Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It is a quaint, small city with a large history. It’s Old Town is one of Europe’s most beautifully maintained medieval cities, gaining it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Tallinn also listed as one of the top 10 digital cities in the world, often dubbed as the Silicon Valley of Europe.
It is relatively undiscovered by mass tourism, making it a great place to add to your travel itinerary.
This Essential Travel Guide will give you all the information you need to discover Tallinn in 7 relaxing days, as always just click on the links for more information.
You can find more details about our travels in Tallinn, in our Traveller’s Tale.
All major and European based budget airlines have regular flights to Tallinn.
We choose to use Skyscanner when booking flights, although it can be beneficial to subscribe to budget airlines before your trip in order to have access to cheaper tickets and early bird flight deals.
By Ferry or Boat
Tallinn is located on the Baltic Sea and accessible by ferry or private yacht.
There are multiple ferries daily to and from Helsinki, Finland which is a short 1.5-2 hour cruise.
Ferries to Stockholm sail daily, in the evening and the cruise takes about 15 hours.
There is a weekly ferry to St Petersburg.
We recommend you check for ferry times and compare prices with Direct Ferries and then book directly with the ferry company to avoid unnecessary booking fees.
Due to the climate and surrounding waters there may be adjustments to ferry timetables during the winter months. If you are planning to travel in winter it is best to check directly online with the ferry company.
The Port of Tallinn has 5 marinas with berths available for rent to private yachts. All the details can be found here.
Tallinn is included as a stopover by many of the large cruise line companies operating in the Baltic Region, check with your chosen operator for an itinerary with a stop over, although we think you would need more than a half day to enjoy everything in this destination.
There are 2 major international bus lines with regular services to and from Tallinn, Ecolines and Lux Express. We highly recommend checking online and booking early to get the cheapest fares. We were able to get a budget price to travel to Riga with Ecolines 2 days prior to travelling.
Everything about our experience with Ecolines was enjoyable. They were prompt, polite and best of all comfortable. The buses had free wifi with coffee and snacks served to your seat and movies available too.
The central bus station is not located near the city centre but local bus 17 and 23 will get you to the City Centre from the Tallinn Bussijaam (international bus station).
The bus station also has excellent facilities to grab a quick meal, coffee or snack before you depart.
Train services in Estonia are limited and currently the only train connection internationally is to Moscow, which runs daily. More information can be found here.
Estonia is a member nation of the European Union and the currency is the Euro.
As always we recommend that you have a reliable currency converter app on your smartphone. We choose to use xe.com.
ATM’s are located conveniently and the technological nature of Estonia means that you can use your credit or debit card pretty much everywhere.
Note: If you are an Australian, you may expect to withdraw cash alongside a purchase at a supermarket or service station, this is not available throughout most of Europe.
Tallinn is a compact city and getting around is pretty easy. The public transport system is safe, reliable and cheap. It consists of buses, trams and trolleys.
The public transport system operates from 0600-2300 hours daily.
There are 3 types of tickets available and they entitle you to travel on any type of transport.
More information about ticket types can be found here.
You can pre purchase your tickets or buy a single journey ticket on the transport from the driver. NOTE you must have exact change for the trip.
On arrival at the Port of Tallinn the easiest and cheapest way to get into the city is to catch the Bus No.2 from right outside the main terminal building. The ticket is €2.
We were able to use the Smartcard by touching on at the beginning of each trip, it automatically calculates the cheapest fare. NOTE this card costs €2, which is refundable at the end of your stay.
We recommend downloading the App to our smartphone for planning all your journeys around the city.
Walking and Cycling
Tallinn is an easy and enjoyable city to walk or bike around as it is compact and fairly flat. There are many parks and gardens to stop and relax in. There are walking maps available on line although we found after the first day that you really can just wander, as it seems all roads eventually lead you to the Old Town.
You can download maps specific to the city or simply use our recommended off line mapping program, HERE WeGo, on your smartphone. Just make sure you have downloaded the map for Estonia before you leave your accomodation or even better before you arrive.
There are bike sharing facilities available throughout the city and maps available for cyclists online.
If you have read some of our previous blog posts, you will be aware that we are loath to recommend using taxi services, in most of the world. This is due to the number of times we have been ripped off by taxi drivers, however Tallinn is not one of those cities.
Due to the public transport system operating until 2300hours and the propensity of Estonian’s to enjoy a wee tipple after this time, it appears the taxi services are frequently available, safe, reliable and cost us exactly what we were informed it should be. The taxi system appears to be highly regulated and you can read about fares and things to know, here.
All taxis should display a yellow sticker on the window, with fares and regulations. It is also advisable to check the approximate fare prior to entering the taxi.
Uber is available in Tallinn, although with the regulation of the taxi system we are not sure why you would need to use it. It is available via the App as in any other city.
