You know those city cards, designed for tourists with free or discounted access to attractions, restaurants, etc? They seem to be rising in popularity of late, with cities from Berlin to Toronto setting up similar all-in-one ticket schemes for visitors. The question I’ve always asked myself when I’ve seen the offers is whether the card is really worth the money or is it a false economy? Are you actually likely to save yourself money or are you paying more for the convenience of having to pay only once?
I have to admit, I’ve never actually purchased one of these cards myself but have now put two to the test, once in York, and most recently in Tallinn. In both cases the cards were gifted to me by the friendly neighbourhood tourism boards (thanks guys!), giving us free and easy access to the major attractions in the city. While we put our free cards to good use in York, we didn’t particularly keep track of what we would have saved had we paid into every attractions. So, while in Tallinn we put our cards to the test to see how much value you can get, and how much effort is required to get full a reasonable return on your investment.
Putting the Tallinn Card to the Test
We arrived in Tallinn early on Friday morning and decided to spend the day just wandering the Old Town and getting a feel for the city. This wasn’t only because we were tired, which we were, but helped to give us an idea of how far apart things were and take a look at some of the places we might like to stop off at the next day with our Tallinn Cards. Aimless wandering is best done for free, n’est ce pas?
The Tallinn Card is available to buy for either 24, 48, or 72 hours, for €24, €32, and €40 respectively. The card is valid for the specified time period from its first validation, so as we didn’t first use ours until noon on Saturday we were covered until noon on Sunday – not too shabby really.
So, what did we see with our Tallinn Cards? Quite a lot really, and if we had been slightly less lazy on Sunday morning we could have seen even more. Here’s a breakdown of our Saturday Tallinn tour (all totals are per person).
Tallinn City Tour Bus – All day, hop on, hop off double-decker bus tour with three separate tour routes and audio commentary. We took the bus out of the city to Rocca al Mare to our first destination of the day and #2 on our list. Savings €16.
Estonian Open Air Museum – The museum is located just outside of the city along the coast in the Rocca al Mare area of Tallinn. The museum is a collection of traditional homes and farms that have been moved to the park from across Estonia and give a great insight into the history and culture of Estonia. The park is beautiful and was the perfect place to spend a sunny Saturday morning. Savings €6 entry and €6.50 audio guide.
The Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin (also known as Dome church) – It just isn’t a proper holiday in Europe if you don’t climb up a really tall tower, which is precisely why we next headed to the Dome Church. The church itself isn’t the most impressive, but the views from the tower are great and the climb up gives the perfect excuse for an afternoon tasty treat. Savings €6.50.
Kiek in de Kök – You can’t go to Tallinn without visiting this famous round tower, whose name apparently translates to peep in the kitchen in Low German. The medieval tower was once part of Tallinn’s defensive system and now houses a museum showcasing the development of the defensive system, as well as medieval punishments and implements of torture. There’s also good views from the top.* Note: you have to pay an extra €1 for a photography ticket here which I refuse to do out of principle!* Savings €4.50.
Hellemann Tower and Town Walls – This is another part of Tallinn’s medieval defensive system and is yet another tower to climb. If you’ve already been to Kiek in de Kök you can probably skip it, quite frankly. One or the other is probably sufficient. Savings €3.
Dominican Monastery Calustrum – This place is weird and creepy and definitely worth the visit. There is no electricity and it well and truly feels like you’ve stepped back in time. We were told the history of the monastery by an eery lady, whom Damian is somewhat convinced was a ghost, and then left to wander ourselves. There was not another soul there (living, anyways) and the basement was lit only by candles. Strange and wonderful all at once. Savings €8.
Free truffle at Kehrwieder Chocolaterie – Great little coffee shop and cafe just off of the main square Raekoja Plats and the free truffle was delicious! It was also the perfect place to hide from the rain.
Total Cost: €50.50 +free chocolate – a total savings of €26.50!
Verdict? Resounding success I would say. We managed to fit enough into our 24 hour window to more than cover the cost of each card, and we could have done even more. One of the deals was a free hour of bowling, which Damian was determined to put to use after dinner, but I just couldn’t face it. We had also hoped to visit the Bastion Tunnels, a 17th century underground tunnel system, but unbeknownst to us an advanced booking was required. That was a little bit disappointing to find out but, c’est la vie.
After putting two of these card to the test I would definitely consider buying one again and would whole heartedly recommend the Tallinn Card to other travellers. With a bit of advanced research, and a good pair of walking shoes, value is easily had and there is very much something to be said for not having to put your hand in your pocket at every turn!
Have you ever put one of these tourist cards to the test? Are you for or against?
*Note: Our two Tallinn Cards were given to us by Tallinn Tourism but all opinions are my own*