In 2022, Tallinn was named as one of the UNESCO Cities of Music. The capital of Estonia is a city deeply connected to music; it brings the nation together as both a thriving cultural hub, as well as the home to our beloved Song Festival, a UNESCO world heritage event. In Tallinn, music is always in the air – from classical music concerts and pop gigs to jazz sessions and electronic music events.
What makes Tallinn a city of music
Music has been the way Estonians sustain their culture and sense of belonging from the very beginning. Before writing became prevalent, it was oral stories, often performed in song, that carried our culture forward in time. The Song Festivals were born from a feeling of connection to our land and unity as a people as part of our national awakening, which in turn led to the creation of our independent nation in 1918. Ever since Tallinn became home to the Song Festivals in 1928, the city has carried and preserved our culture in one of the most important ways possible.
This was echoed during the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, when hundreds of thousands of Estonians gathered to the Song Festival Grounds in Tallinn to peacefully protest the regime through song.
Tallinn is also a city of composers and new music, having witnessed the emergence of several unique music styles. It was while working in Tallinn that Arvo Pärt achieved his own personal style tintinnabuli, which has made the composer the world’s most widely-performed living classical music composer. Thanks to composer Veljo Tormis, a dying tradition of the runic song was given a fresh form with a relation to art music. Today, the runic song has influenced various musical styles, from classical to pop and rock.
A year-round cycle of impressive music events
Tallinn is home to outstanding musical events of all kinds, including several renowned international festivals that take place in unique venues and even on the streets. Jazzkaar has risen from humble beginnings in 1990, to one of the most important Jazz festivals in Northern Europe. World-class artists gather in Tallinn in the spring and showcase the best and the new in jazz music. The annual Tallinn Music Week, or TMW for short, is an international festival that combines a diverse range of concerts with an extensive conference programme. The Estonian Music Days showcase the best of contemporary Estonian music.
Every year, Tallinn also welcomes numerous large-scale concerts from world-famous international and domestic music stars.
Every day is not a festival but finding a place to enjoy live music will not be difficult in Tallinn. In addition to many larger concert venues, music is also performed live in restaurants, cafés and smaller clubs. A list of all concerts in Tallinn can be found in our event calendar.
The history of music in Tallinn is fascinating and for those interested to learn more, we recommend visiting the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum. Located in Tallinn’s Old Town, the museum looks at Estonian history through the lens of music and stories.
The Song Festivals Grounds’ new visitor centre sheds light on the history of Song Festivals in Tallinn throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Additionally, the visitor centre tells the story of the Singing Revolution and showcases fascinating memorabilia and records from this incredibly important time in the history of Estonia.
Guided tours related to music offer an even more in-depth experience, and there are several to choose from in Tallinn.