Are you planning to spend one, two or three days in Tallinn? Whether with its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, buzzing cultural scene, modern city life, fantastic museums, colourful neighbourhoods, exciting culinary experiences, pure sea air or easy access to nature – Tallinn is sure to surprise and enchant you.
Follow our top recommendations to make the most out of your visit. We also have some extra tips if you plan to stay longer in Tallinn.
Top tip: If you plan to use public transport and visit several museums, consider purchasing a Tallinn Card, a sightseeing pass that includes free entry to Tallinn’s top museums and free use of public transport.
Day one: Tallinn’s Old Town and Kalamaja
Tallinn’s unique medieval Old Town is the perfect place to start your trip. Divided into the Lower Town and Upper Town (the hill of Toompea), the area is quite big yet still compact enough to explore on foot.
You can easily spend an entire day (or two) discovering the Old Town, but if you wish to mix it up a little, add Kalamaja to your to-do list. Situated within walking distance of the Old Town, the area is known for its colourful wooden houses, bohemian cafés, trendy shops and the impressive Seaplane Harbour museum.
Top tip: The Tallinn Old Town is a favourite among locals and tourists alike, so if you wish to avoid the crowds during cruise season (summer), plan your visits for early in the morning or for the afternoon.
Tallinn’s Old Town
Built up from the 13th to 16th centuries, the Tallinn Old Town is, according to UNESCO, one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe with 1.9 km (1.2 miles) of its original city wall and 20 defensive towers still standing.
Top three things to do in the Old Town
Wander around the ancient cobblestone streets. In addition to the impressive medieval defence system, the area’s top sights include the only intact Gothic town hall in Northern Europe, the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in Europe (since 1422), numerous churches, viewing platforms and much more. You can just walk around aimlessly, sit in one of the many cute cafés and take in the fairy-tale-like surroundings, or go for a more structured approach and try to check these top sites off your to-see list:
Enjoy the views. Visit one of the numerous viewing platforms on Toompea hill, climb a Gothic church tower, or for a complete medieval immersion, visit some of the ancient defence towers – for example, at the Kiek in de Kök Fortifications Museum, you can not only walk on the town wall from one tower to another, but also explore the fascinating, hidden underground passages.
From the airport: Tram number 4 and bus number 2 take you directly to the city centre, just a five-minute walk from the Old Town.
From the port: The Old Town is located walking distance (15-20 minutes) from the main terminals.
Located just outside the Old Town, Kalamaja is sure to charm you with its bohemian atmosphere, local vibe and unique ability to make the most out of its industrial heritage.
Top three things to do in Kalamaja
Take a stroll around the streets of Kalamaja to see the area’s trademark colourful wooden houses. Head to the streets of Valgevase, Kalju, Kungla, Köie, and Niine for the most charming examples. For a break, stop at one of the cafés dotted around the area or stop by the Balti Jaam railway market’s street food court.
Enjoy a meal or do a bit of design shopping in the uber cool Telliskivi Creative City. In addition to a large choice of shops, restaurants and street food, Telliskivi is home to some of the trendiest event venues and galleries in town, including the Tallinn branch of the renowned Fotografiska, the Swedish Museum of Photography. Or stop by the Noblessner seafront quarter, the up-and-coming district on the other side of Kalamaja, which counts amongst its residents a restaurant with a Michelin-starred chef, a top-level local craft brewery, the spectacular PROTO Invention Factory, and the everchanging Kai art centre.
Visit some of the museums the neighbourhood has to offer. Its main attraction, the Seaplane Harbour, displays real boats, a seaplane and an entire submarine from the 1930s. Even if boats are not your thing, the museum’s unique architecture is bound to take your breath away: it is located by the seaside in tsarist-era former seaplane hangars.
Top tip: If you are planning to visit Proto or the Seaplane Harbour, allot at least two hours to see the museums.
Kalamaja and the Telliskivi Creative City are located walking distance (15-30 min) from the Old Town, just across the tracks of the Balti Jaam railway station. You can also take trams number 1 or 2 from the city centre to the stop Telliskivi.
For the Seaplane Harbour and the Noblessner seaside district, opt for bus number 73 (stop Lennusadam for the museum and Noblessneri for the district).
Day two: Kadriorg and Pirita
Kadriorg is a green, upscale residential area located just a short tram ride away from the centre. Named after the wife of Peter the Great, Catherine I, the neighbourhood is home to a baroque palace established by the emperor himself, the city’s favourite park, and Estonia’s best art museums.
Top three things to do in Kadriorg
Do as the locals and enjoy the scenery at the Kadriorg Park. In addition to a swan pond, fountains, canals and several different styles of gardens, the 300-year-old park hides many historic buildings. Among them is the 18th-century summer palace established by Peter the Great, now home to an art museum and the Estonian presidential palace. If you wander a bit further, you will arrive at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, home to the Estonian Song and Dance Celebration, which brings together up to 34,000 performers and 200,000 spectators every five years.
Visit a museum. In addition to Kadriorg Palace, the park is also home to the headquarters of the Art Museum of Estonia – KUMU – which serves both as a national gallery and a centre for contemporary arts. The nearby Mikkel Museum displays an interesting array of foreign art and porcelain donated by a private collector, Johannes Mikkel.
Discover the neighbourhood around Kadriorg Park. The surrounding streets are lined with ornate wooden villas – not surprising for an area that was once the first seaside resort of the Russian Empire. If you wish to get a sense of how people used to live in Kadriorg, stop by one of the area’s museums dedicated to Estonian writers: Anton Hansen-Tammsaare’s house from the 1930s or Eduard Vilde’s residence in an 1850s villa.