There are a range of options available for travellers in Tallinn from budget hostels, AirBnb and upmarket hotels.
We chose to use AirBnb because it gives us the freedom to cook some meals, wash clothes and feel like we are in a home away from home. We also feel that we connect with a local community by shopping in suburban shops, grocery stores and out of the way restaurants or cafes.
If you have read our Traveller’s Tale-7 Days in Tallinn, you may be aware this was not our finest hour using AirBnb but overall it was a nice neighbourhood and it was budget accomodation.
Food and Drinks
The cost of living in Tallinn is approximately 45% cheaper than our home town of Melbourne, with food and drinks being much cheaper. So cooking at home was a real budget option and we did eat out a few times too.
How do we know this? We looked it up on one of our favourite budgeting tools, Expatistan. This site allows you to compare general cost of living items, like food, travel and accomodation between two cities.
The not to miss food item in Tallinn is a small, suburban burger joint which is conveniently attached to the do not miss cake shop.
Vesivärava Kohvik is a bakery and restaurant serving traditional Estonian fare and baked goods, it is run by two older women and the baked goods are to die for.
Vesivärava Grill is connected to the front of the bakery, you won’t be able to miss the smell of the BBQ. They serve possibly the best burgers we have had since leaving Australia (9 months ago). We recommend the “hangover burger”.
You can find the links to both in Like a Local Guide-Tallinn or our Traveller’s Tale.
We have a general travel rule, when it comes to food (thanks to our wonderful food tour guide in Prague) Go 3 streets back from any tourist looking area!
This is very true in Tallinn, there are many restaurants in the Old Town over charging and we have it on good authority, under servicing. Every local person we met, had a tip about a little place in the suburbs or just outside the city walls that was worth a visit and where they would go. It is always good to know where those who live in a city all the time prefer to eat.
It would appear from our experience that Estonians or at the least Tallinnas, quite enjoy a wee drink or two and let’s face it, any city with a Museum of Drinking Culture, must have said culture. There are many bars but the one drink not to leave town without trying is the Millimallikas. Read our Traveller’s Tale to find out what it is and why you should not leave town without trying it.
Most people we met in Tallinn, spoke excellent English but we always try to make the effort to find a few words of the local language and encourage you to do the same. It seems to be both amuse and delight people when we at least try, so here goes.
Thank you- Aitäh
The GoogleTranslate App did come in handy a couple of times when shopping in the supermarket in Estonia. For example buying milk or yoghurt was much easier with a translation app.
Always download the language for the country you are travelling to for offline use, just like your maps.
The Estonian healthcare system has been rated very well by European standards and visitors can gain access to the healthcare system if required.
The emergency number to dial in Estonia is 112, calls can be answered in Estonian, Russian, Finnish and English.
Healthcare is not always free in Estonia (even for Estonians), all EEA member states have reciprocal health care agreements in place and others such as Switzerland have a bilateral agreement in place.
Travellers from within the EEA should always carry their EHIC card with them when travelling.
Those from countries outside this area should have comprehensive travel insurance in place before travelling and check with doctors, hospitals and other providers about fees and charges prior to commencing treatment.
You can find out more information about healthcare within Estonia here.
The Estonian Health Insurance Fund subsidises a list of approved medicines, which are available on prescription from a doctor. There are varying levels of subsidy if you come from a country with a bilateral health agreement with Estonia.
We had a need to purchase some over the counter type medication in Estonia and it was a simple matter of locating a pharmacy (in all shopping centres) and asking the Pharmacist for assistance.
Want to know more about Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements? Check out our blog post here.
Have more information about Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements? Please let us know here.
Customs and Traditions
As with other former Soviet States, the Estonian culture and traditions have been kept alive and cultural identity is extremely important. On the whole Estonians are a quiet and polite people, not unlike their neighbours the Finns, which can make them appear aloof at first, but give them a chance to get to know you and they are (in our experience) friendly, welcoming people, very happy to discuss their traditions, customs, history and politics.
Singing is an important cultural activity and this can be seen in the festivals and bars in Tallinn.
The Estonians are known to have sung their way to freedom in the “Singing Revolution” of 1989-91.
Older people are respected in Estonia and it is expected that you would stand on public transport for those older than yourself.
Drinking alcohol on the streets, outside allocated areas such as bars or cafes is not acceptable although you may see mainly young people attempting to do so during summer. The police can and most likely will confiscate your drinks. Best to stick to one of the many bars and outdoor cafes.
What did we love in Tallinn?
- Wandering in the historical streets of the Old Town
- Visiting the City Walls and walking where medieval knights had walked along the walls
- Parks and Gardens
- Street art and public art installations
- Bars and Cafes
- The people
- The relaxed atmosphere of the city
Give it a miss
- The Museum of Estonian Drinking Culture
On the list for next time
- Exploring more of the surrounding country side
- Exploring some of the small towns nearby
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