Planning a trip around the Baltics? Spending at least one day in Tallinn is a must. The charming city of Tallinn is the cultural & financial hub of Estonia and one of Northern Europe’s biggest surprises.
Tallinn is a peaceful place with a lively cobblestone Old Town. It’s brilliantly photogenic, with medieval streets, merchant houses, and ancient churches that await exploring. Of course, there’s a lot of modern culture and delightful food experiences, too.
With only 24 hours in Tallinn, you may have trouble deciding what to do & see. At first glance, Tallinn may resemble many other European capitals. The blend of history with modern elements, however, creates an exciting mix of the old and new. You’ll never get bored exploring this unique city that’s one of the top travel destinations in Estonia and the largest in the country.
Need help deciding where to start your first 24 hours in Tallinn? Plan your trip with this comprehensive 1-day Tallinn itinerary!
Where to go in Tallinn in one day: A complete 1-day itinerary
As with most of our one-day city itineraries, this Tallinn itinerary takes you to all its top attractions. You’ll get to immerse yourself in the local culture for a day.
You’ll get to travel through most of Old Town and some of the surrounding neighborhoods. The trip includes stops at large public squares, historic landmarks, and centuries-old fortifications.
If you want to get around quickly, Tallinn has a great public transportation system. You can ride the bus all day for free after purchasing a Tallinn Card.
If you prefer to hoof it across the city, make sure that you start early and visit the first stop before daybreak.
Explore the medieval town walls surrounding Old Town
When you first arrive in Tallinn, you can’t miss the walls that wrap around the Old Town area. Many sections of the walls and the defensive towers are beautifully preserved. You can easily imagine how the area must have looked hundreds of years ago.
The Walls of Tallinn were built in 1265 and were originally five meters tall. Over the centuries, the city strengthened the walls, making them taller and thicker. They’ve since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The entire length of the wall spans 1.9 kilometers. Instead of walking the entire perimeter, visit Viru Gate. It’s one of the most picturesque sections of the wall and provides entry into Old Town.
The gate is flanked by two towers, with a large flower market nearby. As this is your first stop, you’ll likely beat most of the tourists to the area.
Take your time admiring the surrounding medieval architecture, and then grab some breakfast to fuel your trip. If you want to try local cuisine, several cafes are in the immediate area.
Visit Town Hall Square
After passing through Viru Gate, work your way to the center of Old Town to reach Town Hall Square. Surrounded by numerous attractions, Town Hall Square provides the perfect spot to start exploring the rest of Tallinn in 24 hours.
Town Hall Square is the center of the Lower Town half of Old Town, and one of the busiest areas in the neighborhood. By midday, the square becomes alive with throngs of tourists, vendors, and street performers.
Several of the top things to do & see in Tallinn are also within the surrounding blocks, including Tallinn Town Hall, Town Hall Pharmacy, and Toompea Hill.
Tallinn Town Hall stands out, thanks to its 64-metre-high tower. The tower features a large vane with the likeness of Old Thomas. Old Thomas is the guardian of the city, a warrior figure that has become a symbol for Tallinn.
You can also tour the inside of the Town Hall. It now includes a large museum detailing the history of the city.
For a separate fee, you can climb the tower to get a better view of Tallinn. You could also skip the tower, as you’ll have a few more chances to look out over the city.
If you purchase the Tallinn Card for free public transport, you get into both the museum and tower for free.
Walk to Freedom Square to cross from Lower Town to Upper Town
Old Town is comprised of two parts – Lower Town and Upper Town. Lower Town includes the Town Hall area and is surrounded by the defensive walls. To continue your tour of the city, you’ll cross to Upper Town, which takes you through Freedom Square.
Freedom Square isn’t as popular compared to Town Hall Square, but it’s still an important part of the city. It’s flanked by St. John’s Church and an underground shopping center, allowing you to shop and experience history within the same block.
During the Soviet period, the square was called Victory Square. It includes the large Independence War Victory Column. The imposing column was unveiled in 2009 to commemorate those who died during the Estonian War of Independence between 1918 and 1920. The Estonians lost 4,000 people during the war.
Appreciate the importance of this landmark before continuing your journey up to Upper Town.
