Tallinn, Estonia: An Enchanting Day Trip from Helsinki

While we were in Finland, Sam and I couldn’t resist the urge to take a trip to yet another new European country. Just a two hour ferry ride across the Baltic Sea, we could hear a medieval city calling our name, and so we took a little day trip over to…Tallinn, Estonia!

It was love at first sight.

Here are just a few of the things I enjoyed about this place:

A quirky mix of architecture

Tallinn’s architecture will keep your head turning. The Old Town’s fortifications are decidedly medieval, the churches are Gothic in style, there are trails of Baroque and Rococo, and splashes of Art Nouveau that leap out at you from the building’s facades.

Visiting Tallinn on a day trip from Helsinki

Stencil reading 'Fools' on the streets of Tallinn.

On one side of the street you get a taste of history by looking at the crumbling stone walls and buildings that have been boarded up since they are no longer structurally sound, and on the other side you have graffiti and stencils which catapult the city to modern times. It’s a really interesting mix and it’s the kind of place where you can spend hours just walking around and admiring it all.

Crumbling stone walls and boarded up doors in Tallinn, Estonia.

Graffiti on a red door in Tallinn, Estonia.

A medieval dining experience

Our first order of business after docking in the city was to find some lunch. While flipping through a brochure, a medieval inspired restaurant caught my attention, and so fuelled by our appetite we set off to find Olde Hansa in the maze that is Tallinn.

The menu at Olde Hansa, a medieval restaurant in the heart of Tallinn, Estonia.

I knew I was going to like this place from the minute I spotted it in the distance – servers dressed in medieval clothes, ceramic mugs bigger than your face, musical performances using instruments from times long gone, and then the food!

The meals were hearty and came in generous portions. I ordered Neptune’s Feast (pictured below) and it was ah-mazing! My giant platter had fresh bread from the oven, quail eggs, hummus with caviar, and a variety of fish to sample. I liked it so much that I came back for dinner. (I’m quick to form habits.)

Eating Neptune's Feast at Olde Hansa, a medieval restaurant in the heart of Tallinn, Estonia.

Cakes and chocolate shops galore

It would be fair to say that aside from doing a little bit of sightseeing, Sam and I spent the whole afternoon in Tallinn cafe hopping…but I mean, can you blame me when they serve hot chocolates that look like this? Plus it’s really difficult to resist several rounds of dessert when the window displays have cheesecakes and hand-crafted chocolate bonbons trying to lure you in.

Latte foam designs in my hot chocolate at a cafe in Tallinn.

Drinking hot chocolate at a cafe in Tallinn, Estonia.

Pink floral arrangement.

Warm blankets to wrap yourself in

Tallinn was warm and sunny during the day, but since it’s located in Northern Europe, the evenings can be a bit cooler. What I liked about many of the cafes and restaurants in Tallinn is that they offer wool blankets that you can wrap around your shoulders. It was nice being able to enjoy the patios a bit longer even after the sun had started to set. Add a frothy latte or a nice liquor to warm your insides, and you are set.

Cafes give you warm blankets if you're sitting outdoors.

The buzz of the place

Oh, Tallinn is lively!

Young people dancing to medieval music in the streets of Tallinn, Estonia.

There were outdoor performances, young people starting their own impromptu dance parties in the middle of the cobbled streets, brides-to-be in nautical getups enjoying their girls getaway by getting men to hand over their phone number. There was loud laughter and random singing, merry men walking down the street and friends drinking beers on rooftops.

Young people drinking beer on a roof overlooking one of Tallinn's busier streets.

And of course, there was a trail of empty champagne bottles from the previous night’s festivities. What can I say, Tallinn is young, fresh, and looking to have some fun.

Empty bottles of champagne against a crumbling wall in Tallinn, Estonia.

How to get there:

If you are in Helsinki, planning a day trip to Tallinn (or perhaps a longer visit!) is very easy, plus the 2 hour journey from port to port goes by very quickly.

We travelled with Tallink Silja Line which has a very flexible and convenient schedule. The ferry line offers 7 daily departures from each port (or 14 total), which means you can get into the city really early in the day and then take the ferry back late in the evening.

Taking the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn.

