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What To Do in Tallinn – Explore the Capital of Estonia
The capitals of Eastern Europe have a very different atmosphere. Because of their geographic location, they have a distinct culture that is a mix of both European and Asian. This is especially true of the Baltic region, and Estonia’s capital Tallinn is no exception. I can feel it everywhere when I toured here, from their history, to their way of life, to their food (I’ve learned food is a really good barometer of a country’s roots).
Now, Estonia may not be the first place on your mind when you’re planning a European trip, but this post will prove that Tallinn sightseeing has just as much to offer as any other tourist city and. Here are our tips on what to do in Tallinn.
If this is your first time in Tallinn ever or in a while, I recommend this private city tour to give you a feel for what the city has in store for you.
Experience matters most when traveling, so let’s rack up those experience points in Tallinn with this itinerary!
Things to Do in Tallinn
Go on a Walking Tour in Tallinn
Walking tours are a great way to cover the top things to see in Tallinn. The whole of Tallinn is a perfectly-preserved walled city, and going on a simple walking tour (even an unguided one) will take you through interesting pieces of history.
Check out the Seaplane Harbour, for example, which houses pieces from the oldest ship ever found in Estonia, along with several other maritime curiosities. There’s also the several towers and walls around, some of which still have holes in them cradling cannonballs fired from conflicts of long ago! Foremost are the Virgin’s Tower and the Kiek in de Kök.
Don’t miss St. Olaf’s Church, Kadriorg park, and the KGB museum, too, along with Raeapteek which is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe. For a majestic view of the whole Tallinn Old City, make your way to the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform at Toompea Hill.
While you can go explore Tallinn Old Town on your own, you might want to consider a small-group walking tour so you can hear all about the interesting stories and history of the city. There is also a great tour that focuses on Tallinn’s history during the time behind the Iron Curtain as well as a Jewish history tour.
I would recommend wearing really comfy clothes and shoes here, as you’re going to end up doing a lot of walking and climbing. They’re not using elevators on those walls and towers!
However, if you just don’t want to walk and a bus tour sounds lame, try this Best of Tallinn bike tour. It takes you to spectacular attractions and a leisurely feel.
Hop On Hop Off Tallinn Tour
What exactly is a hop on/hop off Tallinn tour? If you’ve ever traveled before then you’ve seen those big red buses driving around all the time. Some of them are part of a local city tour where you ride around the city but you can jump on and off the bus as you see fit.
It’s one of the more touristy things to do in Tallinn, Estonia but it’s also a great way to see the city and really dive into your favorite parts of it. The tour is super simple to book too. You just decide which days you’re going to Tallinn and book. It is a great way to see the most of the city, if you are not sure on what to do in Tallinn and you want to see the most important sights.
The tour can last anywhere from 1 to 3 days and the bus takes you everywhere, but since Tallinn is pretty small, one day should be enough to get an overview of the city and then explore on your own or take one of the more specialized tours.
Discover the Artistic Side of Tallinn
The Telliskivi Loomelinnak (the “Creative City”) used to be an industrial complex, and now it’s a place where artists and designers thrive. Trust me, this place is really a feast for the eyes! This is a huge creative center, and you’ll find almost anything related to any art here. And I mean any art. This is one of the top things to do in Tallinn for Art Lovers!
There are also a few hundred cultural events held here every year! Almost every corner is IG-worthy, so bring a power bank and an extra SD card. If you go here on a Saturday, you’ll also be able to shop for trinkets in a flea market, too.
Go on a Tallinn Food Tour
Tallinn is one huge alfresco restaurant! Being me, you’re pretty much assured I spent some time test-driving that concept. There are many places from which to eat, and outdoor seating is plentiful. There are many food tours in Tallinn. If you are a beer lover, take a look at this Tallinn Craft Beer tour.
These Tallinn food tours will take you through the different cuisines that make up Estonia’s varied food culture, from the medieval recipes to the modern gourmet specialties.
While not all international guests are keen on tasting it, make sure you don’t leave the country without sampling the fish-on-rye-bread snack that is traditionally served all over this side of Europe. Book your Tallinn Food Tour here.
And don’t miss the sweet treats at Kalev Chocolate Shop, either! I found out they’re a perfect match for the Tallinn sun, munching on them while in a cute table outdoors. Nothing like that to pick you up!
As the sunsets on a wonderful day in Tallinn, perhaps indulge in the views over the Pirita River on a Sunset Dinner Cruise.
Where to Eat (and Drink!) in Tallinn
But of course, you’ll have to know how to find the best eats even outside a food tour. Here are some of the best places in Tallinn, sorted according to dining preference.
Best Restaurants in Tallinn
If you’d like to take your loved one on a really memorable dinner, or if you just want to tickle your tastebuds with elite level cooking, you really should try any of the two Global Masters Level restaurants in Tallinn! Pretty pricey, yes, but hey, we’re talking really special.
One of these is the renowned NOA Chef’s Hall, with the distinction of being the best restaurant in the Baltics (91 points). It has a wide open and airy feel, letting in a lot of natural light. The other one is the simply named Ö which also offers a variety of cuisines in a more traditional fine dining ambience.
