Tallinn 3-Day Travel Guide – What to See and Do in the Capital of Estonia

  • 19.11.2023 16:56
  • Bruno Arcos
Tallinn, Estonia

Have a look at our Tallinn 3-day travel guide and discover the best the city has to offer, including hotels, restaurants, tips to avoid tourist scams and even a detailed list with everything you must see and do in Tallinn in 3 days.

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Located on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, just a quick ferry ride away from its Nordic neighbor, Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, the most prosperous and developed among the Baltic nations. However, and beyond its strategic location, this city stands as Estonia’s crown jewel, especially when it comes to tourist appeal.

And it’s no wonder why – after all, its historic center, surrounded by ancient city walls and untouched through countless generations, is probably one of the most beautiful old towns in the world. It’s like stepping into a picturesque fairy tale, so stunning and well-preserved that it almost feels unreal, and one of those places where you can just wander aimlessly, getting lost through every charming alley and lane, over and over again.

That being said, we invite you to have a look at our Tallinn 3-day travel guide and discover the best the city has to offer, including hotels, restaurants, tips to avoid tourist scams and even a detailed list with everything you must see and do in Tallinn in 3 days.

Tallinn 3-Day Travel Guide

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How to get to Tallinn – Flights from the UK

Considering this is the largest and most important city in Estonia, it comes as no surprise that the nation’s capital is served by the country’s biggest air hub: the Tallinn International Airport.

As such, if you’re traveling from the UK, it is possible to fly directly to Tallinn from London-Gatwick (airBaltic), London-Stansted (Ryanair) and London-Luton (Wizz Air).

Alternatively, you can consider flying into Riga or Helsinki and then making your way to Tallinn either by bus (with Lux Express) or by ferry, respectively.

Tallinn 3-day travel guide – Best time to visit the city

Considering the city is located in the Baltic region, Spring, Summer and Fall are definitely the most sought-after months when it comes to booking a trip to Tallinn, with the period between May and September standing out as the most researched.

However, and for those strong-willed enough to face the harsh Estonian cold, visiting Tallinn in the winter can also feel refreshingly rewarding, as several Christmas markets spring up all around the city.

Documents needed for your trip to Tallinn

Since Tallinn is part of the EU, British citizens do not need a visa to visit. You’ll just need your passport, which must have been issued within the last 10 years and remain valid for at least 6 months from the date of your trip.

However, keep in mind that starting in 2024, British passengers will need to apply for ETIAS in order to enter any EU country.

Tallinn 3-day travel guide – Withdrawals, banking fees and travel budget

With the Euro (€) as Estonia’s official currency, any withdrawal using a UK bank card might incur in the payment of several different fees. Besides the percentual fee referring to the currency conversion, some UK banks may also charge a flat commission for withdrawals made outside the UK. In some instances, you may well end up paying 5%-6% of your original withdrawal in banking fees.

On the other hand, exchanging money before your trip is not a viable solution either. Besides not being any cheaper, it’s also not safe or wise to carry so much money on you during your trip. As such, we recommend using the services of online banking fintech companies such as Revolut, N26 or Monzo.

Although each have their own limitations and fees, they allow you to withdraw a certain amount in foreign currency without any fees involved. And even after that threshold is reached, costs are much smaller when compared to traditional banks. Sign up for Revolut for free >> to get 3 months of Premium.

Tallinn 3-day travel guide – Common scams and frauds

Thankfully, Tallinn can be considered a pretty safe destination. Despite the recent turmoil caused by neighboring Russia, as well as the occasional social unrest caused by the presence of a sizeable community (5% of total population) of stateless people of Russian ethnicity, Estonia is a rather peaceful country, with its security and territorial integrity assured through its membership in both the EU and NATO.

