Estonia’s capital, right on the Baltic Sea coast, is a real hidden gem and highly recommended for a weekend city break, destination during a vacation in the Baltic States or a day trip from Helsinki. Even if you are only for one day in Tallinn, there is enough time to admire the impressive sights and explore the best places to visit. A very well preserved historic old town, a city wall somewhat reminiscent of Dubrovnik and magnificent viewpoints are waiting for you! This Tallinn One Day Travel Itinerary helps you to discover the best things to do even with limited time.
What do you learn in this article?
BIG5 Things to do in Tallinn
You don’t want to miss the sights? Find all tips, maps and your checklist for your city trip to Tallinn here:
BIG5 Tallinn – Speed Date
The medieval old town is beautifully preserved and surrounded by a defensive wall
The weather can be a bit wet and cold outwith summer months
Climb the fantastic view points over Tallinn! Wear sensible footwear in the old town. The cobbles are unforgiving 🙂
Buy amber jewellery as a souvenir. Amber is not found in Estonia but in neighbouring Latvia and Lithuania
Don’t tell your mother:
Drunks on stag do’s can be an irritation. Tallinn is a very popular destination!
BIG5 Tallinn – Rapid Fire Q&A
- Is it worth a short trip to Tallinn? – Definitely. The old town is very compact and can be covered on foot
- How many days should you plan for Tallinn? – Two full days and 3 nights would be optimal but a lot can be seen in 24 hours
- Can Tallinn be combined with other travel destinations? – Yes, there is a bus you can catch to Riga, Latvia. It takes under 4 hours and has a TV and AC on every seat. Or take a ferry over to Helsinki in Finland in around 2.5 hours
- Is it safe to be a tourist in Tallinn? – Yes, except for the usual pickpockets during busy seasons
- Is public transport easy to use? – Yes, there is an intergrated network of buses and trams that cost €2 per ticket for use over an hour or €4.50 for a 24 hour period. However, the old town and surrounding area can easily be explored on foot
BIG5 Tallinn – Orga
Best travel time
In the summer (July & August) the weather is great but the city is perhaps a little busy with tourists. Late spring or early autumn are quieter if you don’t mind the cooler weather.
Arrival & Departure
Visa: Check here if you need a visa for Estonia with your passport, the country is part of Schengen Agreement
- Flight: Many airlines fly to Tallinn (TLL) “Lennart Meri” airport every day
- Bus: Buses run regularly from Riga, take less than 4 hours and tickets can be bought for around €10
- Ferry: Ferries from Helsinki arrive 3 – 6 times per day depending on the season. The journey takes 2.5 hours approx.
The next stop is… Riga / Latvia or Helsinki / Finland (by ferry)
Recommended location: Directly in the Old town of Tallinn or in reasonable walking distance
- Budget: Tallinn Backpackers (Olevimägi 11, 10123 Tallinn; 15€ dorm), excellent location in the heart of Tallinn’s old town, breakfast included!
- Budget: Capsule Hostels Tallinn (Pärnu mnt 106, 11312 Tallinn; 30€ private capsule), special experience! Have you ever stayed in a Capsule Hotel?
- Medium: Thomas’ Home – Trendy, Central & Balcony (Narva maantee 40 street, 10152 Tallinn; 55€ double), modern flat with roof top terrace
- Medium: Lootsi apartment with sauna, next to Old Town, City Center, Port ( 3a Lootsi Apatrement, 10151 Tallinn; 80€ double, up to 6 guests for 155€); fully equiped flat in excellent location with a nice view over the city
- Nobel: Tornimäe Luxury Apartment (Tornimäe 7-15, 10145 Tallinn; 125€ double), extravagant-luxurious furnished appartment in a very good location
- Nobel: The Three Sisters Boutique Hotel (Pikk 71 / Tolli 2, 10133 Tallinn; 185€), 5* hotel in a 14 century building in the very heart of the city right at Townhall Square
In Estonia you pay with Euro (EUR)
Withdraw money: Easily possible at the airport and at ATMs around the city
Beer indicator: A pint of beer in a restaurant or bar ranges from €2 – €4 (you might find it cheaper outside the old town)
Public transport: A single ticket costs €2 for use on all transport for 1 hour or €4.50 for 24 hours
Restaurants, Bars & Cafés
- Kompressor (Rataskaevu 3, 10123 Tallinn) for amazing sweet and savoury pancakes in the old town
- Maiasmokk Cafe (Pikk 16, 10123 Tallinn) visit the oldest cafe in Estonia for a coffee and cake
- Odessa (Pikk 30, 10133 Tallinn) delicious, authentic Ukranian food
- Peppersack (Viru tänav 2, 10140 Tallinn) dine in the historic building in the centre of town
- Olde Hansa (Vana turg 1, 10146 Tallinn) medieval style restaurant close to Townhall Square
