Updated January 2021
Tallinn, Estonia is one of the must-visit cities in Northern Europe. The charm is undeniable and its location ideal for touring Europe.
Estonia’s beloved city of Tallinn was a highlight on a day trip from Helsinki. Prior to my visit, I really had no idea of the exact location of it. I had seen it listed as one of the top cities to visit in Northern Europe, so I had to make my way over for a visit.
I loved how much charm was in Tallinn, how easy it was to walk around, and the many gems along the way. Its Scandinavian roots and proximity to Russia give Tallinn certainly a unique feel for a European destination. The highlight of a visit to Tallinn is centered around its medieval city that has been preserved just wonderfully. Once you enter into the town walls, you’ve officially entered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tallinn is quintessential Estonian. From the architecture to the food, Tallinn gives you a chance to see just why Estonia is such an incredible country to visit in Europe — it makes for a wonderful stop on an itinerary through Scandinavia.
So if you’re visiting for the day or already traveling in Estonia, here some incredible things to do in Tallinn you don’t want to miss on your visit.
10 Incredible Things to Do in Tallinn, Estonia
Getting to Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia is easily accessed from nearby cities or if you want to pop in on a flight to the city. I personally visited from Helsinki on a day trip utilizing the 2-hour ferry ride on the Tallink Silja Line. My top recommendation is to book the earliest ferry so that you can arrive in the morning to have a full day to explore. You will sail across the Black Sea which is beautiful in itself as well.
Since Tallinn is in the Schengen Region of Europe, you are not required extra visas if traveling with an American or European passport.
Other ways to access Tallinn include ferries from other cities like Stockholm (overnight). You can also choose from a range of inter-Europe flights to get to Tallinn easily.
How Much Time in Tallinn?
You could easily spend a night or two to visit the city. I chose to visit on a single day trip to Tallinn. I would have personally preferred to stay longer though circumstances had it be one day. In a single day visit to Tallinn, I was still able to see the entire city, enjoy a great meal, and soak it all in.
1. Explore the Main Hall Square
Right in the heart of Tallinn’s old town, is the main square also known as Raekoja plats. As picturesque as it is, there are many restaurants and shops that line it. It is the heart of the city where you’ll find the annual Christmas markets, vendors selling spiced and sweet nuts (grab a bag!), and more.
Along the square, you’ll have the towering Town Hall and plenty to explore here. It’s a central point to Tallinn itself and a must-see when visiting the old town.
2. Visit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Above the town on Toompea Hill, the famous church of Alexander Nevsky towers over Tallinn. Take the steep stairs from the old town and work your way up to see it.
The history of the church dates back to the Neo-Byzantine era, built in 1900. It’s Tallinn’s tallest and grandest orthodox cupola cathedral, making it a must-see in the city. It has a mixed historicist style, with a monumental example of Orthodox architecture.
3. See Tallinn From the Patkuli Viewing Platform
One of the best viewing platforms in Tallinn sits above the city. You can get a glimpse out to the water and see the medieval walls that circle around the city from Patkuli Viewing Platform. During the day, the crowds do come and go, so be patient to grab a spot to view out.
The other option for a viewing platform is at Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform and this offers wonderful views as well. The walk to either of these platforms is beautiful alone.
4. Explore the Telliskivi Creative City
This creative city in Tallinn is just outside the city and you can easily walk to it from the old town. This area is incredible for seeing pop-up shops, street art, local designers, and grabbing a bite from a food truck.
It is also home to Balti Jamaa, which is an indoor market with tons of food stalls, clothing shops, and more. You can easily stroll through here and continue on to Telliskivi.
5. Try Local Beer From a Hip Brewery
Local beer is one of the best things to try when visiting Tallinn. You’ll find beer at almost every restaurant but if you’re looking to visit something more unique, head just outside of the old town to the neighborhood of Telliskivi.
I stopped in at St. Vitus which was pouring beer on draft. This tap house and brewery had several options to try. I’d recommend going for their flight tasting which allows you to try several of their beers.
One other Estonian-style beer you don’t want to miss in Tallinn is honey beer. You’ll see it on menus across town, it’s a nice light and golden beer, perfect after a day of walking.
6. Eat Traditional Estonian Food at Olde Hansa
I was amazed by how good the food is in Tallinn. Sitting down to lunch at Olde Hansa (recommended to reserve), I tried some of their classics. The restaurant came recommended as a great portrayal of local food. It was easy to know it was a favorite given there were over 6,000 reviews on Trip Advisor.
The food was delicious, hearty, and I loved the game meat they had on the menu. The decor and style are really in character and the food is just delicious. Their outdoor patio is wonderful for a summer afternoon as well.
7. Visit the Estonian History Museum
For a look into Estonian history, the Estonian History Museum is the best spot to do so. It doesn’t take long to visit but it has a lot of insight into their heritage and past.
For other museums, Kumu art museum and the Estonian Maritime Museum in Seaplane Harbour came recommended as well.
8. Walk Through St. Catherine’s Passage
If there’s one street not to miss, it’s St. Catherine’s Passage.
The old stone arches that are nearly 700 years old, transports you to another world and it’s a sight to see. Out of all the places in Tallinn, this was one of the best-preserved medieval sights.
In the passage, you’ll find shops and restaurants you can pop into. One of the restaurants I passed by was quite lovely and had a bustling crowd that afternoon.
9. Get Outdoors in Laheemaa National Park
The one thing I didn’t have enough time to go see was the national park of Laheema. It came recommended from the tourist office to go see for a walk in nature. If you’re looking to get outdoors, this park just outside of the city is the best place to go.
10. Spot the Colorful Doorways of Tallinn
As part of the city, you’ll start to notice the endless colors and shapes of the doorways. In the medieval old town, this is where you’ll discover most of them. As you’re walking through, keep an eye out for them.
There are some incredibly photogenic ones as well! Head here for the locations of the prettiest doors of Tallinn.
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