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Table of Contents
- Tallinn - Southern Neighbour of Helsinki
- How to Prepare a Day Trip to Tallinn
- Things to See in Tallinn
- Eating in Tallinn
- Thing to See near Tallinn
- Shopping in Tallinn
- Hiring a Car in Tallinn
- Good to Know about Tallinn
- Bottom Line
Tallinn - Southern Neighbour of Helsinki
It is difficult to find anyone living in Helsinki who would not have visited Tallinn multiple times. Having a day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn is a common way to relax in the middle of hectic work life. Travelling from Helsinki to Tallinn is also inexpensive. The price level in Tallinn is cheaper compared to Helsinki. With a small budget, you can have a fabulous day in Tallinn. And if a day in Tallinn is not enough, Tallinn has many hotels for budget travellers and for those who prefer to stay in a 5-star luxury hotel.
The Estonian capital was not always called Tallinn. Before 1918, when Estonia gained independence, it was named Reval, which is believed to be of German origin. It is special to note that Estonia was occupied by German forces from 1941 to 1944. Legend claims the origins of this former name originate from a deer hunt when an animal fell off a cliff and perished. Reh-fall means deer fall in the German language. Several historians debate this theory and believe that this old name is more likely to have derived from the old Estonian county called Revalia.
Apart from Finnish travellers who regularly visit Tallinn from Helsinki, there are a big population of Estonians working in Finland who often goes back to Tallinn during weekends.
Distance from Helsinki to Tallinn
The travel distance from Helsinki to Tallinn by the sea is only 80 kilometres. Depending on which Tallinn ferry you take, you will reach the Port of Tallinn only in 2-3 hours. Seven ferries are cruising every day between Helsinki and Tallinn. They bring thousands of passengers from Helsinki to Tallinn and vice versa.
There is no direct road from Helsinki to Tallinn but the road goes via Russia. In addition to flying, travelling by ferry is the only other viable option to travel between these capitals.
How to Prepare a Day Trip to Tallinn
Making an enjoyable day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn is simple. After you have booked ferry tickets, you just need to head to one of the centrally located ports in Helsinki and board the ferry. In a few hours, you will reach the Port of Tallinn and by walking 20 minutes more, you are at the city centre. If you leave for Tallinn in the morning and come back late in the evening, you will have an ample 10 hours to explore the city and its nearby areas. Estonia uses euros like Finland, so there is no need to exchange money. Payments cards are also widely accepted in Tallinn.
Because the ferries operate every day, making a last-minute plan is possible. You can even book a ferry ticket in the morning just a few hours before the scheduled departure. However, early bookers get better rates.
Between Helsinki and Tallinn there is a ferry departing almost every hour from the both ends. We recommend reading our Helsinki - Tallinn ferry booking guide to find your most suitable connection.
Tallinn can easily and safely be explored by foot. You may need public transport to reach malls and sights outside the city centre. A good thing is that the public transport network in Tallinn works well. You can even use the same mobile application to pay tickets in Helsinki and Tallinn. If you prefer riding taxis, we recommend using Bolt application. Taxi fares in Tallinn vary a lot.
Did you know? All public transport is free of charge for people registered as living in Tallinn. Residents are still required to validate their travel cards when boarding.
The city centre and the old town are moderately small. Still, there is enough to see in the centre for a whole day. People who have visited Tallinn before are encouraged to see also the sights outside the centre or even outside the city. GetYourGuide offers many interesting guided activities in Tallinn.
A return ferry ticket to Tallinn costs about 50 euros. You may need a few euros more for public transportation in Helsinki and Tallinn. A delicious lunch in Tallinn costs less than 15 euros and drinks in bars are affordable. Tickets to museums are moderately priced. Together, 100 euros is enough for making a perfect day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn including all necessary costs.
Things to See in Tallinn
We list a few interesting things to see and do in Tallinn and nearby areas.
Atmospheric Tallinn is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. The Estonian capital known for its cobbled streets offers a unique mixture of old history and the modern-day. Best of all, most places to visit are within walking distance from each other. Whether you are interested in culture, architecture, museums, spas, or shopping, there is something for everyone in Tallinn.
Tallinn Old Town can be reached from the Port of Tallinn in 15 minutes by foot. Exploring around the old town by walking is easy and fast and there are interesting restaurants and museums to stop by. In addition, you can have amazing photos, visit churches, and see the Estonian parliament building.
