It’s easy on the surface to assume that one day in Tallinn is enough. After all, the Old Town – the main attraction for day trippers to Tallinn – is compact and easily walkable within a couple of hours. Include a short stop for lunch at a tacky, overpriced medieval restaurant and that is the extent of many people’s experience of the Estonian capital. Not only does this mean that visitors to Tallinn miss out on the many attractions that lie beyond the Old Town Walls but they also don’t get the chance to see a side of Tallinn that is more representative of day-to-day life in the city.
We spent 3 days in Tallinn on our recent trip to the Baltics which was a good amount of time to explore the city however still left us planning return trips for places that we didn’t get a chance to see! If you’re interested in seeing Tallinn beyond the Old Town, follow this 3 days in Tallinn itinerary and see a side of the Estonian capital that many travellers, unfortunately, miss out on!
3 days in Tallinn Itinerary
Day 1 in Tallinn: Old Town, Kalamaja & Telliskivi
Okay, so I know I promised a 3 day in Tallinn itinerary beyond the Old Town. However, it would be completely remiss of me to write a Tallinn itinerary without mentioning the Old Town – after all, it’s absolutely beautiful! In fact, one of the reasons that I wholeheartedly recommend travellers spend more than one day in Tallinn is to allow yourself to appreciate the Old Town in relative peace rather than consistently trying to get around large tour groups following a flag!
The best way to see the Old Town is to either go early in the morning or late in the evening, avoiding the large number of cruise ships, day trippers from Helsinki and men dressed in medieval costumes that can be found during daylight hours in the Old Town. As I’ve never been a huge proponent of early starts, I’d advocate for visiting the Old Town in the evening as this will also allow you to enjoy the sunset from one the viewpoints in the Old Town. My favourite is the Patkuli Viewing Platform that provides spectacular views of the Old Town!
Aside from enjoying the views from the viewing platform, the best way to experience the Old Town is to simply stroll around and get lost! The Old Town is fairly compact, so you can easily cover the main sites such as the impressive Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Town Hall Square, and Saint Nicholas Church within a couple of hours. Make sure to also have a wander around the Town Walls to see some of the best-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Europe. If you want to learn more about the history of the Old Town, then click here to book a walking tour!
As your mornings and/or evening will be spent in the Old Town, I recommend exploring another old part of Tallinn during the day – Kalamaja. Though not quite as old as the Old Town, Kalamaja has seen life since the Middle Ages when it was originally established as a home for fishermen and sailors. In fact, Kalamaja literally translates to ‘fishhouse’ in Estonian!
Kalamaja has undergone significant gentrification in recent years and is now a hub of life for many young locals. The area is full of cool boutique shops, flea markets, parks, cafes and bars! One can spend many hours wandering through Kalamaja’s peaceful streets, made iconic for their wooden houses built at the start of the 20th century. If you’re interested in understanding more about the history of Kalamaja then click here to book a walking tour of the area.
Between Kalamaja and the Old Town, lies Telliskivi Creative City – the epitome of gentrification that has occurred in Tallinn over recent years. The former industrial complex is now the hub of hipster life in the Estonian capital with regular events, plenty of street art, more boutique shops and restaurants and a flea market every Saturday. You can see what events are happening during your visit on their website, Telliskivi is a great place to explore and stop for a bite to eat before visiting the Old Town in the evening!
Day 2 in Tallinn: Explore the Harbour & Balti Jaama Market
A great way to spend your second day in Tallinn is to explore the many attractions that can be found along, north of the Old Town including Patarei Prison, the Seaplane Harbour & Linnahall. In fact, there is a lovely path along the harbour that will take you past these three attractions!
The Seaplane Harbour Museum in Tallinn is a particularly good option if you’re travelling with children, however, is also a great place to visit for people of all ages! The museum, which is located in an old Seaplane Hanger, contains exhibits on Estonia’s maritime history; while on the harbour there are a number of ships that can be boarded and explored! You can buy a ticket just to visit the ships for €6 or a combined ticket for the museum and ships for €14. Children and students tickets are 50% discounted.
From the Seaplane Harbour, it is only a short walk to Patarei Prison. The prison was originally built as a fortress in the 19th century but gained notoriety when it started to be used as a prison during Soviet times from 1920. It housed prisoners until the beginning of the 21st century and has since been abandoned.
You used to be able to visit inside the prison, however, visitors haven’t allowed inside for the last couple of years and there is uncertainty as to what will be become of the prison in the future. There is an undeniable eerie feeling as you walk around the perimeter of the prison and even though you are no longer able to go inside, I certainly still recommend visiting to see a darker side of Tallinn’s history.
From Patarei Prison, walk towards another abandoned Soviet-era structure – Linnahall Concert Hall. It was built for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics as there were some sailing events that were staged in Tallinn, however, it’s essentially been left to crumble away since then. As with many other crumbling concrete structures around the world, it has become a popular spot for locals to hang out with friends, typically with a beer or two in hand while enjoying the view of the harbour. Similarly to Patarei Prison, there have been a number of discussions about redesigning this prime spot of real estate in the future so it’s definitely worth visiting soon!
