Introduction To Tallinn, Estonia
We spent a month in the Estonia capital of Tallinn and want to share our experience with you in hopes of helping you plan your own Tallinn trip.
Below you will find our guide to the top things to do in Tallinn, Estonia, including the best things to see, outdoorsy activities, Tallinn hotels, where to eat, and how to get to and around Tallinn.
There are so many things to do in Estonia. Hopefully, Tallinn is just part of your trip, but a big part as it has a historically rich and interesting history, as well as an exciting, modern present.
Tallinn is a very family-friendly city, but it also has a vibrant nightlife for those who want to explore its many nightclubs and bars.
There are enough things to do when you visit Tallinn to fill a month or more, but I’ve also included what to do in Tallinn, Estonia in one-day and tips for a several-day stay.
Here is what you will find in this Tallinn Planning Guide:
- Introduction To Tallinn, Estonia
- Your Tallinn Travel Guide
- Getting To Tallinn, Estonia and Around the City
- Sustainable Tourism in Tallinn
- What To See In Tallinn Old Town
- Free Walking Tour Tallinn
- Make Chocolate at Chocolala
- KGB Cells
- KGB Museum
- Kiek in de Kök and Bastion Passages Museum
- Estonian Museum of Natural History / Eesti Loodusmuuseum
- Tallinn Events and Festivals
- Outside Tallinn Old Town
- Seaplane Museum
- Kadriorg Park and Kadriorg Palace
- Telliskivi Creative City and Kalamaja
- InGame Escape Room
- Cat Café Nurri / Nurri Kassikohvik
- Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Tallinn
- Botanical Gardens / Television Tower
- Tallinn Beach / Pirita Beach
- Open Air Museum
- Nõmme – Food, Market, Bog Walk
- Tallinn Restaurants
- Accommodation in Tallinn, Estonia
- One Day in Tallinn
- Day Trips From Tallinn
- Books Set In Estonia
- Movies Set in Estonia
There are also a lot of Day Trips from Tallinn when you are ready to explore outside of the city.
Your Tallinn Travel Guide
A few things to consider when planning your trip to Tallinn include: Tallinn’s location, the time of year and weather, the currency, the amount of time in Tallinn, what to do in Tallinn, and whether a museum pass makes sense.
Where is Tallinn, Estonia?
Estonia is one of the Baltic States and a former Soviet Republic (you remember the USSR, right?). It is on the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki. To the east is Russia, to the south is Latvia, and to the west is the Baltic Sea.
Tallinn is on the northern coast of Estonia.
Estonia, Tallinn Map
Tallinn, Estonia Weather
The Tallinn weather depends on the time of year you visit, of course. We spent the month of July there and it didn’t get to 70-degrees F more than one or two days.
Annual Weather Averages
July is the hottest month in Tallinn with an average temperature of 64°F (18°C) and the coldest is February at 23°F (-5°C). The wettest month is November with an average of 55mm of rain.
You can see the average high and low temperatures and the average rainfall for Tallinn in these graphs from Holiday Weather.
It is generally fairly cool and wet.
Currency in Tallinn
Estonia uses the Euro as its currency. Other than for tipping tour guides, we really didn’t use cash at all and found we could use a credit card or Apple Pay wherever we were. There are cash machines readily available if you find you need cash.
Current Time in Tallinn
To find the current time, Tallinn is in the Eastern European Time Zone (UTC/GMT +3). That puts it 10 hours ahead of Los Angeles, seven hours ahead of New York, and two hours ahead of the U.K.
Like many cities, Tallinn has a discount card for attractions and transportation. With the Tallinn Card you get:
- Free entry to over 40 top attractions and museums (including almost everything listed in this Tallinn guide)
- Free travel on public transport
- Discounts to sightseeing tours, activities, shops, and restaurants
- With Tallinn Card PLUS you also get free use of the Hop On Hop Off Bus. The Tallinn Hop On Hop Off Bus goes to almost all of the attractions listed below)
Before you decide whether it makes sense to buy the card or not, use the Tallinn Card Calculator to see if it’s worth it.
