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The medieval city of Tallinn, Estonia – officially dating to the year 1248 – is brimming with historic sights and fascinating museums. Remains of city fortifications partially encircle the UNESCO Heritage Old Town, where twisting cobblestone lanes lead to picturesque squares. Outside of the city center, a modern city has developed and bears evidence to Soviet occupation with communist-era architecture, but still includes a few must-see Tallinn attractions. Although we stayed in the city for more than a week, we reserved most of our Tallinn sightseeing for one day to reap the benefits of the Tallinn Card.
Tallinn Sightseeing Tips
- On our list of things to do in Tallinn, Estonia, we have included hours of operation*, ticket price, approximate time we spent at each destination, official website and directions (with links to map) from one sight to the next – which will help if you plan to visit Tallinn in one day. *Hours may vary by season.
- The Tallinn Card is not necessary for our outline of One Day in Tallinn, but if following our route and partaking in the suggested Tallinn activities, a 24-hour Adult Tallinn Card provides a $50 USD savings. Find out more about the benefits of the Tallinn Card on the official card website.
- The first two stops on our Tallinn One Day Itinerary are not in the Old Town, but can be reached by public transport (which is included with the Tallinn Card). We have noted the buses needed to reach the destinations and Tallinn bus schedules can be found online.
- It is helpful to have a Tallinn Tourist Map for your Tallinn sightseeing adventures. Pick up a free Tallinn city map at the Tallinn Tourist Information Office in the Old Town (where you can also purchase a Tallinn Card).
- In order to get the most out of our one day of sightseeing Tallinn, we packed a portable lunch and ate it on the harbor after visiting the Lennusadam Seaplan Harbour Museum, which is Stop #2 on our list. There is also a café at the museum and the Tallinn Card does offer discounts at a few restaurants in the Old Town if you would prefer a sit-down meal.
What to See in Tallinn in One Day
We provided map links to get from one attraction to the next, but use this link to Google Maps for all 10 Tallinn sights. Zoom into the Old Town for a Tallinn Walking Tour Map.
Tallinn TV Tower
Hours: 10am – 7pm | Cost: €13 (free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 45 minutes (plus 45 minutes in transport each way) | Website
The Tallinn TV Tower is the tallest building in Tallinn (standing at 1,030-feet) and has a viewing platform on the 21st floor (557 feet in the sky!). On the platform, visitors will find a restaurant, interactive displays and an open-air observation deck that provides views over the city to the Gulf of Finland. Brave thrill-seekers can upgrade to the Walk the Edge experience.
Tip: If not using the Tallinn Card, you can buy tickets for the TV Tower in advance on Viator.
Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor Museum
Hours: October to April 10am – 6pm, closed Mondays – May to September 10am – 7pm, everyday | Cost: €14 (free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 1.5 hours | Website
The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor Museum is one of the top places to visit in Tallinn. The modern and interactive Tallinn museum is housed in an old seaplane hangar that was used until World War II. The museum features a variety of maritime crafts – both historical and current. Visitors are invited to tour a 1930s submarine, pilot a simulation aircraft, sit inside a rescue helicopter and step aboard a 100-year-old steam-powered icebreaker ship.
St. Olaf’s Church
Hours: 10am – 6pm, longer hours in summer, closed in winter | Cost: €3 (free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 30-45 minutes | Website
St. Olaf’s Church dates to the 12th century and its soaring spire once made the church the tallest building in the world (at least claimed so in 1590 when the spire reached 410 feet). Over the centuries, the spire has been struck by lightning at least 10 times and, under the years of Soviet occupation (1944-1991), the tower was used by the KGB for surveillance and radio. Today, climbing the spiral stairs to the viewing platform remains one of the popular things to do in Tallinn, Estonia. Once you get to the top, it’s easy to see why: the views are phenomenal!
KGB Prison Cells
Hours: 11am – 6pm | Cost: €5 (free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 30-45 minutes | Website
Getting There: From St. Olaf’s Church it is a short walk | MAP ROUTE
The KGB Prison Cells are a Tallinn must-see for anyone interested in learning the history of Tallinn under Soviet occupation. The building – which was constructed as a personal residence in the early 1900s – sits inconspicuously in the heart of the Old Town. In 1941, the KGB constructed cells in the basement and the house was used as a place to detain, interrogate and torture anyone suspected of crimes against the communist regime. Displays in the museums show the faces and tell the stories of some of the people who were held in the cells.
Hours: 11am – 9pm | Coffee or Tea: €3 (free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 30-45 minutes | Website
Getting There: From the KGB Cells it is a short walk | MAP ROUTE
Café Maiasmokk is the oldest café in Estonia, dating to 1864. The interior retains an elegant and old-fashioned atmosphere. The ground floor tends to be busy and boisterous, but head upstairs to find a quieter seat with a view – a nice respite during a full day of sightseeing in Tallinn, Estonia.
Kalev Marzipan Museum Room
Hours: 10am – 8pm | Sweets: €1+ (free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 10 minutes | Website
Getting There: In same building as Cafe Maiasmokk, in adjacent room
Marzipan is a confection made of sugar and crushed almonds, which is often molded into figurines – and is a popular sweet in Tallinn. Although the story is disputed, many claim that marzipan was created in Estonia during medieval times by a pharmacist, who prescribed the treat as medicine. The small one-room Kalev Marzipan Museum houses a sweet shop, gift shop, marzipan painting workshop and historical artifacts – including one marzipan figurine that dates to 1936. Getting a small taste of marzipan is a must-do in Tallinn!
