Step into any of the world’s most exciting cities and you’re sure to find elements of the old and new.
The timeline begins in the historical center, showcasing the city’s oldest buildings and earliest traditions, perhaps the city’s oldest pub or a piece of cryptic medieval art. You hear the collective buzz of a hundred languages converged in one square, and make your way through people all looking for that perfect shot. As you walk outwards, a narrative unfolds. The buildings change gradually according to the city’s history – an era of opulence there, the dawn of a new artistic movement here. You fall in step with smartly-dressed locals all in a hurry to get somewhere – you’re the only one looking up at the buildings. You eventually reach a district that screams of the present – trendy restaurants, concept cafes, and brightly-lit shops with attractive displays of the latest styles, all punctuated by young people in pastels and bright colors, their faces hiding behind a laptop, a cup of coffee, or a phone.
In Tallinn, Estonia, the passage of time is not so linear. It’s as loopy and twisty as the streets of the city itself, winding through trees and buildings and time itself.
Take the old town for example – one moment you’re looking up the Gothic spires of a 13th century church, and next you’re drawn to the splendid sight of a sprawling Russian cathedral from the 1900s. Or you could be walking around the twisty, cobblestoned streets being greeted by hawkers in medieval garb, then stumbling into a truffle shop manned by a dude with a beard and a manbun.
Venture out onto the outskirts and it happens again. Flea markets selling seasonal produce suddenly pop up as you walk through the historical wooden townhouse district. Walk farther and you’ll find the hippest restaurants and novelty shops nestled among rows of crumbling Soviet-era factories.
Tallinn is a city that will remind you of many cities – and yet completely distinctive and unlike any other. It’s a classic port city that has as many ideas and influences as the merchants, missionaries, and migrants that have found their way onto its piers, and in the last years, a hub for digital nomads and online entrepreneurs flocking in for a piece of the fine Estonian startup scene.
So if you’re looking for an exciting new city to explore, Tallinn definitely fits the bill. It’s not just for cruise day-trippers or young execs anymore – it’s for anyone looking for a dose of creative inspiration and heaps of adventure. Sounds like you? Here’s how to explore and where to stay in Tallinn.
Where to stay in Tallinn – best hotels in Estonia’s exciting capital
Quick tips – choosing the best place to stay in Tallinn
- If you want to enjoy Tallinn’s rich history and traditions, stay in the Old Town. You’ll be right in the heart of the city’s historic center, where you’ll find the best traditional restaurants and pubs in the city. This area is also the best for first-time visitors who want to learn more about Tallinn’s culture and cuisine.
- If you want to soak up Tallinn’s creative vibe, stay in Kalamaja. You’ll be living and breathing in the coolest part of the city, where most students, digital entrepreneurs, and creatives live. You’ll get to enjoy hip cafes, bars, and restaurants here, plus really great-value hotels.
- If you’re in Tallinn for maximum rest and relaxation, stay in Pirita. If you’re traveling to Tallinn in the summer and want to enjoy daily walks along the beach and swimming in the Baltic Sea, Pirita is the best base for you.
- If you want a taste of luxurious city-living, stay in Kadriorg. Enjoy the good life amidst peaceful tree-lined streets and sprawling gardens, with both the beach and the city within easy reach.
While it’s good to choose your home in Tallinn based on what you’re most in the mood for, it’s really quite easy to experience the whole of Tallinn if you have at least 2-3 full days to explore the city. You can easily walk between the Old Town and Kalamaja, while Pirita Beach and Kadriorg can easily be reached by tram, by bike, or on foot. You can also get around the city using taxis and Uber.
You can use the map below to see where most of the important landmarks and our recommended hotels are.
Map – important landmarks and where to stay in Tallinn, Estonia
Use this map to plan your trip to Tallinn, Estonia.
A walk into Tallinn’s Old Town is a lot like being in a medieval maze. You can spend hours weaving in and out of the small cobbled alleys and one moment finding yourself staring up at towering Gothic spires, and the next in a hidden courtyard enjoying spoonfuls of warm, rich Russian chocolate.
There’s no one way to experience the Old Town – there are as many adventures as there are winding streets, and as many stories as there are stone walls. Staying within the city’s historic medieval center will give you plenty of time to get to know Tallinn’s rich culture and traditions, one curious spot at a time.
Best hotels in Tallinn’s Old Town
★Travelers’ Pick: Hotel Telegraaf is the unbeatable luxury hotel in Tallinn. Located right in the center of the Old Town, staying here will give you the head start to explore Tallinn’s stone walls and cobbled streets. The hotel is a sight in itself – its building dates from 1878 and has been luxuriously updated with modern rooms and amenities plus a spa and wellness center. It also houses one of Tallinn’s best restaurants – Restaurant Tchaikovsky, which serves Russian and French cuisine.
For big groups and families, the Tallinn City Apartments offers fully equipped 1- to 3-bedroom apartments that can cater to groups of any size. Staying here will give you that like-a-local feeling, and it’s also a great option if you’re traveling with a car, as you can get a secured parking spot in the middle of the city.
The Old Town also has budget-friendly options – check out Viru Backpackers Hostel. It’s located near the town hall square, has clean and spacious rooms, plus they organize day trips to Lahemaa National Park.
Flea markets, hip cafes, and novelty shops more up your alley? Stay in Tallinn’s coolest district, Kalamaja.
