Located in northern Europe in what is known as the “Baltic States”, Tallinn seems to be one of those towns that you’ve either seen splashed all over social media and hear people raving about… or you’ve never heard of it at all. It’s the capital city of Estonia and is constantly referred to as one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in all of Europe. And while Tallinn is a charming old town of cobblestone streets, grand churches, and orange rooftops… it’s so much more than that. It’s a place that has managed to retain its charm despite its history of being targeted by both Germans and Soviets in WWII. If you manage to pull off a visit to the Baltic States, these are the best 10 things to do in Tallinn.
Do you plan to visit Tallinn? Don’t miss my Guide to Tallinn
10 Things to Do in Tallinn, Estonia
1. Wander Through the Old Town
One of the most quintessential ways to experience Tallinn is by wandering aimlessly through Old Town. Old Town is encased by the old city walls (which you can still walk) referred to as the Walls of Tallinn. Inside the Walls of Tallinn is where the cobblestone streets will lead you through alleyways of brightly colored buildings. Everything in this area will make you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time. I challenge you to go without any intentions, wander aimlessly until you come across something that you find intriguing.
2. Visit the Hip Neighborhood – Telliskivi
Telliskivi borders Old Town and may perhaps be the next best thing to Old Town itself. Telliskivi is the hip part of Tallinn and is only a 15-minute walk from Old Town. In Telliskivi you’ll find street art splashed on buildings, food trucks, markets that line the streets, and more. One of my favorite parts of Telliskivi is the concept of DEPOO Food Street which is exactly what it sounds like… a street of food trucks. If you’re in the area and looking for a sit-down restaurant, head to the cheap, delicious restaurant F-Hoone.
3. Stroll the Walls of Tallinn
As mentioned above, the Walls of Tallinn encase Old Town and in the past provided fortification and protection from unwanted visitors. The first wall was constructed in 1265 and thanks to its 1.9 km of the original city wall and 20 defensive towers wall still standing, it’s considered to be one of the most well preserved medieval fortifications in Europe. Please note, that to walk the walls costs €2 for adults and €1 for children. At the time of writing only cash is accepted.
4. Take in the views from St. Olaf’s Church
St. Olaf’s Church was originally built in the 12th century as the city center for Tallinn’s Scandinavian community; once Denmark conquered the area, the church was dedicated to King Olaf II of Norway. And although St. Olaf’s Church has been struck by lightning over 10 times, causing the church to burn down on two separate occasions, it continues to stands tall. If you plan to visit the church and go up to the viewing platform know that it costs €3 for adults, and €1 for children. The platform is closed during the winter months.
5. Visit the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the most recognized buildings in Tallinn. It was built from 1894-1900 in Russian Revival architectural style when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire. Estonians didn’t like that this cathedral was built by Russians because it stood as a symbol of oppression so in 1924 they voted to have it demolished. Lucky for us, there weren’t enough funds to tear down the church which is why it still stands today. Entrance to the cathedral is free, so make sure to take advantage of visiting.
6. Indulge in Estonian Sweets at Rukis
Snuggle up in this cozy café located in Old Town, sip on espresso, and indulge in sweets the way Estonians do. Rukis is a heartwarming little café centrally located in the heart of the city and is the perfect place to waste an afternoon as you wind down and relax with classic Estonian food/dessert.
7. Stroll Through Balti Jaama Turg
Balti Jaam Turg is a unique inside/outside, three-story market, that sells both food and goods. Located in the hip neighborhood of Telliskivi, I recommend coming hungry seeing as there are all different types of food vendors filling the halls. Take your food to go or sit in one of the restaurants and eat.
8. Go Full-On Tourist at Olde Hansa
Located in Old Town, Olde Hansa is a complete tourist trap – that I found to be quite charming. The concept of the restaurant is to transport you back to medieval times. Expect to be served dinner by candlelight as the waiters and waitresses are dressed head to toe in medieval attire. While Olde Hansa is touristy, don’t expect to leave hungry! The food at Olde Hansa is delicious and filling, with big portions for an affordable price.
9. Participate in a Free Walking Tour
Free walking tours in Europe are my favorite way to see new cities! And the one that is offered in Tallinn certainly doesn’t disappoint. Traveller Tours and Day Trips will take you on a two hour, self-deprecating tour, walking you through Tallinn while discussing the history of Estonia. There’s no need to book in advance, but know that this tour draws a lot of people so expect it to be busy. The tour is free but tips are expected at the end so make sure you bring cash!
For more free walking tours in Europe, make sure to check out Free Walking Tours in Europe Ranked
10. Walk Through St. Catherine’s Passage
From Vene Street to Müürivahe Street, St. Catherine’s Passage was built over 700-years ago. It’s a quick and easy stroll to get from one end of the passage to another and a pretty street to walk through.
As of now Tallinn, Estonia is a booming destination. While most people visit by ferry from Helsinki, I urge you to make Tallinn more of a priority than just a day trip. Plan to stay awhile or plan to hit up all three Baltic States on a road trip. Whatever you choose to do, I hope that you fall in love with the charm and authenticity of this medieval city.
Do you want to add on to your trip? Don’t miss my guides to the other Baltic countries and Finland!