Top tip for families with young kids: The hands-on Miiamilla children’s museum in Kadriorg Park is a must, not to mention both the museum and the park have a great outdoor playground.
Take tram number 1 or 3 from the city centre to the stop Kadriorg.
Tallinn is a seaside city, and there is no better way to enjoy the view of the Tallinn Bay and the skyline than on the Pirita Promenade or at one of its attractions or historical landmarks which coincidentally all offer great vistas.
Top three things to do in Pirita
Walk on the Pirita Promenade, listen to the calls of the seagulls and breathe in the sea air. Pirita is also a very convenient neighbourhood to discover by bike.
Visit the Maarjamäe Palace, headquarters of the Estonian History Museum, which takes you on a journey through the 100 years of the Republic of Estonia. The complex also houses an outdoor exhibition of Soviet monuments and the Estonian Film Museum. A short stroll from the palace is the thought-provoking modern Memorial to the Victims of Communism and a neighbouring Soviet monument from the 1970s.
Top tip for families: The Maarjamäe Palace has a fun playroom for kids where children can experiment with creating their own country. The complex also has an exciting outdoor play area.
Ascend the highest building in Estonia, the Tallinn TV Tower. Its observation deck at the level of 170 meters not only boasts great views but also has an interactive exhibition about human genes. If you prefer to stay on the ground, visit the Tallinn Botanic Garden next door or explore the beautiful, medieval ruins of the St. Bridget’s convent at the Pirita River delta.
An extra tip: After a long day by the seaside, return to the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a nice meal or drink at the sleek and trendy Rotermann Quarter in the city centre.
There are many buses that take you from the city centre to Pirita:
Pirita promenade and the Song Festival Grounds: 1A, 5, 8, 34A, 38 (stop Lauluväljak)
Maarjamäe history complex: 1A, 5, 8, 34A, 38 (stop Maarjamägi)
St. Bridget’s Convent: 1A, 8, 34A, 38 (stop Pirita)
Tallinn Botanic Gardens: 34A, 38 (stop Kloostrimetsa)
Tallinn TV Tower: 34A, 38 (stop Teletorn)
Day three: Rocca al Mare, Nõmme or nearby islands
In addition to Pirita, Tallinn has enchanting suburbs and neighbouring islands, each of which make for a great destination for day three (or four, or five) of your stay. Choose one, or extend your stay and visit several.
Immerse yourself in traditional village life at the Estonian Open Air Museum. The forested park is home to around 80 buildings from the 18th to 20th centuries including original farmhouses, windmills, a tavern, a school, a chapel, a fire station and much more - even a Soviet apartment building for kolkhoz workers. ‘Villagers’ in period costumes demonstrate different crafts and traditions and tell stories of the past.
Learn about animals at the Tallinn Zoo, home to the most fascinating collection in Northern Europe including majestic predators, African giants, playful primates, polar bears and many other exotic and endangered species. As an extra cherry on top, it also has a children’s petting zoo.
Top tip for families with young kids: Since there is a fair bit of ground to cover at the Tallinn Zoo, consider renting a children’s cart from one of the entrances. Your little ones will enjoy the ride.
Walk the 2.5-kilometre Rocca al Mare Promenade, which starts at Stroomi Beach and ends at Rocca al Mare School. Along the way, you’ll pass pine forests, playgrounds, and a nine-metre bird observation tower with great views.
Buses number 21 and 21B take you from Balti Jaam to the Estonian Open Air Museum (stop: Vabaõhumuuseum) and the Tallinn Zoo (stop: Zoo). For the latter, you can also take bus number 42 from the city centre (stop: Zoo).
Nõmme is a charming suburban neighbourhood complete with quaint, little houses, a colourful market, a vast park and cute cafés.
Top things to do in Nõmme
Shop and taste local flavours at the Nõmme Market, where you can browse vendors selling meat, produce, handicrafts, pastries, and even candy. There are also several small cafés on-site where you can enjoy lunch.
Just 30 minutes from the city centre, Pääsküla Bog is one of the closest bogs to Tallinn. A shorter 2-kilometre trail and a 4-kilometre trail lead visitors along boardwalks to an observation tower.
How to get to Nõmme?
Take one of the many orange trains from the central railway station ‘Balti Jaam’ (station just called Tallinn) or bus number 36 from the city centre (stop: Nõmme).
Visiting Tallinn’s nearby islands
There are three major islands easily accessible from Tallinn within about an hour: Aegna, Naissaar, and Prangli. You can hike on the islands, book guided tours, dine and even stay overnight in accommodation.
Top things to do on the islands
Aegna, located within Tallinn’s administrative area, is rich in flora, fauna and boulders, making it a great hiking destination. It’s also home to a centuries-old stone labyrinth.
Naissaar is the largest island in Northern Estonia and the sixth largest in the country. Its military history dates back 300 years, but today the island is home to a music festival, sandy beaches and hiking trails.
With 171 residents, Prangli is the only island in Northern Estonia that has been permanently inhabited for more than 600 years. Here, visitors can witness authentic island life as well as diverse nature and rare plants and animals.
How to get to the islands?
There are regular ferry departures during the summer season from Tallinn to Aegna and Naissaar, while a year-round service operates between Prangli and Leppneeme port in the Tallinn suburb of Viimsi. See our island travel guide for detailed ferry information.