Toompea hill is a limestone hill a few steps away from the old town. It is about 30 metres higher than the surrounding area which gives an impressive view not only of the old town but also of the sea. Toompea is a place where you can shoot the best photos of Tallinn. The hill is public so you can visit it anytime without any charges. On the way up, there are plenty of local restaurants and souvenir shops.
There are also guided walking tours in the old town.
Tallinn Town Wall
The Walls of Tallinn are the medieval defensive walls constructed around the city of Tallinn. The construction consists of multiple towers, gates and walls between them. You will see the walls just by visiting the old town because the old Tallinn lies inside the walls.
Estonian Maritime Museum
Estonian Maritime Museum is a place to get an informative overview about Estonian maritime history. The museum is divided into two parts. The main exhibition is located in Fat Margaret tower (a part of the town wall) in Tallinn Old Town. There you can learn about maritime history and navigation in Estonia. The other part is called Seaplane Harbour where you will find ships and wreckages. Especially, Seaplane Harbour is an impressively designed museum which you must add to your bucket list.
Seaplane Harbour is 16 minutes walk away from Fat Margeret. The route is easy to walk but it goes away from the old town. You can always take a taxi or public transport back if the weather is bad.
Tallinn Christmas Market
Tallinn Christmas Market is maybe the best Christmas attraction in the Baltics. Read more from our Tallinn Christmas Market Guide.
Kadriorg Park is a 70-ha wide park in the Kadriorg district. The park's history started already in 1718 when Peter the Great ordered to re-designate areas at Fonnenthal Summer Manor. Nowadays, the park has also a Japanese garden which was opened in 2011.
The park is the best place in Tallinn to have long walks on a sunny day. It is only 30 minutes away from the city centre on foot so there is no need to take a bus. Visiting the park is free and it is a perfect place to unwind after exploring the busy Tallinn Old Town.
Telliskivi is an artist-friendly complex that has become a popular hangout for shoppers and restaurant-goers. It is only 27 minutes walk away from the Tallinn Old Town in a reclaimed factory area. The area brings together restaurants, a gallery, a furniture shop and many other bohemian businesses and free-time activities. Telliskivi is a place for similar-minded artistic people to gather together.
Tallinn TV Tower
TV towers in different cities are quite similar but according to our opinion, Tallinn Teletorn is an interesting spot. It is 10 kilometres outside of the city centre and the tower is a great spot to see something else than the old town. Because Tallinn is a moderately small city, visiting the tower gives a clear panorama view of the city.
The bus to the TV Tower drives along the coastline of Tallinn so the view is great. After half an hour's journey, the bus starts climbing up to a small hill inside the forest where the TV tower is located. From the tower, there is a great view over the whole of Tallinn and if you are lucky enough that there is a clear sky during your visit, you can see Finland over the Baltic sea too. This tower is 314 meters high. The place is beautiful, historical and the exhibitions are informative and there are interactive elements to ensure learning for the visitors of all ages. You will also learn about how the tower itself was built and the history of soviet intervention in trying to stop the people from getting information from outside sources. The views from the top are exceptional. Strong wind is possible, but it's worth it!
Use Google Maps to check the latest bus routes and schedules.
Near Ülemiste Lake you can try one our favourite hobbies - plane spotting. Tallinn Airport is located right next to the lake so this is the best location to spot aircraft departing and arriving at Tallinn Airport. It takes only 15 minutes to reach Tallinn Airport from the centre by public transport.
Eating in Tallinn
In Tallinn, expect that eating at a restaurant is cheaper than in Finland. Different meal options are available, ranging from wallet-friendly Asian restaurants to premium fine dining experiences. The old town is maybe the most popular area to eat in but also the most expensive. Because the medieval atmosphere of the old town must be experienced, we recommend eating there despite the higher prices. And according to our restaurant visits, the food quality is great. You may also join guided food tours.
Budget travellers are advised head to Karja Kelder in the old town. It serves local food and drinks in a basement of an old building.
The old town is not only full of restaurants but there are also many Estonian cafes. One recommended option is the oldest Cafe in Tallinn called Café Maiasmokk. However, this cafe is quite expensive so it could be better to prefer a smaller more authentic cafe if you have a stricter budget. Café Maiasmokk serves well-prepared hot drinks and cakes but it is also a typical tourist spot.
Thing to See near Tallinn
To see things outside Tallinn, more time is needed. Luckily, Tallinn has many affordable hotels.
Viking Village is an educational park where you can enjoy fresh nature while learning Viking history. The village suits the whole family as parents love the delicious food with drinks and children may try challenges and adventures. The Viking Village offers inclusive memories inspired by a distant era. Because you will spend a lot of time outside, this spot is the best to be visited on a sunny day in the summer. We visited Viking Village in August 2021 and the food was amazing. We also liked the atmosphere that wandering animals create.