However, and much like you would do in any other big city, using your common-sense is key. That means no taxis whose drivers refuse to start the meter, no accepting help from strangers when you’re using an ATM or trying to buy metro tickets and always keeping an eye out for your stuff when you’re walking through busy areas (pickpocketing seems to be a thing in Tallinn). To sum up: don’t do anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing anywhere else!

Where to sleep in Tallinn – Hotels and Accommodation

If you’re looking out for a place to stay on our Tallinn 3-day travel guide then we got your covered!

Although the Baltics are no longer as cheap as they were some 10 years ago, Tallinn is still a rather affordable destination for the average western tourist, especially when compared to the prices one would find in western and southern Europe. Still, this is the most expensive capital of the 3 Baltic Republics, so expect higher prices compared to its fellow neighbors! This goes for restaurants, transportations and supermarkets, but also for accommodation.

That being said, here are a few hotel options which have passed our value-for-money test:

Tallinn 3-Day Travel Guide – Transportation between the airport and the capital centre

Located just 4 km away from the Old Town, the best way to travel between Tallinn’s airport and the city center is by using lines 2 and 15 of the local bus network. The bus stop is located right outside the arrivals’ terminal (just follow the signs), and buses run between 04h50 and 23h50, leaving every 15/20 minutes, depending on the time of day. Both routes will drop you off near the ancient city walls, albeit in different places, with the whole trip taking about 25 minutes. As for tickets, you can get yours from the automatic machine located inside the airport, or you can simply scan your contactless bank card inside the bus, as the total amount (€2,00) will be automatically deducted from your balance. As a third and final option, you may simply buy your ticket online through Tallinn’s public transportation authority website.

It’s also worth mentioning there is actually a tram line that goes through the airport. However, that route is currently closed for renovation until mid-2024. Finally, if you arrive in Tallinn late in the evening, you may always rely on one of the official taxis. However, expect to pay around €15,00 for the trip.

Tallinn 3-Day Travel Guide – Public transportation

Fortunately, Tallinn is a very compact and walkable city, with an Old Town that is partially closed to motorized traffic. So, if your accommodation is located near the historic centre, chances are you won’t even need to use public transportation (aside from the airport transfers).

Nevertheless, commuters in the Estonian capital can make use of its modern tram system and its vast network of buses, so it’s worth gathering some key information about Tallinn’s public transportation system.

Tallinn Tram System – Maps, Tickets and Mobile App

Made up of 5 different lines, spread across over 40 stations/stops, the tram system in Tallinn is essential to the city’s urban mobility, even if it’s not particularly useful from a tourist standpoint. Plus, the system is integrated into Google Maps, meaning the platform will provide you with real-time information on which line to take and where to catch it to reach your destination.

Although running times depend on the lines and the mode of transportation, most routes operate daily, between 06h00 and midnight.

Regular tickets will set you back €2,00 and are valid for 60 minutes, allowing you to do as many transfers as you need within that timeframe. Besides the traditional paper tickets, which can be bought at the automatic machines inside each station/stop, you can also use your contactless bank card as a ticket, with the fare getting automatically deducted from your account at the end of your journey. Finally, it’s also possible to buy a digital ticket (QR Ticket) from Tallinn’s official public transport website or go for a Smartcard (Ühiskaart), a physical plastic card (€2,00) that you can top up with any amount you need and use the balance throughout your stay. At the end of your getaway, you can return the card and get your €2,00 deposit back. Regardless of the type of ticket, prices are always the same. Plus, keep in mind you MUST ALWAYS validate your ticket.

That being said, if you plan on using the tram frequently, it’s worth looking into the daily and multi-day options available:

  • 24-hour Pass: €5,50
  • 3-day Pass: €9,00
  • 5-day Pass: €11,00

Tallinn 3-day Travel Guide – Free walking tours

While in Tallinn, you have the option to explore the Old Town with a free walking tour. These tours, led by local guides or tour companies, offer guided visits to the historic center, sharing intriguing stories about each place and providing valuable cultural context. Even though these tours are technically free, it’s customary to show appreciation for the guide’s efforts by leaving a tip at the end. In Tallinn, a reasonable minimum tip would be around €5,00.

