Interested to know what are the top things to do in Tallinn? Read on and learn more about this beautiful city.
Born at the crossroads of the Medieval Trades, Estonia’s capital of Tallinn, meaning city or downtown in the local language, is a cultural and sightseeing hub. Tallinn nightlife is much popular among tourists and medieval-themed walled Old Town.
Residing peacefully on the Gulf of Finland and by the Baltic sea, there’s no doubt that the top attractions in Tallinn drive a lot of tourists from all its corners.
Mostly referred to as the treasure of Baltic, Tallinn tourist attractions combine with the cultural richness ultimately becoming the center of tourism and notable highlights.
The Estonian life in the 18th century along with the hand-made crafts or the synchronous Tallinn activities can be a delight to see and experience during your stay. You won’t ever ask yourself of what to see in Tallinn because the city’s sights offer its best in possibly every way.
The charming vibe that surrounds the cobblestone-lined roads of the Old Town is one of the top attractions in Tallinn along with many others like Gothic Town Hall and St. Nicholas Church. These landmarks represent Tallinn’s history and culture through its spiritual art.
Here are the must-see Tallinn points of interest that will get you fascinated in a split second!
Why should you visit Tallinn?
First of all, Estonia has three major cities: Tallinn, Tartu, and Pärnu – all beautiful on its own but we’ll only tackle Tallinn for this post.
To start with, Tallinn’s old town is a well-preserved medieval city making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in the old town alone you’ll get the opportunity to inhale its medieval atmosphere and enjoy a fantastic time checking out some of the Baltics crown jewels.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Practical information and Tallinn travel tips
- 2 Where to stay in Tallinn?
- 3 Experiences and top things to do in Tallinn
- 3.1 What to see in Tallinn in one day? Join the free walking tour!
- 3.2 Roam around the Old Town of Tallinn (Read more for other top attractions)
- 3.3 Nightlife in Tallinn – Go on a pub crawl!
- 3.4 I dare you to drink with an Estonian
- 3.5 What to do in Tallinn? VisitTelliskivi Loomelinnak!
- 3.6 Take a day tour to Helsinki
- 4 Top Landmarks and attractions in Tallinn
- 4.1 Kadriorg Park (especially during Spring and Summer)
- 4.2 Bastion passages in the Old Town of Tallinn
- 4.3 KUMU Art Museum
- 4.4 Tallinn Television Tower
- 4.5 Estonian Open Air Museum
- 4.6 St. Olaf’s Church in Tallinn
- 4.7 Seaplane Harbour (Estonian Maritime Museum)
- 4.8 Kohtuotsa viewing platform
- 4.9 Town Hall Square
- 4.10 Great Guild Hall (Estonian History Museum)
- 4.11 Linnahall
- 4.12 St. Catherine’s Cloister
- 5 What to eat and restaurants in Tallinn to try
- 6 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Practical information and Tallinn travel tips
When is the best time to visit Tallinn?
Any time of the year I would say! That said, it is always up to you when you want to come. I do suggest visiting in Spring or in Autumn though since, as it always is, Summer is peak season and you’ll most likely see more crowd than usual.
Winter is great since the city gets covered in snow and it looks beautiful and magical. Plus, the old town itself is small that you don’t even need to spend so much time outside to see the beauty of Tallinn.
I do suggest to dress appropriately for winter when you plan to visit Estonia in the cold season so that you can enjoy the town without freezing your ass off.
Do you need a visa for Estonia?
Estonia is part of the Schengen area and citizens of the EU group of countries can freely enter this Baltic state while citizens of the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia can enter the country just with their passports and stay for 90 days. You can check our guide on how to get a Schengen visa and as well to see if you’re eligible to enter the country with just your passports or if you’ll need to apply for a visa prior entry.
Where to book your flights to Tallinn?
Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.
Do you need insurance?
Remember this: anything can happen! Read our take on why you need travel insurance and how it can save you money when things go unplanned – read it here.
How to save money sightseeing Tallinn?
There are several ways to actually see Tallinn for those who are visiting with a smaller budget. You don’t need to break the bank to see Tallinn and other places in Estonia as there are ways to either see it for a cheaper price or for free!
You’ll see more details below as to where to go and what to see in Tallinn and if it will cost you or not. That said, if you’re a museum junkie like myself and would like to experience getting around using public transport then make sure to buy the Tallinn city card.