There is no assigned seating in the Star Class which means you can sit on the deck if it’s a sunny day, hang out at one of the many bars and restaurants, do a little shopping, or even play the slot machines (which appeared to be a very popular pass time). There is even the option of booking a private cabin if you really need some rest.

Comfort Class aboard the Tallink Silja Line travelling from Tallinn to Helsinki.

We travelled in the Star Class on the way over, and then returned late in the evening in the Comfort Class (pictured above). The nice thing about the Comfort Class is that you can go into a separate lounge, watch some television, and munch on some snacks which are included in the ticket price.

Snacks aboard the ferry.

There was a lot of seating space so it was nice to stretch out on the long couches and take a little nap after a long day of walking around the city. If you are going to be returning late in the day, it’s worth the small splurge to travel in Comfort Class.

The journey is quite affordable with one way prices starting at 19 Euros (if you book in advance) – not bad for a visit to a different country!

Day trip to Tallinn Estonia

55 Comments

  • Federico says:

    I liked Tallin a lot too. Easily walkable and very charming as you describe it in the post. I took a ferry to Helsinki from there…was surprised to see so many drunk people on board by the time we reached Finland!
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  • It doesn’t take much convincing for me to visit a medieval village. Tallinn sounds absolutely wonderful! Now I’m craving some hot chocolate even though it’s 80 degrees outside!

    Happy travels 🙂
    Lauren Meshkin recently posted..My house swapping experience in Denmark!My Profile

  • Incredible! Tallinn looks so fun. And that photo of the champagne bottles makes me think it might be my kinda place 🙂
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Hi from Canada, eh?My Profile

  • This sounds like such a great place… while lately I am feeling drawn to experience more of Asia, I will have to explore more of the eastern parts of Europe in the future. Love the photo of you in the blanky!
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..Creating Space & The Gift Of A WriterMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      I’m craving the opposite. I feel like I’ve been in Asia long enough – now I’m starting to daydream about Eastern Europe… 🙂

  • Heather says:

    I cannot wait to explore this city! Luckily, it will be just a short train ride from Latvia, where we’ll be living next year!!
    Heather recently posted..The Best Meals We Ate in BudapestMy Profile

  • Have got a friend as well who lived in Tallinn for half a year and she’s been raving on about how beautiful the place is. Definitely would love to visit!
    YJ @ thefancyvoyager recently posted..6 Reasons to TravelMy Profile

  • kami says:

    I’ve been to Tallinn only once, also as a day trip from Finland (it was back in the time when I studied there) and it was love at first sight too! This city is just the prettiest and the most charming, such a cool mix of Scandinavian, Russian and Baltic influence! I was thinking of returning to Estonia ever since and I’m finally going back, for 5 days in October. This post just confirmed it was a good decision to book the flights there! 😀
    kami recently posted..5 places I’d love to come back toMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Yaaay! I’m glad to hear you’ll get to revisit the city. I’m sure you’ll notice lots of changes. 🙂 Ooo, you should try to eat at Olde Hansa if you get a chance. I loved that restaurant! A bit touristy, but it was fun getting to feast on a ‘medieval meal’ with servers dressed in clothes from the period.

  • Polly says:

    I’ve been dreaming of Tallinn for so long! These pictures are just making me more and more excited!
    Polly recently posted..Moscow-PetushkiMy Profile

  • Franca says:

    What a lovely place! I like the idea of wrapping myself into a blanket when it’s cold out there. After spending a lot of time in SEA where as you know the heat can be unbearable, I almost miss being cold, call me crazy!
    Franca recently posted..The Slow Bus Alternative to the Laos Slow BoatMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Haha, I have to admit, it was nice enjoying a cooler summer after spending so much time in SE Asia. I was able to wear long pants and sweaters again! 😉

  • Your description sounds so lovely! I love the cafes and blankets- sounds absolutely perfect 🙂 I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon right now!
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  • Rebecca says:

    I have heard a lot of good things about Estonia. A girl I met traveling had said it was one of her favourite countries as it was small, not over priced, authentic and medevil. She had said the amount of history you could see from walking around the streets could keep you there for days… personally I never got a chance to go there but its good to read about it – I shall keep this place on my bucket list.
    Rebecca recently posted..Travel and Design – New SeriesMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      It’s such a great place. If you get a chance to visit, go! And I agree with your friend, the city was very affordable (especially coming from Finland where the prices can be astronomical).

