Tallinn in One Day (Europe’s most beautiful old town)

Tallinn in One Day

In this article we will explore the best things to see in Tallinn in one day. The city has been voted Lonely Planet’s No 1 best value destination (see article) and it’s easy to understand why.

Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia; one of the three Baltic states. It is located on the Gulf of Finland and is one of Europe’s most charming cities. Planning on seeing Tallinn in one day? Read on…

Tallinn is a popular destination for day-trippers as it takes only one hour to reach from Helsinki. Many Finns make the short hop to stock up on cheap booze which is super-expensive in Finland!

Raekoja Plats
Raekoja Plats

The city is also easily reachable from the other Baltic States by car/bus and train.

Another reason Tallinn is popular for day trips is that a large number of cruise ships stop in the city’s port.

One of the many great things about the city is that the old town is quite compact, meaning it is easy to see all the top sights of Tallinn in one day. Everything is reachable on foot!

As I have visited this jewel of the Baltic five times, here is my guide on what to do and see in Estonia’s charming medieval capital on a day trip.

So, whether you’re a Finn after some cheap plonk, an octogenarian cruise passenger, backpacker or just a regular tourist, let’s discover what there is to do in Tallinn in one day.

Free Things to to in Tallinn in One Day

Toompea Hill

View from Toompea Hill
View from Toompea Hill

For the finest views in the city head over to Toompea Hill. The views across the rooftops of the medieval old town and Gulf of Finland are superb.


The steep park that leads up to Toompea Hill from the port area and railway station. A very pleasant place for an amble around the lake before climbing the old brick staircase up the hill and into the old town.

Tallinn Old Town

One Day in Tallinn
The brightly coloured houses of Tallinn Old Town

It must be said that Tallinn has one of the most beautiful old towns in Europe. The compact area around Toompea Hill and Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) is home to a series of winding cobbled alleyways, brightly painted houses and medieval city walls.

Raekoja Plats

The main town square is surrounded by colourful restaurants and cafes. It’s a perfect place to sit and watch the world go by, all under the shadow of the imposing gothic town hall. Wating staff get into the medieval spirit of the city and are dressed accordingly.

Check out this guide of traditional Estonian foods, many of which you can enjoy at the restuarants here!

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

You will know you are getting closer to the east when you see the towering onion domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This beautiful red and white bricked orthodox church was completed in 1900.

The cathedral was set to be demolished in the 1920s as the Estonians saw it as a reminder of Russian dominance. Thankfully, the plans never came to fruition and the church remains in its place at the top of Toompea Hill.

Address: Lossi Plats 10, Tallinn Old Town

Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 08:00 to 18:00

Entry: free

Top Things to to in Tallinn in One Day

Tallinn Town Hall (Raekoda)

Tallinn Town Hall
Tallinn Town Hall

The large grey, stone clocktower on Raekoja Plats is the city’s town hall. This imposing piece of gothic architecture was built in 1404 and is now home to a museum open to visitors in July and August.

Address: Raekoja Plats 1, Tallinn Old Town

Opening Hours: Tue to Sat 11:00 to 16:00

Entry: €5.00 (free with a Tallinn Card)

Tallinn City Museum

Set in a 14th century merchant house, this small museum provides a fascinating glimpse into Tallinn’s past from medieval times to the Soviet occupation and beyond. Features a series of artefacts, models and interesting displays with sound.

Address: Vene tn 17, Tallinn Old Town

Opening Hours:

Tues 10 to 19:00
Weds – Sat 10:00 to 17:00
Sun: 11 to 16:00

Entrance Fee: €6.00 (free with a Tallinn Card)

Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments

Mediaval Torture Chair
Mediaval Torture Chair

As the name might suggest, this gruesome exhibition in the heart of Tallinn’s old town is a great place for the morbidly curious or dark tourists among you!

The museum includes ancient torture devices such as the iron maiden, thumbscres and racks. Don’t misbehave or you might find yourself on the wrong end of one of these implaments of hell!

