Tallinn is a city with fairy-tale medieval surrounds, rich history and plenty of unique and amazing sights. Whether you want to relax in style or explore and learn, Tallinn is an ideal European city break.
Taking a day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki is the perfect way to visit this beautiful city if you are short on time. Tallinn is also a great option for a longer stay. You’ll find as you read along that there are more than enough activities to keep you occupied for a weekend break or more.
Whether you plan to catch the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn on your own or you’re looking to book an organised Tallinn day trip, read on to find all of my top recommendations below.
This guide will show you how to get to Tallinn, where to catch the best views, find the top attractions and eat the tastiest food. Make the most of your day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki by knowing exactly what to do in Tallinn before you even arrive.
Table of Contents
Day Trip to Tallinn from Helsinki – How to Spend One Day in Tallinn
Best Tallinn Activities
Before we dive into the best way to spend one day in Tallinn, I would recommend checking out these popular Tallinn activities.
Tallinn Walking Tour
One of the best things to do when visiting a new city is taking a walking tour to learn some history first hand from a local guide.
This popular walking tour is the perfect intro to Tallinn and lasts anywhere between 2-6 hours. It will aim to show you the very best of Tallinn through the eyes of a local.
Your guide will take you to the best landmarks and attractions around the Old Town while providing you with fascinating stories and insider’s tips along the way.
Old Town Tallinn
In 1997 the Old Town of Tallinn became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe!
Tallinn’s Old Town is actually divided into two separate areas, the lower town and the upper town (also known as Toompea). They were once considered to be two completely different cities.
Both sections of the Old Town can easily be explored by foot in one day. When visiting Tallinn on a day trip from Helsinki, you will have no trouble covering all of the top sites.
Sometimes getting lost is the best way to see a new place! When we first arrived in Tallinn, we did just that. Explore the many twisting cobblestone side streets and cute squares. From almost any angle you will find great views of the town’s church towers and beautiful facades.
Town Hall Square
The heart of the Old Town and a place you that will usually find bustling with tourists (unless you wake up early). It’s right here that you will find Tallinn’s 13th century town hall and its massive tower. It happens to be the oldest town hall building in the entire Scandinavian region!
Beautiful medieval buildings and outdoor restaurants surround the square. It’s the perfect place to relax with a drink in the afternoon and take in the atmosphere from one of the many patios. There are plenty of events and medieval festivals held here throughout the year.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Tallinn around Christmas time, this is where you will find the famous markets. Hundreds of stalls brighten up the square surrounding a large Christmas tree. This is one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe and it takes place every year from Nov 24th – Jan 7th.
Talk a walk along part of the city’s well-preserved 13th century fortifications and explore the insides of its towers. You can access one part of the wall through the Kiek in de Kok Museum.
From the town walls you’ll get a great view over the city and learn a little bit about the history as you go. To enter the fortifications, it costs €3 per person.
This large limestone hill sits high above the rest of Tallinn and features buildings that date to the 13th century. For centuries, there have been fortifications and towers here, defending the city from attacks.
Toompea is also known as the “upper old town” and it is home to some of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in Tallinn. This area is an absolute must-see on your day trip to Tallinn. You will likely spend a large portion of your day exploring this area.
Due to a devastating fire in the 17th century, most of the buildings of Toompea had to be replaced. You’ll notice that the buildings are newer and have a different appearance from the rest of Tallinn.
This is where you will find Toompea Castle and the majestic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. There are various viewing platforms offering spectacular views over the Old Town.
Although it is no longer a proper castle, this building has been the seat of power in Estonia for centuries. Built on a hilltop overlooking the city below, this beautiful castle is currently used to house the Estonian parliament.
The building dates back to the 13th century but has seen many changes and renovations to its appearance over the years. From the front, you’ll see a lovely pink palace however the back of the building resembles an early medieval castle.
If you want to visit the inside of Toompea Castle you must book a guided tour in advance. On our day trip to Tallinn, we simply passed by the front to admire the castle and snap a few photos.
Find more information on booking a free guided tour of the castle at the official website.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This stunning example of Russian Orthodox architecture dates from 1900, when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire.
