The charming city of Tallinn is the cultural and financial hub of Estonia.
Tallinn is a peaceful place with a lively cobblestone Old Town. It’s also 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 one day in Tallinn, you may have trouble deciding what to do and 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, so you’ll never get bored exploring this unique city that. It’s one of the best destinations in Estonia and the largest city in the country.
Need help deciding where to start? Plan your trip with this comprehensive 1-day Tallinn itinerary.
Table of Contents
- What to do in Tallinn in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
- Explore the medieval town walls surrounding Old Town
- Visit Town Hall Square
- Walk to Freedom Square to cross from Lower Town to Upper Town
- Snap panoramic photos from Toompea Hill
- Shop and snack along St. Catherine’s Passage
- Behold the majestic Kadriorg Palace and its surrounding park
- Jump on a bus to the neighbourhood of Kalamaja
- Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Tallinn
What to do in Tallinn in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
As with most of our one-day city itineraries, this Tallinn itinerary takes you to the best attractions. You will 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 neighbourhoods. 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 metres tall. Over the centuries, the city strengthened the walls, making them taller and thicker. They’ve since become a World Heritage Site.
The entire length of wall spans 1.9 kilometres. 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 centre of Old Town to reach Town Hall Square.
Town Hall Square provides the perfect spot to start exploring the rest of Tallinn in 24 hours, as it’s surrounded by numerous attractions.
It’s the centre of the Lower Town half of Old Town. It’s also one of the busiest areas. 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 centre, 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.
You can 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 centre 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 on demolishing 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 centre 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 help 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’ll need to 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 centre. When you finish exploring the shops and cafes along St. Catherine’s Passage, travel to nearby Kadriorg.
Kadriorg is a neighbouring district and considered the most beautiful area in the city. It’s where the most affluent residents live and it’s home to the former summer palace of Peter the Great.
The 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 get to admire some priceless works of art.
Jump on a bus to the neighbourhood 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 centre of the city. This trip is easier if you take the bus, but you can always choose to walk.
Kalamaja provides a suitable end point to your day, as it’s the centre of the 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 best restaurants in the city are near the harbour 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: The best hotels for 24 hours in Tallinn
Given its relatively compact city centre, 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 your 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 best luxury accommodations picks. The on-site spa is a nice touch for travellers looking for a healthy dose of relaxation.