- Whisper Sister (Pärnu mnt 12, 10146 Tallinn) a secret spot for amazing cocktails
BIG5 Tallinn – Activities
- Tallinn Old Town – Explore the beautiful medieval streets of Tallinn’s old town
- Climb Toompea Hill for great views over the city center
- Walk on the well preserved city walls – feels like Dubrovnik
- Patarei Prison – This sea fortress was used as a prison up until 2002 including nearly 50 years as a soviet prison. The exhibition details the horrendous conditions in which inmates were kept (open May – Sept)
- Balti Jaam Turg (Market) – Conveniently located by the train station, stop by to peruse the 3 floors of fresh food, cafes, antiques and clothes stalls
BIG5 Tallinn – Photo spots
- Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform – Beautiful panoramas over the old town and beyond
- Nunnatorn ja Linnamuuri Platvorm – Climb the town wall for a great view of the medieval towers
- Viru Gate – Snap the Tallinn icons that guard the entrance to the old town
- St Olaf’s Church – Climb to the top for great shots over the red roofs
- Pikk Jalg – A beautiful cobbled street with fantastic architecture on each side (Maiasmokk Cafe is also located here)
BIG5 Tallinn – Things to do off the beaten track
- St Catherine’s passage – a beautiful medievil street filled with cafes and art studios
- Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve – visit some of Estonia’s wildlife and breath some fresh air
- Jagala Waterfall – chill by Estonia’s highest natural waterfall
- Kalev Spa and Water Park – stop by for a beauty treatment, relax in the spas or play in the waterpark
- Haunted Guest House – Known in Tallinn for hosting the Devil’s wedding. Would you visit?
BIG5 Tallinn – Culinary Journey
- Leivasupp (“bread soup”) – sweet soup made from black bread and apples, normally served with sour cream
- Kiluvoileib – an Estonian open sandwich with sprats, and sometimes egg, on rye bread
- Verivorst – traditional dish of blood sausage
- Rosolje – pickled herring, chopped beatroot and potatoes with rye bread
- Kali – Estonia’s national drink made from fermented bread
BIG5 Tallinn – Communication
In Estonia the people speak Estonian
- thank you – aitäh
- yes – ja
- no – ei
- hello – tere
- goodbye – head aega
BIG5 Tallinn – Helpful Websites / Links
- Official Tourist Website of Tallinn
- Official Website of Estonian Tourism
- Website of Telliskivi Creative City
BIG5 Tallinn – Overview Map for your planning
ONE perfect DAY in TALLINN 🇪🇪 – here is your overview
Best suited for a screenshot 📷📝
Your morning in Tallinn
Visit the Old Town
- Raekoja plats / Town Hall Square
- Tallinna linnamüür
- Tornide väljak square
- St. Olaf’s Church
- Fat Margaret tower
- Hellemann Tower & Viru Gate
- St Nicholas‘ Orthodox Church (worth looking inside)
- Freedom Square
- Kiek in de Kök tower
- Maiasmokk Café – Oldest in Tallinn
Climb Toompea Hill
- Pikk Jalg
- Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- View points Kohtuotsa, Patkuli & Piiskopi
- Toomkirik (medieval church)
- Castrum Danomrum & Toompea loss
- Large Hermann tower
Your afternoon in Tallinn
Alternative 1: Walk/scoot out of the centre and explore the Kalamaja District
- Visit the Balti Jaam / Railway market on the way west
- Admire the traditional wooden houses
- Explore Sea Fortress Paratei (only open May-Sept)
Alternative 2: Relax and play at the Kalev Spa Hotel and Water Park
- Especially if you have more time in Tallinn!
- Enjoy a traditional beauty treatment
- Spend time in the relaxing spa
- Release your inner child and zoom down the water flumes
Your evening in Tallinn
- Whisper sister speakeasy
- Try some traditional Kali
I have summarized the things to do in Tallinn and the circular route for you in addition to the BIG5 in an overview map:
Click on the icon in the top left corner to use the full range of map options!
Best things to do in Tallinn for Turbo Tourists
This article is published for you in cooperation with Katy from The Balkans and Beyond.
In Estonia’s capital we have a late arrival when our bus from Riga finally pulls in to Tallinn after a 5 hour journey. It’s getting late, it’s dark and it’s pouring. The bus was busy but people are quickly collected by friends and relatives or quietly making their own way to their destination. We stand in the centre of the near deserted bus station as we work out how to get to our accommodation (our bus journey was unwisely spent watching movies).
Eventually we order a taxi and make our way to the apartment in the Kalamaja District. It’s late, and not much is open, so we settle in to our apartment and prepare for our first day exploring a new city. We can’t wait to discover the best of Tallinn!
