Step Back in Time in Tallinn Old Town

Founded in 1248, Tallinn is one of the oldest capitals in Europe, being a major trade hub from the 14th to the 16th century when it was an important part of the Hanseatic League.   Nowadays Tallinn Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the birthplace of Skype.

Since I have been living in Helsinki, Tallinn is one of my favorite places to visit, whether for a day or a weekend, or longer if I get the chance.  My first visit to Tallinn was back in April 2013 and my love of this beautiful and ancient city remains.   I never tire of wandering through its timeless cobbled streets or discovering new places to eat or visit to experience what living in Tallinn must have been like.

Tallinn Christmas
Jimmy in Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square) at Christmas. Check out a Tallinn Christmas market experience here

Since relocating to Helsinki full-time, I think we have already made 3 or 4 visits to Tallinn in the last year.   It is so convenient and cheap to catch a ferry over, especially for a day trip.  Recently we have switched from traveling on the Viking Line to using the Tallink Silja Line, as the sailing times give us more time in Tallinn than the 4 hours you get on a Viking Line day trip.   Tallink Silja have a sailing that leaves as early at 7:30 am and returns at 8:30pm so gives us a good 10 hours approximately to wander the city and is very affordable at around 16 – 24 Euro’s each depending on when we travel.   As mentioned in my last post on making the most of your travel dollars, if you book through the local site (.fi instead of .com) you can save yourself a few Euros.

Click here if you prefer a fully guided tour of Tallinn with pick up from and drop off to your hotel.

Town Hall Square in Summer
Town Hall Square in Summer

The ferry trip takes approximately 2 hours and the terminal in Tallinn is a short walk (10 – 15 mins) to the Old City or alternatively you can catch a taxi, which are (like all things in Estonia) a lot less expensive then in Helsinki, a bus or even a rickshaw for about 3 Euros.   If you want to get a good introduction to Tallinn then grab the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus that leaves from near the terminal, it is a great way to cover a lot of ground in the day and see sights both in the city and around the fringes.

III DraakonOn our recent trips we have discovered a really neat little place to eat and enjoy the authentic medievel atmosphere of Old Tallinn at III Draakon, not a place for the faint hearted or those who are a little precious about themselves.  III Draakon is located on the tower side of the Old Town Hall and is true to its medievel heritage.  The menu is basic and consists of Elkmeat Soup, Oxmeat Sausages and a range of pastries filled with vegetables and wild meats.  The restaurant itself is dark and pokie and the service is basic at its best (there are no airs and graces here…) keeping with the authentic feel.  Food is served in crockery that has seen better days, there is no cutlery and you better not forget to clean up after yourself…. If you dare muck around at the counter, can’t make up your mind or hold other customers up, well then you better expect a mouthful from the lady of the house.  The food is delicious, nutritious and very well priced and is an excellent choice for lunch while wandering the Old City.

Alternatively you could click here to try an Estonian Food Tour to get a taste of Estonian cuisine.

Tallinn Street signAs I have mentioned previously the Old Town is full of beautiful buildings and has a rich history, so if this is your first visit it would be worth doing a guided tour to get a full background on the history and events that have shaped this wonderful city.   There are plenty of museums, churches and other places of interest within the walls of the Old Town to keep you amused for a day without having to go too much further.  If you do however run out of things to do in the Old Town then the first place I would head is The Seaplane Harbor which is an excellent museum of Estonian maritime history and is as good as any museum we have visited in our travels (admission is included in this guided tour of the Old Town).

Knight armour

If you are happy to explore the city on your own it might be worth getting a Tallinn Card which costs 32 Euros each adult for a 24 hour card or 42 Euros for a 48 hour card.  Unless you are planning on doing one of the sightseeing bus tours which are included in the card, I wouldn’t think you would get much saving out of a 1 day card as it would take a trip to the Seaplane Harbour and 4 other museums to start saving you any money, but if you are planning on spending 2 or more days exploring the city then definitely get one as you will save a lot.  Besides free entry to over 40 of Tallinn’s top attractions you also get priority entry to some attractions, free public transport and special offers and discounts at many other places.

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Reindeer at Christmas Market

After a day wandering the streets of the Old Town it is time to head back to the terminal for the ferry home.  If you are staying in Finland for any period of time afterwards, make sure you check out the duty free liquor stores, the savings you make there on just 1-2 boxes of beer will cover the cost of your ticket.  Don’t worry though if you miss the shore side shops, there is a large duty free store on the boat home, although the range is not as large, there is still plenty of money to be saved.

If you are overnighting in Tallinn, then maybe you could check out the Haunted Tallinn Tour.

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Tony Fitzpatrick
Architect, Dad, Traveller & Head Rover at Around Rock 3
After a brief flirtation with Japan in the early '90's, and some occasional trips to Australia since, I have had an unrequited love affair with Japan and general desire to explore the world for the next 20 years while reality prevailed and I found myself pretty much stuck in my home country of New Zealand (not that is an entirely bad thing...).After a chance opportunity arose in mid 2012 to relocate our family to Moscow, Russian Federation I finally set off on my OE with my family in tow. It has been an amazing journey that has seen us experience life in Russia, Japan and now Finland, as well as visiting around a dozen countries so far in our adventure to date.While my family situation has changed along the way, I am continuing to explore the world with my tri-lingual son and enjoy sharing the adventures we have had with my followers.

2 comments

  1. Hello Tony

    This is a detailed description of Tallinn. The Christmas experience especially caught my attention, it looks so magical. A place I will consider for that special Christmas holiday with the children.

    Looking at places to visit from a map is ok to establish the location of the place in the world but reading about Tallinn Old Town on here created a personal touch that made the idea of visiting it irresistible. I didn’t know about Tallinn but you certainly held my interest there. It is indeed a town with interesting history and well worth a visit.

    Your mention of places to eat and how to get around also comes in handy.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Danielle

    1. Hi Danielle,
      Thanks for that, yes it certainly is a beautiful place to visit and is even more magical at Christmas time. Hope you too get to experience the magic one day too and don’t forget just a short ferry ride across the Baltic and a train or plane ride North and you are in Finnish Lapland the official home of Santa Claus……

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