Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a small and quaint city that is stuffed full of brilliant restaurants, cafes, fashion and culture. If you haven’t been to Estonia yet, you should seriously consider putting it on your hit list this year or at least duck into the capital’s Old Town – even if you only have 24 hours in Tallinn.

24 hours in tallinn, estonia

If you fly to the Baltic country, you’ll be touching down in the capital so be sure to give it a thorough explore. I had already visited the destination for about a day in the summer, only to find myself wandering the streets alone on my birthday as my boyfriend spewed in our hotel room from a stomach bug. Not the ideal way to explore this city as I had to check up on the patient, nor was it the best way to spend a birthday, but I managed to give the Old Town a little wander and visit some vintage shops whilst sadly singing ‘happy birthday to me’ in the streets.

I was gutted to not fully explore what Tallinn had to offer – especially the food – so when I got to visit again I leapt at the chance. Time for round two! And hopefully all would be fit and healthy for this trip.

Where is Tallinn?

Tallinn is on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, in Northern Estonia. It is the largest Estonian city and contains a third of the population, yet it is not a booming metropolis that has lost its roots.

24 hours in tallinn's old town

It is famous for it’s Medieval Old Town; a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has fantastically preserved Hanseatic architecture and city walls. Tallinn has a business district with tall skyscrapers just outside the Old Town’s walls, but within the fortifications, you’ll encounter beautiful buildings, Gothic churches, cobbled streets and charming alleyways with discreet boutiques and cafes.

exploring tallinn's old town

It’s easy to navigate and doesn’t ever feel packed full of exploring tourists giving it a calm pace of life. Many may have heard that Tallinn was popular with drunken stag do’s, but it is now a peaceful place to explore, allowing those who visit to soak up all the modern offerings that still retain old charm.

Delicious food, classy cafes, independent designers, picturesque cobbled courtyards and tasty cocktails can all be found here, so grab a pen and take some notes on my short guide to Tallinn.

24 hours in Tallinn 

11am Touchdown and Check-in

Arriving at Tallinn airport, grab a yellow taxi outside the building and hot foot it to the Old Town. It’s not a long journey and you’ll soon find yourself bumping along the cobbled roads within the quiet walled city.

If you’re after a luxurious stay, head to the Telegraaf Hotel: a five star luxury hotel that was built in 1878. Originally a bank then a post office, it saw plenty of action in 1924 when the Soviet Union attempted to overthrow the Estonian government. Local Communist hit squads tried to take the post office to send a telegram – the attempt failed and the Republic of Estonia survived. It is now a beautiful historic hotel that houses the plush Tchaikovsky restaurant that was voted Tallinn’s best restaurant in 2013. Enjoy the modest and comfortable rooms with free WIFI, plus if you’re lucky you’ll get a view over the terracotta rooftops of the town.

Tchaikovsky restaurant one of the top restaurants in tallinn

the telegraaf hotel tallinn estonia

Once you’re checked-in and dumped your bags, it’s time to grab a map and get stuck into the city! And make sure you’re hungry…

12:30pm Lunch at Sfaar 

Right, time to eat. And you’re in for a treat! The food I encountered in Tallinn was all beautifully presented and tasty with modern dishes using seasonal ingredients. Sfaar restaurant is a cosy eatery with a fantastic interior which includes a flock of origami birds hung from the ceiling. Drop lighting lights the bar with coffee contraptions to ensure you stay caffeinated (why not add a shot of Ouzo?), and two back rooms contain independent designer goods, fine artisan tailoring by Revel Denim Guild (a famous jeans brand in Estonia) and fragrant lotions.  Dig into fresh salads, baked goats cheese and generous helpings of Rye bread.

sfaar restaurant tallinn estonian food

sfaar restaurant tallinn estonia

Grab a dessert because… actually no reason needed apart from “because it’s pure delish” – I had a Chocolate Passion Fruit cake which was both rich and zingy. It’ll pump you with energy for the day of wandering!

sfaar restaurant chocolate passion fruit cake estonia

2:30pm Swing through the Rotermann Quarter

This industrial quarter of Tallinn lies between the port and just outside the Old Town – many of these buildings are under heritage protection as well. Take in the impressive 19th century industrial buildings blended with modern architecture and pop your head into the Estonian Architecture Museum that has a permanent model city exhibition.