The massive and richly decorated cathedral with its onion domes is one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the world. It’s easily the most impressive church I’ve ever seen!
When we first saw the cathedral mid-day, it was completely crowded with tourists. We knew the only way we could really appreciate its grandeur was to return first thing the next morning.
If you want to see this amazing church with minimal crowds, I would recommend heading there by 8am. Entrance to the cathedral is free for those who are interested to have a look inside.
Opening Hours – 7am-7pm daily
Tickets – Free entry
St Olav’s Church and Tower
Tallinn’s largest and tallest medieval building can be found within the lower Old Town. This beautiful Gothic church and its 124 metre tower date back to the 13th century. During the medieval times, this tower was actually considered the tallest in the world!
From April to October you can climb the steep and narrow winding staircase to the top of St Olaf’s Church tower. From here you can admire a spectacular panoramic view of Tallinn’s Old Town and Toompea Hill.
Climbing the 232 steps to the viewing platform may be a challenge but the view makes it worth the effort! Find more info about opening hours and updated ticket prices by visiting this website.
Opening Hours – 10am – 6pm daily
Tickets – €5/adult, free/child
Find the Best Viewpoints in Tallinn
Toompea’s many viewing platforms offer a variety of breath-taking views over Tallinn’s lower Old Town. To capture the best views of Toompea Hill, head to St. Olav’s Church and climb the tower.
- Patkuli Viewing Platform – Climb up the 157 steps from the Old Town to arrive at this viewing platform. From the top you will see beautiful views over the red-tiled rooftops as well as Tallinn’s new city and its high rises. You’ll get a good view of the city walls from this angle. From this point, you can also begin exploring the rest of Toompea.
- Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform – Head here after Patkuli platform as it’s also situated on Toompea Hill. This viewing platform is a large terrace where you’ll take in perfect views over the entire city, with the Gulf of Finland in the background.
- Kiek in de Kök Tower– It’s definitely worthwhile to explore this tower, which offers some great views of the city, harbour and Toompea. Learn about Tallinn’s history while browsing through the many historic weapons on display inside the tower. The ticket also allows access to several other towers.
- St. Olav’s Church Tower – One of the best views in town, this cannot be missed on your day trip to Tallinn! This was my favourite view of Tallinn as you can really take in the entire essence of this special place.
Eat Lunch at a Medieval Tavern
For all the foodies out there, you are in luck! Tallinn’s restaurant scene has plenty of amazing dining choices. You’ll find everything from traditional medieval pubs to fine dining and modern European cuisine.
There’s also a decent selection of places offering delicious vegetarian and plant-based options. You’ll have more choices than you know what to do with when it comes to finding a place to eat.
You can’t day trip to Tallinn and not try one of its many traditional, medieval taverns. They should be high on your list when it comes to picking out a place to eat!
- Vegan Restoran V – Coming in at #3 on TripAdvisor, this gem offers many vegan and vegetarian options. Make sure to book it ahead of time as it’s very popular and not very big.
- Rataskaevu 16 – We got in too late to eat here as it had already booked out for the evening. According to TripAdvisor, this is Tallinn’s #1 restaurant and it’s a short walk from the Town Hall Square. Rataskaevu 16 serves Scandinavian, International, and Eastern European cuisine. It’s also vegetarian and vegan friendly and offers gluten-free options.
- III Draakon – This place is a must! The food here wasn’t incredible but it’s totally worth it just for the atmosphere and medieval vibes. Located under the Town Hall building, this is a small medieval-themed tavern. Everything about this place is true to the times, from the menu to the quirky bar-maids.
- Olde Hansa – Another traditional restaurant full of character and charm. It’s a little more expensive, but you’re paying for more than just a meal. The venue is candle lit and has medieval music playing in the background. The staff are all dressed the part as they serve traditional Hanseatic dishes. This place is a bit touristy, but it’s worth it to go for one meal.
- Kompressor – We stopped in here for a quick lunch to break up our sightseeing day. For €7-8 you can choose one of their many delicious and super filling pancakes to fuel the rest of your day’s explorations. I had the tomato, feta and pesto pancake and it was one of the best meals I had on our day trip to Tallinn!