Entrance to the Viking Village is almost free. You need to pay for activities and food. It is also possible to stay overnight in the village.
Viking Village can be reached by car in 25 minutes or 1 hour by taking a long-distance bus from Tallinn Bus Station.
Blue Springs of Saula
In Estonia, springs have always been considered holy and most were thought to have healing powers. In the Saula area, there are 3 large springs with constant water flow. The springs are blue-coloured because the clear water is reflected in the lights. The folk stories say that the water of the springs heals all ailments if you sacrifice silver jewellery, money or beads.
Visiting Blue Springs is free but you need a car or bus ride to the Saula area. Viking Village and Blue Springs are near to each other so they both can be visited during the same trip. Reaching Blue Springs requires walking inside the forest but the path is easy to walk.
Shopping in Tallinn
Tallinn is a place to buy luxury brands, souvenirs or just affordable clothes. The most luxurious brand stores are in the centre and cheaper products can be found in malls.
Mall of Tallinn is the newest mall in Tallinn. It can be recognised far away because there is a big wheel on the roof. Even though the mall has a nice modern design, it has become quiet lately. Mall of Tallinn had financial issues and many stores left the mall. Customers started heading to the neighbour, Ülemiste Mall, which can be reached even easier. Mall of Tallinn has free parking and there are good public transport connections to the mall. The travel time from the centre is 15 minutes.
Ülemiste Mall is just next to Tallinn Airport and only 5 minutes walking from the Mall of Tallinn. The mall has a more traditional design but the atmosphere inside is hectic. You can find nice restaurants, cafes and many inexpensive stores not forgetting the quality brands. Also, Ülemiste Mall has free parking. If you have time to visit just one mall, the Mall of Ülemiste is it!
Hiring a Car in Tallinn
You do not necessarily need a car to move around Tallinn. Almost all popular spots can be reached practically and fast by public transport. However, if you plan to visit areas outside Tallinn or maybe even continue to Tartu or the spa city Pärnu, hiring a car is recommended.
Roads in Estonia are in good condition and driving is simple. Only the Tallinn centre is more complicated because traffic arrangements can be unfamiliar for some travellers and busy tram traffic requires a lot of attention. Estonian driving culture is quite hectic so driving in Tallinn centre may become stressful. Outside Tallinn, driving is much more relaxed.
You can take a car with you from Finland but if you plan to hire a car, we recommend doing it in Tallinn. Then you do not need to pay cross-border and ferry fees and prices in Tallinn are cheaper. Read our car hiring tips.
Good to Know about Tallinn
Tallinn is not far from Helsinki. Therefore, there is not much difference in terms of weather comparison between these two cities. Though most of the time, you may expect a bit warmer in the Estonian capital than in Helsinki.
If you want to make the most of Tallin’s warmest weather, we recommend travelling from May to the end of August. Also this time, the number of cruise passengers increases as the summer months are considered to be a peak season when most are on summer holidays. Winter has a magical charm of its own though, with the fairytale Tallinn’s Old Town might be covered in snow. Not any traveller should skip the beautiful Christmas Market in the heart of the Tallinn Old Town.
Tallinn is a safe destination if you observe basic precautions. A simple tip is to avoid walking alone through dark areas and don't leave your valuables unattended. Drunk travellers are easy victims.
If the budget is not your concern, spending more than one day in Tallinn is a great choice. We would say that Tallinn and its nearby areas have things to see for many days. Naturally, you will then need a hotel/hostel to sleep in.
As a small capital, Tallinn has surprisingly many hotels and they are affordable. The old town may be a romantic place to stay but the hotels there are older and in worse condition. Therefore, we do not recommend staying in the old town because you end up paying more for worse quality. Tallinn has many high-quality hotels only a few minutes walk away from the old town. For example, Sokos, Radisson and Swissotel have nice hotels in the centre.
We recommend giving a chance to Swissotel. It is a 5-star hotel in a perfect location and in Tallinn, Swissotel has affordable rates. Why not to enjoy quality that does not ruin your wallet.
People who visit Helsinki must visit also Tallinn. A day trip to Tallinn is simple and affordable. Even though Helsinki and Tallinn are near to each other, the cities are different. Tallinn is a fast-developing small capital that has a rich history. The city is a perfect destination for people who love history, food and shopping.
Have you been to Tallinn? What did you like the most? Comment below.