If there’s any country in Northern Europe that has the power to surprise it’s Estonia. Until recently this small Baltic nation hardly showed up on European itineraries. Now, thanks in large part to its über-charming capital of Tallinn, Estonia is becoming one of the continent’s hottest destinations for travellers.
Although more closely-knit in language & culture to its northern neighbour of Finland, Estonia is more often associated with its former Soviet Union state status. Despite countless years within Russia’s direct sphere of interest, however, Estonia’s feet are now firmly planted west. It’s become the region’s most compelling success story and one of Europe’s bonafide rising stars.
Whether you’re drawn in by the UNESCO-listed medieval Old Town of Tallinn, its Baltic coastal charms or its sprawling patches of untouched wilderness, Estonia is one Northern Europe destination you won’t want to pass by.
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When to visit Estonia
Like most countries in the region, Estonia experiences a true four-season climate. The conditions swing between hot & sunny summers and, as you’d expect from its northern location, chilly winters with snowfall always on the horizon.
The best time to visit Estonia is between the summer months of June and August. At this time of year, temperatures are at their best and Estonia’s festival season is in full force thanks in part to its long days.
Late spring and early autumn shoulder seasons are also fantastic alternatives, especially if the denser crowds of the summer high tourist season aren’t to your liking.
Whatever time of year you choose to visit Estonia, expect varying conditions. Like much of the northern part of the continent, precipitation is imminent throughout the year in Estonia. Even in summer, you should always pack some warmer clothing for your trip as the temperatures can dip quickly.
Where to go in Estonia: The top destinations & best places to visit
With the country’s compact size, choosing where to go in Estonia is relatively easy compared to other larger and more spread out European destinations. In fact, you can easily get between the capital of Tallinn and most of the top places to visit in Estonia within no more than a 2- to 4-hour drive! Here are a few ideas…
Most Estonia trips start (smartly) with the incredible capital of Tallinn. Although it doesn’t quite have the same name recognition as other Northern European capitals like Helsinki, Stockholm or Copenhagen, in many ways, Tallinn is the most impressive (or at least unique) of them all.
Much of the city’s unforgettable charm emanates from its deliciously-medieval Old Town. While some visitors might feel it’s a tad staged, there’s no denying that Old Town Tallinn’s stellar good looks will quickly grasp you and keep you keen on exploring.
And if you ever tire of the distinctive architecture of Old Town (I somehow doubt you will!), the rest of Tallinn is equally compelling in its own way. Walking through the city’s more modern areas, you’ll stumble upon trendy restaurants, eye-catching street art, and a hip design aesthetic that’s shedding its Soviet past in favour of a bright future within contemporary Europe.
Ready to plan your trip to Tallinn? Get started with these resources:
- One Day in Tallinn: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Tallinn: The Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Tallinn: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
… more Estonian destinations to come!
What to eat in Estonia
Given Estonia’s western attitude and eastern location, it’s hardly a surprise that Estonian cuisine is heavily influenced by flavours from Scandinavia, Germany, and Russia. Prepared with fresh local ingredients, dishes here are both hearty and comforting.
Here are a few foods to look out for when your figuring out what to eat in Estonia…
- Rye bread: Like its northern neighbours, rye bread is a staple in Estonia. The most popular varieties here lean more towards the darker side of the spectrum and are often softer & more flavourful than the rye bread found elsewhere in Europe.
- Kiluvõileib (Sprat Sandwich): If you want to add a little flavour to the Estonian rye bread experience, order one of these surprisingly tasty fish sandwiches. The most common variety consists of slices of sprat topped with a boiled egg and fresh herbs like dill.
- Mulgipuder (Potato and Groats Porridge): Considered by some as the national dish of Estonia, this local favourite is a simple concoction of mashed potatoes mixed with groat and butter and topped with special bacon-infused sauce. Yum!
- Kama: A uniquely Estonian food, this ingredient consists of mixed grains including rye, roasted barley, oats, and pea flour. It’s not eaten alone, but used to make desserts or mixed with buttermilk or fermented kefir and eaten as a breakfast food.
Transportation in Estonia
By bus: If you’re visiting from the Baltic States of Latvia or Lithuania, getting to Estonia by bus is the most convenient option. There are regular departures to Tallinn from both Riga (4-5 hours) and Vilnius (8-9 hours).
By ferry: One of the easiest ways to get into Estonia is by ferry from Helsinki. There are a handful of companies plying the route. The best option for most travellers is the Silja Line, departing 6-8 times per day from Helsinki with a trip duration of just 2 hours.
By bus: The best way to get around Estonia via public transportation is undoubtedly by bus. All of Estonia’s major tourist destinations are well-connected by an extensive bus network. Some of the most popular journeys include:
- Tallinn to Parnu (1h50m)
- Tallinn to Tartu (2h30m)
- Tallinn to Kuressaare (3h50m).