27 Dec Tallinn
Welcome to Tallinn
Tallinn is one of our favourite cities in the Baltics and is the capital city of Estonia. Like a fairytale story, Tallin has a European charm with quaint and awe-inspiring architecture, also listed in 1997 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This medieval city in Northern Europe is the most photogenic capital and boasts unique gothic spires, winding cobblestone streets and enchanting architecture. With so much to offer, this overview will give you a mix of highlights and top historical spots to explore.
Summers are the best time to visit Tallinn, from June to August, when the weather is nice and warm, to explore the outdoors. We travelled to Estonia in December, which was pretty cold but perfect for a white Christmas holiday. Since this is a small town and the attractions are in a concentrated area, two full days should be enough to see everything in Tallinn.
How To Get There
Ferry: We were already in Helsinki and took the 3-hour ‘Megastar’ Ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. The Tallink Silja Line is a huge cruise ship that makes multiple trips across the Gulf of Finland, and it is advisable to book tickets in advance.
By Air: Fly into Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport, the largest airport in Estonia.
You can fly from European hubs like London, Paris, or Frankfurt with local carriers like British Airways, Air France, or Lufthansa. Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, try one of the low-cost airlines such as Wizz Air, AirBaltic or RyanAir that often fly direct from the big cities around Europe. Search for the best airfares through WayAway or Skyscanner with the airport code TLL.
By Bus: You can catch one of the many buses that run between other European cities via Latvia from Western Europe.
Getting Around Tallinn
Getting around is easy with options such as renting a car or taking public transportation. The latter is comfortable and regularly connects to most stops.
By Foot: Tallinn’s tourist attractions are centrally located in the old town, making exploring the main tourist attractions easy. Click here for walking tours.
Buses & Trams: Tallinn has a unique public transport system, operating by a single smart card which you can buy from any R-Kiosks around the city or the driver. Click here for more information.
Tours: Want to discover more of Tallin’s culture and history? Click here for day Tours.
Places Of Interest
Tallinn Old Town (Tallinna Vanalinn)
Magical Tallinn’s Old Town retains its walled, cobblestoned streets and is home to Kiek in de Kök, a 15th-century defensive tower. Tallinna Vanalinn encompasses the upper town (Toompea), with its castle and cathedral. In contrast, the lower town, inside the medieval walls, preserves the medieval narrow winding streets, Town Hall, pharmacy, churches, monasteries, merchants’ and artisans’ guilds. It is also the birthplace of many international high-technology companies, including Skype, Bolt and Wise.
Town Hall and Town Hall Square
In the heart of Old Town is the oldest and only preserved gothic-style Town Hall in the Baltic countries, carrying the tradition of the European city government. Today the Town Hall is surrounded by a large square full of restaurants and cafes and many colourful European-style houses to admire.
After strolling around Town Hall Square, wander through charming cobbled streets and alleys towards Toompea Hill. Here you will arrive at Kiek in de Kök and have a beautiful view of a beautiful orthodox cathedral, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Walls of Tallinn
In the 13th Century, Medieval defensive walls were built around the city of Tallinn, and still standing is the 1.9km original city wall with 20 defensive towers. The three towers on the northwest corner of Old Town, called Nunna, Sauna and Kuldjala towers, are impressive as if in a fairytale book. Climb up Nunna tower, and enjoy a magnificent view of the red-tiled roofs of Old Town while taking in its history at the museum.
The best places to see the wall from the outside are the Patkuli viewing platform on Toompea and Tornide väljak (Towers’ Square), a park area near the train station.
Patkuli Viewing Platform
Patkuli Viewing Platform sits on the hills of Tallinn’s ancient old town. Here you will be mesmerized by its idyllic and enchanting view of the Old Town, its towers, walls, vibrant roofs of Tallinn’s houses and the spire of St Olaf’s church. The 157 stairway leading up to the platform connects Toompea hill to the town below.
The Maiden Tower - Neitsitorn Museum
The Maiden Tower – part of the Kiek in de Kök Fortification Museum was a Defence Tower dwelling and now a Cafe-Restaurant in a unique Medieval Tower.
Kiek in de Kök Museum
Kiek in de Kök – which translates to “Peek into the Kitchen“- is the story of soldiers who used to look inside the kitchens from the above tower! This tower used to be the most powerful defence tower of medieval Tallinn, and its history dates back to the 15th Century.
Start at the Maiden Tower to once again view panoramic views of medieval Tallinn, and then slowly make your way to the other towers. If you have time, wander through an exhibition about Tallinn and the city wall. There are six floors to climb, so give yourself plenty of time. Click here for tickets.
