A 2,5 km long interesting walkway through the historical part of Tallinn’s seaside – this is called Tallinn Culture Kilometre (Kultuurikilomeeter). It definitely cannot be considered as a traditional tourist route but it is definitely something special with plenty of historical and industrial vibes from different eras. The Culture Kilometre offers a great chance to see Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, from a completely different perspective away from the city centre tourist crowds.
Tallinn Culture Kilometre connects Linnahall area with Kalamaja Cemetery Park and Noblessner Port, and offers plenty of things to see along the way: rundown factories turned into museums, ruins of old industrial buildings, odd structures dating back to the Soviet era, ugly garages, railroad track remnants, navy buildings and empty plots but also fancy upscale residential buildings and houses being built right next to old, rundown ones.
Originally in 2011 when Tallinn was the Culture Capital of Europe, a former railway embankment was converted into a walking trail called “the Culture Kilometre” (Kultuurikilomeeter). Today only a small part of the original walkway exists as the seaside area is undergoing major redevelopment.
The sandy walkway of Tallinn Culture Kilometre starts behind Tallink Spa and Congress Hotel by the harbour and passes Linnahall, an abandoned concert and sports venue from the Soviet times. To me this grey, rundown gigantic concrete bunker with graffiti all over looks like the scariest eyesore ever. However climbing up to the top of the building is rewarding as it gives a 360 degree view of the city and the sea.
The official starting point of Tallinn Culture Kilometre is located by Linnahall car park with Tallinn Creative Hub on the left and Contemporary Art Museum Estonia and Lugemik Bookshop on the right. The Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel), a venue and creative centre for events, workshops, performances and festivals is a similar place to the Cable Factory in Helsinki. The Contemporary Art Museum Estonia (Eesti Kaasaegse Kunsti Muuseum) hosts exhibitions by young Estonian artists. In the museum courtyard, Lugemik Bookshop offers a selection of publications on contemporary art and culture etc.
Next along the Culture Kilometre you will find Estonian Design House (Eesti Disaini Maja) with Estonian design showroom and shop as well as design studios. Cafe Klaus with a beautiful outdoor terrace is located conveniently in the same building. On a Saturday pop into the Fish Market right next door on the other side of the road.
After the Estonian Design House the Culture Kilometre changes into a newly paved road called Kalaranna with wide sidewalks. Keep going until you reach the Patarei Prison and Sea Fortress on the right. This imposing seaside complex is a good place to peek into the Soviet era prison life in all its misery. I found this place the most interesting along the Culture Kilometre. Originally opened as a sea fortress in 1840, later functioning as Russian army barracks, and from 1920 onwards as a high security prison under several regimes until 2004, the place has been left practically untouched since. Here you get to explore the hallways to see cells, work areas, exercise yards, hanging rooms and much more. Make sure you don’t miss the operation rooms in the medical wing.
At Sea Plane Harbour (Lennusadam), which is part of the Estonian Maritime Museum, the exhibitions in the historical seaplane hangars tell captivating stories from under the water, on the water and above the water. The outdoor exhibition area accommodates icebreakers, ships and canons just to name a few. Good fun for children and adults alike.
Further along the Culture Kilometre you will find Kalamaja Cemetery Park (Kalmistupark), a former cemetery, today a large public park with no immediate visible indication of its previous status. However a small sign with a very short description has been put on the site at the restored chapel. It is a lovely, leafy park with children playing around and locals having a picnic. Stop by, sit down and take a break.
Tallinn Culture Kilometre ends at Port Noblessner dating back to 1912, when Alfred Nobel’s nephew Emanuel Nobel and a torpedo manufacturer Gustav Lessner established a submarine plant on the site to serve the navy of the Russian Tsar. The Noblessner area has been closed for citizens and visitors for nearly a hundred years due to its strategically military functions, but is open today with services such as a visitor harbour, yacht club, concert venue and Cafe Noble.
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