You can purchase the Tallinn Card for 24, 48, or 72 hours and with an adult card you can bring two children under seven-years-old for free, which is a good deal if you are doing Tallinn with kids.
Purchase the Tallinn Card at hotels, museums, or the Tourist Information Center in Old Town. (As a disclaimer, we were each given a 24 hour Tallinn Card.)
Tallinn Port Cruise Schedule
When planning what to do in Tallinn, you might want to consider the cruise schedule. The cruise ships dock in the port for the day and thousands of people pour into Old Town (and the alcohol stores, but that’s mostly Finns coming over for a cheap booze run).
You probably can’t avoid the throngs, but take a look at the schedule anyway.
Sustainable Tourism in Tallinn
Eco travel is important to me (as you can see in this article about sustainable travel), so what makes Tallinn good for the eco-conscious traveler?
- Tallinn is one of the top ten cities with the cleanest air.
- There are about 40 km2 of public green spaces in Tallinn, which is more than 25% of its total acreage and 90 m2 per resident.
- Tallinn’s city center is compact and easy to walk around.
- Tallinn was the first European capital to offer free public transport to its inhabitants (in 2013).
- There are many cycling and running paths in the city, as well as bikes and scooters for rent.
- Tallinn is great for local veggies, meat, fish, and dairy. Estonian food products are easy to find in markets and restaurants.
- Estonia is one of the most advanced e-societies in the world, making the country very online-based. Instead of papers and folders, all important information can be found on the internet. Card payments are also accepted all around the country.
- Estonia is also known for its worldwide community activities day “Teeme ära!” (Let’s do it!). Having started as a local litter clean-up day, it has gone international, with 150 countries participating in 2018.
- Green Key is a voluntary eco-label awarded to more than 3,000 hotels and other establishments in 56 countries. In Tallinn, there are 10 hotels adhering to the strict criteria set by the Foundation for Environmental Education. Read about each of these ten hotels in Tallinn in the accommodation section below.
There is even more in Tallinn and Estonia for the eco traveler, but this gives you a good feel for their sustainability efforts.
What To See In Tallinn Old Town
On every list of things to see in Estonia, medieval Old Town Tallinn tops the list. And for good reason: this perfectly preserved medieval town with its narrow cobblestone roads and colorful buildings and churches grabs your imagination right away. The 500-year-old buildings look straight out of a fairy tale.
Tallinn’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The World Heritage Centre writes, “The origins of Tallinn date back to the 13th century, when a castle was built there by the crusading knights of the Teutonic Order. It developed as a major centre of the Hanseatic League, and its wealth is demonstrated by the opulence of the public buildings (the churches in particular) and the domestic architecture of the merchants’ houses, which have survived to a remarkable degree despite the ravages of fire and war in the intervening centuries.”
Old Town is divided into two parts: Lower Town (All-linn) and Upper Town (Toompea). Toompea is on the hill. It’s where the town originated and where the castle once stood. Now it is home to the Parliament building, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, embassies, and of course, tourist shops. The edge of the hill is the best place to get a panoramic photo of the Lower Town and the modern new town.
All-linn, or the Lower Town, is where the merchants set up shop and really built Tallinn into a vibrant and important city. You’ll find the Town Square with Town Hall on one side, St. Olaf’s Church (the tallest building in Europe during the 16th and early 17th century and visible from almost anywhere in Tallinn), and more tourist shops and restaurants than you can imagine. You also access the towers and tower walls from the Lower Town.
The Old Town is ringed with parks and greenways, which we found very nice to walk through, play on the playgrounds, and find a bench in to sit and ponder. There are beautiful churches in Tallinn, which you can admire from both the inside and outside.
The Tallinn tourist information office is centrally located in the Lower Town and you can pick up a Tallinn Old Town map and lots of information about what to see in Tallinn, Estonia. Of course, I am going to fill you in on everything, so you don’t really need to visit Tallinn tourism unless you want paper maps or to purchase a Tallinn Card.
While we loved the Old Town, we also found it too touristy. It’s something we are glad we saw and spent some time exploring, but there isn’t really a heart to it. It feels a little like a theme park as everything is geared toward tourists; no one seems to live there or run any businesses not related to tourism. People in medieval costumes try to lure you into the torture museum or themed restaurants. Since it is walking distance from the ports, the town fills with thousands of people that pour off the cruise ships.