That being said, here are a few companies that run free walking tours in Tallinn:

Tallinn 3-day Travel Guide – Hidden Treasures

With 3 days in Tallinn, you will have enough time to cover the city’s main highlights, while at the same time getting to check some lesser-known places – both in the Old Town and on the outskirts.

That being said, and because we believe a good traveler must always be able to explore beyond the obvious, we wanted to add a few more obscure places to your list of things to see and do in Tallinn in 3 days:

Kalamaja Quarter: The place where local fishermen traditionally lived, this neighborhood is famous for its typical and colorful wooden architecture. While it may not boast the same grandeur and detail of the Old Town, it is nonetheless an excellent place for a stroll.

Raeapteek: Smacked right at the Town Hall Square, this unsuspecting shop is, in fact, the oldest operating pharmacy in all of Europe, dating back to the 15th century! Inside, you can also have access to a small museum showcasing the pharmacy’s early medicines and medieval healing methods.

Patarei Prison: Originally built as a fortress of the Russian Empire, Patarei Prison was then transformed into a detention center by the new Estonian nation, before playing a central role in the imprisonment, interrogation and deportation of political activists during the Soviet occupation. Now, it is set to become the International Museum for the Victims of Communism, scheduled to open in 2026.

Rotermann Quarter: Located right next to the Old Town, this historic quarter has undergone massive renovations, with old factories and industrial buildings making way for modern and attractive spaces, such as offices, cafes and restaurants. As a result, it has become a major social hub, attracting locals and emerging as one of the capital’s main social centers. Probably the place in Tallinn that best combines the old and the new.

Telliskivi Creative City: Yet another great example of urban redevelopment, this business and artistic center was established in the facilities of a former run-down industrial complex, currently standing out as one of the coolest spots in Tallinn.

Tallinn 3-Day Travel Guide – What to See and Do in 72 Hours

Since Tallinn’ essentials can be visited in just 2 days, I highly recommend taking the remaining 24 hours for a well-deserved day trip across the Gulf of Finland. That being said, you’ll get to explore the city’s insanely beautiful Old Town, walk through the fishermen quarter of Kalamaja and take a tour of Kadriorg Palace, while still saving some time for an “express” visit to Helsinki!

Without further ado, here’s what to see and do in Tallinn in 3 days:

Tallinn 3-Day Travel Guide – Day 1: The Old Town

The obvious choice for your first day in Tallinn, you’re about to explore every nook and cranny of the city’s jaw-dropping Old Town, hands down the most beautiful in the Baltic and – dare I say – one of the best-preserved in all of Europe! Originally surrounded by an extensive city wall, with a 2km stretch remaining relatively intact, the best way to access the historic center is through Viru Gate, the original main entrance to the Old Town. Once you’re in, it’s impossible not to feel impressed by the maze of narrow streets, cobblestone lanes and colorful façades. Everything has a medieval feel to it, from the classic buildings to the themed shops and restaurants, not to mention the historic structures and ancient churches – an absolute gem! Speaking of churches, first stop will take place at St. Olaf’s Church, the tallest building in the Old Town, converted into a surveillance and espionage center during the Soviet era. Next up, you’ll walk through St. Catherine’s Passage, a hidden and extremely picturesque alley that will lead you into the Town Hall Square. Considered the heart of Tallinn, the square is surrounded by those cute rows of colorful houses, with the Old Town Hall – the oldest in northern Europe – standing right in the middle. While you’re there, make sure not to miss Raeapteek, the oldest operating pharmacy in all of Europe, dating back to the 15th century! Inside, you can also have access to a small museum showcasing the pharmacy’s early medicines and medieval healing methods.

