Tallinn is a medieval town, and it is the capital of Estonia, a country of a population of just 1.3 million, but larger in size than Denmark. After last summer’s Baltic road trip, I discovered Tallinn for the first time and I want to share with you some of the things to do in Tallinn, Estonia and around it.
When you’re planning your trip to Tallinn, Estonia, keep in mind that the official summer in the Baltic and Northern countries is just 2 months, July and August. Outside of these dates, some places might be closed.
First of all, if you are planning a Baltic road trip, check out the extensive Baltic road trip itinerary I personally planned and did, in August 2019.
Although the city of Tallinn was founded by the Dutch, the city was most influence by the Germans, who made it famous under the name of Reval.
What are the things to do in Tallinn?
The most popular things to go in Tallinn, Estonia are visiting the Old Town of Tallinn, the port of Tallinn, taking a day trip to Helsinki, riding a bike to Pirita Tee, exploring the Lahemaa Natural Park and Viru Bog.
If this isn’t enough, check out the Telliskivi Loomelinnak (the creative centre of Tallinn, where you will find ateliers, studios, creative companies and offices of artists and NGOs in a former industrial complex. Telliskivi Loomelinnak has many design and natural products shops, cafes, restaurants and other kinds of services. Each Saturday, Telliskivi Loomelinnak has a flea market, and they organize hundreds of events per year.
But let’s check out the most popular options for things to do in Tallinn, Estonia.
Old Town of Tallinn
Tallinn, Estonia, is a medieval town, and as all medieval towns, has plenty of churches, beautiful medieval houses and crazy stories.
The old town is walkable, and there are many free walking tours that operate on a daily basis in summer. We did the tour with EstAdventures (they do free walking tours all year round) and it was a great tour!
Locals are friendly and a walking tour is a good introduction to the city. The tours typically included places like:
- Nevsky Cathedral
- St. Mary’s Church
- Town Hall Square
- Freedom Square
- City Wall Towers
- Danish Kings Garden
- Viewing Platforms
And whatever you do, don’t miss out the oldest building in Tallinn, St. Catherine’s Monastery. They book tours but do visit the exterior at least. The area is impressive.
For a panoramic view of Tallinn, don’t miss Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform.
Visit the port of Tallinn
Tallinn has a huge port, and many cruise ships stop here. Walk around the port area, and admire the terminals. There are some small private boats, that make the area so cute and nice to walk around on a sunny summer’s day. I can’t imagine this place in winter. It’s probably all frozen.
Explore the Seaplane Harbour Maritime Museum and discover how important fishing is for the Estonian people.
Take a day trip to Helsinki, Finland
There are many cruise lines that have Tallinn on their itinerary. The main capitals and cities of the Northern countries are connected by these cruise lines.
By far, the closest one is Helsinki, the capital of Finland. The trip from Tallinn to Helsinki is a little under two hours and a half and there are multiple cruise lines that are doing this trip during the day.
However, you have you buy your tickets a few days in advance if you are travelling on a budget in Tallinn. The cruise ship tickets have dynamic prices (like the ones for plane tickets) and can increase to up to 5 times (or more) before departure.
Another thing to consider is that you need to be in the terminal, ready for boarding at least 45 minutes before departure! I had no idea of this requirement and ended up missing the morning ferry. It was a drawback for the day, but we took another ferry, a few hours later, paid more money for it and returned with the tickets I had for the first one.
Luckily, Helsinki is not huge. Four and a half hours were enough to see the main sights of the city.
Here’s my vlog from the day trip to Helsinki:
Rent a bike and ride on Pirita Tee
Pirita Tee is the beach portion near Tallinn, Estonia. They have a bike lane right next to the beach, and the views are to die for.
I saw this place after I left Tallinn, as I was driving to the Lahemaa National Park.
You can also go there for a walk, you just have to take the 34 bus from Viru Square and it will take you to the pleasant coastal suburb of Pirita, to the east of Tallinn.
Explore the Lahemaa National Park and walk through the bog
Lahemaa National Park is one of the best things you can do near Tallinn, Estonia, especially if you love nature. It is less than 50 km away from Tallinn, so you can even ride your bike to get there.
The park is huge and has many walking pathways, but also dirt roads that lead to beautiful wild beaches, small harbors and cosy countryside houses. It’s a farytale and I loved it.
