Planning a vacation in the Baltics? Save plenty of time for exploring Tallinn, the beautiful capital city of Estonia. As one of Northern Europe’s hippest travel destinations, there are a ton of fun things to do in Tallinn to fill your holidays.
Explore Tallinn’s Old Town to discover some of Europe’s finest medieval architecture. See all the top tourist attractions from above at Toompea Hill in Upper Town before heading back down to the city to indulge in food & drink at some of the coolest restaurants and bars in the Baltic region. If you’re visiting in summer, you can even sprawl out on Pirata Beach to enjoy the sunshine on the white-sand shores of the Gulf of Finland.
With so much to see & do, it can be hard to know where to start. Plan out the perfect trip with this quick guide to the best places to visit in Tallinn, Estonia!
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Trot around Old Town Tallinn
Need a hint on where to start your adventure? Look no further than Old Town Tallinn. The medieval heart of the city is a tourist wonderland, and with good reason: It’s one of the most beautiful old towns in Europe.
Sure, Old Town is getting more crowded with tourists by the day. In fact, it’s on pace to become the next European cultural vacation hotspot. But even in a continent blessed with historical brilliance, Old Town Tallinn has plenty of its own tricks up its sleeve.
There’s truly no place like Old Town Tallinn in all of Europe. Old Town Tallinn is unique in its architectural palette, showcasing some of the continent’s most well-preserved medieval buildings. It’s no wonder that wandering about here is atop every Estonia bucket list!
Walking around Old Town, it’s hardly a stretch to visualize it in its medieval heyday. You can easily imagine blacksmiths hammering away horseshoes from hole-in-the-wall workshops or knights in chain-link armor mounting their horses only to disappear into the sunset through the city gates.
Especially if you’ve only got one day in Tallinn, you simply need to spend time getting to know all the nooks and crannies of Old Town. I guarantee that you’ll quickly fall in love with Old Town Tallinn.
For an extra special experience in the ancient quarter, visit Town Hall Square in November and December when Tallinn puts on its world-famous Christmas markets. Although it’s not your typical “fun-in-the-sun,” the festive spirit in the Estonian capital truly makes the city one of the best winter destinations in Europe.
Woo at the panoramic views from Toompea Hill
One of my favorite things to do in any city is to check it out from above. And in Tallinn, there’s no better place to gaze upon the city than from Toompea Hill in Upper Town.
Dating back to the 10th century, Toompea Hill features several viewing platforms that each offer stunning views of Old Town, the Baltic Sea, and the surrounding modern city.
Even beyond its panorama points, Toompea is a delight to wander around on its own. Like Old Town, Toompea is a maze of cobblestoned alleyways lined with show-stopping historical architecture.
A few places to keep on the lookout for in Toompea include Riigikogu (Estonia Parliament), Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Enjoy an Estonia craft beer at Hell Hunt
Walking along Pikk, one of the main drags of Old Town, there was no way I could avoid stopping in to quench my thirst at the outlandishly named Hell Hunt.
Now, you might be a little disappointed to find out that the pub’s badass moniker echoes something more akin to “gentle wolf” than referring to a demonic elk-searching expedition. What won’t disappoint, though, is the fantastic selection of Estonia craft beers and pub food.
Fans of lighter brews should try the pub’s own Hell Hunt Nisuõlu, a springy wheat beer. Those craving something a little heavier will love Hell Hunt Tume, a slightly darker ale.
Satisfy your inner tourist with a hearty meal at Olde Hansa
If you’re not against throwing a little kitsch into your Tallinn sightseeing, don’t miss out on eating a meal at Olde Hansa. This popular medieval-themed restaurant is situated in a 15th-century merchant house in the heart of Old Town. Needless to say, Olde Hansa is hardly like your run-of-the-mill Medieval Times!
It’s all about the atmosphere at Olde Hansa. Everything from the decor to the servers to the food & drink attempts to recapture the spirit of Tallinn from the Middle Ages. Even with all its kitschiness, the ambiance alone puts Olde Hansa among the most interesting places to visit in Tallinn.
For an insanely popular tourist haunt, Olde Hansa’s meals are surprisingly good, even if a little expensive for Tallinn. (Remember: you’re paying for the prime location and the ambiance).
Choose between hearty mains like wild game, duck, and salmon. All the dishes are prepared to mimic the cooking methods and tastes of the bygone era. Don’t forget to pair it off with suggestions from Olde Hansa’s comprehensive international wine menu or with a local spiced beer.
Peer back into the Cold War at Hotel Viru and the KGB Museum
Maybe you’ve noticed from my previous writing that I’ve got a habit of recommending places that evoke Cold War nostalgia. I can’t explain my borderline obsessive fascination. But I can push you towards visiting Hotel Viru, the most infamous hotel during Estonia’s Soviet era.
While the hotel is still in operation (rebranded as the Sokos Hotel Viru) and is now quite lovely, the real reason for a visit here is the 23rd-floor KGB Museum.
Under Soviet occupation, Hotel Viru offered the only official accommodations for foreigners visiting Tallinn. The KGB, being the famously untrusting and paranoid bunch they were, set up a surveillance operation on the 23rd floor. Their operation was meant to ensure any “enemies” of the state wouldn’t be able to spread their propaganda in the newly “acquired” Baltic state.
Although not large by any means, the KGB Museum provides a ton of insight into the clandestine spy agency’s operation in Tallinn. And it’s got more than a dash of Soviet nostalgia to go with it!
To get your spot on a tour, you’ll need to book in advance here. Tickets for the tour are €13 for adults with a 50% discount for children. (Kids under 9 are free.)
Chill out on Pirita Beach
Beaches might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you dream of Estonia. But one of the best ways to add a dose of relaxation to your trip to Tallinn is to head to the coast.
Of all the beach trips from Tallinn, Pirita Beach is the easiest way for travelers to experience some of Estonia’s coastal charms. The beach is located just 15 minutes from the city center in the suburb of Pirita.
The white sands of Pirita Beach stretch out over three kilometers onto the Gulf of Finland. In summer, it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Tallinn for locals looking to shed their Estonia winter blues. (In other words, don’t expect peace and quiet in peak season.)
Aside from the beach itself, Pirita Beach offers its various amenities, including a bowling alley, bar, and mini-golf course. The coast is also fringed with a forested area featuring a handful of paved walking and biking paths.
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