floor interior, where the design elements have a sort of space-age feel to them.
If you are able to go up, the fee is 8€, and you can also get a combination ticket which includes the Botanic Gardens. I discovered too late that we could also have booked in advance online and got a priority ticket, skipping the queues, for 11€, but as our plans for the day were quite fluid I don’t think we would have done that even if we had known about it. However a year later I was back in Tallinn, this time with Chris, and we planned ahead, as you can read in my …
...next tip, up the TV Tower
Returning to Tallinn in 2015 I was keen to do some of the things I’d missed out on the previous year, including getting to the top of the Television Tower to check out the views. Having learned from last year I booked in advance to be sure of being able to go up. This cost €11 rather than €8, which is not too much more for the security of a timed slot. Having said that, we ended up running a little late, as our bus was stuck in traffic following an accident, but I called the Tower and the helpful member of staff I spoke said it was no problem and they would hold our slot. In the event I need not have worried – not only were we only about 5 minutes late (so well within the 30 minute slot allocated) but also being a Monday rather than the Sunday of my previous visit, there were no queues and we could have walked straight in at any time!
Anyway, at least the experience lived up to expectations. The views excellent on a fine day such as we had, though only the inside viewing area has the 360 degree view. And note that the exterior one a floor above this has a metal fence which will restrict your photo opportunities. The best chance of photos is through the glass of the interior floor but you may need to do a little post editing to restore the true colours, as I did on my main shot here.
The interior level has lots to do besides admire the view. Various so-called "periscopes" contain video screens which offer information about the distant sights, about the tower and fun and games for the children. If you're not afraid of heights you can look straight down through the glass circles set in the floor - or even stand on them!
We had drinks in the reasonably priced café on this level, from which you can continue to enjoy the views. There is also an upmarket restaurant – or rather, an upmarket add-on to the café. This is open in the evenings and could be a special place to enjoy a dinner, but in the day time with lots of family groups in the adjoining café the atmosphere seemed to me to be not really in line with the prices and nature of the menu.
Next tip: a nearby memorial stone
Near the TV Tower is this memorial stone. It commemorates four employees working in the tower who on 21st August 1991 during the Singing Revolution locked themselves in rooms on the 22nd floor when it came under attack from Soviet troops wanting to seize control of the communication channels, in response to a resolution by the Estonian powers in Tallinn to restore the country’s national independence. They kept the troops at bay by inserting a matchbox between the door of the lift and its frame to stop it working, forcing them to climb every one of the approximately one thousand steps. The deadlock lasted for hours, during which time the employees were able to restore Estonian Radio broadcasts which had been cut off by the Soviets. This monument by Tauno Kangro was erected in 2005.
The TV Tower website describes this event dramatically:
20 August 1991 – Soviet armoured assault forces make an attempt to seize the Tallinn TV Tower in the afternoon. People from all over Estonia rally to the defence of the tower. A handful of armed Estonian defenders barricade themselves in the top of the tower. The situation is tense. That evening the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia makes it official: Estonia is no longer part of the USSR and is once again an independent republic.
Next tip: St Bridget’s Convent
OK, it's not the most interesting sight in Tallinn, but the 134 metre high soviet era TV Tower on the outskirts of Tallinn holds a special significance for Estonians and is a symbol of their independence (Strange considering it was actually built by the Russians in 1980 for the Olympic Games!
The TV Tower is the scene of one of Estonia's most memeorable stand offs against the Russians. In 1991 that a group of Estonian radio operators held pout against an attempted Soviet takeover. The operators held the tower from the strong Russian unit by cutiing off the elevator forcing the Russians to climb the thousand steps to the top. The operaotrs were able to hold out against the Russians. Around the base of the tower you can still see bullet holes from the skirmish.
I think the TV tower is now closed to the public????
This Soviet tower opened on 7th November 1980 (Revolution Day). In August 1991, it was the scene of a stand off between Soviet troops (who wanted to seize the tower) and Estonians - eventually the Soviets back off and withdrew.
It costs about 50EEK but free with your Tallinn card. Open daily from 10am.
Go in and if and when you get it to work, you can take the wobbly lift to the top where there is a viewing platform at 170m high. In fine weather you should apparently be able to see as far as Helsinki.. however, it's dingy and the windows have been whipped with the salt from the sea so I doubt that! Perhaps you can see Helsinki if you use the telescopes up there?
There is the Galaxy Restaurant up there but that is another story!!!
The day we went to the Teletron it was bitter cold with a whippingly ice cold wind. Nobody was there, save us and it did not have a very jolly atmosphere.
Note - we waited like idiots at a bus stop but there is anctually a bus depo (out the eliments a little more also) and you can hop on the bus (with your Tallinn card) from there. The windows were so coated in salt that we couldn't see out. The bus seemed to trundle on for ever so we hopped off thinking we must have missed our stop - as luck would have it... we hopped off at our stop.
We had to wait a VERY long time to catch a bus back to Tallinn town and it was very dark and extremely cold (not much fun really!)
I would definitely advise stopping at this place. The Television Tower was under seige in 1991 from the Russian army. I remember vividly watching the drama unfold and so it felt a bit strange cosily supping on a coffee in the restaurant at the top of the tower. At the bottom of the tower there is a great example of soviet era glass artwork showing pictures of communist solidarity. The restaurant at the top offers outstanding views of the surrounding area at 170m. It really is worth stopping off because the views are amazing. Some people say that Finland can be seen on a good day but unfortunately when I arrived it was cloudy. It would cost 50 EEK each but is free with the Tallinn card.
The most memorable view from the tower had to be of the town's neighbourhood of Lasnamae. A mass of tower blocks that stretched for miles and had to be seen to be believed. Built for workers from the Soviet Union to take up jobs at factories, around 200,000 people were accomodated here.
Its worth taking a taxi ride out from the old town and going to the TV Tower. Its 170m at the restaurant-bar. So you can have a drink, lunch or dinner as its open from 10am till 12 midnight.
It costs 50 eek to enter the tower but its free if you have Tallinn card.