Old Town Tallinn still tops the list if what to do in Estonia, you just need to know what you are getting into and then you can appreciate it.
Free Walking Tour Tallinn
As with any city we visit, our Tallinn things to do agenda started with a free walking tour.
We joined Tales of Reval for their four daily performance tours. The guides are costumed actors who assume a character of someone who would have lived in medieval Tallinn. We found the tour to be both really entertaining and interesting. We learned a lot and it was a kid-friendly tour of Tallinn.
There are other free tours. EstAdventures offers three free walking tours of Tallinn: an Old Town Tour, a communist Tallinn tour, and a street art tour. I don’t know why we didn’t do one of these, but I wish we had.
As always, tip your guide. That’s how they earn a living.
Make Chocolate at Chocolala
A unique thing to do in Tallinn with kids (or without) is to take a chocolate making workshop at Chocolala. If you know me, you know this was a highlight. We ate and drank so much chocolate during the workshop and each took home a box of 16 chocolates that we made ourselves.
Jaan guided us through the making of the chocolates and was fun to talk to about chocolate, his travels, and life in Estonia.
Besides stuffing ourselves with chocolate, we learned a lot about the chocolate making process and chocolate in Estonia.
Add this to your “Tallinn What To Do” list and even if you don’t take the workshop, make sure you stop in to sample these yummy chocolates.
Kiek in de Kök and Bastion Passages Museum
There are a couple places to visit in Tallinn where you can get inside the towers and ramparts that surround the medieval Old Town. We visited the Kiek in de Kök (Dutch for “peek in the kitchen” as you can see into kitchens in town from the top of the tower) and the Bastion Passages Museum.
Kiek in de Kök is an artillery tower in Tallinn, Estonia, built in 1475 when the Danish were running the place. You get a good understanding of the founding of Tallinn and the Danish period. We especially liked the quirky movie narrated by some sort of bog creature. It was weird and educational – a perfect worldschooling mix.
There are lots of good Tallinn sightseeing opportunities here as you can peek out the window, not into kitchens, but across Old Town and out to the port and Gulf of Finland. You can also walk along the walls and get cocktails and pastries in the café in the Maiden’s Tower.
You can access the Bastion Passages from the same entrance as the Kiek in de Kök. These are passages in the bastion that protected the city. They were used to move people and artillery safely. There was some weird stuff in there that we didn’t really understand, like a movie about a lost cat and soviet era paraphernalia. We should have gotten the audio tour to explain it.
Grab a blanket from Kiek in de Kök because it gets colder in the passages than you would expect.
Many of the Tallinn attractions are related to the people that occupied Estonia. It has a long history of being subjugated! The Soviet Red Army occupied Estonia from 1944 to 1991.
When I was growing up it was part of the Soviet Union. Because of this, there is a lot of Soviet history in Estonia. If you want to learn about the Soviet era in Estonia, Tallinn is a good place to do it.
The KGB Cells are actual concrete cells where the KGB kept prisoners. It’s a gruesome story, but visiting the KGB Cells in Tallinn feels somber, but not horrific. It’s a small, but worthwhile museum. If you had to choose between the KGB Cells and the KGB Museum (below), I’d pick the cells.
Another place you can learn about Soviet occupation is the KGB Museum in the Viru Hotel. In Soviet times, most foreigners and business travelers stayed in the Viru Hotel.
The KGB had an office on the 23rd floor and bugged the rooms to listen in on what people were saying.
The KGB office is one of the Tallinn museums you should visit if you are into Soviet era history.
You’ll see uniforms, cameras, spy equipment, and paraphernalia.
Since this is one of the top things to see in Tallinn, you have to sign up and take a tour. It does fill up. The museum is small, but worth a look if you have time. The KGB Museum is just outside of the Old Town.
You can still stay at the Hotel Viru (now called Original Sokos Hotel Viru). It’s one of the best hotels in Tallinn, Estonia, given it’s history, ideal location on the edge of Old Town and Tallinn City Center, good, clean rooms, and yummy breakfast.