Rotermann Quarter tallinn estonia

If you’re feeling a sugar crash from your dessert at Sfaar, then make sure you pop your head into Kalev chocolate shop as you will literally be a big kid in a candy store. Purchase some Estonian sweets for those at home or for when you need that sugary hit of goodness.

3pm Museum of Occupations

Head to the Museum of Occupation as it is important to understand Tallinn’s history – it has had a turbulent past with Denmark, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Poland vying to take control over the years. Estonia has only been independent since 1991!

Visit the Museum of Occupations (it’s closed on Mondays) to learn about the occupations between 1939 and 1991. See how this period of history impacted the country and the locals, and what changes and tribulations they endured.

tallinn estonia old town street style

4:30pm Coffee and cake at Komeet

If you’ve only got 24 hours in Tallinn, you must always allow for time to rest those sore feet and refuel. Just outside of the Old City lie big shiny shopping malls, which may not seem like something you would have to check out. However, if you want a fantastic latte with a good view of the Old Town to boot, then venture inside the Solaris shopping centre and head up to the fourth floor. Here you will find the light and airy Komeet café which is walled by floor to ceiling windows, giving you a perfect birds eye view of the surrounding area.

komeet cafe solaris shopping mall tallinn

Hold on to your hat as you peruse the desserts and cakes, as Estonians know how to do a darn good pastry. From light honey cakes with cream cheese to decadent chocolate monsters, a dessert lover will find their favourite. Mine was the Raspberry-Beseerull; a fluffy affair that was heavy with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Please do not come here if you’re on a diet.

komeet cafe tallinn estonia

5:30pm Explore the Old Town

As the sun begins to go down and the wrought iron street-lamps flicker on, it’s the perfect atmosphere to wander the streets of the Old Town. It’s best enjoyed hand-in-hand with a loved one, or force your bestie to hold you as the romance of the city envelopes you.

Venture to the Town Hall Square in the centre of the Lower Town as it is filled with outdoor cafes to peruse in the summer (beware, some may be a bit too overpriced), or the small and sweet Christmas market in the festive weeks. A huge Christmas tree stands proud in the centre over Christmas and stalls selling warm hats and gloves, plus potent Glögg (a kind of mulled wine), are scattered around it. Plenty of festivals and fairs take place in this picturesque centre so it’s worth checking out.

tallinn town hall square christmas market

Wander through St Katherine’s Guild where you can see eight studios by fourteen female artists whose skills range from apprentices to masters who specialise in leather working, patchwork and jewellery. It’s quite pricey in here, but it’s worth a walk through! You can find it on Vene 12.

st katherines guild tallinn estonia

Be sure to check out the nearby Master’s Courtyard and other vintage shops in the Old Town, but be careful as you can easily lose a few hours.

8:30pm Dinner

You will be spoilt for choice of where to eat, but be sure to do your research and potentially book a table in advance. Tallinn has some sublime restaurants that are popular with both locals and tourists, but the locals know the score and usually book before heading out to dine.

NOA best restaurant in tallinn estonia

The best restaurant in Tallinn

You have some options; you can either dine at one of the top restaurants in all of Estonia or you could head to a locals home and enjoy a supper club style of dining. First, lets see if I can interest you in taking a bite at NOA – an Estonian restaurant that was in the top two restaurants for 2014 and 2015.

NOA best restaurant in tallinn

NOA is a fancy restaurant on the outskirts of Tallinn, just across the bay. You can spy the tall skyscrapers of Tallinn’s CBD across the bay and look out to sea from the huge glass wall. I have to say, this was a stunning place to catch the sunset and the views were impeccable, of both the outside surroundings and the interior décor.

vietnamese pho NOA tallinn restaurant

NOA place to see the sunset in tallinn

Every morsel has been carefully thought out, and whilst they don’t stick to an entirely traditional Estonian menu, you’ll enjoy a meal here. From Nordic pizza to Vietnamese style Pho, you will have a vast choice and also be able to taste Estonian inspired foods. NOA is actually surprisingly affordable in comparison to other capital city’s top restaurants – it’s lovely to see that fine dining doesn’t mean breaking the bank here, and you can experience the crème de la crème without being on a strict budget.

