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Tallinn on a Budget
Enjoying your time in Tallinn doesn’t necessarily require a large budget.
Tallinn offers something for everyone. It's a fascinating city with numerous historical landmarks; the city is home to most of the best restaurants in the country, it’s a great place for shopping and leisure. Read on to find out the best ways to enjoy your stay in the capital of Estonia without putting too much strain on your wallet.
Tallinn free walking tour
Arriving in Tallinn, you’ll probably notice numerous tourist groups slowly shuffling along the cobblestone streets, listening to their guide with various degrees of interest. You might find yourself thinking that having someone walk you about the town whilst constantly bombarding you with fairly obscure historical facts might be boring, as well as quite expensive – but you couldn’t be farther from the truth!
The youthful Tallinn Traveller Tours organises a free walking tour in the Old Town of Tallinn every day at 12. The budget friendly tour, led exclusively by young, almost suspiciously happy and energetic people, lasts about 2 hours and is completely free (although tips are appreciated). The group gathers in front of the Tourist Information Centre in Tallinn’s Old Town (address Niguliste 2) and takes you to all the main landmarks of the area. Among other things, you’ll learn how the Danish have us to thank for their national flag, and about the time when Tallinn had its own mummy. From June to August, an extra free tour takes place every day at 15.
A million-dollar view for (nearly) nothing
Instead of paying hundreds of euros to stay at Tallinn’s luxury high-rise hotels, you can get a magnificent million dollar view of the city for free – just visit one of the viewing points on Toompea Hill. Patkuli and Kohtuotsa viewing platforms offer gorgeous views to the Old Town and the sea. If you’re feeling like spending some hard cash, then for a few euros you can climb the tower of St Olav’s Church and get an even higher view of the town.
Simply walking the streets of Tallinn will allow you to see a number of the city’s attractions without even having to take a step into a museum. The Danish King’s Garden is connected to the legend of how the Danes got their national flag. You could try to find the famous peeping-tom on Pikk Street or sit by the Cat’s Well in Rataskaevu Street, which has a rather gruesome history. Sometimes a whole street can be an attraction in itself, for example St Catherine’s Passage.
If you’re looking to see something interesting indoors, then the oldest pharmacy in Europe, Raeapteek, or Town Hall Pharmacy is situated right in Town Hall Square. For something completely different, the Estonian Bank museum is just a few steps outside the Old Town and entrance is somewhat ironically absolutely free.
If striding through museums is your ideal way of spending a vacation, then the best way to keep your expenses to a minimum is to invest in the Tallinn Card. This city pass allows you free entrance to most museums in the city. It also grants you free use of Tallinn’s public transport.
If the Tallinn Card isn’t your style, then do some homework before arriving in Tallinn and check museums’ homepages for info on free visiting days. Most museums have at least one each month.
Most importantly – food!
Tallinn prides itself with its high-class restaurant scene. Fresh and seasonal ingredients, tasteful interiors and superb locations are what unite the best restaurants in the city. However if you’re looking for a quick bite, or don’t feel like spending over 10€ or even 5 € for a meal, Tallinn won’t leave you hungry.
Kompressor, a student’s favourite, serves humongous (trust us on this one) pancakes with both sweet and savoury fillings. One pancake will surely fill the hungriest of travellers and what’s better – all pancakes cost less than 6 euros.
If a pub meal is what you’re looking for, then St Patrick’s pubs have a decent menu and the prices are even more decent - most meals are under 10 euros. Their lunch offer is less than 5 euros for a meal which also includes a drink.
For an Italian meal that won’t set you back too much, try one of Tallinn’s Vapiano restaurants. You’ll find two in the city centre. They serve pastas, risottos and pizzas made fresh on the spot and most meals cost fewer than 10 euros, with extra for drinks.
The Reval Café chain is another good option for a quick and tasty meal under 10€. You’ll find the cafés all around Tallinn, both in the Old Town and in Kalamaja. They also have an excellent selection of cakes and pastries, and good quality coffee.
Sõõrikukohvik (“Donut Café”) is a classic budget eatery in Tallinn. If you’re not looking to buy Estonian-style donuts by the kilo (!), then you’ll surely find something to your tastes from their regular menu which serves soups, salads, pancakes and hot meals.
Kolmas Draakon (“Third Dragon”) is undoubtedly the cheapest eating place in Town Hall Square. The tiny medieval-themed eatery can be found in the Town Hall itself and the most expensive food item on the menu will rob you of about 3 euros. The Elk Soup (2€) is practically legendary by now and should not be missed. However, if you’re completely broke you can scoop free pickles from a huge vat at the back of the room.
When in Tallinn on a weekday, take note that many places in the Old Town and city centre that might otherwise be quite expensive, have special lunch offers. Usually the meal is under 5 euros including water and bread.
Where to stay?
Tallinn is a compact town and you’ll be able to see quite a few sights during one day. However, to experience the city fully, we recommend staying for at least two to three days. No need to worry too much about your expenses here either.
If you don’t mind shared lodging, we recommend one of our many centrally-located hostels. Tallinn Backpackers, Red Emperor, The Monk’s Bunk – all of these hostels offer affordable accommodation (around 15€ for a dorm bed) in the Old Town, have a lively atmosphere (read: there’s a party practically every evening), and offer fun incentives, such as organised pub crawls and day trips outside Tallinn.
If you’re looking for a place to actually sleep, try the quieter Tabinoya hostel in the Old Town. They offer a dorm bed for under 20€ and even have a special dorm room only for women. It’s ranked as the number 1 hostel in Tallinn on Tripadvisor, and the website lists over 40 hostels and guesthouses in Tallinn.
For a more quaint experience, try the picturesque and budget friendly Marta’s Guesthouse. A mere 10 minute tram ride from the Old Town, this lovely establishment has been renovated using eco-friendly materials and even has a little café on the ground floor.
If you’re looking to stay for a longer period of time, or if hostels and guesthouses aren’t your style, be sure to check out AirBnB for short-term rental apartments in Tallinn.