Find the best deals on Tallinn’s Hotel Viru here. Be sure to put in the dates you are looking for as rates change seasonally.
Estonian Museum of Natural History / Eesti Loodusmuuseum
A Natural History Museum wouldn’t normally be considered one of the Tallinn points of interest, but we really like natural history museums. I, in particular, connect to places through landscape and nature, so better understanding what lives and grows in a country is a priority.
Tallinn’s Natural History Museum is small, but well done. Exhibits are either in English or you can listen to an audio tour about them in English.
Tallinn Events and Festivals
There seems to be festivals and events in Tallinn year round. We were there during the Song Festival, which happens every five years. I felt so lucky since Estonians say that singing is the one thing that still brings the whole country together. If you want to know the history behind the importance of singing in Estonia, or just some history, watch The Singing Revolution (it’s free with Prime Video).
June is also the time for Medieval Days, which take place all around Estonia, and the Maritime Festival.
See the Visit Tallinn website for events taking place during your visit to Tallinn.
Best Things To Do in Tallinn Not in Old Town
Seaplane Harbor Estonian Maritime Museum / Lennusadam
I was pleasantly surprised by Seaplane Harbor. I thought it would be interesting, but not as interesting as it was. There are a lot of interactive exhibits, including VR goggles, flight simulators, and a green screen where you can take goofy photos wearing Russian naval uniforms. We went inside a submarine, watched movies about ice yachts, and ogled at all manner of boats and buoys.
I’d consider this one of the top 10 things to do in Tallinn for children or adults.
In addition to all the planes, boats, and submarines inside the huge concrete hanger, there is an icebreaker ship in the harbor you can visit.
Kadriorg Park and Kadriorg Palace
It’s hard to choose among the best things to do Tallinn has to offer, but one of ours was walking through Kadriorg Park and having drinks and pastries in the outdoor café. It’s a beautiful park with a pond and fountains, formal flower gardens, a rose garden, Japanese garden, and meadows with trees.
We went a few times to stroll through the park and enjoy a slow day outside. There were plenty of tourists around the palace and café, but also lots of locals running the paths or pushing their babies in prams. It felt like a place used by people who live in Tallinn.
Not surprising in Tallinn, Estonia, things to do abound in the park. We just wandered (and lounged outside at the café), but you can visit Kadriorg Palace built by Russian Tzar, Peter I for Catherine, and some of the museums including KUMU (the Estonian Art Museum), Kadriorg Art Museum, and the Mikkeli Museum. You’ll also see monuments to such cultural figures as sculptor Amandus Adamson, author F. R. Kreutzwald, and artist Jaan Koort.
If you are in Tallinn with kids, check out the playground or the small amusement park.
Telliskivi Creative City and Kalamaja
Across the Tallinn Railway Station from Old Town, you’ll find Telliskivi Creative City and Kalamaja. In between the two is the Balti Jam Turg – a great indoor/outdoor market with local produce, meats, and cheeses, and a bunch of boutique shops.
Telliskivi is an industrial part of town turned artsy and hipster. We loved the market and food trucks, street art / urban graffiti and overall creative vibe. This area is a Tallinn must see, even if you just walk through. It’s where Rahva Raamat Bookstore, which sells books by Estonian writers in English and delicious cocktails (I recommend the aromatic gin with rosewater lemonade). I guess it’s a chain, but it’s still a cool bookstore/café.
There are lots of nightclubs and events, as well, but we didn’t go to any of them.
Kalamaja is adjacent to Telliskivi on the other side of the Balti Jam Market and runs down to the coast of Tallinn Bay. It’s beautiful old wooden houses, some shops, and one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Tallinn. While it would be cool to stay here, there isn’t much to do expect walk through, admire the buildings and pop into a few shops.
InGame Escape Room
Ever since we played the escape room in Ljubljana, Slovenia for Anders’ 10th birthday, we’ve wanted to go again. Finn is turning 10 soon and wanted to add an escape room to his early-birthday list.
We love puzzling our way out of escape rooms and Tallinn has several. We chose InGame Escape Room Tallinn (called iLocked on Google Maps) because they had a Harry Potter-themed set of rooms. This seemed to be the best escape room in Tallinn for kids.
