After my experience spending one day in Tallinn, Estonia thanks to a day cruise from Helsinki on the Tallink Silja, I instantly regretted having so little time. Tallinn is definitely a destination I want to revisit, and I’m especially hankering to head back during the holidays to experience the charming Christmas Markets.
However, the truth is that doing a day trip to Tallinn is quite common these days thanks to the city’s Baltic Sea port access which allows cruise ships to stop in, unload for the day and then head out in the evening.
While I typically prefer a slower pace of travel and like to get to know a destination and its people on a deeper level, I get that sometimes your itinerary simply doesn’t call for more time — and such was the case with this quick trip to Tallinn. For those in the same boat, I wanted to share all of the fun things that we did during our one day exploring Tallinn — spoiler — we packed a lot in!
As you’ll see upon arrival, the Estonian capital’s Old Town is small and very walkable, so it’s quite possible to tackle a lot with just a short time in the city. We perused a bit outside the old city boundaries though, and found a few gems I’ve included in this list below.
Here’s my top things that we accomplished all in a day that you can add to your 1 day Tallinn itinerary.
Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform
This was the first order of business after we departed the Tallink Silja boat and headed into the Old Town. FYI, you’ll need to take a taxi into the Old Town as it’s a bit of a walk from port.
This viewing platform is one of the best places to get photographs over Tallinn and get a feel for the contrast between the medieval Old Town and more modern architecture and newer neighborhoods that surround it.
I recommend doing this first in the morning for two reasons. The first reason is because it’s on just about every tour and the earlier you go, the more crowds you’ll avoid. The second is that getting a bird’s eye view will help you get your bearings a bit to inform your sense of direction as you continue to traverse the city on foot throughout the rest of the day.
Walk Around the Main Town Square
Next is a stroll around the Raekoja plats, the historic main town square in Tallinn’s Old Town, which has existed as such since the eleventh century. This is the central hub for all sorts of festivals, open-air concerts and gatherings that happen throughout the year, and during the holidays, this is where the main Christmas Markets take place. You’ll also notice that on one side of the square is Tallinn’s iconic Town Hall.
I wouldn’t choose to drink or dine right in the square as you’ll find places are pricier and the quality is lower (as with most touristy hubs), but it’s nevertheless a must to experience.
Eat at Olde Hansa
The one exception to my above rule about not eating close to the tourist-centric town square is Olde Hansa. This place has 5,000 reviews on Google for good reason (with an average 4.5 rating).
While the staff’s medieval costumes and overall theme decor might feel a bit cheesy at first, don’t let that deter you. This was truly one of the most delicious meals we had on our entire trip. Don’t miss out on the honey beer which arrived in a clay mug literally the size of my head.
St. Catherine’s Passage
One of the most picturesque streets in all of Tallinn is St. Catherine’s Passage, a 700 year old alleyway that connects Vene Street and Müürivahe Street. What makes this little slice of Old Town so popular is how it has retained its medieval atmosphere.
Nowadays, you’ll find people dining outdoors at the Italian restaurant within the passage, Restoran Controvento, as well as a few artisan workshops. Here, visitors can peek in and witness local craftsman making and selling handmade goods like ceramics, glassware and leather items.
Try Local Estonian Brews at St. Vitus
If you want to get a bit outside of the main tourist track and try some local craft brews, St. Vitus is the place for you. We stumbled upon this gem while venturing outside of the old city in the trendy neighborhood of Telliskvi. With 20 different beers on tap, this is a fun spot to taste test a few different flavors by ordering up a flight before making a final decision. It’s one of those locals-only spots that will make you feel like an insider.
Discover the Doorways of Tallinn
Within your first couple hours of walking around Old Town Tallinn, you’ll undoubtedly notice that Estonians have a thing for cool doors. Coincidentally, I have a thing for them too.
Tallinn is one of the most charming, fairytale-like cities I’ve visited yet, and wondering what lies behind each colorful and quirky door throughout town only adds to its allure. If you’re looking for some fun Instagram shots, family portraits or framers for back home, seek out some of the prettiest doors as your backdrop.
Try Caviar at Finlandia Caviar
If you’re a caviar fiend or want to try it for the first time, this little gem in Tallinn’s Old Town is definitely worth a visit. Serving up decadent caviar cups and oysters in a bright and modern space, it’s the perfect place to rest your feet for a light lunch or afternoon snack.
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Balti Jamaa Market
Truly one of the coolest indoor markets I’ve ever been to, Balti Jamaa is definitely a must-visit during your visit to Tallinn. It’s got a little something for everyone, from an epic antique section and vintage clothing shops to food stalls, beauty stores and everything in between.
This renovated market is situated right next to the railway station in Koopli and is equally a hot spot for locals picking up ingredients for dinner as it is for visitors on the hunt for that perfect souvenir.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Architecture lovers won’t want to miss the Alexander Nevsky cathedral which sits on Toompea Hill and is one of the grandest churches in Tallinn. The structure, built in 1900, was designed by famous St. Petersburg architect Mikhail Preobrazhenski during a time when Estonia was still part of the tsarist Russian empire.
If you don’t make it up to the church during your visit, you’ll at least likely hear the church tower’s epic bell ensemble made up of 11 different bells, one of which is the largest in Tallinn.
Refuel With Cinnamon Roasted Almonds
Touristy as it may be, I love a good street snack and the warm cinnamon roasted almonds you’ll find around Tallinn are freaking delicious. With just one day in Tallinn, you’ll definitely be packing a lot in and that means that snacks will be necessary to keep you going.
At several local vendors around Old Town, you can try both the sweeter variety of almonds and also ones with chili and garlic spices for more salty or savory flavors. It’s hard to miss these little street vendors by their wooden carriages, but if you have trouble locating them, just follow the wafting smells of cinnamon and you’ll be on the right track.