If all that exploring has got you hungry, then walk away from the harbour towards Tallinn train station where Balti Jaama Market is located. The newly renovated market contains something for everyone and is a great melting pot of people in Tallinn. You’ll find local residents buying fresh produce for their weekly shop as well as people tucking into their favourite hipster food outlet. The best thing to do is grab something to eat and drink and then head outside to sit on the steps and watch people come and go from the market and train station.
Day 3 in Tallinn: Visit Pirita and Estonian History Museum
If you only have 2 days in Tallinn, then the previous two days outlined will give you a great introduction to the city. However, if you’re lucky enough to have 3 days in Tallinn then it’s definitely worth adding Pirita and the Estonian History Museum to your Tallinn itinerary!
Both these attractions are located a bit outside of the centre of Tallinn so you’ll need to utilise public transport to get there – luckily buying tickets is a breeze! The easiest option is to buy QR tickets online for €1 each and then you scan them when you enter the bus. You’ll need to validate them at the front of the bus as not all machines support QR tickets. Alternatively, you can buy a day travelcard for €3, however, you’ll need to buy a physical card from one of these locations. It’s also worth picking up a transport map from the Tourist Office to get an idea of all the possible routes.
To get to the Estonian History Museum, take any of the buses that go to Maarjamägi (we took bus number 34A). The main reason we wanted to visit was to see the Soviet Monuments was what they have in the gardens behind the museum. Here you find a collection of statues of famous Soviet leaders and party members including Lenin and Stalin. The statues haven’t been restored from their damaged states so you will see some missing body parts while others only having a head!
Inside the museum, there is an exhibition on the last 100 years of Estonian history since the founding of an independent Estonian state. Tickets cost €8 for adults. You can also visit other branches of the museum in other areas of Tallinn which showcase different exhibits including the Great Guild Hall in the Old Town.
To round off your 3 days in Tallinn, get back on the bus you used to arrive and head to Pirita Beach if visiting during the warmer months. Pirita Beach is a nice city beach that is a great place to have a relaxing afternoon. There is a forest you walk through behind the beach or even rent a sailboat or go windsurfing. There is also a long promenade you can walk along if you feel like being a bit more active!
Where to eat and drink in Tallinn
Tallinn (and Estonia in general) is undergoing a food revolution and there are many fantastic cafes and restaurants to eat at during your 3 days in Tallinn. As a general rule, I recommend eating outside of the Old Town as prices tend to be significantly cheaper. Here are some of our favourite places that we found during our time in Tallinn.
Kalamaja Bakery – a great cafe for a light breakfast with a wide selection of pastries and hot drinks. There are a few tables inside if you want to eat at the cafe.
Koloniaal Kohvik-Pood – quirky cafe with a cosy interior located in Kalamaja. It has a number of home cooked breakfast and lunch options for around €5-8 each.
Uba Ja Humal – beer shop and tap room in one, Uba Ja Humal is one of many craft beer places popping up all over Tallinn. They have only 15 beers on tap and you can get a sample flight of 4 beers for €5-6 depending on your choices.
BaoJaam – serves delicious fresh baos from their stall inside Balti Jaama Market. The crispy chicken and steamed salmon baos were both fantastic! Baos cost €7-8 each and you get two per serving.
F-Hoone – located in Telliskivi Creative City, F-Hoone is extremely popular from breakfast until dinner and reservations are advised during peak times. We had dinner here and can highly recommend their bruschetta board and chicken shashlik. They also have their own craft beer and lemonades. Mains are around €8-9 each.
Kohvik Sesoon – fantastic restaurant in the heart of Kalamaja serving modern Estonian food with a rotating seasonal menu. Everything we ate here was absolutely delicious including fresh octopus, trout served with beetroot salsa and caviar, and a zucchini carpaccio for a starter. Mains are around €10 each.
Where to stay in Tallinn
During our 3 days in Tallinn, we stayed in the district of Kalamaja and highly recommend other travellers do the same. This area is significantly cheaper than staying in the Old Town and we loved the peaceful vibe of the area as well as the many great cafes and restaurants. And you’re still only a short walk away from the Old Town if you want to visit. Here are some places we recommend staying at either in or near Kalamaja.
Fat Margaret’s Hostel – if you’re on a budget in the Baltics then this hostel is a great option as its a range of affordable dorms as well as private rooms. They are located close to the harbour between Kalamaja and the Old Town and even have their own sauna room! Click here to check their latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com
Airbnb – there are a number of fantastic apartments available for rent in Kalamaja if you’re after your own space or planning to stay for a longer than 3 days in Tallinn. Click here to get up to $40 off your first stay with Airbnb!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse the best deals for hotels in Tallinn!
Despite many people thinking that one day in Tallinn is enough, we are already planning to visit the Estonian capital again after spending 3 days in Tallinn. There is so much to and see in the city that I urge travellers to go beyond the Old Town and explore a side of Tallinn that many visitors don’t get to see!
Have you been to Tallinn or are you planning a trip there soon? What else do you plan on adding to your Tallinn itinerary? Let us know in the comments below!