By now, you probably will have noticed the Old Town isn’t exactly flat, with part of it standing atop a small hill (still within the ancient city walls). Well, it’s time to walk up those winding streets and hit up Toompea Hill, where you’ll find what is probably the most emblematic building in Tallinn: the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral! With its onion-shaped domes, golden details and vibrant frescoes painted across the walls, this is an excellent example of the classic Orthodox style you can easily find in the likes of Russia and Ukraine. Right across the cathedral, check out Toompea Castle, the current seat of the Estonian Parliament, as well St. Mary’s Cathedral, another of the city’s historic churches. To cap off your day, and since you’re already at the highest point in the Old Town, there’s nothing better than enjoying the most famous view of Tallinn. All you have to do is walk to the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform, where you can enjoy an unobstructed panoramic view of the church’s spirals, the wall’s remaining watchtowers and the sea of countless terracotta rooftops. Right next to it, you can also take a peek at the Patkuli Viewing Platform, with a better view of the remaining section of the city walls.

First day wrap-up:

  • Tallinn Old Town
  • Viru Gate
  • Olaf’s Church
  • St Catherine’s Passage
  • Town Hall Square
  • Raeapteek
  • Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
  • Toompea Castle
  • Mary’s Cathedral
  • Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform
  • Patkuli Viewing Platform

Where to eat in Tallinn – Cheap restaurants in the Old Town:

Tallinn 3-Day Travel Guide – Day 2: The Quarters of Kalamaja and Rotermann

Now that you’ve explored the Old Town, your second day in Tallinn is all about venturing into the Estonian capital’s lesser-known districts, starting with the Quarter of Kalamaja. The place where local fishermen traditionally lived, this neighborhood is famous for its typical and colorful wooden architecture. While it may not boast the same grandeur and detail of the Old Town, it is nonetheless an excellent place for a stroll! Moreover, stretching down to the port area, Kalamaja is also where you’ll find the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour (€15,00), one of the coolest museums in the city. Housed inside an old seaplane hangar, this museum is dedicated to Estonia’s maritime history, allowing you to enter and explore the interiors of a 1930s submarine and a 100(plus)-year-old icebreaker ship (Suur Töll), originally built for the Russian Empire’s navy! Also in Kalamaja, pretty much next to the museum, we recommend paying a visit to the Patarei Prison. Originally built as a fortress, Patarei Prison was then transformed into a detention center by the new Estonian nation, before playing a central role in the imprisonment, interrogation and deportation of political activists during the Soviet occupation. Now, it is set to become the International Museum for the Victims of Communism, scheduled to open in 2026.

From here, you’ll start making your way to Kadriorg, in the eastern part of the city, but not without first walking through the Rotermann Quarter, located right next to the Old Town. This historic quarter has undergone massive renovations, with old factories and industrial buildings making way for modern and attractive spaces, such as offices, cafes and restaurants. As a result, it has become a major social hub, attracting locals and emerging as one of the capital’s main social centers. Probably the place in Tallinn that best combines the old and the new (and an excellent spot for a lunch break). Finally, you’ll wrap up your adventure in Tallinn with a visit to Kadriorg Palace (€9,00), now converted into an art museum. Despite the beauty of the building, originally designed as a summer residence for the Emperor of Russia, the highlight is the palace’s park and gardens, decorated with several oriental-inspired gardens, fountains, statues and other ornamental monuments.

Second day wrap-up:

  • Quarter of Kalamaja
  • Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor
  • Patarei Prison
  • Rotermann Quarter
  • Kadriorg Palace

Where to eat in Tallinn – Cheap restaurants in Kalamaja and Rotermann:

Tallinn 3-Day Travel Guide – Day 3 – Day Trip to Helsinki

As mentioned when we started this itinerary, two days are enough to explore the best of what Tallinn has to offer. Therefore, for your last day in the Baltics, we suggest crossing the Gulf of Finland and visiting Helsinki, the capital of Estonia’s northern neighbor! Fortunately, many companies operate ferries between the capitals of these two countries, with new boats departing every 1-2 hours, depending on the time of day. For more details, you can check prices, schedules and companies through this link.

