Things to do in Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is without a doubt the most photogenic city I have ever visited. You only have to make that initial 1-kilometer walk from the ferry pier to the Old Town to understand why.
Narrow cobblestones streets are lined with colorful buildings dating back to the mid-1300s. There’s a historical attraction on just about every corner. Sun-drenched bars, restaurants, and cafes fill just about every street, while even dingy basements have been converted into labyrinths of handmade arts and crafts.
With so many things to do in Tallinn, it seems impossible not to love this city.
We spent just two days in Tallinn after completing an epic two-week Finland summer road trip. It was just enough time to get to know the city for its face value. Could we stay longer? Hell yes!
Here’s a bit of what we did in with two days in Tallinn. This is not an exhaustive list of all things to do in Tallinn, but just enough to help you plan out a quick stop in this amazing city.
How to Get to Tallinn
If you are coming from Finland or Sweden, then the easiest and probably cheapest way to get to Tallinn is by ferry. The Tallink Ferry takes just two hours on the water from Helsinki, with services running 7 times per day from 7.30am to 10.30pm.
The ferry pier in Tallinn is located about 1 kilometer from Tallinn Old Town. It’s an easy walking distance. However, if you’re lazy or just packed too much, then you can also hop in an Uber for 5 euro, or a taxi for about 8 euro.
From other parts of Europe, you will probably fly. Tallinn’s airport is located about 5km southeast of town. The quickest way to get from there to here is by tram no.4 which costs just 2 Euros.
Things to do in Tallinn Old Town
I reckon this is where 90% of tourists would spend all their time, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did so too. Tallinn’s Old Town is stunning, to say the least.
You can pick up a detailed map of Tallinn Old Town from the tourist information center for free. It details over 50 things to do in Tallinn’s Old Town.
With just two days in Tallinn, I wouldn’t suggest trying to visit all 50 attractions on the map. We visited the following 9, all of which I recommend, but of course to can change these around.
Town Hall Square – located right in the middle of the old town, it is pretty hard to miss. During the summer months, there is an open-air market in the square where you can buy lots of handicrafts and food. You’ll probably find yourself walking through here multiple times during your stay in Tallinn.
KGB Prison Cells – a residential building turned KGB headquarters, then prison cell for enemies of the state until the 1950s. There are a series of prison cells in the basement of the building, containing details of some of the people imprisoned here. It’s a spooky, eye-opening experience. The entry is 5 euro. Allow about half an hour to visit.
House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads – unless attending a concert, then you will only see the fancy front door of Tallinn’s most ornate guild hall. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to visit while passing by. There is no entry fee.
St. Catherine’s Passage – another super Instagrammable street in Tallinn. This small cobblestoned alleyway has a collection of small craft stores where local artists still employ traditional methods. You’ll feel like your doing down a rabbit hole as you peer into each vibrant basement.
St Olav’s Church – supposed to be the tallest building in the world back in the 14-century when it was originally built. These days, the church has a less crowded viewing platform where you can look over the roof of the old town. During our stay the church was closed, so we just walked around the outside.
Master’s Courtyard – a quiet dead-end courtyard with a surrounded by similar craft shops that you’ll find in St. Catherine’s Passage. The café Pierre Chocolaterie in the middle of the courtyard is a good place to stop for tea or coffee (from 2.50 euro) while resting your legs.
Hellemann Tower and Town Wall – the top level of this three-story tower gives an impressive view looking out across the east side of Tallinn’s Old Town. Back down at level two, you can access a 200-meter stretch of the old town wall, one of the city’s main medieval defenses. The entry is 3 euros. Allow about half an hour to visit.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – one of the most unique buildings in Tallinn’s Old Town. This colorful building sits atop the hill on the west side of town. From all the attractions we visited, this probably had the largest crowds of tourists. The cathedral is still visited by active worshippers today, so act respectably; be silent and don’t take photos inside. The entry is free.
Viewing Platforms – offering a similar view for the Hellemann tower, but from the west end of town. You will get to look back over the town including the western town wall. Entry is free, so there are commonly large crowds of tourists here. Visit early in the morning to beat the rush.
Explore Telliskivi and Kalamaja
Sure, Tallinn’s Old Town is fascinating, but it is touristy and there is plenty more to see around. If you want to see the way locals live in Tallinn, then head west of the train station to the hipster neighborhoods of Telliskivi and Kalamaja.