There are also six Masters Level restaurants, from the bright and shiny 180° to the minimalistic setting of Art Priori. In Tallinn, food is an art form that is to be both enjoyed and admired. This is something I can attest to as I wound my way through many food places, each adhering to a strict level of quality.
Best Cafés in Tallinn
There’s nothing quite like sitting in a Baltic café and admiring the life around you while munching on something delicious! Try a chicken kiev at Café Moon, or savor the local flavors and freshly-prepared dishes at Rataskaevu 16. If you’re craving for bread, there’s nothing quite like the buttered black bread from Leib Resto ja Aed.
If you’d like to tickle your mind as well as your tongue, go for a bit of history with Cafe Maiasmokk. This is the oldest café in the city, and opened way back in 1854. Then, as now, it’s a community hub where you can feel the pulse of the city. I felt in-the-loop just sitting here and observing! Or, you can follow the locals (and the advice of many other Europeans) and go to F-hoone for some good food and a good conversation. It’s come to be a meeting place for many interesting people, too.
Best Happy Hour in Tallinn
What’s a visit to the Baltics without checking out their pubs and bars? Drop by Karja Kelder in the Old Town and check out not just the traditional Estonian design but also the goodies it hides in the cellar. Another traditional bar is the Kolmas Draakon, whose medieval air is definitely one you shouldn’t miss. I mean, candle-lit tables, elk soup, and beer in massive mugs? Why not?
If you’d like something a little fancy for your night out, try out Arizona Saloon in well-trodden Viru Street. This is a themed bar that offers a mainly Tex-Mex menu (with ambience to boot). Texas Honky Tonk, another bar, accomplishes the same feat. I didn’t exactly feel like a cowgirl (I’m still in Estonia, for crying out loud!) but it was very close.
Best Bars in Tallinn
If you’re out for something on the weird side, try out Depeche Mode instead. It’s named that way because all the sound system plays are Depeche Mode songs! It’s no wonder, as it was opened by a local fans club. They’ve got a good set of drinks, so there’s something to hope for even for non-fans like me. There’s also Labor, whose overall design makes you feel like you walked into a mad scientist’s lab. Don’t expect explosions, but you’ll surely have a good time.
And we haven’t even scratched the surface of Tallinn’s pub and bar scene yet! Take a walk around, and you’ll find endless marvels here. From a bar that serves sushi with shisha (Cloud Bar), to a bar modeled after a police agency (Scotland Yard), you won’t be running out of fun and options anytime soon. Tallinn sure knows how to play around with ideas!
Where to stay in Tallinn
I would recommend staying in a central location in Tallinn, so you can explore the city on foot and are close to the main tourist sights. Here are some hotel recommendations:
3 Sisters Boutique Hotel: The rooms in this centrally located hotel are just too cute and offer excellent value for your money.
Schlößle Hotel: This stunning hotel is part of the Leading Hotels in the World group and offer you all the luxuries you could wish for, but has a very boutique feel to it. Definitely one of the best hotels in Tallin.
Savoy Boutique by TallinnHotels: This 5 Star hotel is very centrally located and great if you want to stay in a central location and enjoy the luxuries of a high-end hotel.
Best Time to Visit Tallinn
Tallinn in Winter
Tallinn is located on the Baltic Sea and it can get quite cold in the winter. However, it is also a magical time to visit if you want to experience a true winter wonderland. If you go during December, you can also visit the magical Christmas Markets in Tallinn.
As it is so far north, daylight hours are limited, you might want to add an extra day or two. Also make sure to dress appropriately for the weather, which usually ranges from 19° – 33° F (-8° – 1° C). Take a look at our Winter Packing List here.
Tallinn in Spring
In spring, the weather can be quite erratic and temperatures can vary widely.The temperature in Tallin in Spring ranges from 23° – 60° F (-5° – 16° C). March is often still grey, wet and gloomy, but in April and May, you can enjoy nicer temperatures and May is actually the day with the least rain days. It is also the time when people start planting their spring flowers and relish the first days of sun after a long winter. If you can’t deal with the winter and want to avoid the crowds, this is a good time to go.
Tallinn in Summer
Tallinn never really gets hot, but the temperatures in the summer months are perfect for exploring. The range is between 49° – 72° F (9° – 22° C). The summer are short in Estonia, so people tend to spend as much time outside as possible. It is also the most popular time for Baltic Cruises and families. While Tallinn is not a top tourist destination (yet), it has become a lot more popular over the recent years and if you are not a fan of crowds, we recommend visiting in the shoulder season instead.
Tallinn in Fall
This is the rainiest time in Tallin and it rains on average up to 14 days/month (in November). We recommend to always make alternative plans in case of rain or bring a good waterproof jacket. However, if you are a fall lover and rainy days don’t spoil your fun, you will find stunning fall foiliage in the parks of Tallinn and of course in the surrounding country side. Temperatures range from 30° – 60° F (-1° – 15° C), so especially in September and October you might get some beautiful sunny fall days.
Tallinn is a charming place, no matter where your interests lie. I’ve seen all walks of people here, all having fun and just having a field day. So don’t just see it — experience it, and revel in the vibrant and unique culture Tallinn has to offer!
Ins and Outs of What To Do in Tallinn was written and photographed by Karla Ramos