Wondering where Tallinn is? Capital of Estonia. Where’s that? Across the Baltic Sea from Finland. Still lost? THAT’S WHY YOU NEED TO TRAVEL!
I was not expecting to only visit Tallinn for a day, especially after deciding to slow down in my travels. I arrived after midnight to meet up with a friend from Abu Dhabi who was already there. After a day in Estonia we had travel plans to Sweden. For the first time I can agree that this city can be seen in a single day, especially if you have already been to Lithuania and Latvia. On the contrary, it’s a great country for a Workaway. I was quite bummed when I received an offer to help on a sheep farm less than an hour after I left the country. Next time!
As for what there is to do there, obviously the first step is the free walking tour. Or perhaps a nice breakfast before the tour which doesn’t start until noon at the Tallinn Tourist Information Center (click for map). The tour covers the Old Town, which is really not that big. There are some fantastic views of the town from the Patkuli Deck, or St. Olaf’s Church which you can visit after the tour. Mairi was a wonderful tour guide, and as a local she really knew her stuff. My favorite was learning about the “Singing Revolution” of Estonia. They were the only country to break off from the USSR with no bloodshed! But enough spoilers. You’ll have to do the tour for the rest of the facts.
After the tour, we grabbed some food and then covered all the other places in town that the tour recommended seeing. These included St. Olaf’s Church, Catherine’s Passage, Town Hall Square (the tour ends there but doesn’t explore it) and the surrounding parks. After several hours, there weren’t many more places to see. Sure, you can always pay for all the museums if that’s your thing. After a year of museums it takes a unique one to pique my interest. Had we more time I might have considered going to the Open Air Museum (as described in my post on Kaunas) just north of Helsinki. There is also Pirita Adventure Park for €19, which is definitely more along my line of interest (I am an adventure blogger after all).
Unfortunately, Estonia doesn’t have much of it’s own cuisine. The restaurants in town are American, Mexican, Chinese and other nationalities. We ended up getting Chinese for lunch and then had snacks from the market the rest of the day. Estonia is a very cheap country, but the Old Town is for tourists and therefore more expensive. There was a cultural event in the Town Hall Square the day we were there, so we were able to sample some local meats, pastries and beer, but even that was expensive.
We rented a cheap apartment near old town for our stay, but for budget travelers there are around twenty hostels to choose from ranging from €10-20. Several people recommended the Monk’s Bunk which has a 9.4 rating on Hostelworld. I didn’t see it myself but I saw the Monk’s Bunk in Kaunas and it was definitely fantastic. There are also nearly 2000 couchsurfing hosts in Tallinn who have been active in the past six months from this writing.
A wonderful part of Tallinn is how small and compact the town is. The airport is only an hour walk from old town, and the coach station is half of that. Or you can take a local bus. Tickets are €1 from a kiosk or mobile device, or €1.60 from the driver. Day and multi-day passes exist but you really don’t need one unless you plan to get the hostel furthest from the town center.
If you are a hard-core tourist and not a budget traveler, you could also look into getting the Tallinn City Card. The pass (which costs €31, €39 and €49 for 24-, 48- and 72-hours respectively) will give you free admission to over forty museums and a sightseeing tour, valued at over €200. You also get discounts on entertainment and restaurants around town, and a free local transport ticket. How many of those attractions you’ll be able to take advantage of in your time frame is hard to say. You might have a hard time getting your money’s worth if you like to go slow.
And that’s about it. Wonderful city but nothing particularly special, and certainly not enough to keep you busy for more than a day or so unless you really want to get to all those museums. I think the surrounding countryside, the Estonian islands in the Baltic Sea and a ferry ride from Tallinn to Helsinki are other great choices to fill up your time in Estonia. Of course, you could always go take my spot working on that sheep farm.