delicious estonian food NOA tallinn

Dine with a local in Tallinn

If home-cooked food is more to your taste and you don’t want to venture far from the Old Town, Estonia actually has options where you can book a table in a locals home and dine. One such place is home restaurant Mull owned by model agency owner, Beatrice Furnice. You can enter her decorative and eccentric Old Town home and enjoy a three course meal with copious amounts of champagne. She even has a dedicated champagne room on the lower level!

beatrice Furnice dine with a local in tallinn

beatrice furniss home dining champagne room

Her home in Tallinn is quite hidden and in high demand on weekends, so be sure to contact her for bookings (and directions). We enjoyed chats with her about her life in Estonia and her previous modelling career before she began her agency, and were served fusion food that included fresh healthy soups, fish and pavlova. Intimate and fun, this was a real unique dining experience that allows you to connect to the local community.

beatrice furness dine with a local tallinn

10:30pm Cocktails at Manna La Roosa

If you have any space in your belly after the evening feed, then it might be time for a nightcap… or three. I am guilty for loving a good cocktail! When you wander the Old Town, you’ll come across some bars and pubs, but if you don’t know where you’re heading you’ll miss out on great places.

Cocktails at Manna La Roosa tallinn

Manna La Roosa is in an early 20th century wooden house on the fringe of the Old Town and has quite the psychedelic interior with beautifully restored wallpaper – however, we did sit in one room where it looked like they had given up with the wallpaper and coated an entire wall in tin foil. With a vast cocktail list and dainty tables with tapestry tablecloths, you can enjoy a great atmosphere until 3am on Friday or Saturday nights.

Manna La Roosa for cockatilas in tallinn, estonia

Now get to bed, you party animal – there’s more to come tomorrow!

9am See Tallinn’s boutique designers

Rise and shine, no time to waste! If you only have 24 hours, you can’t let a moment pass you by in Tallinn.

Previously a small boutique shop near the Old Town’s square, TALI has now moved to a large space and hosts many items from various Estonian designers. From wearable modern clothes by the fresh designer KÄT to adorable pieces to adorn your home (restrain yourself if you don’t have much room in your luggage), you can get a feel for the city’s fashion well here.

TALI design shop tallinn

TALI design shop tallinn interior decor

Explore the nearby Telliskivi Creative Hub if you love to browse a wide variety of clothes and products. This large warehouse houses many rooms with pop-up shops and permanent stores of independent designers. It is quite an industrial building which is juxtaposed with the quaint and vintage wares you can find in each room – you’ll even find some great eateries in here where locals set-up there laptops and work quietly alongside top-notch coffee. And just FYI, if you love scented candles, you’ll be in heaven here as there are a wide variety to choose from.

If you’re in Tallinn on a Saturday, the Telliskivi Flea Market runs from 10am to 3pm and you can find a huge variety of old furniture, clothes and books!

Telliskivi Creative Hub Tallinn

Brunch: F-hoone

Since you’re already in the Telliskivi Creative Hub, be sure to grab a bite to eat at F-hoone. This my favourite place to eat in Tallinn! Cosy yet spacious, it has high ceilings as it’s also set in the Telliskivi warehouse, and kooky interiors that are very unique and funky.

f-hoone Telliskivi Creative Hub tallinn

F-hoone burgers in tallinn

F-hoone has a huge menu full of real tasty dishes with flavours that are paired brilliantly. Be sure to try the spicy coconut soup with salmon if you’re needing a pure healthy broth, or treat yo’self to a decadent burger with kimchi. If you’re feeling cheeky, try their gin, elderflower and rosebud cocktail… consider it a farewell toast to Tallinn before your flight!

F-hoone’s opening times.

Tallinn is a city which can be enjoyed all year round. It can get mighty cold in the winter, but the benefit of seeing Tallinn in the colder months is the festive atmosphere and the Christmas market Рwe all love a hot Gl̦gg to keep us toasty!

IMG_3890

However if you venture over in the summer, you won’t have to deal with whipping rains and can partake in more outdoorsy activities, such as exploring the nearby Viru Bog in the Lahemaa National park (about 2 hours drive outside of Tallinn).

Do check out more on Estonia and get Tallinn on your travel list. It may be a small city, but you can sure do a hell of a lot of exploring in 24 hours!

24 hours in tallinn

Many thanks to Visit Estonia for showing me around Tallinn. All photographs by Sophie Saint, apart from myself in earmuffs (via Mademoiselle Robot)

Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog saintsonaplane.com and instagram: @saintsonaplane