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Photo by: Kaupo Kalda

Photo by: Noora Karppi

How to celebrate Estonian Independence Day in Tallinn like a local

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24 February is the national day of Estonia, marking its declaration of freedom in 1918. If you happen to be in town or you're planning to visit, here are some tips on how to celebrate Independence Day like a true local. 

Morning

Biggest tip: At sunrise, at 7:34 a.m., passionate citizens gather at a flag-hoisting ceremony in a park next to Toompea castle. The ceremony starts with the hoisting of the sinimustvalge (blue, black, white) flag, along with singing the Estonian National Anthem, Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm, followed by speeches and more singing. 


Hard-labour-tip: Make your own sinimustvalge. Print out the file, colour the upper part blue, middle part black and leave the lower part white. Do it for both sides. Cut the flag out, glue it on a stick, and you are ready to go!

Extra tip: As the winter mornings can be quite cold, enjoy a warm drink and blue-black-white cakes with fellow Estonians afterwards. Many of the cafés and restaurants in the city centre open their doors earlier than usual and/or have special brunch menus. Any café in the Old Town will do, but for amazing views in medieval surroundings opt for blueberry soup and "patriot's porridge" in the Maiden's Tower or, if you wish to celebrate in the style of a 17th-century merchant, try the hearty buffet breakfast at Peppersack.  

Photo by: Kadi-Liis Koppel

Noon

Must-visit-tip: at 12 p.m, the Defence Forces’ parade kicks off on Freedom Square (Vabaduse väljak) with more than 800 soldiers from Estonia and allied countries. If you are not into military stuff and parade music, check it out anyway, because the President, Kersti Kaljulaid, will be there, and the parade is a must for Estonians and visitors alike! 


For-families-tip: after the parade, kids and adults alike are invited to have an up-close view of many of the featured military vehicles. Or, if you wish to avoid parades altogether but still take part in the celebrations, check out the thematic events at the Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum and at the Vabamu Museum of Occupation and Freedom.    

Lunch-time-tip:  Have a real national lunch at one of the many restaurants serving Estonian cuisine. Or simply choose any café that has kiluvõileib (salted sprat sandwich) on their menu. Afterwards, stroll around the town if the weather is nice, and see if you can find any buildings that do not have the sinimustvalge flying by the door.

Evening

Restaurant-tip: in the spirit of celebration have dinner at a nice restaurant. For inspiration, check out the recommendations by the White Guide Nordic

TV-tip:
 many Estonians will be glued to the TV on Independence Day. The President's reception (jokingly called the "Penguin Parade" by the locals) is broadcast live by Estonian Public Broadcasting on ETV so that you won’t miss a thing! Watch the show and comment on the clothing. If it’s a good year, someone will show up at the reception with an unexpected partner or an outrageous dress, and that will give you lots to talk about over the following days with fellow Estonians.

Learning tip: get ahead with your Estonian studies. Start with the basics on how to greet people on that day. Say "palju õnne Vabariigi aastapäeva puhul!". Continue the language course by watching (yes, more TV...) the national cinema classic Nimed Marmortahvlil (Names in Marble). It is a film about young boys in the Estonian War of Independence that took place in 1918-1920. The film will increase your appreciation of being able to go to bed in an independent Estonia.

Museums

When planning visits, keep in mind that 24 February is a national holiday so the opening hours of different attractions, shops etc. are subject to change.

Every traveller's best buddy, the Tallinn Card, has put together a (non-inclusive) list of museums and attractions that are guaranteed to be open on Independence Day (and are free with Tallinn Card).

See our related blog posts