Figuring it out was hard enough to be fun and challenging, but not so hard we were frustrated. And we all contributed to solving the riddles. This was one of the fun Tallinn activities for a rainy day or just to do something different. And you know we love Harry Potter! Knowing the Harry Potter story is not necessary for this escape room. They have two other rooms with different themes.
Cat Café Nurri / Nurri Kassikohvik
We’ve been to cat cafés in Ljubljana, Edinburgh, and St. Petersburg, so of course Cat Café Nurri became one of our favorite cafés in Tallinn. It’s near the Tallinn City Centre and a cute park where the kids liked jumping over fountains.
One thing that makes this cat café special is that the cats are up for adoption. This is a great way for people to get to know them. We were not in the market for a cat, but we did enjoy sipping wine and hot chocolate while playing with cats. They also serve food.
If you get a Cashback World card (free) while you are there, you’ll get 10% off on food and drink. There is a charge of 5€ to get in (kids 19 and under are free).
Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Tallinn
I was looking for outdoorsy things to do in Tallinn and found Suppama. They offer evening SUP tours on the Pirita River, morning hike and SUP yoga tours in a bog about an hour from Tallinn, and SUP rentals. It’s hard to tell from the website what tours they offer, so it’s best to just email or message them.
We spent a lovely evening with Janek and a few other paddle boarders on the Pirita River in Tallinn (it’s on the east end of the city, so take a Bolt to get there if you don’t have a car). Janek was engaging and interesting and answered all our Estonia-related questions.
At the end of July, the sun sets around 10:30 pm, so we started at 8 pm, paddled up the calm river, jumped in for a swim, and then paddled back down to a small harbor where the river meets the Gulf of Finland to watch a spectacular sunset.
The paddling was very easy. Kids will have no problem on this SUP tour in Tallinn, but littles can always ride on a parent’s board. Life jackets are provided and kids need to wear them.
One of the nice things about this evening tour is that you can still get to all the places to see in Tallinn during the day and wind down with this relaxing evening activity. (Thanks to Suppama for the complimentary tour!)
Tallinn Botanic Garden / Tallinna Botaanikaaed and Television Tower / Tallinna Teletorn
We love visiting botanic gardens around the world, so Anders and I took a Bolt about 10 km outside the city to the Tallinn Botanic Gardens. We mostly wandered the paths through the park-like setting. There are a couple big greenhouses and a café. While I wouldn’t consider this a must see in Tallinn, it is a lovely place to wander around for a couple hours in nice weather.
We didn’t visit the television tower in Tallinn, but it’s a three-minute walk from the botanic gardens and could easily be combined into one trip. The Tallinn Television Tower or Teletorn has a viewing platform, restaurant, exhibits, children’s play area, and you can base jump from it or “walk on the edge.” They recommend buying tickets in advance. If you watch The Singing Revolution, you’ll see the important role the Television Tower played in Estonia’s independence.
Tallinn Beach / Pirita Beach
If you are looking for what to visit in Tallinn on a sunny day, the beach is the way to go. We went on a Sunday during the first sunny, warm day in a long time and it was crazy crowded. We had a great time, but we had to get over the mass of humanity at first and consider families enjoying themselves at the beach as one of the Tallinn sights.
The water is cool, but not as cold as I expected for so far north. And it is shallow for a long way out and calm. It’s a great beach for kids. There are ice cream and other food stands and bathrooms at the west end. On a warm day in Tallinn, what to see should include this Estonian beach.
The Pirita Beach Apartments and Spa is right on the beach and would be a lovely hotel in Tallinn for a relaxing holiday.
Estonian Open Air Museum
Henry and the kids visited the Estonian Open Air Museum about a 15-minute drive from Tallinn. The living history museum showcases the country’s rural architecture and way of life. There were a couple people in period costumes to talk about how people lived and signs (in English) explaining what they were seeing.
The 14 farms in the museum provide an overview of how families from different strata of society lived in the 18–20th centuries. There is a church, an inn, a schoolhouse, mills, a fire station, a shop, and fishing sheds by the sea. This is one of the best Tallinn tourist attractions for understanding this time period from a rural perspective.
