Tallinn is the perfectly preserved medieval capital of Estonia. You may not consider it (or Estonia) when you visit Europe, but trust us, there are attractions in the city that you don’t want to miss. Although most visitors only visit the city on a day-trip tour from Helsinki, we suggest staying for 2-3 days so you can accomplish everything at an easy pace. Our 3-day suggested itinerary is designed to give you a holistic and wholesome experience which allows you to see all of the main sights and some of the smaller hidden places in between. Welcome to Tallinn!
Things to know before traveling to Tallinn, Estonia:
Language – The official language of Estonia is Estonia, which is spoken by about 98% of the population. Most Estonian speak English, so you can absolutely get by without speaking the Estonian language. Finnish, German and Russian are the other languages commonly spoken in the country. Like any other countries, speaking at least some Estonian phrases or a simple “Aitäh!” (Thank you!) is greatly appreciated by the locals.
Currency exchange – Estonia uses the euro, the same currency now used by most Western European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Prior to traveling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You can also use the ATMs at all main squares of every town, major airports and train stations.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Estonia. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Keep your guard up at all times and avoid any streets that are not crowded.
Getting there – The city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. If you are crossing from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry cruise, travel time can last up to 3 hours. If you prefer direct travel to Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport, then you may take a flight from major European cities. This airport is connected to the city by tram number 4, which runs every 6 minutes. Journey time is about 18 minutes. For a single trip you can buy the ticket from the driver that cost 2 Euro or buy a QR-ticket online for 1 Euro.
Getting around – The historical center of Tallinn is small enough to explore on foot and pedestrian-friendly since its narrow, cobbled streets are not ideal for bicycles and automobiles. Make sure to download a map or print a map before your trip. Also, ask directions from your hotel since the orientation in the city can be quite confusing. If you are short on time or you prefer less time walking outside the historic center, you may get around bus network and taxis.
Where to stay – Estonian accommodation options are diverse, with something for every level of comfort and budget. The most frequent question from first time travelers is, “What’s the best area to stay in when visiting Tallinn?” Without a doubt, the best place to stay in the city is the area around the old town. It contains almost all of the main sights and the best places to eat. So, staying here makes a lot of sense, especially if your time is very limited. It’s best to get a hotel room with a magnificent view of the castle and the Medieval town to appreciate the city’s beauty.
Hotels to consider in Tallinn:
Detailed itinerary: Discover Tallinn, Estonia in 3 days
Today starts your adventure in Tallinn, the fairy-tale like medieval capital of Estonia. Check into your chosen accommodation where you will be staying for three days. Then, set out this morning to see some of the most beautiful attractions in the city. There is no better way to get acquainted in the city than strolling through the Historic Center of Tallinn, one of the best old towns in Europe featuring medieval architecture. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the historic center is an outstanding example of a medieval town with neo-Gothic style and Gothic Revival architecture. During the medieval times, it was a significant trading city on the Baltic Sea developed by the merchant organization of Hanseatic League.
Make your way to your next destination, the Toompea Castle on Toompea Hill, known for its outstanding Baroque elements. This is a relevant and educational stop to create basic understanding of the city’s history and heritage. The castle presents the complete history of the fortress that once stood there as well as a glimpse on the lives of the noble families that used to inhabit the place. Home to the Estonian Parliament today, visitors can explore the castle during weekdays.
In the afternoon, head to the Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) home to some of the best medieval buildings in the city as well as one of Tallinn’s most iconic attractions, the Tallinn Town Hall. Steeped with history, the square is also a great place to people watch and do some shopping. End the day with a stein of craft beer at one of the sidewalk restaurants in the city. After dinner, head back to your chosen hotel and sleep early for your tour the next day.
On day 2, spend your morning at one or two of Tallin’s best-loved museums like the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor and Estonian Open-Air Museum. Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor is a a maritime museum which houses some extraordinary historic and artistic relics about Estonia’s maritime past. You may to spend as much time as possible here if you would like to explore its main attraction, the 1936 submarine Lembit. Then, get set to experience the glories of Estonian Open-Air Museum, a museum where thatched farm buildings, wooden chapels and windmills were relocated from different parts of Estonia to preserve the Estonian traditions. A popular picnic and party venue, the museum is also one of the best places in the city to try out the traditional Estonian food served in farm houses.
In the late afternoon, once you are through with the museums take a stroll back to the Town Hall Square and appreciate its medieval buildings and houses. Do not miss to visit the Patkuli viewing platform which is probably the best place to see the stunning panoramic views of Tallinn. If you are looking for a place with lots of nightlife then then you have come to the right place. If you are looking for a place where to relax and chill out peacefully when many of the day-trippers depart, then Tallinn also offers a few bars and restaurants where you’ll feel the laid-back vibe in the city.
Your final day in the city can be spent on last-minute shopping and seeing those attractions that you haven’t yet had time for. You may also dedicate this morning to (St. Catherine’s Passage) and Pirita Klooster (Convent of St. Bridget). Head back to your hotel, then to the airport in time to check in for your international flight, or you may opt to continue traveling independently in Estonia, or extend your stay in Tallinn.
Have you been to Tallinn or anywhere else in Estonia? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Old Town and sea port harbor in Tallinn, Estonia (Oleksiy Mark / Shutterstock)