This quickly-developing area houses plenty of new cafes, bars, and galleries, as well as co-working spaces and concept stores. There’s plenty of spots to snap a pretty picture, too – from historical wooden houses to grunge graffiti to coffee art.
If you’re in town to get those creative juices flowing, or just can’t or don’t want to stop working on your projects, Kalamaja is a dream base come true.
Best hotels in Kalamaja
★Travelers’ Pick: Hestia Hotel Ilmarine’s bright and vibrant interiors perfectly capture Kalamaja’s creative vibe. Located just where the Old Town ends and Kalamaja begins, making this your base gives you the best of both worlds – the Old Town’s historical beauty and Kalamaja’s new age atmosphere. With comfortable rooms, an in-house bar, and a fitness center, your stay in Tallinn is guaranteed to be a fun experience.
If you want to fully live like a local while in Tallinn, look into apartments in Kalamaja like the Ilmarine Art Studio. This spacious, fully-equipped, one-bedroom apartment comes with a garden and free parking that will make you feel like a local in Tallinn’s coolest neighborhood.
If you’re in Kalamaja to meet like-minded creatives and digital nomads, make your way to Fat Margaret’s Hostel. You’re likely to meet a kindred spirit in the hostel’s bright, shared spaces, or in the hubs of cafes and co-working spaces nearby. In any case, you’ll get to enjoy clean, comfortable rooms, and free access to a sauna and pool.
Estonia enjoys warm and long summer days from June to September, and if you’re visiting Tallinn during these months, it’s good to head to Pirita. You’ll get to enjoy dips in the Baltic sea, canoeing in the Pirita river delta, and peaceful walks along the promenade.
Tallinn’s highest viewing point, the Tallinn TV Tower, is also in Pirita, as well as the Tallinn Botanic Garden. A short drive while bring you to Viimsi peninsula, where you can enjoy a quieter sandy beach and a historic open-air museum.
Best hotels in Pirita
★Travelers’ Pick: If you’re in Tallinn for a much-needed R&R, Pirita Beach Apartments and Spa is your best base. It’s right on the coast of Pirita beach with dazzling views of the sea, as well as swimming pools, sunbeds, spa facilities, and a terrace – everything you need for a stress-free, laidback holiday.
In case they’re fully booked on your dates, great alternatives are: the Kaunis Guesthouse that’s just a little bit of a walk from the beach but nonetheless a comfortable place located in a peaceful area; and the Lavendel Spa Hotel, which is a little farther up north in the scenic Viimsi peninsula and further from the beach crowds and city day trippers.
Peaceful tree-lined streets, sprawling gardens, and ornate wooden mansions – couple this with art museums, a Baroque palace, and a choice of luxurious hotels and you’re in for one of the most leisurely holidays you can experience in Tallinn.
This is what it’s like to live in Kadriorg – a neighborhood personally chosen by the Russian tsar Peter the Great to establish his estate and now, it’s where the Estonian president conducts her business. The neighborhood kept up with their famous residents and through the years have continued being the most upscale residential district in Tallinn.
If you’re up for peace and quiet amidst relaxing scenery, choose your home-away-from-home in Kadriorg.
Best hotels in Kadriorg
★Travelers’ Pick: There’s nothing quite as luxurious as staying in a Hilton Hotel in a peaceful and green area of a beautiful city. The hotel is, of course, what you’d expect – glamorous and spacious rooms fitted with stylish furniture and décor, world-class service and friendly staff, and extensive amenities including a spa center, a gym, an in-house restaurant and a bar. The surrounding environment is great for walks and for catching sunshine, while the old historic town as well as great restaurants are just a few minutes’ leisurely walk away.
The Kadriorg neighborhood is not exclusively for luxury, 5-star-hotel-dwelling travelers, though. It also offers affordable indulgences like the Oru Hotel, a beautiful hotel that exceeds expectations – from bright and comfortable rooms to friendly staff, peaceful location, and a fabulous breakfast, all at a steal price of EUR 60 for a double room. If you want a truly local experience, look at apartments like the Koleri Central Apartment.
Top tips – traveling to Tallinn, Estonia
Currency: Euros – you can pay for almost anything using a credit or debit card (better if you have a borderless card that helps you save on conversion fees); if you prefer to pay in cash, make sure you have small bills
Language: Estonian, English – you can get around and chat with the locals in English, but a few local words can help you make friends and earn smiles
- Hello – Tere
- Thank you – Aitäh
- Cheers! – Terviseks
Time zone: GMT +2
Tipping: Voluntary but 10% of the bill is polite and appreciated
You can get around Tallinn’s old town, city center, and Kalamaja on foot. To go to Kadriorg, Pirita, or other neighborhoods farther out, you can ride the tram or bus. A single trip QR ticket costs EUR 1 if bought online here, or EUR 2 for paper tickets from the driver. Scan your QR-code as you enter the tram or bus from the front. Use this journey planner to check timetables and destination stops.
Another way to get around is by bike. Use the Nextbike app to easily find and rent a bike for an hour to a whole day.
If you’re planning to explore outside the city, getting a rental car is your best option. Estonia’s roads are great to drive, you don’t have to worry about tolls (there are none) and getting around is easy with Waze.
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I hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Tallinn, Estonia! It’s quickly becoming one of Europe’s most exciting capitals, both as a startup scene and as a holiday destination, so make your way there soon and enjoy the city’s charm and energy.
Happy travels to Estonia!