Why get it? Well, you’ll get a chance to see 40 different attractions and museums for free, free entry on a hop-on-hop-off bus, and discounts to some shops and restaurants!
Where to stay in Tallinn?
We’ve compiled the best design hotels in Tallinn – check it out and find out which ones suit you best! In a nutshell, we recommended Rixwell Old Town Hotel, The Three Sisters Hotel, and Hotel Bern to name a few. Other than that for a more budgeted alternative, we recommend staying at hostels where a bunk bed in a shared room will only cost you about 10€ per night. Here’re our recommendation: Welcome Hostel, United Backpackers Hostel, and OldHouse Hostel.
Experiences and top things to do in Tallinn
What to see in Tallinn in one day? Join the free walking tour!
If you’ve seen my other city and travel guides on this website, then you’re probably aware that I love joining free walking tours and truthfully, I can’t recommend going on a free walking tour in Tallinn enough.
Not only you’ll get to learn a bit about the city and the country itself (history and culture), but you’re also supporting a group of people who are passionate about sharing their knowledge – for free! I know that these walking tours are tip-based so in the end, you anyways pay a little bit but they are not necessarily expecting that. However, it is a nice gesture to give a little bit of something in exchange for the little knowledge they share.
Also, in Tallinn, the free walking tour is guided by young locals. The idea behind it is to give an alternative to the younger citizen to do something meaningful rather than wasting their precious time doing something that does not contribute to society. So, in the end, we all win in this.
Roam around the Old Town of Tallinn (Read more for other top attractions)
Tallinn’s old town is small yet charming. In fact, most tourists who pass by this city are mostly spending their time in the old town which I don’t exactly recommend because Tallinn as a capital has tons to offer outside the old medieval town.
However, if you’re short of time then, of course, roaming around the old town will be a treat for your eyes. Often times, there are many activities happening to entertain its visitors, and since it is small, you’ll get to watch and experience most of them by just simply walking around.
What to see in Tallinn which you can hunt down:
- St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- Danish King’s Garden
- Bastion Passages
- St Olaf’s Church
- Toompea Hill
Nightlife in Tallinn – Go on a pub crawl!
For years now, Tallinn has been the backpacker’s haven with tons of free-spirited travelers either passing by or staying put for a season and tons of these awesome people are looking for a good time, so it is just normal that hostels hosts pub crawls for visitors to experience Tallinn nightlife. Joining a pub crawl will lead you to meet some of the coolest people in the world who are on the same page as you, and if you’re traveling alone, it is always fun to meet like-minded jolly fellows like yourself.
That said, there are tons of eccentric bars around Tallinn’s old town, and it is worth a try to join these pub crawls if your hostel arranges it. Typically they are for free but you buy your drinks (obviously), and it is a lot of fun!
However, if you’re staying in hotels, then you can ask for brochures or pub crawl schedules. If not, you’re in luck because most pubs in Tallinn are not far from each other and you can start your very own pub crawl! Just make sure you’re responsible and drink wisely. Estonian beers and strong spirits will hit you right on the spot to take it easy and remember, don’t be that stupid tourist.
I dare you to drink with an Estonian
I’ve tried but failed miserably. There’s no denying that this part of the world is the place where most heavy drinkers reside. Don’t mistake them for alcoholics though because there’s a huge difference. Estonians, like the Finns, love their alcohol and surprisingly handles it perfectly well.
I’ve seen tons of other nationalities dare Estonians on a drinking fest only to see them defeated and the last man standing is still holding a vodka on the one hand with seemingly no signs of drunkness – yes, I’m talking to you Estonians.
If you’re brave enough, then I must say now that Estonians are awesome people and though they’re not exactly the friendliest type, it doesn’t hurt to mingle with the locals. Therefore few drinks with them shouldn’t hurt – unless you get shitfaced then boy, the pain will follow you like a waggling tail the next day.
Photo by Guillaume Speurt| CC 2.0
What to do in Tallinn? VisitTelliskivi Loomelinnak!
Sightseeing in Tallinn is not complete if you don’t drop by to see Telliskivi Loomelinnak, the creative center of the infamous capital built inside of a former industrial complex. It is located just next to the Balti Railway station on the border of Pelgulinna and Kalamaja districts.
