What to see in Tallinn! Our favorite sights + travel tips
If we’re drawn to the same destination twice in one year, it must be a very special place indeed. Discover this amazing city with our Tallinn travel guide. We will show you our favorite sights and give our best Tallinn tips.
Tallinn is probably not on every city trip list – a huge mistake!
The city will definitely surprise you. With a beautiful old town, a young and creative scene and modern districts, Tallinn is well worth a visit.
In this post, we’ll show you which sights Tallinn has to offer and we’ll share our best tips for a city trip to Tallinn.
Seven interesting facts about Tallinn and Estonia
Let’s start with 7 exciting and astonishing facts about Tallinn and Estonia:
- Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and has 430,000 inhabitants. That’s roughly a third of the Estonian population.
- Until 1918, the city was known as Reval.
- Public transport is free of charge for all residents of Tallinn.
- Free Internet access is a basic right in Estonia. So there is free WiFi everywhere in Tallinn.
- Tallinn is sometimes called the Silicon Valley of Europe. Lots of start-ups are based here. The most famous work by Estonian programmers is a little program you may have heard of… Skype.
- Estonia is the country with the highest share of women relative to its population in the world. There are only about 84 men for every 100 women.
- According to the WHO, Estonia’s air is the cleanest in the world.
That all sounds pretty great, right?
The most interesting districts and sights on a map
Tallinn has a wide variety of different sights and attractions to visit. In this section, we’ll tell you which sights you absolutely have to see on your city trip to Tallinn.
The following map shows the most important sights and districts in Tallinn. You’ll find a more detailed map of the Old Town below.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Of course, there are loads of churches in the Old Town.
The most beautiful church has to be the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was built in the late 19th century.
Although Estonia was part of the Soviet Union until 1990, there’s hardly anything left to remind you of that time. A few prefab concrete blocks on the outskirts of the city and the Soviet antique market are some of the few remaining relics that still exude something like Soviet charm.
But there are two more buildings that are inseparably intertwined with this historical era. One of them is Patarei Prison. The sea fortress was built way back in the 19th century, but during Soviet rule it gained sad notoriety as one of the worst prisons in the Soviet Union.
Until recently, the prison was still open to visitors. Unfortunately, guided tours have recently been suspended.
The future of Patarei Prison is a topic of heated debate in Tallinn. Proposals for its future use range from a cultural center to luxury apartments to the establishment of a memorial. You can find current information about the compound on the Patarei website.
Very close by Patarei Prison, visitors are faced with a huge concrete monstrosity: the Linnahall. The Linnahall was built for the sailing competitions of the Summer Olympics in 1980, and for a long time, it was the largest event venue in Estonia.
But for years now, the building has been in a steady state of decay. Today, it mostly serves as a subject for oddball photos and a popular hangout to watch the sunset. Because the Linnahall is an excellent place to sit and look out onto the Baltic Sea. That’s definitely something you should do when you’re in Tallinn.
The Old Town of Tallinn
OK, this won’t come as much of a surprise. The Old Town is the absolute main attraction in Tallinn. Presenting all the individual sights within the Old Town would be well beyond scope of this post. After all, the entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The best way to go about exploring is to just let yourself drift through the Old Town and discover the most beautiful places on your own. If you want to get some additional information about Tallinn, you can also take a guided tour of the Old Town.
The Old Town is surrounded by a medieval city wall which is still preserved over a length of 2 kilometres.
Our next Tallinn attraction is the Telliskivi Creative City. Creative companies, galleries, design shops, and some of the best bars and cafés in Tallinn have settled in this former industrial complex.
Hundreds of events take place in the Telliskivi grounds every year: concerts, exhibitions, flea markets. You can find current information about events on the Telliskivi website.
North of Telliskivi lies the Kalamaja quarter. The streets with their traditional, colorful wooden houses constitute one of the most popular residential areas in Tallinn.
A stroll through Kalamaja, camera in hand, is definitely worthwhile. Colorful wooden houses are interspersed with old industrial buildings, now inhabited by creative types, and if you follow one of the streets in Kalamaja even further north, you’ll reach the Baltic Sea in a matter of minutes. Isn’t that great?
The best viewpoints
There are some great viewpoints in the Old Town. Our favorites were the Kohtuotsa viewing platform with great views of the east of the Old Town and the Piiskopi viewing platform in the west.
But the tower of St. Olaf’s Church offers the best view of all. It costs 5 euros admission and you have to climb a steep, narrow staircase to get to the top. But the arduous ascent is rewarded with a magnificent view of the Old Town and the Port of Tallinn.
St. Olaf’s Church open from April to October
Balti Jaama Turg
To the northeast of the Old Town is Tallinn’s main train station, called Balti Jaam (Baltic Station). Right next to it is the Balti Jaama Turg, without a doubt the coolest market in Tallinn.
The market complex with its striking zig-zag roof has just been freshly renovated. Meat, fish and, vegetables are some of the things sold at the market.
But we were most excited about all the food stalls. From Japanese soups to delicious burgers to vegan wraps, it has everything a gourmet’s heart desires.
The area right next to the market hall offers a stark contrast: While the food stalls are mostly frequented by the young, hip residents of Tallinn, the antique market feels like you’ve traveled back in time 40 years.