The Bastion Passages
Also, as part of its history, the defence passage runs from the Maiden Tower to the Bastion Tunnel, a secret network of underground corridors built in the 17th Century to protect the city. These secret tunnels were to conceal the movement of soldiers, ammunition, and other equipment from the enemy and to monitor the enemy’s underground activities of planting mines. Click here for tickets.
Danish King's Garden
Danish King’s Garden is an open, garden-like area on the slopes of Toompea Hill where history dictates are the legendary birthplace of the Danish flag. Three monks named Ambrosius, Bartholomeus, and Claudius are permanent statues in the Danish King Garden which features many famous ghost stories and legends.
St. Catherine's Passage
Formerly called Monk’s Alley, St Catherine’s Passage is a narrow medieval lane built over 700 years ago in Tallinn. It is one of the most scenic streets in Tallinn worth exploring. On the southern side of the alley, you will predominantly see 15th-17th century buildings and handicraft workshops where you can watch artists create ceramics, hats, glass, and more.
An iconic and photogenic city gate, Viru Gate was part of the defence system of the Tallinn city wall. Today Viru Street has many shops and restaurants that have become one of the busiest pedestrian streets in the Old Town.
Dome Church - St Mary's Cathedral & Bell Tower
The Dome Church, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, is the oldest church in Tallinn, established sometime before 1233. The interior was designed with elaborate funereal coats of arms from the 17th to the 20th centuries and burial stones from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Book tickets here.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral - Russian Orthodox
Built-in 1900, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox, typical Russian Revival style, onion-domed cathedral, a spectacular landmark dominating the skyline of the Old Town. The interior is adorned with mosaic walls and icons and a stunning golden altar at the centre. Click here for tickets.
St. Nicholas' Church
Another church worth visiting in the Old Town is St. Nicholas’ Church and Museum, an old medieval church constructed in the 13th Century before being bombed by the Soviets and restored after the war. It has since been converted into an exciting museum to store all the ecclesiastical art from the Middle Ages, and here you can learn more about Tallinn’s past.
Inside, you will find all kinds of exquisite medieval artefacts and religious artworks, including one of the most famous religious artworks of all, Danse Macabre or the Dance of Death by Bernt Notke, depicting the transience of life, the skeletal figures of Death, and the feeble ones.
St. Olaf's Church
St. Olav’s Church from the 12th Century is said to have been the centre of old Tallinn’s Scandinavian community before Denmark conquered Tallinn in 1219. Another beautiful medieval architecture. Book Tickets here
Tallinn Christmas Market, voted the best Christmas market in Europe, takes place from December to early January in Tallinn and across Estonia. Christmas comes alive as a fairytale, where everything from Christmas decorations to traditional Estonian food, mulled wine and Christmas carols are held at the Town Hall Square. Enjoy the spirit of Christmas at this magnificent market at Tallinn’s medieval Town Hall Square.
Dinner at Olde Hansa
Olde Hansa is a renowned medieval restaurant located in the heart of the Old Town of Tallinn. The menu consists of authentic medieval dishes according to 700-year-old recipes, and food is served by hosts traditionally dressed in medieval costumes.
Six nights a week, troubadours play the works of composers who worked in the 15th Century on the same instruments conventional in medieval times, such as the hurdy-gurdy, fiddle, bagpipes, and flutes. This restaurant was personally recommended by a local, and we highly recommend it. Make sure to try their honey beer.
Where To Stay
We highly recommend the Old Town of Tallinn as the most popular part of the city to find accommodation. The central location surrounds you with charming old walls, amazing views and of course, being close to most of the highlights of Tallinn.
Options range from luxury boutique hotels to affordable hostels. found within the town walls. In our experience, Villa Hortensia is a reasonably priced option in the Old Town, where you get to stay in an authentic old-fashioned, traditional house within the Masters’ Courtyard.
Where To Eat
After exploring the medieval Old Town and Toompea Hill, finish your day by trying traditional Estonian food. Many restaurants in Tallinn serve traditional Estonian dishes such as boar, Mulgipuder (a porridge made from mashed potatoes and barley), or herring. Try Maiasmokk Cafe, the oldest cafe in Tallinn, that serves cakes and pastries and is a great place to try Estonian baked goods.
You will love Tallinn, one of the best in the Baltic Countries, offering a memorable travel experience taking you back into a fairytale dream.
Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own.