Tallinn Backpacking Travel Guide

Information on hostels, transportation, cheap food and drinks, sights to see, activities and more.

About Tallinn


Tallinn is a historic city with an incredible medieval, walled, old town at its centre. First recorded on a world map in 1154, in 1219, the city was conquered by Denmark and sold to the Hanseatic League in 1285. Tallinn passed into Swedish hands in 1561 and then to the Russian Empire in 1710. After WWI Estonia enjoyed a brief period of independence before it was it was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, only to be conquered by Nazi Germany and then retaken by the Soviets.

In World War II, the city was quite extensively bombed by the Soviets, although luckily the medieval old town remained. Tallinn remained a part of the Soviet Union until 1991 when it again became the capital if independent Estonia.

Tallinn is a fantastic city for backpackers. It is small enough to be easily navigable on foot, cheap, and with plenty to see and do. The medieval old town is one of the best in Europe. A great starting point for any trip through the Baltic states.

Hostels


Red Emperor Hostel

My favourite hostel in the Baltic states. It is run by some very chilled out people and run very well at that. The common area is great spot to socialise meaning you will never struggle to have a good time here. The hostel has a bar semi-attached to it and it is one of the nicest bars in Tallinn. There is always a nice crowd of people, especially on student nights and weekends. It is great to be able to leave the bar at the end of a night and be back in a peaceful dorm in 3mins.  Book Red Emperor Hostel here!

The Monk's Bunk

The Monk's Bunk is located within walking distance of city's main restaurants and nightlife. This hostel features daily tours and adventure activities, free Wi-Fi, comfortable beds and friendly staff. Monk's Bunk is quite the party hostel, lots of fun, but not the place for someone hoping to quietly recuperate from weeks of travel.  Book the Monk's Bunk here!

Old Town Backpackers

Tallinn Old Town Backpackers is a small, cosy place for travellers to drop their backpacks and recharge their batteries before continuing. A small hostel, ideal for individual travellers who might be more interested in getting to know other travellers before heading out to get to know each other over a pint of beer. This hostel has a unique layout. The dorm is also the living room, kitchen and common room. This means you will definitely get to your dorm mates during the stay.  Book Old Town Backpackers here!

Sights and Highlights


Free Walking Tour

The best free walking tour in Tallinn is run by Traveller.ee. The tour is run every day of the year at 10:00, 12:00 and 15:00 (from Oct-Apr only at 12:00). The meeting point for the walking tour is the Tallinn Tourist Information Centre inside the Old City walls. The tour runs for about 2 hours. Well worth it.

St Olaf's Church

This church is located within the Old Town of Tallinn and is the best spot to view the city from an elevated position. The cost to climb up the tower is only 3€, cheaper than the alternatives in Tallinn.

Tallinn from Olafs Church

The view over Tallinn Old Town from Olafs Church

KGB Museum in Viru Hotel

The original Hotel Viru was owned by Intourist and was first opened on 5 May 1972. The hotel building was the first high-rise building in Estonia. The Soviet Union gave the construction project to a Finnish company and construction finished in May 1972. During the Soviet era, the 23rd floor of the hotel housed a KGB radio centre, used to eavesdrop and spy on the hotel guests. 60 of the hotel rooms had concealed espionage devices, and even some of the tables in the restaurant had microphones. The KGB left the hotel in 1991, but the secret room was only found in 1994.

You can visit this museum on a guided tour only. Visit Hotel Viru KGB Museum for details on tour times. You can also visit the hotel in person to make a booking, it is located very close to the old town. Tickets are 11€. The museum is closed on Mondays.

KGB Museum in Tallinn

Secret KGB things.

KGB Museum in Tallinn

More secret stuff. A bond villains office maybe.

Day Trip to Lahemaa National Park

There is a popular tour available from Tallinn that visits Lahemaa National Park and a few other places in the area. The price for this tour is around 50€. You will be able to book it from any hostel in Tallinn. I did this tour self-guided with a few friends I made at my hostel. We hired a car and visited all the places on the tour ourselves. It is well worth the effort.

Lahemaa National Park

Tallinn

Tallinn

Tallinn

Nightlife


Red Emperor

This bar is attached to the Red Emperor Hostel. It's a very chilled out and fun place to drink some excellent beer. The house beer is only a couple of Euro per glass and they have some excellent IPA's on tap as well. There is live music several nights a week as well as a quiz night and some other functions. Student night is always packed and on quieter nights, there are always people up for a game of pool.

Club Münt

A fun club in central Tallinn that offers really cheap drinks meaning it tends to be a great hangout spot for students and backpackers. You can't go wrong offering drinks for 1€.

BrewDog Tallinn

BrewDog is one of the world's most famous craft beer producers. The size of BrewDog, and the fact that franchise pubs like this exist, mean that it is not considered a small batch brewer. But the quality of their beer can not be questioned. One of the best bars in Tallinn for beer lovers.

Hell Hunt

Fantastic local bar. The decor is interesting and the people there very lively. Great atmosphere and home brewed beers including their own beer brand.

To Eat


III Draakon

A very authentic and affordable place where you can imagine that you actually live in Medieval ages. The staff go out of their way not to break character, try no to mistake this for rudeness! It is a little touristy, but the food is amazing and the whole experience a lot of fun so who cares! Nothing is over 2€ so it's also a great place for the budget conscious.

Lido

An excellent self-serve restaurant with a huge selection of local dishes. The food on offer here is incredible tasty comfort food. A really huge meal including a drink can easily be bought for under 10€. One of my favourite places in the Baltics. Check out the Lido menu here.

Texas Honky Tonk & Cantina

A really nice place for good quality American Tex-Mex. They have some nice vegetarian options and serve nice beer also.

Transportation


Local Transport

There is a good network of trolleys, trams and buses operating in Tallinn. Here can find timetables and maps for these services. GoogleMaps is also fully integrated with public transport in Tallinn, so you can get great directions there.

To get between Tallinn bus station and the old town, take the number 4 tram. You can catch this tram from anywhere along Pärnu Maantee, such as this stop.

Getting In and Out

Helsinki

There are regular ferries travelling between Helsinki and Tallinn Port, upwards of 20 departures daily. Depending on the ferry, journey time is anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 hours. Prices average €16-30 one way, depending on the operator.

Eckerö Line: The fastest option (1.5h) with frequent departures. More expensive than the other ships. Apr-Nov only (or as long as the sea is clear of ice).

Tallink Silja: Up to 6 departures daily on large Shuttles Star and Superstar (2h). Discounts are available to Eurail pass holders. As this company has more departures you will have more flexibility planning your day trip.

Viking Line: Departs Helsinki midday and late in the evening.

Eckerö and Viking usually have the cheaper fares. Directferries.co.uk is the best online resource for checking schedules and booking seats. Make sure you take not of the boarding time for your ferry. If you are late you will not be allowed to board.

Riga

There are very frequent buses between Tallinn and Riga. The company with the most frequent departures is Lux Express. You can check timetables and make bookings for this route here. Tickets start at 10€ and the departure point is Tallinn bus station.

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