Spending Longer Than One Day in Tallinn?
Perhaps you have more time to spend in Tallinn and are seeking some additional activities. From museums to day trips, below are some great things to check out in and around the city.
Tallinn Food Tour
Taste the traditional flavours of Estonia on a guided food and drinks tour of Tallinn. This 3 hour tour will educate you about the history of Estonian cuisine while tasting a variety of drinks, dishes and desserts.
Get off the tourist track and discover some local favourite restaurants where you’ll find a more authentic dining experience. The food tour includes drinks, food and a local tour guide. See more detailed info at the link below.
Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour Museum
Learn all about maritime history in the Baltics by visiting this informative and highly rated museum in Tallinn. Walk through a large submarine from the 1930’s and explore a large collection of exhibits that will take you back through time.
One of the many highlights of this maritime museum is seeing a sunken ship from the 16th century. You can find Lennusadam on the harbour of Tallinn, outside of the Old Town. To get there, take the bus 73 and get off at the “Lennusadam” stop.
Opening Hours – 10am – 6pm daily (closed on Mondays)
Tickets – €15/adult, €8/child
Kadriorg Art Museum
The Kadriorg Art Museum is housed within a gorgeous 18th century palace surrounded by manicured gardens. This is the only museum in the country that features early European and Russian paintings and sculptures.
This is a great addition to your Tallinn itinerary if you’re interested in historic art collections. You can reach the museum by walking for 35 minutes from the Old Town or taking the tram line 1 or 3 for four stops.
Opening Hours – 10am – 6pm daily (closed on Mondays)
Tickets – €9/adult, €7/child
KGB Prison Cells
Visit the KBG Prison Cells in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town to learn about the unfortunate events during the communist regime of the early 1900’s.
The museum is quite small but it is well organised and shows you exactly what life was like as a prisoner during this awful time in history.
Take a walk into the basement where the actual prison cells are located to see recreated scenes, informative displays, stories and more.
Opening Hours – 11am – 6pm (closed Monday/Tuesday)
Tickets – €5/adult, €4/student
Take a Day Trip from Tallinn
Jägala Waterfall & Lahemaa National Park – Explore the natural beauty of Estonia on a full day trip from Tallinn to Lahemaa National Park. Marvel at the stunning Jägala Waterfall, go for a scenic forest hike and explore a quaint seaside fishing village.
The afternoon of the tour will take you to a historic tavern for a traditional lunch followed by a walk through the Viru bog. This day trip includes a tour guide, transportation to and from Tallinn, guided tour at each stop. Lunch is not included in the ticket.
The Best Day Tour from Helsinki to Tallinn
Duration – 12 hrs
Included – Round trip journey by ferry, 3 hour guided tour in Tallinn, transportation to and from Tallinn’s Old Town and the ferry terminal, experienced tour guide.
Discover the wonders of Estonia’s capital city on this fully organised day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki. This is the perfect option for those who prefer to leave the planning up to the experts and enjoy a relaxing day of sightseeing.
The day will begin by meeting your tour guide at the ferry terminal in Helsinki before beginning the 2 hour ferry journey to Tallinn.
Upon arrival in Tallinn, join a 3 hour guided tour of the UNESCO listed medieval centre. Your guide will take you to all of the best highlights around town such as Tallinn Town Hall, the fortified city walls, Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral, Toompea Castle and a few of the best viewpoints.
The rest of the day can be spent exploring the town at your own pace. Stop at one of the medieval restaurants and check out one of the viewpoints that you may have missed on the guided tour.
At the end of the day you will be transported back to the port to board the ferry to Helsinki. Keep in mind that this day trip does not include hotel pick up/drop off or any meals.
Getting the Ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn
If you’re planning to take the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn on your own, it is best to book your ticket online before you go.
The ferries can get very crowded and tend to sell out during peak times as it is a very popular route. Try to book as far ahead as possible.
Booking this round trip ferry ticket from Helsinki to Tallinn will allow you to comfortably see the sights of Tallinn at your own pace.