Estonians really love their nature and try their best to preserve it and enjoy it.
That’s why you will discover that all national parks and nature reserves are very well maintained. For instance, I saw a lot of places prepared for wild camping, with barbecue areas, wood for fire, tables, garbage cans and natural (long hole in the ground) toilets all set for whoever wants to camp there for the night.
As I was driving around the Lahemaa National Park, I got a bit lost (on purpose) and found a beautiful wild beach, which I only shared with my boyfriend. We had a nice picnic there, Edi played his guitar a bit and I tried to take a nap, although the wind was blowing in my face.
The bog experience in Estonia (Viru Bog in Lahemaa National Park)
Later we went to look for a bog. As it seems, Estonia has many parks and bogs, but one of the most famous ones is Viru raba. The bog is a constant presence in the Estonian folklore, and it is said that witches live there.
I had to search for it on Google Maps because the park is big and it seemed like I got lost in a forest (most of Estonia looks like that from the car).
There is a parking area and then you have to walk for 10 minutes or so to get to the beginning of the Viru bog trail.
Bear in mind that the trail is 3 km long and you can either turn back the way (the same way you got there) or do the full route, which will end in the woods and you will have to walk through the woods for about 2 km.
The entire walk should be around 2 hours, with some stops for taking photos and to admire the bog. That’s why is important to plan a bit ahead because I don’t think it’s a good idea to be there after sunset. A bog is a scary place and now I understand why they use stories of the bog to scare children.
Visit the Viking Village
The Viking Village is another fun attraction to check out around Tallinn, Estonia. I consider it to be more like a themed park, and they regularly organize activities. Viking activities, of course.
This is the kind of place where a family with children would spend their Sundays. They have a restaurant and other places where you can go fishing, play, pet animals or practice your bow shooting skills. As you can understand, it’s family and children-oriented.
What museums to visit in Tallinn, Estonia?
- Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design
- Seaplane Harbour Maritime Museum
- Estonian History Museum
- Viru KGB Museum
- Kumu Art Museum
- Estonian Architecture Museum
- Estonian Open Air Museum
What to Eat in Tallinn
- The main dishes include: fish, meat and potatoes
- Rye bread
- Aspic (pork jelly and veggie dish)
- Elk soup
- Kvass (a fermented drink)
- Chocolate at Kalev Chocolate Shop
- Mulgipuder (groat and potato dish)
As I am a vegan, I looked for some vegan restaurants and found more than one option. I ate at the Vegan Inspiratsioon and it was a nice experience. I love their Indian vibe and the overall chill atmosphere.
Where to stay in Tallinn
I spent 3 night in Tallinn, Estonia and they all were in different places.
That’s because the only hostel I found to be available and suited for my budget in the city of Tallinn, was a complete dump and I only spent one night there, instead of 2.
It was one of the few accommodations I really hated (and I have been to India and stayed in some pretty weird hostels). But I’ve never seen accommodation so degraded as this one. So, whatever your budget is, or isn’t, please don’t stay at Katus Hostel in Tallinn, Estonia. I will not even link them. You have been warned!
If you are looking for accommodation in Tallinn, make sure you read the reviews and pick one that you’re comfortable with.
Where to stay near Tallinn, Estonia?
If you have a car and you are on a road trip, I recommend staying a bit outside Tallinn.
I stayed at Oti Guesthouse for one night and it was a nice experience. It’s a room in someone’s house, but the location is in a nice and quiet neighbourhood, just 12 km away from the Old centre of Tallinn. And it is just at a 5-minute walk to the beach, where you can enjoy a magical Estonian sunset.
Do you want to camp near Tallinn, Estonia?
Yes, I camped in Estonia and it was amazing!
The 3rd night I spent near Tallinn, I camped at Vanamõisa Caravan Park. This is a lovely camping site and I would stay here again. Camping is very cheap in Estonia and the conditions are 5 stars. They have a modern bathroom, kitchen and electricity. I have to mention that we had a tent, not a caravan.
Have I convinced you to book a flight to Tallinn, Estonia? Maybe not right now (because of the c-word crisis) but it’s a place I hope you will add to your travel bucket list, in one of these summers.
Check out this 7 Fun Facts about Tallinn, Estonia video and let me know if you like it!