Tip: For a unique experience in Tallinn, join the Marzipan Workshop. Participants learn how to shape and paint the sweet treats!
Tallinn City Museum
Hours: 10am – 6pm; closed Mondays | Cost: €4; audio guide: € 4.75-€ 6.50 (both free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 1 Hour | Website
Getting There: From the Kalev Marzipan Museum it is a short walk | MAP ROUTE
The Tallinn City Museum is housed in a medieval merchant house in the Old Town. The displays cover the history of Tallinn from pre-settlement to Estonia’s independence in 1991. Visiting the engaging exhibitions, which are best accompanied by an audio guide, are one of the top things to do in Tallinn, Estonia.
Hellemann Tower and Town Wall
Hours: 10am – 7pm | Cost: €4 (free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 45 minutes | Website
Getting There: From the Tallinn City Museum it is a short walk | MAP ROUTE
The stone Hellemann Tower and connected town wall dates to the 14th century. Climbing to the top of the tower provides sweeping views of the city. Visitors are also invited to walk along the 700-foot-long portion of the intact town wall.
Hours: 8am – 11pm | Chocolate Truffle: €1+ (free with Tallinn Card) | Time at sight: 10+ minutes | Website
Getting There: From the Hellemann it is a short walk – Tip: Take Katarina Kaik (St. Catherine’s Passage) | MAP ROUTE
Located on the northeast corner of Town Hall Square, Kehrwieder Chocolaterie is a café and sweet shop. The cave-like interior is cozy and dimly lit – and there is ample outdoor patio space right on the main square. Whether you sit inside or outside, it’s a great stop for a rest from Tallinn sightseeing and a good place to refuel with coffee and chocolates.
Museum of Estonian Drink Culture
Getting There: From Town Hall Square, it’s a short walk | MAP ROUTE
As a guest of the Museum of Estonian Drink Culture, visitors are invited to learn the fascinating 100-year history of Luscher and Matiesen, two entrepreneurial merchants who introduced a wide range of beverages (both alcoholic and juices) to Estonia – and how their name is being carried on today. The new enthusastic owner has started one of only three wineries in Estonia and has visionary plans for the company. A guided tour of the museum includes a wine tasting and engaging accounts of how two businessmen created a brand despite the struggles of the 20th century in Estonia.
We would like to thank the Tallinn Tourist Board for providing us with the Tallinn Card. As always, our opinons and experiences are genuine.
More City Sightseeing Tallinn
More Places to See in Tallinn
There were more attractions we wanted to see, but couldn’t fit into our one day in Tallinn sightseeing adventure. A more ambitious visitor (or those with a 48-hour Tallinn Card) could add the following Tallinn sights to a list of Tallinn things to do:
- Dome Church Tower
- Kiek in de Kok and Bastion Passage
- Estonian Museum of Occupation
- Town Hall and Tower
Tallinn Sightseeing Bus
For visitors who would rather see Tallinn sights by coach, there are a few Tallinn sightseeing bus options.
The City Sightseeing Tallinn Hop On Hop Off Bus allows participants the freedom of choice regarding where and when they want to exit the bus – and the opportunity to listen to on-board commentary while riding between sights. Tip: For ferry passengers with one day in Tallinn, the bus makes a stop at the ferry port.
Guests who would rather have a Tallinn tour guide might like the Tallinn Sightseeing Tour by Coach and Foot option. After touring the city sights outside of the Old Town by bus, the tour guide leads participants through the historic city center.
Note: With the Tallinn Card PLUS, guests can take a Tallinn City Tour Hop On Hop Off Bus.
Although we did most of our Tallinn sightseeing on our own, there are several Tallinn tours where guides lead the way – from city tours to ghost tours to pub crawls! If you are looking for fun things to do in Tallinn, one of these tours or Tallinn activities might fit the bill!
- Tallinn Old Town Walking Tour
- Tour by Bicycle
- Estonian Food Tour
- Tallinn Ghost and Legends Walking Tour
- Estonian Craft Beer Tasting
- Tallinn Medieval Photo Shoot
- Tallinn Epic Bar Crawl
- Day Trip to Helsinki from Tallinn by ferry
Our top tips for your trip to Tallinn
Where To Stay
During our visit to Tallinn, we stayed in this cozy Airbnb Apartment. (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!) We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. Tallinn holiday apartments can also be searched on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor) or on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Tallinn hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Schlossle Hotel or Hotel Palace. Or, find a deal on a hotel room by bidding on Priceline.
Budget travelers can search for Tallinn Hostels – like Red Emperor Hostel or The Knight House. For a true bargain – and a unique experience – search for hosts on Couchsurfing, where travelers stay with locals for free.
Before You Go
- Tallinn is a walkable city…but only if you have the right shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- It’s easy to get turned around in any foreign city…and especially Tallinn! Make sure to have a good Tallinn guide book (like this one from Lonely Planet) before arriving.
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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