If you have some euros burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy handicrafts, ride horses, or try traditional Estonian dishes at the inn.
Nõmme – Food, Market, Bog Walk
A visit to the suburb of Nomme should be on everyone’s Tallinn Top 10 list if you have a few days to explore. It feels like you are in a country town away from the city, but it’s actually quite close to the city center.
We started our day with brunch on the deck at KIUS Resto and Kohvikum for the best breakfast in Tallinn. Their lovely, covered deck was a great place to begin a relaxing day.
After filling up on local food, we wandered through the Nomme Market / Nõmme Turg next door. In the middle of summer, it was full of local berries, produce, and flowers. There’s also a bakery, café, and meat and cheese sellers.
Full of raspberries and sugar peas, we hopped in a Bolt to Pääsküla Bog. We really wanted to visit a bog while in Estonia and this was easy to access. We wandered the trails and boardwalks and climbed the watchtower. I think it would have been even better during the wet season, but we enjoyed wandering the trails.
We walked back to Nõmme and had dessert and cocktails at KIUS. You have to try the lumepallisupp or “snowball soup.” It’s a traditional Estonian dessert and quite lovely.
It’s hard to pick one best restaurant in Tallinn since there are so many types of restaurants.
- I mentioned KIUS Resto and Kohvikum in Nõmme, a suburb of Tallinn as our favorite restaurant for atmosphere and food.
- For Tallinn restaurants Old Town, you may want to try Olde Hansa. It looks kitschy and touristy, which is it, but a local resident and food photographer told me it is well done and fun. The medieval theme is carried out in the decorations and food. The staff is dressed in costumes and you can order bear. It is medieval Estonian food at its best.
- For a modern Estonian restaurant, Tallinn has a lot to offer. MEKK (Modern Estonian Cuisine) serves modern Estonian dishes (as the name implies) and is located on Suur-Karja street in the Old Town of Tallinn.
- For a trendy restaurant on the border of Telliskivi and Kalamaja, we liked Restoran Ülo at Kopli 16. They have indoor and outdoor seating, delicious vegetarian fare as well as meat options, and yummy drinks.
- Katharinenthal in Kadriorg Park is a delightful café with a view of the Swam Pond and fountains. There is a small indoor seating area and a large patio.
Accommodation in Tallinn, Estonia
As mentioned in the sustainability section above, there are ten hotels in Tallinn that meet Green Key criteria. While not every eco-friendly hotel in Tallinn has the certification, these are a good place to start.
For Estonia hotels, Tallinn has some of the best.
Tallinn Hotels Old Town or Near Old Town
Nordic Hotel Forum — a four-star business and conference hotel in the very heart of Tallinn, at the prominent location on the edge of the picturesque Tallinn Old Town. They are the first hotel in Tallinn to raise bees! They have six beehives with over 360,000 bees on the roof.
Radisson Blu Sky Hotel Tallinn – a luxury skyscraper looking out over the city’s medieval spires and towers towards the beautiful Gulf of Finland. You’ll find Tallinn Spa inside the hotel along with fine restaurants.
Park Inn by Radisson Meriton Conference & Spa Hotel – colorful, comfy rooms between the walls of Old Town and Telliskivi. Another hotel spa Tallinn offers as part of the Estonian spa culture.
Solo Sokos Hotel Estoria – Estonia is known for design and some of the best Estonian designers are featured in this hotel just outside Old Town. This may be the best hotel in Tallinn due to its design and location. Plus, free breakfast.
Original Sokos Hotel Viru – former home to the KGB and still a temporary home to many foreigners, the Hotel Viru gives you a chance to stay where history was made. Enjoy the KGB Bar on the 23rd floor with views of Old Town Tallinn.
von Stackelberg Hotel – an elegant lifestyle hotel built in 1874 and totally renovated in 2015. Its limestone walls, wooden ceiling and floors reflect the hotel’s historical atmosphere.
Economy Hotel – this budget-friendly hotel is located between Old Town and Telliskivi.
