The Estonian Submarine Lembit

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a museum in Tallinn that I definitely recommend visiting is the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour. Now, the museum’s name is somewhat misleading because it’s not actually an aviation museum but a maritime one. Regardless, it is stocked with interesting examples of boats, buoys, naval weapons, scale models of ships and, of particular note, an actual pre-WW2 submarine used by the Estonian navy.

Christened the Lembit, she was one of two Kalev-class submarines built in England during the 1930s. The submarine was a mine-laying vessel and saw action on a few occasions, damaging other ships with her mines and a torpedo. The Lembit is presently on display inside Lennusadam and visitors can explore both her exterior and interior.

While walking around the deck I had the impression that the submarine wasn’t exactly a small boat. This then made me marvel at the modern submarines of today, because those vessels are larger than the Lembit by orders of magnitude. It boggles the mind that these massive tubes of steel are traversing the world’s oceans completely unseen.

Access to the inside of the submarine is via the torpedo loading hatch. The torpedo room is the first compartment greeting visitors, and one will be able to see four torpedo tubes therein.

The torpedo loading hatch serves as the entry point to the Lembit
Torpedo room

From there one can move towards the Lembit’s stern, viewing the various compartments of the ship. At certain locations there are recorded audio clips and exhibits detailing life onboard the submarine.

While taking a look at the inner workings of the Lembit, it helps to remember that she sailed with a complement of 32 men. The interior isn’t so spacious anymore when one considers the number of submariners who would’ve inevitably got in each others’ way while going about their daily tasks. I can imagine that the ship must’ve been rather warm with the engines running as well, unlike the air-conditioned state that she’s in today.

Officers’ mess


A submariner’s personal belongings

There’s much more to see than the Lembit at Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour, though! I quite enjoyed walking through the exhibit of Soviet-era anti-aircraft artillery and naval guns (like the ones pictured below). These are not replicas – they were previously in use by the military.



Don’t forget to have a look at the exhibits outside the museum! There are a handful of ships and anchors of various designs to be explored. One could also walk the length of the jetty and enjoy a view of the Gulf of Finland at the end.

The Patarei Sea Fortress Prison is very close by and one can pop over from Lennusadam to have a look at the structure. Since the prison is no longer open to visitors, this is the closest to it that one can get.

When you’re done with Lennusadam you might want to consider walking through the Kalamaja Cemetery Park (Kalamaja kalmistupark; not creepy at all don’t worry) to explore the Kalamaja area with its wooden houses. Feel free to drop by the restaurant Sesoon for a meal or a refreshment – I’ve read good things about it, although I never had the chance to visit it.

So much to do outside Tallinn’s Old Town!