This is the biggest creative city in Estonia offering all kinds of services. Offices of artists, NGOs, media studios and graphic designing services are located in this artistic city. Unique types of stores highlighting the graphics and interior decor, natural products and designs, cafes and restaurants are all present here – making Telliskivi good to do some Tallinn shopping.
More than 400 hundred events are hosted in the halls and yards of Telliskivi making it a vital Tallinn tourist spot and festive destination. Vaba Lava Theatre and Sõltumatu Tatsu Lava are also located in this city center. The Outdoor Gallery also offers some beautiful street art and is open round the clock.
To round it up, there are only a million Estonians and most of these live in the capital city which is Tallinn, and it didn’t take long for people to realize that living situation is getting tougher each year thus younger people started seeking out for places to stay at.
Telliskivi used to be an industrial area with factories that were later shut down. The young creatives of the city saw this abandonment an opportunity to turn the area into something unique and interesting, and in no time, Telliskivi became one of the hippest parts of the city with cafes, restaurants and interesting shops to visit. Nowadays, some of the buildings in the area were transformed into sought-after apartments.
Here are some of the cool cafe’s and restaurants to visit in Telliskivi:
Take a day tour to Helsinki
I can’t end this guide to Tallinn without recommending a quick visit to my favorite city in the world – my current hometown of Helsinki.
Also, it is only 80 kilometers and about two hours of the ferry ride, and you get to tackle two cities in one holiday or vacation.
There are tons of offers online to check out which can take you from Tallinn to Helsinki and Helsinki to Tallinn as cheap as 15€ and most large ferry lines offer day trips starting from both ends.
So, if you eventually run out of things to do in Tallinn – Helsinki is only 2 hours away for you to check out.
Why should you visit Helsinki for a day?
I would like to layout and say Helsinki and Finland are awesome, but not a lot of people agree with me on this. However, I’d still say it – Helsinki is an awesome stopover destination, and you don’t need a lot of time to see most of the city’s main highlights. Trust me. It is that small.
In fact, not long ago my buddy Jp from The Rustic Nomad decided to take a day trip to Helsinki and in his four or five hours stay in the city, I got the opportunity to show him around some of the city’s beautiful sites. I could have taken him to more sites, but we were chit-chatting quite a lot!
So yes, I do suggest visiting Helsinki for the day. It will be worth it, trust me.
Here’s a list of ferry companies that have day cruises to Helsinki:
- Viking Line
- Eckerö Line
- Linda Line (only in summers)
If you are looking for a restaurant and a late-night party venue at the same place, you need to visit the famous Kivi Paber Käärid. Not only the new town but the old town has a lot to offer too. Must Puudel offers some melodic tunes of Estonia blending with the funky dance.
A concert venue and a cozy restaurant Sinilind is also trendy among the locals and the tourists alike. Art lovers and outdoor party enthusiasts should visit the Culture Club Kelm for some never-ending fun.
Top Landmarks and attractions in Tallinn
Kadriorg Park (especially during Spring and Summer)
One of the must-visit Tallinn tourist attractions during springtime, the lush nature of Kadriorg Park covers around almost 700 hectares. The park was constructed in 1718 on the orders of the Russian tsar Peter I. The designs and elements in this park are a blend of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Swan Pond surrounded by the lush and colorful flower beds along with the promenade leading to Presidential Palace makes the tourists take a relaxing walk in this park.
The museums and monuments in this Park make it a famous Tallinn tourist attraction. Estonian Art Museum (KUMU), Kadriorg Art Museum along with the statues of prominent cultural figures like Amandus Adamson and Jaan Koort are the core of this mesmerizing park.
Bastion passages in the Old Town of Tallinn
One of the top tourist attractions in Tallinn, the Bastion passages in the earthwork fortifications of the Old Town were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. The primary purpose of building these passages was to stop the movement of the enemy and other war equipment mainly ammunition. These were also used to monitor underground enemy movement.
After the military camps were removed from these passages in 1857, Ingrian and Swedish bastions were included in the parks for visitors and tourists. The trains in these passages can fly you to the future or take you back to the 17th century. So this Tallinn points of interest should be definitely on your list.
KUMU Art Museum
Visiting Tallinn is not complete without checking out one of the best museums in a town filled with contributions from local artists who flock around with great talent.