If you’re starting to feel a little winded, Freedom Square is also a great spot to take a break. Sit and watch people go by as you rest, or search for a vendor selling ice cream, a common treat on warm, sunny summer days in Tallinn.
Snap panoramic photos from Toompea Hill
When you’ve finished walking through Freedom Square, travel through one of the gaps in the defensive walls to climb to the top of Upper Town via Toompea Hill.
Toompea is a limestone hill mostly covered by buildings, but it provides several viewing platforms that look down over Lower Town. In the center of the hill, you’ll find Toompea Castle. It was a medieval fortress consisting of several towers, walls, and a palace.
While you can get great views of the city, the area also has several churches, including the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The cathedral has become a popular spot for tourists due to its domes and religious mosaics.
The city has planned to demolish the cathedral several times but scrapped the plans due to a lack of funds. Now may be the best time to see it, as it may eventually get torn down!
Shop and snack along St. Catherine’s Passage
With just 24 hours in Tallinn, you need to move quickly, but you still need to eat. After snapping a few photos of the city from Toompea Hill, walk back down to the center of Old Town to reach St. Catherine’s Passage.
St. Catherine’s Passage is a small street with a variety of guild shops. The quaint little artisanal shops sell a wide variety of local handicrafts. You can shop for handmade clothes, baskets, purses, and other original goods.
The street is narrow and is lined with shops and small cafes on each side. Everything is housed in historic buildings, taking you back in time. The combination of the old buildings and tiny shops helps you experience Tallinn as it was hundreds of years ago.
You can spend an hour or so shopping and eating in this area before you need move on to your next destination.
Behold the majestic Kadriorg Palace and its surrounding park
If you want to see as much of Tallinn in one day as you can, you’ll need to leave Old Town and the city center. When you finish exploring the shops and cafes along St. Catherine’s Passage, travel to nearby Kadriorg.
Kadriorg is a neighboring district and is often considered the most beautiful area in the city. Many of the city’s most affluent residents live in Kadriorg, and it’s home to Kadriorg Palace, the former summer palace of Peter the Great.
Kadriorg Palace is now a museum, and it is surrounded by one of the biggest parks in the city. If the weather is nice, take a stroll through the park before venturing indoors to tour the museum.
The Kadriorg Art Museum is a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia and displays foreign art from the past several centuries. It’s an interesting museum, as most of the artwork has no connection to the city or the country.
The entrance to the museum isn’t clearly marked, and the interior has almost no signage. Some tourists get a little confused, and the staff is not very helpful. But if you persevere, you’ll get to admire some priceless works of art!
Jump on a bus to the neighborhood of Kalamaja
The final stop on your Estonia itinerary is the hipster haven known as Kalamaja. To reach this area from Kadriorg, you’ll need to cut through the center of the city. This trip is easier if you take the bus, but you can always choose to walk.
Kalamaja provides a suitable endpoint to your day, as it’s the center of Tallinn nightlife. The area has a large student population and many younger residents, making it the hippest part of the city.
Even if you don’t want to get drinks at one of the trendy bars, you can find a restaurant for a late dinner. Some of the tastiest restaurants in the city are near the harbor along the northern boundary of Kalamaja.
Find a seaside restaurant or bar and enjoy the views of the Gulf of Finland as the sun slowly sets and your day ends.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Tallinn
Given its relatively compact city center, sorting through the best places to stay in Tallinn isn’t too much of a burden. As you’ll spend much of your day in Tallinn wandering in & around Old Town, this is the most sensible area to begin searching for your accommodations. Here are a couple recommended hotels…
- Hotel Imperial: A budget-friendly pick in the heart of Old Town featuring large rooms with a classic Baltic design. Relax in true Northern European style with a visit to the on-site sauna & hot tub.
- Savoy Boutique by TallinnHotels: An amazing boutique hotel decked out with Art Deco touches fused with modern elements. The on-site restaurant, MEKK, is a popular destination for superb Estonian & international fare.
- Hotel Telegraff, Autograph Collection: Set in a historical building just steps from Old Town Square, this lovely 5-star hotel is among the city’s top luxury accommodations picks. The on-site spa is a nice touch for travelers looking for a healthy dose of relaxation.