Keep in mind that the ferry to Tallinn takes 2 hours of travel time one way. This round trip ticket will allow you to spend up to 10 hours on your day trip to Tallinn which is plenty of time to see all of the highlights.
The Best Time Of Year For a Day Trip to Tallinn
While we generally love off-season travel, we took our day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki in July and it couldn’t have been better. When the rest of Europe is over-run by crowds, Tallinn is still one of the lesser known destinations (compared to places like Rome, Paris, London etc).
You will still see many crowds there in the summer but it’s by no means overwhelming. You’ll also be glad to know you won’t have to stand in extremely long queues like you’d see in the more popular destinations.
While summer is ideal for sightseeing, the winter months are just as nice in Tallinn (especially around Christmas). With a blanket of snow covering the rooftops of this fairy tale town, everything becomes even more magical. The town glistens with Christmas lights and market stalls fill the square around a big tree.
What to Pack for Your Tallinn Day Trip
- Passport – The most important item on your day trip to Tallinn that cannot be forgotten!
- Day pack – A good day pack is essential to carry everything you need on your full day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki.
- Good walking shoes – This day trip will involve a lot of walking so comfort is key.
- Portable charger – It will be a long day and there will be many beautiful sites to capture so make sure your phone stays fully charged.
- Reusable water bottle – Bring a water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Sunglasses – You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors so make sure to protect your eyes from the harsh sun.
- Sunscreen – As mentioned above, keep yourself protected from the sun if you’re visiting Tallinn during summer.
- Umbrella – If you’re visiting during bumper season, don’t forget to bring one of these!
- Rain jacket – The weather in Estonia can change pretty quickly, be sure to come prepared.
Where To Stay In Tallinn
If you would prefer to stay longer than one day in Tallinn, read on to find the most conveniently located accommodation options below.
When booking your accommodation in Tallinn, I would highly recommend basing yourself in the town centre. Being able to wake up and easily explore the Old Town with all the attractions at your door step is definitely the best option.
Viru Backpackers Hostel – A small and cosy hostel located steps from the Town Hall. The staff are very helpful and the hostel has a great vibe to it. For those who are solo travelling or simply seeking a budget option, this is the perfect choice for you.
Daily Apartments – We really enjoyed our stay at this comfortable apartment. Situated in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, the location of this accommodation could not be any better.
Beautifully decorated, fully equipped and surrounded by pubs, shops and all the best restaurants, we can highly recommend this accommodation for your stay in Tallinn. Not to mention the price was very reasonable for its prime location.
Hotel Telegraaf – If you’re seeking some extra comfort and amenities during your stay in Tallinn, look no further. Set in a historic building, this lovely 5 star hotel features an indoor swimming pool, hot tub and spa.
Hotel Telegraaf is very well located within the centre of the Old Town, a short walk from the Town Hall Square. There is a restaurant and bar onsite and an amazing breakfast is included in your stay.
Final Thoughts on Taking a Day Trip to Tallinn from Helsinki
We hope this article has inspired you to visit this stunning city and helped you to plan your ideal day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki.
During our day trip to Tallinn, the city quickly became one of our favourites in all of Europe. The medieval charm, amazing restaurants and vibrant nightlife scene leaves a great impression.
Tallinn is one of those places I could happily return to over and over again and know I’d always have an awesome time. We hope you enjoy Tallinn as much as we did and find this guide useful when planning your trip!
Discover More European Travel Guides
- How to Spend 2 Days in Prague, Czech Republic
- Weekend in Bratislava, The Perfect 2 Day Itinerary
- Day Trip to Bruges from Amsterdam, The Ultimate Itinerary
- How to Day Trip to Mostar from Dubrovnik
- 6 Reasons Why You Should Travel Europe During Off Season
- 27 Essential Carry On Items You Need to Pack in 2023
Enjoy this Helsinki to Tallinn Day Trip Itinerary? Pin me for later!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, we may receive a small commission on purchases made through these links. By making any purchase, you are directly supporting The Road Is Life Travel Blog which allows us to continue providing you with free high-quality travel guides. We only recommend products/services we have tried/love!