Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is a charming mix of old and new. Its medieval Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts narrow streets and colorful buildings while its modern city center is home to high-end shopping and dining. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply looking to experience a new culture, Tallinn has something to offer. In this 3-day itinerary, we’ve highlighted some of the best things to see and do in the city.
Day 1: Old Town and Kalamaja
On your first day in Tallinn, explore the city’s historic Old Town. Start at Raekoja plats, the town square, where you can see the Town Hall and enjoy a coffee or pastry at one of the outdoor cafes. From there, wander the narrow streets and admire the colorful buildings, Gothic spires, and ancient walls. Be sure to visit:
- Alexander Nevsky Cathedral: This stunning Russian Orthodox cathedral features onion domes and intricate mosaics.
- Toompea Castle: The castle, which dates back to the 9th century, houses the Estonian Parliament.
- St. Olaf’s Church: Climb to the top of the church’s tower for panoramic views of the city.
In the afternoon, head to the Kalamaja district, just west of the Old Town. This trendy neighborhood is known for its colorful wooden houses, street art, and hip cafes. Take a stroll along the bohemian Telliskivi Street, where you’ll find art galleries, vintage shops, and local design boutiques. For dinner, try one of Kalamaja’s many restaurants, such as F-Hoone, which serves up delicious Estonian cuisine in a casual atmosphere.
Day 2: Modern Tallinn and Kadriorg
On your second day in Tallinn, explore the city’s modern side. Start at the Rotermann Quarter, a former industrial area that has been transformed into a hub of shopping and dining. From there, head to the Viru Gate, the entrance to the city’s main shopping street, Viru Street. Along the way, stop at:
- Tallinn Town Hall Pharmacy: This pharmacy, which has been in operation since 1422, is one of the oldest in Europe.
- The Museum of Estonian Architecture: Learn about Estonia’s architectural history and see some stunning contemporary buildings.
- Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform: Get a bird’s-eye view of the city from this popular viewpoint.
In the afternoon, take a short tram ride to the Kadriorg district, just east of the city center. This leafy neighborhood is home to the beautiful Kadriorg Park, as well as the Kadriorg Palace, which was built by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine I. Wander the park’s manicured gardens and admire the palace’s baroque architecture before heading to the nearby Kumu Art Museum, which showcases Estonian art from the 18th century to the present day.
Day 3: Seaside and Open-Air Museum
On your final day in Tallinn, explore the city’s seaside and learn about Estonian history and culture. Start by taking a bus to Pirita, a suburb on the outskirts of the city. Here, you can enjoy the sandy beach, rent a bike or a boat, or visit the ruins of the 15th-century St. Bridget’s Convent.
In the afternoon, head back to the city center and visit the Estonian Open-Air Museum, which showcases traditional Estonian architecture and way of life. The museum is located in Rocca al Mare, a seaside neighborhood just west of the city center. Finish your day with dinner at one of Tallinn’s many excellent restaurants, such as the innovative NOA Chef’s Hall, which offers stunning views of the sea.
Travel Tips in Tallinn
- Wear comfortable shoes for walking on Tallinn’s cobblestone streets.
- Be prepared for weather changes, as Tallinn can be rainy and chilly even in the summer.
- Take advantage of Tallinn’s free public transport for residents and visitors over the age of 65.
- Visit the city during one of its many festivals, such as the Tallinn Old Town Days or the Christmas Market.
Where to Sleep in Tallinn
Tallinn has a range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Some popular choices include:
- Solo Sokos Hotel Estoria: This stylish hotel is located in the heart of the city and offers comfortable rooms and a sauna.
- The Three Sisters Hotel: This boutique hotel is housed in three historic buildings in the Old Town and features individually designed rooms and a cozy courtyard.
- Hotel Telegraaf: This five-star hotel is housed in a former telegraph office and features elegant rooms and a spa.
Where to Eat in Tallinn
Tallinn has a vibrant dining scene, with a range of options from traditional Estonian cuisine to international flavors. Some recommendations include:
- Rataskaevu 16: This cozy restaurant in the Old Town serves up classic Estonian dishes with a modern twist.
- Salt: This hip restaurant in the Rotermann Quarter offers a seasonal menu of Nordic-inspired dishes.
- Farm: This farm-to-table restaurant in Kalamaja uses local ingredients to create delicious and inventive dishes.
Free Tours in Tallinn
If you’re looking to save money while exploring Tallinn, consider taking one of the city’s free walking tours. Some options include:
- Old Town Walking Tour: This tour covers the main sights of Tallinn’s historic Old Town and runs daily.
- Alternative Tallinn Walking Tour: This tour takes you off the beaten path and explores the city’s street art and alternative culture.
- Kalamaja Walking Tour: This tour takes you through the trendy Kalamaja neighborhood and introduces you to its history and culture.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time of year to visit Tallinn?
The best time to visit Tallinn depends on your preferences. The summer months (June-August) are the busiest and offer the warmest weather, but also the highest prices. The shoulder seasons of spring (April-May) and fall (September-October) can offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds. Winter (November-March) can be cold and snowy, but also offers a cozy atmosphere and festive events.
Do I need a visa to visit Tallinn?
It depends on your nationality. Visitors from most EU countries, as well as the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days. Check with your local embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date information.
Can I get around Tallinn without a car?
Yes! Tallinn has an excellent public transport system, including buses, trams, and trolleys. The city center is also easily walkable, and bike rentals are available in several locations.
Tallinn is a fascinating city with a rich history and a vibrant culture. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s medieval past, its modern present, or its seaside beauty, there is plenty to see and do. With this 3-day itinerary, you can experience the best of Tallinn and create unforgettable memories.