Despite being on a budget and only in Old Town for 24 hours, this proved ample time to explore, while still leaving wiggle room in my wallet for souvenirs. Here’s how to spend one day in Tallinn.
Tucked along the majestic Baltic Sea lies Estonia, a country that is probably a little more likely to be on your current travel bucket list these days after they launched a digital nomad visa program last year. And if it isn’t on the list just yet, it will be by the end of this article!. With a population of just over 1.3 million people, this small but vibrant Baltic country gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union.
Adorned by colorful sun-streaked buildings and the chime of church bells in the distance, the Old Town of Tallinn is an enchanting and quaint safe haven for Estonia’s history and culture to live on.
One of the most popular ways of traveling to Estonia is the short ferry route via Helsinki, Finland. Direct Ferries offers booking options with 3 different ferry lines – Tallink Silja, Viking Line or Eckero Line.
From Tallinn’s ferry terminal you can either catch a bus or take a tram to the base of Tallinn’s Old Town. Bus Number 2 begins at Passenger Terminal A, then travels to Passenger Terminal D. To determine which terminal your ferry will arrive in, check the Schedules page on the Port of Tallinn website.
Alternatively, the walk from the ferry terminal to Tallinn’s Old Town takes approximately 25 minutes.The road leading up to and through Old Town is made of cobblestone. If you have difficulty walking, catching an Uber or a taxi from the ferry terminal will be your safest bet. Taxi prices are not regulated by Estonian law, so ensure the rate is communicated and agreed upon prior to entering the taxi to save yourself from potentially hefty fares.
Where to Stay
For a high quality (and highly rated) stay right in the center of Old Town, Lai 22 Hostel & Bar offers a great selection of private and shared rooms, a well-equipped kitchen for all of your cooking needs, free luggage storage as well as a 24 hour reception desk. Comfy beds allow you to rest easy after a jam-packed day of exploring, while the speakeasy-reminiscent bar offers good nightcap vibes with their well-priced bevvies.
Where To Eat
Tucked away from Old Town Square and its myriad of tourist traps lies Kompressor, a local pancake house offering over 25 different types of sweet and savory pancakes for under 6 Euro. My recommendation is the smoked ham and brie pancake – gooey, delicious and filling.
It’s quite popular, so keep in mind that if you go at a busy time, you may face a wait. Many people also make the mistake of seating themselves at a table, expecting to be served, but you actually order and pay at the bar before sitting down.
Walking directions from Town Hall Square to Kompressor can be found here.
Located on Toompea Hill, Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform offers first-time visitors a spectacular glimpse of the Gulf of Finland and the majestic Tallinn skyline. Plan for an early morning or evening visit to avoid crowds.
Kohtuotsa is also known for its signature red stone wall, with the phrase “The Times We Had” emblazoned in black letters. Not much is known about the phrasing on the wall, lending to the idea that its meaning is intended to be left to the interpretation of visitors.
Walking directions from Town Hall Square to Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform can be found here.
An iconic site for Tallinn’s Old Town, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral catches the eye with its onion domed tops, ornate exterior and rusted pink walls. Built in 1900, this Orthodox Cathedral is named after the Russian folk hero Alexander Nevsky. It is free for visitors to enter, however no pictures are allowed once inside the cathedral.
Walking directions from Town Hall Square to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral can be found here.
A short walk from Old Town Square will land you at St. Olaf’s Church. It is one of the oldest buildings in Tallinn, having been built sometime in the 12th century.
This is one of five churches located in Estonia named after King Olav II, who was eventually canonized as Saint Olaf. Visitors can pay 3 Euro to climb its steep narrow staircase to the viewing platform near the church’s spire. Due to its height, the church is said to have been struck by lightning a total of 10 times throughout its long history, three of which times it caught fire and burned to the ground.
Walking directions from Town Hall Square to St. Olaf’s Church can be found here.
The Raeapteek, known as Tallinn’s Town Hall Pharmacy, is the oldest operating pharmacy in Europe, dating back to 1422. The pharmacy also features a free-to-enter museum next door. Visitors have the chance to learn about this apothecary’s history, explore the macabre displays and get acquainted with healing methods used during medieval times.
The Town Hall Pharmacy is within the Town Hall Square. Look for the beige building with the black sign Apteek on its wall.
Finally, end your day with a walk around the walls of Tallinn’s Old Town. While you can pay to climb up and enjoy the view from 3 of the wall’s towers, it’s relaxing (and free) to simply meander the perimeter of the wall as you take one last stroll.
Built in the 13th century, the largely intact town walls served as the primary defense system for Tallinn during the medieval ages. Tallinn’s Old Town and its walls are considered one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in all of Europe and have the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you enjoyed this article, check out Magical Moments from Estonia for more!
Lindsay Stroud is a freelance travel writer and ghostwriter. Lindsay is always open to discussing projects and opportunities with passionate brands and businesses and is currently accepting new clients. Find her online at lindsaystroud.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.