Central Tallinn Hotels
Radisson Blu Hotel Olümpia – located in the center of Tallinn, this Radisson Blu has a fitness and health center on the 26th floor with the opportunity to take a refreshing swim in a pool, work out in a well-equipped gym, or relax in a hot sauna overlooking the city.
Park Inn by Radisson Central Tallinn – modern comfort, an international restaurant, and vibrant, cozy rooms in central Tallinn.
Hotels in Nõmme
Tähetorni Hotel – a warmly decorated hotel in green and lush Nömme. With its spires and winding stairs, it feels a bit like a castle.
Getting To Tallinn, Estonia
There are a lot of ways to get to Tallinn. You can ferry Helsinki to Tallin, take one of the many flights to Tallinn, ride a bus to Tallinn, take the train, or drive to Tallinn.
Flight to Tallinn
Tallinn Airport (“Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport” or “Ülemiste Airport”) is five kilometers from the city center. From Tallinn airport to city center takes about ten minutes in a taxi or rideshare. You can grab a taxi outside the terminal or call an Uber or Bolt. Bolt is the least expensive (Getting Around Tallinn for more on Bolt).
Boat to Tallinn
The most common ferry route is the boat from Helsinki to Tallinn. There are several options, but Eckëro seems to be the cheapest. We took this ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki and it was comfortable and timely. Tallink Silja and Viking also run this ferry route.
Many people come on a cruise ship. You can cruise Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg (we did part of this to visit Russia visa-free). And there are numerous Baltic cruises. Over 30 cruise lines call on the port of Tallinn during the tourist season.
Bus to Tallinn
Frequent buses pull into Tallinn from other Estonian cities. Check out the domestic bus schedules at Tpilet and Peatus.
From outside of Estonia:
Tallinn bus station can easily be reached from the city center by taking tram number 2 towards Suur-Paala or number 4 towards Lennujaam/airport. Get off at “Bussijaam” (bus station).
We walked through bus station Tallinn several times between Old Town and Teleskivi. It’s close to both. Or you can get a city bus or Bolt (see below) to take you to your accommodations.
Train to Tallinn
Elron runs trains within Estonia and to cities outside the country.
Drive to Tallinn
If you have your own vehicle, Tallinn is a pretty easy city to drive in. Just make sure your hotel has parking.
Getting Around Tallinn
Ridesharing and Taxis
Most of Tallinn is very walkable, but to get to some of the Tallinn highlights outside the Old Town or City Center, you can take a taxi, Uber, or Bolt.
Bolt is an Estonian company (formerly Taxify) that is less expensive than Uber or a taxi. We used them a lot and were impressed.
You can also rent electric scooters with your Bolt app as a fun way to get around Tallinn. Anders and I used one to get back from Pirita and then we rented another one just to play around on.
Trolley, Trams, and Buses
Tallinna Transports has a network of trolleys, trams, and buses to get you around Tallinn. You’ll need to get an Ühiskaart, a smart card where you add money to buy tickets. While there are a lot of places to get these, the ubiquitous R-Kiosks are the easiest.
One Day in Tallinn
Whether you are on a cruise, taking a day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki, or a on road trip around the Baltics, you may want to know what to see in Tallinn in one day.
It’s impossible to fit everything you must do in Tallinn, Estonia in one day, but here we go! (see above for details on the Tallinn activities in the itinerary.
- 9:00 – walk through Old Town Tallinn and enjoy breakfast or coffee at one of the many cafés. (If you are coming from outside the EU and have to go through customs upon arriving at the Tallinn Port, it is going to take you awhile to get into town.)
- 10:30 am – join a walking tour of Tallinn, meeting at the Tourism Information Center. You’ll see the most important buildings in the Lower Old Town and learn about the town’s history.
- 12:00 pm – wander to Telleskivi, have lunch at one of the food trucks behind the Balti Turg. Walk through Telleskivi admiring the street art.
- 2:00 pm – head back to Old Town through Toompea and see the Dome Church (Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin) from the early 13th century; this church has seen its share of fighting and fire in the region but still nothing really compares to the beautiful coats of arms decorating the walls, never mind the view from the top of the tower. And don’t miss St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
- 3:00pm – tour the KGB Cells.