Since you’ll have only one full day in Helsinki, you’ll need to choose wisely when it comes to places to visit, though I believe you’ll have enough time to at least check the city’s main highlights. That being said, and as soon as you get off the ferry, kick off your “sightseeing” session at the Market Square, the main square in the Finnish capital, located between the ferry terminal and Esplanadi Park, the next stop on this itinerary. Follow that up with a visit to Uspenski Cathedral, an imposing Orthodox church perched on a small hill above the harbor, before heading to Senate Square and coming face-to-face with the city’s postcard picture: the striking Helsinki Cathedral! Although the interiors are quite modest, as one comes to expect in the Lutheran/Protestant doctrine, the building’s setting, sitting on top of a massive staircase, is nothing short of impressive. Furthermore, and even though Helsinki might not have Tallinn’s cute and pristine historic center, it’s still worth taking a stroll through the main streets of Kluuvi, the city’s main shopping district, especially along the likes of Aleksanterinkatu, Mannerheimintie and Keskuskatu. While you’re at it, don’t forget to take a look at Helsinki Central Railway Station, considered the city’s best display of Art Nouveau architecture. Before making it back to the port area, don’t forget to check out Temppeliaukio Church (€8,00), famous for being carved directly into Helsinki’s rocky soil.

Back at the terminal, your visit isn’t over yet! After all, you still have a short 20-minute ferry ride to the Fortress of Suomenlinna, built along the island of the same name. These ferries depart from the Kauppatori terminal, operating daily between 06h00 and 02h20. To get your tickets, you can buy them directly from the terminal’s automatic machines (pick zone AB) or through the HSL app, costing €3,10 for a one-way trip. As for the fortress, which spreads across almost the entire island, it was originally built by the Swedes, later changing hands between the Russians and the Finns until its defensive purpose became obsolete. As usual though, the Scandinavians figured out how to repurpose it, turning the entire location into a park, museum, artistic center and, probably, Helsinki’s top tourist attraction. Back in the city, it’s finally time to cross the Gulf again and return to Tallinn, where your flight home awaits.

Third day wrap-up:

  • Market Square
  • Esplanadi Park
  • Uspenski Cathedral
  • Senate Square
  • Helsinki Cathedral
  • Kluuvi (Aleksanterinkatu, Mannerheimintie and Keskuskatu)
  • Helsinki Central Railway Station
  • Temppeliaukio Church
  • Island and Fortress of Suomenlinna

Where to eat in Helsinki – Cheap restaurants in Helsinki:

Got more than 3 days in Tallinn? Then you might want to check out the best day trips from the city:

  • Tartu: Regarded as Estonia’s second city, Tartu is famous for its lively and massive student community. However, beyond the vibrant atmosphere, Tartu also boasts a well-maintained historic center that is easy on the eye.
  • Narva: Positioned right on the border with Russia, the city of Narva is the perfect blend of Estonian culture and that of its giant neighbor. Narva’s highlight is none other than the impressive Hermann Castle, with the Russian town of Ivangorod located just a few meters away on the opposite bank of the Narva River.
  • Lahemaa National Park: In a country with plenty of untouched nature and breathtaking landscapes, this park is probably as good as it gets, offering several trails where you can spot beavers, lynxes and even bears! All of this just a short 50 km trip from Tallinn.
  • Rummu Quarry and Underwater Prison: Probably the most unconventional option in this lineup, this quarry was operated by prisoners from this former Soviet prison complex. Even though the prison facilities are under water level, authorities used extraction pumps to keep the place habitable. However, after the prison was abandoned, water naturally took over. Nowadays, you may visit some areas by canoe, while the most curious can actually dive and explore the submerged remains of the old prison.

Main image by Sergey Gorbachev from Pixabay

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