Tallinn, Estonia is a bit more of an off-the-beaten-track capital to visit in Europe, but if you can spend at least one day in Estonia you must visit Tallinn Old Town. An old Baltic Sea port, Tallinn’s old town stands sentinel over the sea and is complimented by quite a modern ‘new’ town behind it, comprised of higher rise buildings.
Tallinn is right on the Baltic Sea, not too far across the channel from Helsinki and connected via ferry from many other Baltic cities. You can reach Tallinn by ferry from Stockholm, Riga, Helsinki, various ports in Germany, and even Denmark or Poland.
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The most characteristic part of Tallinn, Estonia is its beautiful old walled town. The town is protected by high stone walls, which nowadays you can climb and walk to come upon stunning views of the colorful city. There are many churches and beautiful buildings in town. The skyline is characterized by green pointed steeples, russian-style baubles, brick-red roofs, red-pointed castle towers, and classic colorful eastern European architecture.
Believe it or not, Tallinn is one of the up-and-coming worldly centers for tech startups. Many tech companies find their way here to find talented workers and also hire international workers from around the world. If you are looking to work internationally, Tallinn has lots of opportunities!
Some of the lookout points over old town have lovely quotes painted on the wall! This one is Patkuli Vaateplatvorm.
Some workers in Tallinn Old Town dressed up in Medieval garb.
Colors in Tallinn’s main square
What to do in Tallinn Old Town
The main thing to do in one day in Estonia is to walk around Tallinn old town. My favorite way to travel is to simply wander around a place and get wonderfully lost. The old town is incredible, and you can come upon many beautiful restaurants and buildings that look like you are actually inside a fairy tale. If you wanted something a bit more guided you could also book a well-rated Welcome Tour with a Local or a classic Hop On Hop Off bus tour, which would give you more range in your sightseeing in less time!
Because the town is so medieval in architecture and design, people actually dress up in traditional garb to work at restaurants or hang around town. Although obviously classically touristy, this is a pretty cool way to feel immersed in the historical town and understand a bit about its roots.
Tallinn Markets and Stalls
If you are entering the old town from the newer town (away from the sea), you can turn directly right to see a row of markets backed up against the tall Tallinn old town walls. Here you can find some classic Estonian souvenirs, and LOTS of amazing soft knitted goods. Tallinn is known for its lovely comfy sweaters, scarves, socks, and gloves. You will quickly notice the comfortable style as you walk by these markets, and it’s hard not to pick up a little something as a token of the city. They have tons of colorful gloves and hats, and these were the hardest for me to resist as they would have fit most easily in my backpack!
Tallin Views – Viewpoints and Walking the Walls
Near the markets is an entry way to climb some winding stairs and walk along a portion of the Tallinn old town walls. These look north over the entire town and provide pretty views over everything. It’s not the best view in town but there are definitely some worthwhile photo ops.
The north part of town, closest to the sea, has the viewpoints that really deliver the goods. One of them, Patkuli Vaateplatvorm, faces more west and has a pretty perfect view of the sunset. The other, Kohtuotsa Vaateplatvorm, is exactly central and gives quite literally a jaw-dropping view over the entire town skyline.
The sun shining through a little slice of green grass
A Tallinn ciyscape with one of the main churches in view
A view of Tallinn old town from my early morning ferry to Helsinki – with the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral standing out.
Walking up to explore the St. Nicolas Church in old town.
Parks Around Town
There are some massive parks surrounding the town that would be lovely for a bike ride or an afternoon walk. Many of the locals will flock to the parks on a nice warm day, to feel as if they have a bit of nature in the middle of the city. It’s actually surrounded almost on all sides by parks and grassy areas, and you can book a 2hr Bike Tour of Tallinn if you would like to see more of these!
Cathedrals + Churches
It’s hard not to notice the bigger cathedrals and churches when looking at old town. The Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral and the St Nicolas Church are some of the main ones to check out – the latter of which is also a museum!
Where I ate in Tallinn – the Best Restaurants
Although I only had a short time, I can still recommend a few amazing places to eat that I tried in Tallinn. If you are more of a foodie, the Tallinn Food Tour with Food Sightseeing Estonia is supposed to be great, or for fitness foodies you can try the unique Bicycle Culinary Tour with City Bike Ltd!
Kompressor Pancake Restaurant – This place will be completely packed out whenever you decide to go, and for a good reason too! This place serves thick, rich, packed pancakes that can be sweet or savory. It was probably the richest thing I’ve ever had, but my savory meat + cheese pancake was to die for.
Vegan Restoran V – Amazing Vegan food in Tallinn – If you know me you know I am not a vegetarian/vegan normally, but I do enjoy dabbling with different types of food… veg/vegan included! I settled in on this place after I was wandering around town, not realizing it was still light at 9pm and it was far past dinner time. I got a vegan soup and beet burger here and it was one of my favorite meals! I would highly recommend this classy little scrumptious place.
Two friends watching the sunset from abandoned Linnahall on Tallinn’s shore.
Lots of people enjoying golden hour from just outside Tallinn Old Town’s main entrance.
Where To Watch the Sunset in Tallinn
Linnahall – I noticed this graffiti-covered building while walking around town, and made note to check it out later in the day as it would perfectly face the sunset…. and it was perfect indeed! I was definitely not the only one with this idea; many residents were hanging out here with shopping bags full of beers and watching the sunset together as well.
Old Town Lookout Points – The lookout points I mentioned above would be perfect to see the sunset, or you could join locals in sitting one the wall just outside old town’s main street entrance to soak up the last rays of sun.
Baked Goods at a local street fair – it’s anyone’s guess what they are! That’s why I tried them all 😉
Some residents exploring a local market while I was in Tallinn. It was amazing to explore such a cultural event!
Scenes from Tallinn’s Maritime Museum
If You Have a Bit More than One Day in Tallinn
Maritime Museum – The maritime museum is a popular spot to visit in Tallinn and has loads of exhibits on everything boats, sailing, and water. Your ticket can also include admission to explore some huge and historical ships in the harbor as well.
Local Events – I was lucky to be in Tallinn on the day of a Spring market and carnival, which was incredible for me to explore. I met some locals who told me about it, and the next day I wandered through a market selling all kinds of incredible home-baked goods and saw adorable performances put on by local school children. I always say it is important to check events going on whenever you are traveling through an area, because attending a cultural event (I was definitely the only non-Estonian there!) is a great way to get to know a place.
Where I Stayed in Tallinn
I was here right before a season of working on jam-packed boats, so I found a lovely Airbnb just outside town to catch up on the blogging and enjoy an expansive view of the harbor for not even $35/night! It’s so cheap here.
But, for those who are even more budget, there are lots of hostels on Hostelworld for less than $10!
Read Next: A Ride on the Party Ferry from Stockholm to Riga: One of my most interesting travel experiences to date!
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