7 Great Things to Do in Tallinn, Estonia

About the Photo Above: 
It rained off and on for the five days I was in Tallinn. In this photo you can see tourists and locals walking down the streets of the old city with umbrellas. I love the bright red tile roofs and pastel painted walls. The old city is quite delightful in almost any direction you look.

Where is Estonia?
Prior to my trip to Europe, I had no idea where Estonia was located, but would have guessed it was located in eastern Europe just based on the suffix “nia” in the name. Actually it is a good guess because it is the northern most small country bordering Russia (see mini map to right).

1. Wandering the Old City
I absolutely love wandering around the old city in Tallinn; to me, it feels like something out of a fairy tale or an old Disney movie. The streets have big paving stones which reflect light wonderfully after the short rain storms that hit the city daily. You’ll also find locals dressed in period costumes in various parts of the city (there seemed to be more near the central plaza). The photo here was of the north gate where you enter the old city.

2. Eating at III Draakon Pub
I admit, this was my favorite part of visiting Tallin. I made a daily trip every single day I was there to this fabulous little pub tucked away under the large church off the main plaza. For only €2 you could buy a bowl of ox soup. I found it incredibly fun that they refused to supply spoons for the soup and insisted you drink the soup for “historical accuracy.” The staff also had a minor elitist attitude when serving customers, huffing as they would answering questions with, “Of course, we have the best elk soup in the kingdom! Even the King wants our soup!” Hot, fresh oven baked meat pies were €1 each and quite yummy and sausages were €3. I never tried the beer or ox jerky. Pickles are free, but you have to spear them with a stick from within the depths of a wood barrel. The entire restaurant is very dark and lit only by candles. It was quite fun and a fantastic deal for the entertainment and quality of food!

3. Free Walking Tour
There are two free walking tours each day (guides work for tips) lasting about two hours each. It is a great way to get familiar with the city and learn some basic history about Estonia. The guide explains the various countries which occupied Estonia up until their independence in 1991, which interestingly is attributed to Estonians gathering in large groups to peacefully “sing for peace.” At one time, they held the worlds record for the longest line of people holding hands (stretching from Estonia, through Latvia and Lithuania).

4. Three Scenic Points

The old city is divided into the lower town and upper town and historically had slightly different laws in regards to treatment of slaves. The upper town residents were primarily rich folks with slaves. The rule was if a slave ran away to lower town for 101 days, they would become free. Anyway, you could view the lower town from three separate view points (for free). Two of the three were quite stunning as pictured above.

5. Sunset at Abandoned Sea Port

There is a large concrete structure just north of the old city called Patareisadama Piiripunkt (which I believe is an abandoned sea port used during the Soviet times). Today it is a gathering point for youth to watch the sunset. Much of the concrete is covered with graffiti and a lot of broken glass. It does, however, have a great view of the harbor, old and new city as well as the sunset.

6. Shopping at the Russian Market

Open daily, the Russian market near the train station is an interesting experience. You’ll find everything from fruit and veggies to rare Russian flea market items. I saw one stall that had dozens of old hard side rectangular suitcases from the 1940s and another with antique toys. At the far northwest side is a eclectic area of shipping containers and passenger rail cars where you can grab a bite to eat after your shopping.

7. Eating Estonian Pancakes

For less than €5 you can buy customize pancakes with a wide variety of fun ingredients. I had this pancake which was filled with chopped smoked bacon. It was both huge and quite delicious. Oh, and the restaurant opens at 11am, so locals consider pancakes a lunch or dinner item.

My European Travel Map
Want to see where I’ve been in Europe and where I am now? Check out my map of European travels.

Costs (I try to budget about $30/day for food, lodging & tours)
Hostels: $14/night.
Food: Other than my daily trips to eat at III Draakon where I ate for $3, I also ate food from the supermarket. Pre-made sandwiches were about $1.50 and pasta dishes under $2.
Transportation: I rode a few times on buses and trams for $2/ride

Street Costumes

These folks were dressed up to attract customers into the nearby restaurant which served medieval food where all the staff were dressed in historical garb.

Free Beer

I thought this was very creative advertising. The sign says “Free Beer. Topless Servers.” in the small, fine print it says “And False Advertising”

Have your say