Renowned as the perfect holiday destination if you are looking to combine the comforts of the modern world with a rich cultural scene among the historic architecture, the Estonian capital of Tallinn is the perfect place to experience all of the above. During our action-packed and quick fire adventure through the Baltic States, we arrived in the heart of Estonia following a four hour coach journey from Riga, Latvia. Although we were only spending a little over 24 hours in Tallinn, we were ready to experience the heartbeat of this city and what better place to do this than the historic Old Town.
The history of Tallinn dates back to the medieval era and over the centuries, this city has not only thrived as a port given its location in relation to the Baltic Sea but also how it has overcome a number of challenging circumstances, none more so than the iconic date in Estonian history when the nation declared formal independence during the Soviet military coup on August 20, 1991.
Today, visitors to Tallinn can not only learn about this history but also enjoy an eclectic blend of local tradition with modern day cultures. We are going to focus our attention on Tallinn’s Old Town because the reality is, if you only have one (or even two days) in the Estonian capital, you have to be pretty selective on what you are going to explore. Let’s take a look at the best way to spend a full day in Tallinn.
Where to Stay in Tallinn?
If you are looking for the perfect place to stay in Tallinn to explore the very best of the Old Town, look no further than the Park Inn by Radisson Meriton Conference & Spa Hotel Tallinn.
This offers visitors to Tallinn the opportunity to enjoy a little modern day luxury combined with the opportunity to take a short walk into the heart of ancient Tallinn. It’s the perfect blend for anyone that wants to enjoy the very best of old vs new when they visit Estonia.
We had the opportunity to spend a night here and after arriving in Tallinn at the central bus station, we took an Uber to the Park Inn by Radisson. On a side note, Uber is a great way to get around in Tallinn because it is affordable, safe and efficient!
After checking in to our gorgeous corner suite overlooking the city, we immediately headed out in search of the Old Town Square.
The hotel is located about 10-15 minutes outside of the Old Town but conveniently accessible within short walking distance. The walk not only gives you the opportunity to stumble across a couple of gorgeous overlooks of the city but also the spectacular Alexander Nevsky Cathedral that towers above the Old Town.
Below is an overview of the short walk from the hotel to the heart of the historic center of Tallinn.
Address: Toompuiestee 27, 10149 Tallinn, Estonia
Phone Number: +372 628 8100
We enjoyed a spacious suite overlooking the city that had everything we needed to ensure our stay was relaxing. The living area was full of trendy, modern furniture but perhaps the highlight was the full length windows that wrapped around the suite offering the spectacular views.
Combine this with the time of the year we visited and we were able to enjoy the relaxing sight of snow falling in Tallinn from our hotel suite. It was certainly a picture perfect scene!
Both the bedroom and bathroom continued the theme of spacious areas and we had nothing but an amazing experience here, despite only staying for one night.
What better way to start your day exploring Tallinn than by heading down to the breakfast area at the Park Inn by Radisson hotel. We have experienced a lot of amazing breakfasts across a variety of European cities but in terms of variety, this was definitely up there with the very best.
Whether you are looking to start your day with a healthy variety of fruit, yogurt and cereal or perhaps indulge in a hot, traditional European breakfast, the Bistro Mary restaurant offers everything you could imagine for a breakfast menu.
Be sure to make your hotel reservation with the breakfast buffet included…you will not regret it!
Explore with the Tallinn Card
If you are visiting Tallinn for the first time and want to enjoy a glimpse of the very best of the Estonian capital, we strongly recommend considering the Tallinn Card. Available in either a 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour pass, the Tallinn Card is the best and easiest way to get around the city while offering access to over 40 top attractions and museums. If you are looking to enjoy the best things to do in Tallinn, this option is by far the most economical!
Given that we were only spending 24 hours in Tallinn, we opted for the single day version which is cost-effective, efficient in terms of speeding up the process of accessing the various attractions and most importantly, offers free access to public transportation making it easy to navigate the city.
Visitors can enjoy either the mobile or plastic card version of the pass. Regardless of which option you opt for, the moment you activate this at your first attraction, be prepared for an action-packed itinerary to explore the best of Tallinn. If you are like us and have a strong desire to explore the historic Old Town of Tallinn, the Tallinn Card is the best way to experience this given that a number of the museums are scattered around this part of the city.
For a full list of attractions available with the Tallinn Card and all the associated benefits, click the Visit Tallinn website here for further information.
Here is a quick breakdown of the attractions that we were able to experience during our 24 hours.
