Situated on Estonia’s northern coast across the Gulf of Finland, Tallinn has always been a strategic hub for the country. After gaining its independence from Russia in 1991 the city quickly became a popular destination for visitors from Helsinki and Stockholm. In recent years, British tourists (many of them on their stag and hen weekends) have discovered it, giving it rave reviews for its beauty and affordability.
Renowned as one of the best preserved cities in the world, Tallinn’s medieval Old Town acquired much-deserved Unesco status in 1997. The ancient stone arches delicately outline its cobbled streets, red-tile roofed houses and gothic churches. Wander through the Dominican Monastery, once a base for Scandinavian monks, and home to Estonia’s largest collection of stone medieval carvings.
Walk a mile east of Old Town to Kadriorg Palace and Garden where cyclists, walkers and sun worshippers all congregate amid the horse chestnut and aromatic lilac trees. After a full day of exploring the city head to the luxurious sauna on the 26th floor of the Hotell Olumpia; soak your tired limbs in the plunge pool and look out at the magical city that has won you over.
Summers in Tallinn are fairly warm and temperatures of 30 degrees are not unknown. Winters are cold and the spring and autumn months are mild, if a bit rainy. July's average temperature is 17 degrees while February's is a chilly -4.
When to fly to Tallinn
The summer months are high season in Tallinn, as are December and January (particularly popular with Russian visitors).
The weeks following New Year, when the Estonian winter bites, is the low season in Tallinn.
Getting around Tallinn
When your Tallinn flight lands, you have several options to get to the city’s centre. Tallinn’s bus, tram, trolley and train lines run from 6am to 11pm between the city centre and the outer city limits. Save yourself some money and you buy your ticket from a newsstand before boarding. Fares are more expensive when you buy tickets from the driver.
Tallinn insider information
- Lace is a speciality of Estonia and you’ll find a lot for sale in Tallinn. Other local items to look out for include carved wood, leather, ceramics, wool jewelry and a huge amount of Communist “memorabilia” – including Stalin Russian dolls. Big open air markets are the best place to find a bargain.
- In the Old Town, take a walk past the wonderful Hessburger fast food restaurant. Nothing like the Golden Arches, this burger bar resembles a gigantic 1950s chrome caravan, with old-fashioned red bubble writing. It’s situated near the walls and makes a rather incongruous sight.
- There are viewing platforms on the top of Toompea Hill, which offer a great view of the town's red-roofed houses.
- If you’re planning on visiting more than one museum, purchase a Tallinn card, which gives free entry to 40 museums, as well as free transport, free sightseeing tours, free spa visits, entrance to a nightclub and discounts in many restaurants and shops. You can buy a six, 24, 48 or 72 hour card from the tourist office.