Address: Viru Tanav 1, Kessklina Linnaosa, Tallinn

Opening Hours: 10:00 to 18:00

Entrance Fee: €8.00

Tallinn in One Day – A Walkthrough

Medieval City Walls of Tallinn
Medieval City Walls of Tallinn

Start in the medieval town square of Raekoja Plats and walk up the winding lanes to Toompea hill. You will pass along the medieval city walls where you can have a go at archery and other activities.

Stop and admire the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with its whitewashed walls and shimmering black/blue onion domes. This is one of the landmarks of Tallinn and makes for a great photo opportunity (Instagram selfie anyone).

As you walk further past the embassy district you will soon come to the main viewpoint overlooking the city and Gulf, one of Europe’s finest vistas!

Descend the steps down into Toompark and wander among the trees and lake (tip: the train station is just across the other side of the park, so if you need to get a ticket for your onward journey now would be a good time).

Follow the park in a south-easterly direction and take one of the side streets, filled with shops selling Baltic amber, back to Raekoja Plats for a traditional Estonian lunch.

Many restaurants line the square across from Tallinn Town Hall and serve delicious traditional cuisine (plus some western dishes too).  Prices on the square are a little higher than if you choose somewhere on a side-street, but still very cheap by western standards. Young girls in medieval dress will try to entice you in with their menu, but there is little difference between places.

Tallinn in One Day – Perfect for walking

Tallinn Town Square
Tallinn Town Square

After lunch visit one of the many little museums that can be found in the old town (for fans of the macabre, I recommend the medieval torture museum just to the south of the main square) or just wander around exploring side-streets, galleries and amber jewelry. 

Stop for a tankard of beer and dried reindeer meat (like biltong or jerky) and choose one of the many bars or restaurants to while away a few hours in the evening.

If you have more than one day then there is plenty to keep you occupied including some stunning beaches not far from the city. You could also do a day trip to Finland over the water with the ferry taking less than 2 hours (see below for more info on the Tallinn to Helsinki ferry).

Need accommodation in Tallinn? Check out Booking.com for prices and locations.

Getting to and from Estonia

Citizens of the EU, USA and Australia do not need a visa to enter Estonia for up to 90 days. You can check the situation with your own country’s visa rules here.

Tallinn is served by budget airlines from all over Europe which makes the city an excellent base from which to explore the Baltic region and beyond. It has excellent transport connections to Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Russia.

There are multiple ferries everyday that go the short distance between Helsinki and Tallinn. See my article on the Helsinki to Tallinn Ferry for more information and current timetables.

It is also possible to take the ferry from Tallinn to Stockholm. The overnight journey takes 17.5 hours.

Lux Express offers cheap, modern and comfortable coaches to Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia. The coaches have screens in the back of the headrest with movies, music and games; free headphones and water are provided on board and the service is excellent.

I have travelled with Lux Express many times and would highly recommend using them when travelling in the Baltic States and beyond.

Below you can find information on how to get to other cities in the region. 

Tallinn to Riga

Journey Type: Coach
Company: Lux Express
Journey Time: 4.5 hours
Cost: 21 Euros
Times: 13 departures 8am to 10.30pm

Tallinn to Vilnius

Journey Type: Coach
Company: Lux Express
Journey Time: 9 hours
Cost: 34 Euros
Times: 5 departures 8am to 10.30pm

Tallinn to Minsk

Journey Type: Coach
Company: Lux Express
Journey Time: 13.5 hours
Cost: 44 Euros
Times: 2 departures 6pm to 11pm

Tallinn to St. Petersburg

Journey Type: Coach
Company: Lux Express
Journey Time: 7 hours
Cost: 25 Euros
Times: 5 departures 11am to 12am

Tallinn to Moscow

Journey Type: Coach
Company: Lux Express
Journey Time: 16 hours
Cost: 59 Euros
Times: 1 departure at 8pm

Tallinn to Moscow

Journey Type: Train
Company: Russian Railways
Journey Time: 16 hours
Cost: 75 to 105 Euros
Times: 1 departure at 6pm daily

Interested to see more of Eastern Europe? Check out some hidden gems in my list of 10 European places off the beaten path!

Steve Rohan

About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang, the tropical paradise of Sanya and Hong Kong.

He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.

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