  • Davide says:

    I also travelled from Helsinki to Tallinn on the ferry. I loved the city, it reminded me of Prague, the narrow cobbled streets and the architecture. Definitely a place I would like to go back to, thanks for sharing!
    Davide recently posted..Bristol International Balloon FiestaMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      I haven’t been to Prague yet but I have a feeling I would love it! Medieval cities have so much charm and character. 🙂

  • Karl says:

    I was in Tallinn in January, loved it, great pics!

  • Zhu says:

    You look so pretty! Fresh face, funny, cute… Love these shots, especially the one here you drink that delicious hot chocolate!
    Zhu recently posted..The Price of FameMy Profile

  • Arild says:

    A very describing and true revwiev of Tallinn. Tallinn is a very nice town as you say,Audrey. My first visit was in 2001 and since then I’ve travelled to Tallinn once a year in average, and I’ve already booked tickets for New Years Eve this year. 🙂

  • Claire says:

    Love it! Blankets and lattes at a cafe? Soo perfect.
    I hope you don’t mind (certainly tell me if you do!) but I recently wrote an article on my blog about paying off my debt and linked back to one of your posts; I would love it if you took a look!
    Claire recently posted..On Paying Back $27,000 in Student Loan DebtMy Profile

  • Sound wonderful but how can you go wrong in a place where the hot chocolate has a teddy bear on it (sometimes it’s the little things!).
    Kathryn Burrington recently posted..London days out: The Natural History MuseumMy Profile

  • Beth says:

    Medieval village? Yes please! Tallinn sounds amazing.

    Also, that ferry ride looks incredible. Oh, what I would give for the ferry from Hong Kong> Macau to be like that one!
    Beth recently posted..Foto Friday: Red Sails of Victoria HarbourMy Profile

  • Apol of Wanderful Together says:

    this is my first time to read about Estonia. Wow.
    Reading the word Baltic makes me remember ENYA…more photos please? Hehe.

    Nice bangs. 🙂 You look younger!
    Apol of Wanderful Together recently posted..Penang Street Art | Works of Ernest ZacharevicMy Profile

  • Maria says:

    Audrey, Definitely the place to be for so many reasons but the fact that in Tallinn they offer blankets so you can stay comfy outdoors is so very, well… “cool”
    Maria recently posted..Accelerated Kitchen – A Cook Not MadMy Profile

  • Looks amazing! The medieval meal… YUMM!!
    Sarah @ travelcake recently posted..8 Reasons to go on a trek when you don’t like trekkingMy Profile

  • Looks lovely! I love the concept of outdoor cafes in the winter. In Germany you also gt blankets in a lot of cafes. There is nothing better than sitting outside in the winter with a hot chocolate and wrapped up in a blanket.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Flashback Friday: The day we found a mule at QuilotoaMy Profile

  • Antonino says:

    Very nice post and pics!!!
    I was in Tallin 2 weeks ago…I spent two days there, the atmosphere is incredible, the city very enjoyable!!!
    Have you been in the Rotermanni area? It’s an old industrial area recently converted into a modern district, full of trendy and elegant restaurants and lounge bars, chosen by local people while tourists are more attracted by the medieval downtown. I’d surely recommend to visit it!!
    The only weak point is the daily invasion of hundreds of tourists groups from the baltic sea cruises stoping in Tallin. So, if you can, visit the downtown after 4 p.m. once all the groups are gone back to the boat!

  • Andrea says:

    Um, that latte is adorable. Looks like you had fun! Are you guys back in Asia now, or traipsing around Europe a bit more??

  • Sam says:

    Tallinn is definitely on my Europe to-do list…and a Neptune’s Feast sounds perfect!
    Sam recently posted..Guide to Quirky Chivay: the Colca Canyon’s Big BrotherMy Profile

  • Shalina says:

    Great post! You look so pretty! Fresh face, funny, cute… Love these shots, especially the one here you drink that delicious hot chocolate!

  • JLis says:

    Thanks for posting this Audrey; it’s really helpful AND entertaining. And the photos are really good. Glad you guys had a good time! We’re going to Helsinki at Christmas and if the ferry is smooth enough we will head over to Tallinn for a couple of days. Cheers! JLister in Salt Lake City.