That said, KUMU is said to be the headquarters of the Art Museums of Estonia where they showcase different art shows that showcase some of the local and international artists.
It was opened in 2006 and is now attracting millions of tourists from all around the globe. The largest museum of Tallinn cultivates all kinds of Estonian Art Classics and the new modern trends of art.
KUMU Art Museum was recognized as the best museum in Europe in 2008. The European Museum Forum awarded it as the winner of the European Museum of the Year Award. Plus, some of the best things to do in Tallinn in winter is to visit some of its awesome museums!
Tallinn Television Tower
The Television Tower in Tallinn is 314 meters high making it the tallest building in the whole of Estonia. The tower is regarded as a great tourist and leisure center.
If you are wondering why would the tower be counted as a place for Tallinn tourism, you should think again because this tower offers you a mesmerizing view of the Baltic region, interactive multimedia solution, TV studio, gift shop and a restaurant on the 22nd floor.
Estonian Open Air Museum
Why stay in Old Town if you can visit one of the best attractions in Tallinn just at a drive of 15 minutes from the city center? Estonian Open Air Museum offers the touch of the countryside to the tourists. The Museum exhibits the country’s rural architecture opulently.
The 14 farms showcase the glimpses of the social life of people of different strata in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries in this museum. Apart from the farms, there is a church, fire station, tavern, mills and a fishing shed along the sea.
St. Olaf’s Church in Tallinn
The most significant clerical structure and one Tallinn main attractions, St. Olaf’s Church took its name from the Norwegian King Olav II Haraldsson in 1267. The church became an important one in a short time and soon formed its congregation consisting of few craftsmen, merchants, and Estonians.
The interesting fact visitors need to know about this church is that lightning struck its tower ten times and resulted in massive fires three times in 1625,1820 and 1931. You can see this church from high grounds on a viewpoint in Old Town so don’t miss out on this as this is one of the top sights in Tallinn! You never know, maybe you’ll see the lightning as it strikes once more… Okay maybe not.
Seaplane Harbour (Estonian Maritime Museum)
Seaplane Harbour has one of the most beguile museums in Europe – the Estonian Maritime Museum.
The seaplane hangars exhibit is one of the worth-seeing tourist attractions in Tallinn for the tourists like Lembit (a real submarine), a 184 seaplane and many other things like remains of the oldest Estonian ship.
Estonia has a luxuriant maritime history as its surrounded by island-dotted water on both sides. The reinforced concrete shell structure of this museum is praised throughout the world.
Lennusadam – the maritime museum fascinates the tourists with interactive displays, and the highlights include a 1930 submarine, minehunter ships, and the ice-breaker.
Kohtuotsa viewing platform
On the northern front of the Toompea Hill, there’s a panoramic viewing platform known as Kohtuotsa. The brilliant view of the towering spires in the old town, red roofs of the houses and some gleaming buildings in the new town fascinate the tourists a lot.
The background is even more enriching with a full view of the Gulf of Finland and Pirita District.
Town Hall Square
One of Tallinn’s top sights and tourist spot, Raekoja Plats, is said to be the core of the city since the early marketplace began settling here in the 11th century.
On one side, there’s a large Gothic Town Hall Square with the tourists being able to get delighted with pretty pastel.
Great Guild Hall (Estonian History Museum)
The Estonian History museum gets the visitor’s attention to the ruminations of Estonian psychology represented by mysterious displays making it one of Tallinn’s top sights.
The Old excise chamber is said to be a paradise for tourists who love or collect coins. The ministerial relics date back to the age of Vikings making it one of the must-visit Tallinn attractions.
Looking more like a canonical temple to some God, Linnahall is a covered arena that was originally constructed for the 1980 Olympics. LinnaHall is a significant representation of the Heritage of Estonia no matter how badly decayed it is.
Previously known as Lenin Palace of culture and sports, visitors are free to roam around in this monumental shell.
St. Catherine’s Cloister
St. Catherine’s Monastery was founded in 1246 by Dominican monks. Its probably referred to the Tallinn’s oldest building.
The monastery was even lit by the Lutherans in 1524 and remained languished before it was partially restored in 1954. The barren church amuses the tourists and the cloister lined with the carved tombstones make it one of Tallinn top attractions.