Over here you will discover open-air markets with buckets of fresh berries, irresistibly good coffee, street food from Asia and the subcontinent, and of course, lots of bars with craft beers. It couldn’t be any more of a contract from Tallinn’s Old Town, yet a stone’s throw away. Here are a few specifics I recommend on the west side of town.
Valgevase and Graniidi Streets – bright streets lined with vibrant historical wooden buildings. It is similar to those in the towns of Kokkola, Raahe, or Porvoo in Finland. This part of Tallinn dates to the early 1900s. It is easy to walk around these streets aimlessly and just get lost. There are also a handful of restaurants and cafes in this part of town.
Balti Jaama Turg – a huge multi-story market complex. On the ground floor, you will find loads of fresh fruits and vegetables. We picked up a half kilo of strawberries and blueberries (mixed) for just 3 euro. Further inside there are loads of street food style vendors serving up fusion Asian dishes, and a large supermarket on the basement floor for real budget eats and drinks.
Depoo Turg – a sort strip of street food style vendors in shipping containers in a post-industrial setting. It feels quite reminiscent of Berlin. Meals are about 30% cheaper than in Tallinn’s Old Town. We got some awesome Indian Food and beers for two at Spice Wagon for 20 euro total.
Telliskivi Creative City – a series of old industrial buildings converted into a trendy complex of restaurants, cafes, bars and crafts shops. Grab a coffee and chill in the sunny courtyard (in summer) enjoying the happy vibes.
Getting Around Tallinn
Walk – I found the best way to get around Tallinn was just to walk. The city is compact, so there is plenty to see within a 2-3 kilometer walk of just about anywhere.
Scooter – There are electric rental scooter programs called Bolt and CityBee, like the one in Helsinki. By installing the app on your smartphone, you can locate, ride, and drop off an electric scooter anywhere around town. The only reason these scooters don’t work as well as in Helsinki is the cobblestoned streets.
Tram – Tallinn has an extensive network of trams throughout the city. This is a good option if you want to explore suburbs further away from the Old Town, though if you are only here for a couple of days you probably won’t venture so far out. Check out ticketing details on Tallinn’s Public Transport website.
Eating and Drinking in Tallinn
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the places to eat and drink in Tallinn, but a review of the places we visited on recommendation from other blogs/vlogs.
Must Puudel – a small café with a short menu in the Old Town. Bagels from 5 euro, decent coffee from 2.50 euro. Portion sizes aren’t huge, so you might find yourself eating a cake after breakfast too. The café also serves as a bar at night, so come around for round two if you enjoyed the vibes. There is seating inside, and out in the laneway.
Spice Wagon – great Indian food in Telliskivi. There’s an extensive list of curries that are perfect with the complimentary rice or add to it with naan bread. Meals start at about 9 euro, but with a naan bread will feed two people.
Kompressor – legendary pancake shop in the Old Town where meals start from 5 euro, and pints of beer from 3 euro. We walked in but the line just to get a table was fairly long, followed by another 45-minute wait to get a meal. It’s good if you’re on a tight budget ad don’t mind waiting. We went elsewhere.
Hell Hunt Pub – Estonia’s first pub which started in 1993. Apparently, all pubs in Tallinn prior were either Irish or Finnish pubs, so they take the claim. There is a huge selection of beers here starting at 4.30 euros for a pint, and decent meals from 9 euro. Beer lovers won’t leave disappointed.
Sigmund Freud Bar – a small hidden bar in Sauna alley serving up some great cocktails late into the night. On Friday and Saturday nights it can get busy, during the week it’s more of a speakeasy bay. Drinks range in price from about 7 to 12 euros. You won’t find any food or beer here.
Hotels in Tallinn
There are plenty of hotels and Airbnb options around Tallinn. We rented an entire apartment in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town for USD 90 per night. You can book it here. The apartment is located directly above Sigmund Freud Bar, so it can be quite noisy on the weekends. It’s great if you want to be near the action, but not so good if you’re a light sleeper.
If you are looking for a hotel without the noise, then check out the top hotels in Tallinn on Agoda.
Heading to Finland next? Check out some of my articles for your trip inspiration!