Talk about a small town with little to do but beauty that won’t end. It’s easy to see why the old town is a UNESCO site as the town has loads of old world charm. Here is a quick travel guide to Tallinn to help you get around and navigate the town.
First, let’s be honest. It isn’t very large. The whole town is definitely doable in about a day if you really wanted (depending on your interests). However, I thought it was worth the time to go back at different times of the day to wander the streets. Here are some general observations that might help your trip.
Yes, they speak English….and they probably speak it better than you do.
Tallinn Card – you’ll have to figure out for yourself if this something worth the price. I was here during winter so many of the sites had limited opening hours so I didn’t see a point in getting one. However, I do understand the appeal if you don’t want to constantly pay for everything individually.
The one thing I absolutely recommend is getting a day pass for the X number of days that you’ll be here. I bought one for 3 days and it was 7 euros (including the 2 euro fee for the card that you get back if you remember to return it…I didn’t). Know that every time you want to ride the metro, it’ll cost you 2 euro so this more than pays for itself and you wont have to be carrying small bills or coins with you. If you want to buy this, you’ll need to go to a R KIOSK. Think of these as Estonia’s version of a Circle K or 7-11. They’re at many of the bus and trolley stops (but not all). This is where you’ll buy the pass unless you’re just purchasing a one way ticket in which case you can just buy it directly from the driver.
The 2 sites I would absolutely recommend are Pirita church ruins (about 20 mins outside of town via bus) and Patarei Prison. The church ruins are great and when I was there, I was the only one there for a good 2 hours which allowed me to take all kinds of photos without any disturbance. There wasn’t even anyone there to pay the 2 euro entrance fee to.
The prison and Linnahall are right next to each other. You can take the tram to the Linnhall stop and then walk over. It’s an old Soviet arena (for lack of a better word) that’s fairly run down but offers great views of the sea and city. It’s fairly run down with graffiti and trash but I never felt unsafe. I would say to just watch your step.
The prison is about a 10 min walk from Linnhall. It’s officially closed so you can’t go inside the prison but you can walk around it. I also (unsuccessfully) tried to find some way in but it seems like a lot of the openings that may have been once open are now cinder-blocked shut. I would recommend peering into any of the windows you find though. It honestly looks like people were there 1 day and then just walked out and left the next. From what I could see, there were desks and chairs just there waiting to be used. If you can find a way to sneak in somehow, I’m sure it’ll be pretty cool.
Outside of all this, you’ll want to check out the myriad of churches, vantage points, and just the overall atmosphere. Just note you will see a number of young people out and about during the evening hours with the smell of booze on their breath. If I could still do it at my age, I’d be doing the same thing.
I think most will probably fly into Helsinki since it’s a much larger airport with a lot more connections. However, I’d strongly recommend carving out a few days to visit Tallinn. From Helsinki, you’re just a short 2 hour ferry ride away and there are multiple ferries a day that will take you.