What to eat and restaurants in Tallinn to try
Photo byJesús Gorriti| CC 2.0
Enjoy Estonian cuisine in a Medieval Setting
Traditional Estonian cuisine to begin with revolves around the changing of seasons and with that said, just like its sister country Finland, they rely heavily on the summer produce and preserving them for the winter when nothing comes out from the ground.
However, meat (pork) and dairy products are also two of the main factors in an Estonian diet thus you’ll most likely find tons of pork dishes on restaurant menus.
What to expect in a medieval Estonian restaurant?
Tons of pork, potatoes, and preserves! Sorry vegetarians, some countries do love their meat! But, don’t worry though because let’s face the fact that we now live in a modern world where food import and export are reliable – you’ll likely find restaurants that sell vegetarian options.
For the meat-eaters, however, you’re in for a treat! Because not only you get to experience eating in a tavern lit with candlelight (no actual electricity here guys!) and servers dressed in medieval clothing, but you also get to eat some of the weirdest food you’ll ever have in your life (that perhaps neither the Estonians these days would eat). It’s medieval, come on, the cuisine has evolved since the dawn of times.
You must be wondering now, was it good?
Well, I was semi-drunk before the meal arrived with all those aperitif shots, but as far as I remembered, it was delicious, and the experience was excellent.
The only thing I remember didn’t stick well was the fermented fish with cottage cheese – that was extra weird for me but I tried it and for the sake of actually having tried it I now know that I won’t be ordering it when I see it in a menu.
My ultimate favorite Medieval themed Estonian restaurant in Tallinn is Olde Hansa. So, this should be high up on your list! Because if what to do in Tallinn is a mystery, this absolutely answers it.
Seek out the best Pelmeenid in town!
Pelmeenid is a dumpling quite similar to ravioli of Italy but instead of eating it with some pasta sauce – you eat it with sour cream! It is delicious, and it is one of my favorite Estonian dishes. My partner, who is Estonian by the way, totally agrees on this.
However, Pelmeenid does not originate from Estonia, and I think most Baltic countries have their version of Pelmeenid. In fact, Pelmeenid (for Estonians) originated from Russia and was adopted by most Baltic countries that were once part of the USSR. Nevertheless, each country now produces its very own Pelmenis which are delicious on its own.
Why should you try this Estonian dish?
I always say this on every guide I write, why shouldn’t you try it? At one point you’ll have to eat in the day, you’re there and might as well grab that opportunity to try something new!
Also, make sure they serve it with sour cream which they normally do but just in case it doesn’t come with it.
If you’re wondering where to get this awesomeness, I suggest Restaurant Troika – it is a little bit on the pricier side for Estonian standard but it was excellent, and I loved it.
Don’t miss out on Elk soup at III Draakon
To be quite frank, Tallinn food scene, in general, is getting really interesting every time I visit but if there is one thing I often recommend to people visiting Tallinn besides going to a medieval restaurant is to go to III Draakon to try their elk soup. Why? Not only because it is awesome, but also the ladies working there are awesome! I won’t spare you the surprise, but often they’ll make you sing for your spoon, and I thought that was funny.
The moment I started singing they waved their hand and gave me the spoon. Terrible singer much? Also, the soup cost only 2€, and they also sell several varieties of savory pies. Plus, you get to fish your pickles from a bucket. I thought it was cool and most of my friends who have been at III Draakon agree.
Kalev Chocolate Shop and Sweets Mastery in Rotermann Quarter
If you haven’t made chocolate or sweet yourself, this is the place for you. Apart from the wide range of sweets, the Sweets Mastery on the first floor of Kalev Chocolate Shop is worth visiting.
Breathe in the luscious aroma as you visit, or you can watch the Masters of Sweets at work and learn from them everything that you have been missing all your life – the creation of the sweetest temptation that tastes like heaven but feels like a sin. The showcasing of old packaging in Sweets Mastery captivates the customers and everyone gets a share at the marzipan and chocolate workshop.
Not to mention Rotermann is one of the latest Tallinn tourist places to visit! They just recently renovated the area and is now booming with loads of eccentric restaurant, bars, and top-class shops and hotels!
Thanks to Visit Estonia for inviting us to see Tallinn! That said, all opinions are all mine.
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