- Tallinn City Museum
- Kalev Marzipan Room
- Café Maiasmokk
- Museum of Photography
Our intention was to take the Hop On, Hop Off Sightseeing bus tour of the city as this is a great way to see all the main attractions (it’s entirely up to you if you choose to get off and explore a part of Tallinn that may intrigue you!) but unfortunately we fell in love with the Old Town Square and spent much of our time exploring the Christmas markets.
Hopefully after seeing our pictures and reading our post on enjoying Christmas in Tallinn, you will understand why we couldn’t resist staying around the Old Town Square!
These are only a few examples of the various attractions that you can enjoy using the Tallinn Card. If you have more time or simply want to add a few other museums, here are some of the other top recommendations:
- Kiek in de Kök – A 38meter high cannon tower that is home to an extensive museum of the town’s fortifications, weapons and life in medieval times.
- Bastion Passages – Experience military tunnels underneath Toompea that dates back to the 1670s.
- St. Olav’s Church and Tower – Ready for a hike to the top of Tallinn? Climb to the summit of Tallinn’s iconic, Gothic church! Did you also know that this was once the tallest building in the world? At least that is what rumors suggest…between 1549 and 1625 it was the tallest though this is a little controversial!
Tallinn City Museum
Ready to learn all about the history of Tallinn? There is no better place to start than the 14th-century merchant house that is home to the Tallinn City Museum.
Introducing the history of Tallinn dating back to the medieval era in the 13th-century, this museum offers visitors the opportunity to explore a chronological timeline of events and gain a better understanding as to what life was like in Tallinn throughout the various eras.
Whether you are intrigued by life in medieval Tallinn or perhaps you are focused on learning about Estonia gaining their independence, the three floors inside the museum offer visitors the opportunity to learn, reflect and gain a great appreciation of this beautiful city.
The basement offers an open depository of porcelain from across the globe with almost 2,000 porcelain and glazed ceramics stored inside the museum. The ground floor of the museum consists of firearms and artillery associated with the Estonian army but the real experience starts when you head upstairs to the first floor.
After an experience learning about medieval times, the journey continues all the way to the third floor where you learn about Soviet influence on Tallinn. This is certainly a museum that should be at the very top of your list of attractions worth visiting while using the Tallinn Card.
Kalev Marzipan Room and Café Maiasmokk
Following a morning learning all about the history of Tallinn, you will likely be ready for a sweet treat! There is no better place to do this than the Kalev Marzipan Room.
It’s an iconic spot in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, not only because it’s located in the oldest operating cafe in Estonia, Café Maiasmokk (dating back to 1864), but also because of the intricate detail that goes into all the marzipan figurines that are scattered throughout the museum.
Although visitors to the museum will have the opportunity to admire these awesome displays regardless of whether you have the Tallinn Card, if you choose to purchase this card, you will receive a “small gift” when leaving the museum.
I don’t want to give away too many secrets…ok, I’m sure the suspense is killing you…the free gift is a taste of marzipan!
Museum of Photography
Located just outside of the Old Town Square, the Museum of Photography is a great place to visit for any photo enthusiasts traveling through Tallinn.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of visiting this museum is that it is located inside a 15th-century building behind the Town Hall in what was once the town’s prison.
I have to admit, wandering through this old prison was definitely the highlight because the photographs were a little disappointing. A large collection of historic photo equipment was a great way to learn about how photography has transitioned throughout recent decades but we couldn’t help but continue to be intrigued by the fact we were exploring a number of prison cells.
The narrow, winding staircases were a challenge to navigate, particularly if you are tall. A gift shop can be found in the basement offering visitors the chance to purchase a souvenir from their visit to Tallinn.
We literally fell in love with Tallinn!! It’s a pretty bold statement to make but honestly this was our favorite city throughout our Baltic States adventure. Our focus was primarily on enjoying the rich history throughout this city but for anyone wanting to enjoy the distinctive blend of modern versus new, this is definitely a place that is worth visiting.
By staying at the gorgeous Park Inn by Radisson Meriton, we had the opportunity to take the short stroll into the heart of the Old Town both days that we were in Tallinn. The viewing platforms that you can stumble across while wandering along the cobblestoned streets, offer breathtaking views across the city but the real treat awaits you when you head down into the Old Town.
You could arguably fall in love with Tallinn without visiting any of the museums or attractions but in order to gain a greater appreciation of this city, we strongly encourage you to consider purchasing the Tallinn Card. It’s a great way to learn more about the history while offering free transportation options but regardless of whether you opt for this, we are 100% convinced you will love Tallinn just as much as we do!
Have you visited Tallinn, Estonia before? What are your experiences in the Baltic States?