If you’re into Soviet trinkets and Lenin statues, you can stock up on them here.
Town Hall Square
The main square in the Old Town is the Town Hall Square. It’s always really crowded. There’s also a great Christmas market here during the pre-Christmas season.
Restaurants and bars in Tallinn: Our tips
We had such great food in Tallinn! And drinks! So of course we want to share our favorite spots with you.
Kivi Paber Käärid
Kivi Paber Käärid translates as Rock, Paper, Scissors.
There are some great sunny spots outside where we spent many lazy afternoons. The beer menu is several pages long and they also have delicious food there too.
The vegan chocolate cake with raspberries is an absolute dream! The Pudel Baar directly opposite is also pretty great!
The Surfcafé is a small stall in the Balti Jaama Turg market hall. They say the barista is the best in all of Tallinn, and it’s true – the coffee is outstanding. You have to try the filter coffee.
OK, that may sound a bit weird, but trust us, it’s extremely delicious.
Also located in the market hall, just two stands from the Surfcafé, you’ll find the Veg Machine. It serves exactly two dishes: vegan wraps and vegan burgers. Both are supper-yummy, even for non-vegans. You should definitely try it!
The Boheem Cafe right by the entrance to Telliskivi Creative City offers delicious food from breakfast to dinner around the clock. Nothing fancy, but it’s all very tasty.
The local café chain Reval Café runs 14 cafés in Tallinn. Besides good coffee, they also offer tasty snacks. The ‘Reval Breakfast’ is really great, a kind of Estonian farmer’s breakfast. Delicious!
Klaus is located between Patarei Prison and the Linnahall and offers delicious, young cuisine in a stylish setting.
How to get to Tallinn
The fastest way to get to Tallinn is by plane. You can also easily combine a trip to Tallinn with one of the other cities in the region, e.g. Helsinki or Riga.
Flights to Tallinn
Tallinn’s small airport is very modern and one of the most pleasant we’ve been to so far. It is also only a stone’s throw away from the city centre.
From the airport to the city centre by taxi or Uber
In front of the terminal, there’s a taxi rank where you can catch a cab to downtown Tallinn for 10 to 15 euros. A cheap alternative is to book a ride using Uber. That only costs about half as much as a taxi.
Taking the tram or bus from the airport to the city centre
The line 4 tram stops right at the terminal and goes to the old town in a quarter of an hour. The stops in the old town are Viru and Vabaduse Väljak. The fare is 2 euros.
Bus line 2 also takes you from the airport to the Old Town for 2 euros.
Taking the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn
Tallinn and the Finnish capital Helsinki are only separated by a two-hour ferry trip. Different companies serve this route, so there are usually several ferries per hour.
Tickets start at around 25 euros. If you only want to go on a day trip, there are also cheap day return tickets that allow you to travel to Helsinki and back in one day for around 34 euros.
Taking the bus from Riga to Tallinn
Tallinn is also very well connected with the Latvian capital of Riga. The bus company Ecolines connects Riga and Tallinn with very comfortable buses and up to 7 trips a day.
The journey takes about 4 hours and costs 19 euros. If you book very early, you can get even better deals. You can just book your tickets online here.
If you’re in the mood for something a bit more adventurous, you can also take the train from Tallinn to Riga. However, it isn’t any cheaper, takes much longer, and you have to change trains once, but it’s much more adventurous.
Even more practical tips for Tallinn
As we already mentioned, Tallinn is extremely easy to travel. But we still have some additional information and extra tips for you.
#1 Paying in Tallinn
The official currency in Tallinn is the euro.
Card payments are extremely common here. Even tiny stores accept cards. We always take our two travel credit cards wherever we go, so we were able to pay and withdraw money in Tallinn with no extra fees.
#2 Choosing the right place to stay
Tallinn is really very compact, so it isn’t that hard to pick an area to stay. Especially in the Old Town, Kalamaja and west of the Old Town, you can stay well and quickly reach most of the sights in Tallinn.
We have summarised our hotel recommendations for every budget:
#3 Join a guided city tour
In principle, you can easily explore Tallinn on your own. The city isn’t very big, and almost everything is within walking distance. But nevertheless, we still recommend taking a guided tour because a tour guide can provide you with invaluable insider tips that you would never hear about otherwise.
You can book a private tour of the city. The great thing about this tour is that you have the guide all to yourself and aren’t stuck with a group.
A completely different way to discover Tallinn is by bicycle. This tour will take you beyond the city walls of the Old Town to lots of really interesting places in the area that you probably wouldn’t get to see otherwise.
#4 What to pack
As Tallinn is located very far north, it gets pretty cool even in the warmest summer evenings. So make sure to pack a sweater or a jacket.
In summer, sunscreen makes a lot of sense too because you can get a sunburn much faster than you may think. And if you’re planning to visit the Estonian national parks, don’t forget to take mosquito repellent.
Those were our best Tallinn tips and the most beautiful sights
Have you booked your flight to Tallinn yet? No? Then go ahead and do it. You won’t be disappointed! Do you have any questions? Then feel free to ask us in the comments.
If you’ve already been to Tallinn and have a tip for us that we absolutely need to add, then please let us know in the comments below.
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