The history of tourism in Tallinn during the Soviet Union

This is how tourists and visitors were guided and informed during their visit to Soviet Estonia! The nostalgic Tallinn.

Learn or just enjoy this exciting and historical material through pictures and texts. They bring you back to Tallinn as it once looked (or, even more interesting, how the guides wanted Tallinn to look!).

The materials come from from authentic tourist guides produced and released between 1935 and 1991.

This time span covers such historical events as the country’s early independence, the establishment of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1940s, and finally, Estonia’s independence in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR.

None of the images or quotes have been modified or edited in any way. The quotes and texts belong to the accompanying picture.

In addition, we added a short historical story to each of these hotspots.

“Tallinn. Viru Gates.”


– D. Trahtenberg, Таллин Tallinn postcard, Publishing House “Sovetskiy hudozhnik”, Leningrad, 1969

The barbican of Viru Gate was part of the defence system of Tallinn city wall built in the 14th century.

A couple of centuries later, it already had 8 gates that consisted of several towers and curtain walls connecting them. The main tower of a gate was always square and the barbicans were equipped with one or two small round towers.

As the entrances to the Old Town were widened, several gates were demolished. The Viru Gate had to pay its dues to a horse-drawn tram route that connected the Old Market with Kadriorg.

However, the corner towers were preserved; also, you can still see a part of the bastion that is called Musumägi. Viru Street with its many shops and restaurants has become one of the busiest pedestrian streets in the Old Town.

Anyone passing the towers couldn’t be blamed for thinking they’ve left the 21st century behind and landed smack in the middle of the 18th.

“The Kadriorg Palace. It now houses the Museum of Fine Arts.”


– T. Tomberg, Photo Guide Tallinn, Planeta Publishers, Moscow, 1982 (Photographs by V. Salmre)

The Kadriorg Art Museum introduces, preserves and collects early foreign art also in these days– primarily western European and Russian paintings, graphic arts, sculpture and applied arts. The museum is located in Kadriorg Park in Tallinn, in a Baroque palace built by Tsar Peter the Great of Russia as a summer residence.

Kadriorg can be considered to be the grandest example of palace and park design in Estonian architectural history. The palace, originally an imperial summer residence, has been extremely well preserved since the early 18th century. Designed to resemble the Italian palaces of the time, the palace has a facade which is three levels at the front and sides and two levels at the rear in a mix of architectural styles. A banquet hall and winter garden were added to the rear facade of the palace in 1933/34.

“Kadriorg Palace (architect N. Michetti, 18th century) houses the State Art Museum of the Estonian SSR.”

– H. Gustavson, Tallinn, Eesti Raamat, Tallinn, 1975

Joint events with Kadriorg Park, which expand the museum’s activities into the garden and park, as well as concerts and receptions, are well-suited to the personality of Estonia’s grandest Baroque palace.

“Booths on the 22nd floor. 12 noon to midnight.”


– Hotel Viru brochure (Restaurants, Café, Bars), Published in the USSR, (year unknown)

The year was 1972, and there were still two decades or so until the fall of Communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Any hotel that was appropriate for foreign visitors also had to be appropriate for the KGB.

These days the Hotel Viru accommodates the KGB Museum. This museum tells the story of more than just one hotel and the KGB: it is a treasure trove of stories of two different worlds – one which existed mostly on paper, of happy Soviet citizens living in friendship and never wanting for anything, led by a wise, all-powerful group of men in a place where there were never any accidents or catastrophes; and the other real world, which was a very different and a much tougher place to live in.

You have to book in advance to visit the museum.

“Carnival! Carnival! The rainbow of colours, costumes and masks… It is hard to describe a carnival night in Havana. And now our globe-trotter is bound for home.”


Hotell Viru Varietee brochure, Intourist, 1974

Date: 6th of May 1972. Place: Viru hotel, one of the biggest hotels of that time. On this day and at this place something very important happened. The doors of the first variete had opened then, and Lembit Mark was the one to lead it. Guests that came could see how richly the interior was decorated. Classical traditions and traditions of variete genre were reflected in the finishing of all the details. Thoroughly decorated interior plays a big role in helping the show to have the desired effect on the spectators.


– Hotell Viru Varietee brochure, Intourist, 1974

The legendary Viru Varietee was active from 1972 until 1994. It opened it’s doors again in 2006 at Sokos Hotel Viru. The shows of Viru Varietee still keep their nostalgic vibe yet are totally suitable and enjoyable for those who see it for the first time.

Viru Varietee used to be one of the most glittering calling cards of Estonia. And is one yet again!

“Meet Tallinn.”


– Tallinn Excursion Broschyre, Tallinna Ekskursioonibüroo, Kirjastus “Kunst”, Trükikoda “Kommunist”, Tallinn, 1965

The legendary cinema “Kosmos” building is located in the very heart of Tallinn centre. When the cinema was opened in 1964, it could accommodate 1015 viewers, and the area of the screen reached 240 square meters. It was the largest and the most advanced screening hall in the Baltics of the period, and Tallinn residents took pride in it.

The Cinema has opened its doors again after substantial renovation to once more become the most advanced IMAX cinema in the Baltic states.

Built over half a century ago and fully refurbished in 2014, it has once again become the most modern cinema in Estonia with the most sophisticated technology. Kosmos is not only a monument of its era but also one of the architectural symbols of 1960s.

In 1997 the Kosmos cinema was entered in the register of protected landmarked buildings. Get your tickets and go and see movie there!

“Tallinn port.”


– K. Itra, Eesti, Perioodika, Tallinn, 1974

Tallinn is the oldest capital city in the Baltic Sea region. Elder cities are considered to be “the sons of the sea” – a convenient mooring place developed into a harbour forming a town of merchants around it. The traces of ancient ports can be found in coastal rubble or primeval tombs.

Historically the Baltic Sea region has acted as a major transport corridor both in itself and for the rest of the world; during the Middle Ages the Hanseatic League, uniting towns around the Baltic Sea, formed the most dominating trading bloc in the world. Today, the Baltic Sea region is the fastest growing business region in Europe.

In order to fit effectively into the competitive environment, Port of Tallinn underwent a complete restructuring process in the mid 1990s by developing from a service port into a port of landlord type. In 1999, the last cargo handling operations were finally given into the hands of private companies.

Today, Port of Tallinn operates as a landlord type of port with no cargo handling operations of its own. It is maintaining and developing the infrastructure of the port and leasing territories to terminal operators through building titles giving the operators an incentive to invest into superstructure and technology.

“The Town Hall of Tallinn (accomplished in 1404) is the only medieval town-hall in the entire Soviet Union and likewise in North Europe. The symbolic guardsman of the city, Old Thomas, has been occupying his position since 1530.”


– R. Pangsepp, Tallinn, Eesti Raamat, Tallinn, 1974The Town Hall of Tallinn is the oldest surviving town hall in the Baltic countries and Scandinavia.

The town hall first mentioned in a real estate record in 1322 had a large meeting room (consistorium) and, considering the times, a huge warehouse (cellarium civitatis). Three walls and seven windows representing Tallinn’s oldest secular architecture have come down to our days from that building.

In its present form it was completed in 1404 when Tallinn was a flourishing Hanseatic city.The management of the city worked in the Town Hall until 1970. Since 1975 the Town Hall functions as the ceremonial building of the city government, but it also serves as a concert hall and a museum.

P.S. Make sure you know how to visit The Town Hall of Tallinn in the winter time.



The materials  from tourist guides have been collected and digitalised by The Tallinn Collector.


Sources and original posts:

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