  • Riinu says:

    Wow! I was looking for information about traveling in SEA and just wondered around the other places you had visited and bang – Estonia! It’s very heartwarming and nice to read what foreigners think of this place. And you chose the best time for visiting Estonia! 🙂
    If you or someone else is planning a longer trip in Estonia then do definitely visit Tartu (a bohemian university city), Pärnu (the summer capital, also somewhat medieval) and the islands Saaremaa (summer vacation favourite for Estonians) or Vormsi.

    Greetings from Estonia!

    • Audrey says:

      Thanks for all the tips Riinu! I seriously loved my quick visit to Tallinn. Hopefully I’ll get to see a bit more of Estonia some day. The places you mentioned sound really fun to visit. 🙂

  • Veronica says:

    Medieval atmosphere is so amazing in Tallinn. I stayed there for a week and every day I visited a few cafes and restaurants. All of them are in style, with a taste of ages and that’s amazing. I wish I were there again.
    Veronica recently posted..Capoeira: My ImpressionsMy Profile

  • Adam P. says:

    I don´t know if you´ve had a chance to visit, probably not, but the coastal area of Pirita is quite charming. Great place if you want to get away from the downtown bustle for a while. There´s this convent, or better to say what remains of it..standing inside the skeleton of that church felt like being lost in time, history just comes flooding back here!

  • Rohit says:

    Last October we were on Baltic and Scandinavian Trip, I wish I had read this post earlier we missed some places around Estonia as mentioned in the comments, But it’s always next time Still not far from the city of amazing people
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  • Byron says:

    Hi Sounds like a great place we are going in August, did you get that stamp in your passport.
    Byron

    • Audrey says:

      No stamp to boast, sadly. No one was checking passports when we arrived, so we just got off the boat and walked into a new country.

  • Kathy says:

    We are visiting Helsinki in July and are also keen to visit Tallinn. Do you need to book a ferrry in advance or can you just arrive on the day? We would be doing a day trip.

    • Audrey says:

      I would recommend booking in advance so that you can get a better price on your ticket! They have deals if you do it a couple of months in advance, however, the ferry runs several times a day and there are multiple companies servicing that route, so it shouldn’t be a problem to book it last minute.

  • Anna says:

    So glad to have found your blog – incidentally, through Google-searching some bits about Tallinn, as I visited it myself in September and just got around to recapping in. I came to Tallinn after 2 days in Riga (where I actually hung out with another travel/expat blogger), and having scheduled 3 days in Tallinn I figured I would be done with it within 48 hours, and then was going to take a ferry to Helsinki for a day trip – a reverse of what you did. Instead I met a cute German – at Olde Hansa! – and we spent my last day in the Baltics driving, hiking and picnicking around Estonia’s GORGEOUS countryside.

    PS – I’ve already started rummaging through your blog’s archives, and I love it!

  • Tallinnaa says:

    You should definitely visit Kalamaja while you are in Tallinn. Restaurant scene in Tallinn is awesome, so we warmly recommend trying out places like Leib Resto & Aed, Salt Restoran, F-Hoone and Kohvik Moon.

    Ps. you have really interesting travel blog – keep up the good work! 🙂

  • Mahuya says:

    I dream of writing like you. I visited Tallinn after reading your blog, and tried to do everything you did. 🙂

    Love the pictures that you shared.

  • Steve says:

    I want that coffee!! So cute like Tallinn itself. We did a few nice tours in Tallinn and outside through City Bike. It was nice to experience the lush landscapes in Lahemma as well as the beautiful Tallinn.
    Steve recently posted..Estonia Travel Guide: A Picturesque Medieval City and Lush Landscapes | Baltic Trip Part 2My Profile

  • Timo says:

    Tallinn was love at first site! I can recommend to do three additional things:
    1. Do a day tour with traveller.ee ! We made the Padilski-Tour and it was so amazing! When you wanna see some soviet-stuff it’s your tour!
    2. Eat at pancake restaurant “Kompressor”! We ate there at every daytime and enjoyed all the strawberrypancakes (for breakfast), the cheese-pancake (for lunch) and bacon-cheese-pancake (for dinner)! It’s so delicious!
    3. Walk the “culture kilometer”, and during that visit the fleamarket! It’s worth it!

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