Things to do in Tallinn in the morning
In the morning we plan to explore the best places to visit in Tallinn’s old town and learn more about the citiy’s history. Our apartment is set in a converted warehouse in the former industrial part of town and is within walking distance of the centre. On route, we walk by a large park full of rustling, amber trees before passing the beautiful, old wooden houses of the Kalamaja District. With no time to stop for breakfast we nip into the supermarket to grab a snack to eat on the go. We have a schedule to stick to today!
To get a first overview of the most important attractions of Tallinn, we recommend joining a free walking tour.
Our tour guide is waiting for us in the old town. Our small group sets off along the cobbled streets with our guide, Risto, at the helm. He is passionate and knowledgeable about his city and its history. We visit many of Tallinn’s interesting spots such as the city wall towers, Town Hall Square, Toompea Hill and the Danish King’s Garden. He tells tales that are a mixture of accurate historical accounts and dubious anecdotes. For example, Estonians are said to have been rationed to a single roll of toilet paper for a whole year, shared between seven people, until the 1960s!
Explore Tallinn’s historic old town
If you want to explore the best things to do in Tallinn on your own, here is your one day itinerary:
Start at Raekoja plats, Tallinn’s impressive Town Hall Square. Here you find – no wonder – the Town Hall and many well-preserved historic buildings like the “Three Sisters”. The Town Hall Square is also the place where the city’s famous Christmas market takes place in winter. You can imagine the fantastic atmosphere.
Let’s take a closer look at the towers! The best way to walk from the Town Hall Square is in the direction of Tallinna linnamüür and out the gate to see the old city fortifications with the towers in a row, just like in a picture book. If you have decided to walk around the city wall, you will pass the Tornide väljak square, from where you also have a great view of the iconic towers of Tallinn.
From here it continues through the historic old town. On the way you come to the St. Olaf’s Church (Oleviste kogudus). Under no circumstances go past and up the tower! The church tower is one of the three best vantage points in Tallinn and gives you a great view of Toompea.
Continue the round by visiting the Fat Margaret, an imposing tower towards the Baltic Sea. If you arrived in Tallinn by ferry or boat, you may have entered the old town through the adjacent gate.
Passing the House of the Blackheads (yes, this is not only found in Riga / Latvia) you continue to the Viru Gate. At Hellemann Tower you can even climb the old city wall and feel like a medieval guard post! A breath of Dubrovnik!
With a dangle over the Freedom Square (Vabaduse väljak) with the modern column to victory in the War of Independence, you pass the Niguliste kirik back to the Town Hall Square. If you have a little more time, the museum in the Kiek in de Kök tower is an interesting stop to learn more about the history of Tallinn’s bastions. It even goes into the old tunnels …
Have a delightful break in Tallinn’s oldest café
After an educational few hours exploring the sites of the old town we take a break at Maiasmokk Café. Dating back to 1864, this is the oldest café in Estonia. Inside, the café is bustling, mostly with chatty, elderly customers. The décor is old fashioned, if a little kitsch, but just how you’d imagine the country’s oldest café to look. They also have a shop selling very curious, detailed, marzipan sculptures. We each order a coffee and a cake and watch the world go by for a while.
During our early morning tour we passed a few places that might merit another visit. Karu Talu – selling handmade, vegan chocolates – is one such place. We retrace our steps down the narrow alley and find the modest entrance to the store. As soon as we open the door we are hit by the sweet smell of the chocolate we see behind glass counters, piled high in mounds of different varieties. With such a huge selection we struggle to choose just one. The server explains all the available varieties but tells us, “They are all good, there is no wrong choice”. We eventually leave with a block of salted caramel and a block of mint choc chip.
Things to do in Tallinn: Enjoy the view from Toompea Hill
Are you looking forward to the picturesque views from Toompea? Then go ahead! The best way to get up is via the cobbled alley Pikk Jalg.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral sits atop the hill of Toompea. After stopping by briefly on our tour, we make our way back for a second look. On reaching the top of the hill, we are greeted by the impressive and imposing Russian Revival style church. The cobbled streets are quiet, as the tourist numbers dwindle in the autumn, and the cathedral is surrounded by charming, colourful buildings. This spectacular structure has been meticulously renovated and well maintained and is certainly worth the climb – and a look inside if you have time.
Don’t miss the magnificent viewpoints from Toompea: Kohtuotsa and Patkuli. From here you have a great view of the old town and the old fortifications of Tallinn. From the observation platform Piiskopi (Piiskopi vaateplatvorm) you have a great view from the Toompea to the western parts of Tallinn.