- 4:00 pm – walk along the city walls from the Danish King’s Garden to the Maiden’s Tower (part of the Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum)
- 5:00 pm – if you have time in your blitz of Tallinn in a day, stop for appetizers or drinks on the Town Square and toast yourself for covering the must do in Tallinn, Estonia in one day.
Day Trips From Tallinn
Don’t miss these Day Trips from Tallinn.
Books Set In Estonia
I only read two books set in Estonia on this trip. I found both of them at Rahva Raamat bookstore in Telliskivi.
The Death of the Perfect Sentence by Rein Raud and translated by Matthew Hyde is the story of a group of young people in the days leading up to Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union.
In the novel, these pro-Estonia folks are smuggling KGB files out of the country. It’s not just a spy story, though that part is fun!, it’s about the relationships between the people and their emotions relating to what they are doing.
I enjoyed the multiple viewpoints and getting an idea of what that time period was like. It’s always fun to read about places we are visiting and being able to perfectly picture the locations (or even read the book in some of the locations).
This is a good one to read even if you don’t visit Estonia.
The second Estonian book I read was The Beauty of History by Viivi Luik and translated by Hildi Hawkins. I think this is probably a very good book, but I didn’t really get it. It was lovely and lyrical, but I felt like too much of an outsider to truly appreciate it. Try it and let me know what you think.
Books Set in Estonia I Wish I Had Read
For more books set in the Baltics, check out the Uncorked Librarian. She’s one of my favorite book bloggers (and not just because she blogs about booze and travel, too).
Movies Set in Estonia
As I mentioned, we watched The Singing Revolution and highly recommend it.
We also watched Rick Steves’ “Helsinki and Tallinn: Baltic Sisters.”
Other movies set in Tallinn can be found here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Estonia expensive?
Compared to Finland and Western Europe, Estonia is inexpensive. But it is the most expensive country in Eastern Europe.
Is Tallinn a good place to visit?
Tallinn is a great place to visit. This medieval meets modern city has something to offer for everyone from history to museums to art to cuisine to outdoorsy fun.
What is there to do in Tallinn for three days?
- Day 1 in Tallinn: Old Town
- Day 2 in Tallinn: Seaplane Harbor, Kalamaja, and Telliskivi
- Day 3 in Tallinn: Kadriorg Park and Pirita Beach
Where do the cruise ships dock in Tallinn?
The cruise ships dock at Old City Harbor which is about one kilometer from Old Town Tallinn. It’s an easy walk or Bolt ride. The Hop On Hop Off Bus also stops at the harbor.
Is Tallinn safe to visit?
Tallinn is a very safe place to visit. As in any city, watch for pickpockets and people drinking too much.
When should I visit Tallinn?
Tallinn is a great place to visit any time of year. Summer means markets, flowers, lots of daylight, and being outside. In winter, there are cozy restaurants, cross-country skiing, ice skating on bogs, and long nights. In autumn hotel prices are lower.
What language do you speak in Estonia?
Estonians speak Estonian, a Uralic language related to Finnish. Most people in Tallinn also speak English and many speak Russian.
5 thoughts on “Planning Guide: Top Things To Do in Tallinn Estonia”
Holy smokes, I think you covered everything! I love this comprehensive list and am so glad that you enjoyed Tallinn, Estonia.
P.S. Thank you for the book list shoutout too.
I am glad that you liked the Seaplane Museum. We were also pleasantly surprised, and the museum is extremely well done. I love the way they have 2-stories of planes/boats and suspend everything from the ceiling. Parts of the museum remind me of the Kennedy Space Center. Going in the sub was my husband’s favorite.
We enjoyed Telliskivi for lunch and to get away from the crowds of Old Town. The street art is really fun; my favorite was Bambi throwing up rainbows. I love little revitalized artsy finds like that.
It is a very thorough list, isn’t it? That’s the benefit of spending so much time there; we left no stone unturned!
The Seaplane Museum was great – it was so interactive and uncrowded. I love how the walkways were at the surface of the water and then you could go down “underwater.” We also liked getting inside the sub, although it was tight! I already knew submarine life was not for me, but this confirmed it. 😉
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What a great and complete guide to Estonia! Thank you for sharing!
I hope it’s helpful!