Estonia was on my radar for years before I actually travelled there. Which seems a little bit odd. After all, it’s not considered to be one of the big or popular European cities for tourists. However, my uncle was in the Canadian Navy and it was his favourite port. He told me it looked like a fairytale city and that was all I needed to hear to know I wanted to visit. I finally got the chance and, as he did, fell in love. So, for anyone else eyeing this Baltic city, here are my picks for the best things to do in Tallinn, the fairytale capital of Estonia.
How to Get to Tallinn
Tallinn has its own airport which is probably the easiest way to get in. A number of budget European airlines including Ryanair and EasyJet fly here. If you are coming from somewhere from Sweden or Finland, you can also look into ferries.
Where to Stay in Tallinn
If you are a tourist in Tallinn I definitely suggest staying in Old Town. Yes, it will be a bit pricier that other areas of the city, however, the location is ideal for exploring Old Town is MUCH prettier than the newer part of the city. Tallinn is more affordable than many other European capitals and has accommodation options for all budgets. Plus, some of the nicer hotels are actually quite affordable!
Need some suggestions? Take a look at:
How to Get Around Tallinn
For those looking to explore the best of Tallinn, you will probably be sticking mainly to the Old Town area which is incredibly easy to get around by foot.
You can also use public transit in Tallinn to get around the city; there is a good tram network (which does go to and from the airport). Tickets can be bought on board, however, it is much cheaper to buy a prepaid card in advance and load it with some money. Learn more about these tickets and where to buy them here.
The Best Things to do in Tallinn
So, what are some of the best Tallinn things to do? To me, Tallinn is more of a city of exploring and seeing where you end up and what you find rather than list-checking. It’s not like Paris or London which are teeming with museums and attractions. That being said, there are still some worthwhile stops to add to your Tallinn itinerary. Here’s what I recommend.
This is the main entryway into old town Tallinn and definitely one of the areas that give this city it’s fairytale vibes. It’s a busy spot today, as it likely was in the past too. There’s a market outside selling all kinds of good as well as plenty of restaurants surrounding the area.
As you may know, Estonia was under Soviet occupation up until 1991 which means they have plenty of recent, challenging history. For an inside look at this history, you can book a visit from Tuesday-Sunday to the KGB museum which is held in the Viru Hotel. It will give you an idea of what KGB secret headquarters looked like (they were originally located in hotels around the former Soviet Union) plus you can check out some cool Soviet spy equipment. Book your visit here.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Ok, I know what you are thinking: not another European church. I get it, Europe has hundreds of beautiful churches and yes, they kind of get repetitive. However, this one is Russian Orthodox which means it has the bulbous rounded tops on the towers that, personally, I think are adorable and absolutely love. It’s one of Tallinn’s top attractions and can visit inside if you want, it’s free of charge, just please be mindful of any services since this is an active cathedral.
I’m a sucker for castles and while I admit that this isn’t the most exciting one I have ever seen; I still recommend walking by to see it. Especially since it’s located beside Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. You can go inside if you book in advance (I didn’t).
Kohtuotsa viewing platform
When it comes to Tallinn things to do, getting a great view of Old Town is a must. For the best view, head up to the Kohtuosa viewing platform. If you’ve done any research on Tallinn you will definitely recognize this viewpoint. It’s incredibly popular (especially on Instagram) but for good reason. The view here is stunning.
Town Hall Square
Another great place to enjoy the fairytale looks of Tallinn is the Old Town Hall Square. The nearby buildings are beautiful to look at and there are plenty of restaurants if you want to eat. If you happen to visit during the holiday season, this is where the Tallinn Christmas market is held.
Telliskivi Creative City
I missed this spot but it sounds really cool so I had to include it on the list. Telliskivi Creative City is located outside of the old town but shows the creative side of Tallinn. The area used to be full of warehouses but has been transformed into a space filled with restaurants, cafes, boutique shops, music venues, and plenty of street art.
Check out the Craft Beer Scene
It’s no secret that craft beer is taking over the world and Tallinn has a really impressive craft beer scene. If you love craft beer, then I recommend checking out a few spots. Here’s a guide to some of the best craft beer spots in Tallinn.
I preferred to tour Tallinn on my own, however, if you would like to see it with a guide and learn more about the history of the city, check out this guided tour.
How Many Days in Tallinn?
So, how long should you spend in Tallinn? Well, depends on your travel style but for me, three days was enough to explore slowly and see what I wanted. You could get away with two days if you are short on time or, alternatively, use it as a base and explore more of the area. You can even grab a ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki if you want. Tallinn is a whole lot cheaper (trust me) so this is a good way to get a taste of Helsinki if you have never been.
Day Trips from Tallinn
If you choose to spend a little longer in Tallinn there are a few day trips that might be worth your time. As mentioned above, one option is you can to from Tallinn to Helsinki as a day trip. I did this when I visited and it was a fun and easy day trip. Check out my guide on how to spend 1 day in Helsinki for some ideas! If you are uncomfortable navigating this trip on your own, you can take a full-day guided tour from Tallinn to Helsinki. Take a look at this tour.
Other day trips from Tallinn that might be worth exploring include:
- Lahemaa National Park
- Coastal Cliff and Rummu Submerged Quarry Day Tour
- Naissar Island Lighthouse and Underground Tunnel
- Prangli Island
- Jagala Waterfall and Harju Country
Final Tips for Things to do in Tallinn
Tallinn is a beautiful city and while there are certainly some great things to do in Tallinn, you don’t need a lot of time to see the highlights. I visited in spring, which was perfect. However, I would love to return in the winter because I’ve been told that they have one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe!
While it is getting more popular, prices here are pretty reasonable making it a more affordable European destination- a good choice if you are looking for somewhere to go on a smaller budget!
A Note on Travel Insurance in Estonia
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.