On the Toompea you will find many other iconic buildings such as the cathedral. That is no surprise: Toompea is the Estonian version of the German word Domberg which means “cathedral hill”. Also the Castrum Danomrum and Toompea loss, a former castle where the Estonian parliament meets today. The Large Hermann has a special function: It is said that the flag that flies on the large tower rules over the city and region. No wonder that the Estonian flag is hoisted every day.
It’s well passed lunch time by now. Our guide in Riga had told us not to leave Tallinn without eating at Kompressor. Claiming to have the best pancakes in the Baltics, it would be rude not to. We manage to find the restaurant in the old town. The entrance is decorated with several rotund frogs, a glimpse of how we might look after lunch, perhaps.
Things to do in Tallinn in the afternoon
Deep dive in history: Visit a former Soviet prison
After leaving the cobbled streets of the old town behind, there is now an abundance of electric scooters zipping around. Our next stop is a 30 minute walk away so the scooters seem very appealing. We download the app (most are operated by Bolt) scan our chosen vehicle and scoot. With a max speed of 30mph these are fantastic fun but beware of the varied speed limits throughout the town – and slippery leaves in the autumn!
We are heading towards Tallinn’s former Soviet prison – Patarei Sea Fotress. The complex was completed as an army barracks in 1840, in 1920 it was converted into a prison and was used as such until 2002. The communist regime in Estonia from 1940-1941 and 1944-1991 imprisoned many people in the fortress, including suspected political opponents.
With the sea to our right we are whizzing up a long, steady hill. Nearing the top, we spot a white, brick wall lined with twisted, barbed wire. We must be on the right track. Continuing along the path by the wall we reach the entrance and park our scooters. As we walk by the abandoned, wooden guard tower there is no one else around and the only sound is from the sea.
Gloomy cells & barbed wire hearts
The sign up ahead informs us that the exhibition in the cells had closed for the season just a few days earlier. The grounds are still open so we head in anyway. One side of the prison is overlooking the sea across to Finland. This view is of course blocked by bars and barbed wire. Many lengths of the wire have since been shaped into love hearts as a symbol of solidarity for those who suffered here. The area is deserted and the stillness is chilling.
Peering inside one of the barred windows, we can make out the inside of a cell through the broken glass. The paint is peeling from the walls in huge chunks, the concrete floor is grey and worn and there is a faint smell of cold, musty stone. Somewhere down the long corridor there are echoed voices… we move on.
If oppressive communist prisons are not your thing, the Maritime Museum is located right next door.
After spending some time in the area, we jump back on our scooters and head home. Our route takes us through Kalamaja Kalmistupark, a beautiful park currently filled with crisp, amber leaves. We arrive back in our apartment where we recharge for the evening ahead.
Things to do in Tallinn: Have a sophisticated evening
Tallinn’s medieval old town is a great place to have a relaxed evening, strolling around Townhall Square and admire the nicely illuminated city center.
Enough of walking after a long day? There is a special place to recommend: Having always been fans of the roaring ‘20s, news of a speakeasy in Tallinn was extremely exciting. Whisper Sister is a cocktail bar, with no signage, hidden away in a large building in the capital. This is where we are going tonight. Our new favorite mode of transport takes us back towards the old town and we start looking for the illusive watering hole.
Finding the correct street is easy but locating the exact door takes a few attempts. Eventually we spot a tiny, brass plaque on a green door with the name and phone number inscribed on it. Tentatively we call the number. After a brief conversation, he asks us to wait and someone will come and collect us. In under a minute a well-groomed gent greets us and invites us in. He takes time to show us around and talk us through the different cocktails they offer. They also take requests.
We take a seat in the “living room” area. The décor reflects that of the New York speakeasys of the 1920s but with a modern twist. It’s midweek in October so the bar is quiet but there is still a wonderful atmosphere. The cocktail menu is comprehensive and imaginative so we’re quite happy to spend the evening sampling a few.
If you have more time than one day in Tallinn
Katy spent three nights in Tallinn. It is possible to fit a lot into one day and get a good feel for the city so a shorter trip is feasible. But if you can stay longer then all the better, there are so many things to do in Tallinn! Take time to explore this fascinating and diverse city and breathe in some of the beautiful surrounding countryside.
About the author:
This article on “Things to do in Tallinn for Turbo Tourists” was written by reader Katy Kuhlwilm from The Balkans and Beyond. On her blog, Katy shares exciting stories and practical travel tips for people thinking of travelling to and around the Balkans.
Follow Katy on Instagram (@thebalkansandbeyond) and her blog!
You’re next destination is Latvia? Simplify your travel planning and go on reading with Best things to do in RIGA – Itinerary for one day
Even if you have only one day in Tallinn: Estonia’s capital and the whole Baltic States region is a real gem when travelling in Europe and a worthy item for your bucket list 🇪🇪