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Medieval Charming & Modern Style: Why This Hidden Gem European City Is Surging In Popularity With Travelers

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Tallinn, Estonia might not be the first destination you think of for a European getaway, but this underrated capital city should absolutely be on your travel bucket list!

I first visited Tallinn two years ago on a cruise — we only stopped for a single day in this charming city on the Baltic Sea, but I was instantly captivated by its fairytale-like Old Town.

I knew I had only scratched the surface of what the city had to offer, so I was thrilled to come back to Tallinn for several days this summer and discover more of it.

Here's why Tallinn is growing in popularity with travelers, and why you should plan a trip there ASAP!

Tallinn Estonia

A Gem On The Baltic

First things first, let's talk about where exactly Tallinn is.

The capital city of Estonia is located right on the Baltic Sea. Historically, this strategic location made it an important port city for many centuries.

Estonia is part of the Baltic region, which also includes Latvia and Lithuania, both of which are located to the south. North of Estonia, across the Baltic Sea, is Finland.

Woman sightseeing Tallinn city landmarks vacations in Estonia travel lifestyle girl tourist relaxing at viewpoint Old Town aerial view architecture

Medieval Charm & Modern Style

The juxtaposition between old and new is striking in Tallinn.

There's the Old Town, which is by far the most famous part of the city. With its cobblestoned streets, church spires, and conical-roofed fortifications, Tallinn's Old Town is straight out of a storybook. This is where the majority of tourists come in Tallinn, and it's not hard to see why.

On my first visit to Tallinn, I took a free walking tour that offered a great overview of the Old Town.

But as special as the Old Town is, there's so much more than Tallinn! Even if you only have a short amount of time in Tallinn, I recommend getting out of the Old Town at least once.

Aerial View Of The Terracotta Roofs Of Old Town Tallinn, Estonia, Baltic Coast Of Northern Europe

One of the easiest ways to do that is by visiting Telliskivi Creative City. This neighborhood, which was once an industrial complex, has been revitalized into one of Tallinn's coolest areas, and it's just a twenty-minute walk from the Old Town.

In Telliskivi Creative City, you can't miss the Fotografiska photography museum. I'm not usually a big fan of photography, but I was blown away by how creative and immersive the exhibits here were.

There are also tons of restaurants, galleries, and boutiques in Telliskivi Creative City. Many of these are concentrated in Balti Jaama Turg, a cool covered market spread across three levels.

Fotografiska Tallinn

Since I had more time in Tallinn, I also checked out the Kobli neighborhood. It's a little further out — about 30 minutes by tram from the Old Town, but it's a great way to get off the beaten path and discover a more local side of Tallinn.

Don't miss the delicious Karjase Sai bakery and the super-cozy Pohjala REaD bookstore here.

Cool Museums & Great Views

During my three days in Tallinn, I used the Tallinn Card to visit as many museums and attractions as possible. This pass gives you free access to 40+ different museums and attractions.

Kumu Art Museum

If you're like me and you love hitting up as many museums and attractions as possible when you travel, the Tallinn Card might be worth it for you.

Since many of the museums and attractions in Tallinn have an admission fee of €5 to €15, you can end up saving money depending on how many you plan to visit.

My favorite museums in Tallinn ended up being the Kadriorg Art Museum and the Kumu Art Museum. These two museums are a short tram ride away from the Old Town and they continue the theme of old juxtaposed with new: Kadriorg Art Museum is located in a gorgeous 18th-century palace, while nearby Kumu Art Museum has stunning modern architecture.

Kadriorg Palace gardens

You can easily visit both museums in a morning — and I highly recommend stopping by Katharinenthal Kohvik afterward for a bite to eat. This was the yummiest cafe I visited in Tallinn and it has a lovely terrace where you can enjoy views of the adjacent park while you eat or enjoy a coffee.

In the Old Town, my favorite spot was St. Nicholas' Church and Museum. This impressive medieval church houses an equally impressive art museum that is definitely worth a visit.

You can also head to the skydeck for an amazing 360-degree view over the Old Town. And unlike some of the other viewing platforms I visited in Tallinn, this one has an elevator, so you don't have to worry about climbing 230+ steps to reach the top!

Aerial View Of A Russian Orthodox Church In Tallinn, Estonia, Baltic Coast Of Northern Europe

A Fabulous City Without The Crowds

One great thing about Tallinn (and Estonia as a whole) is that it still flies somewhat under the tourist radar, especially with American tourists.

It's nothing like Amsterdam or Venice, two European cities that have notoriously struggled with the effects of overtourism in recent years.

Tallinn is a great destination if you're looking for a laidback city break. It's also an ideal destination for solo female travelers like myself — it ranks among the top five safest cities in Europe.

Old buildings in the skyline of Tallinn, Estonia

Where To Stay In Tallinn

I was hosted at Nordic Hotel Forum for three nights in Tallinn, and it was the most ideal place to stay!

This four-star hotel is just outside the Old Town of Tallinn, so you can easily walk to many of the city's top attractions there. There's also a tram stop a minute from the hotel that will take you directly to Kadriorg Art Museum and Kumu Art Museum.

Aside from the convenient central location, I loved the amenities this hotel offered, like an indoor swimming pool and hot tub overlooking the city.

Nordic Hotel Forum

The free buffet breakfast offered at Nordic Hotel Forum is also one of the better hotel breakfasts I've had in a long time — there was so much variety (everything from fresh fruit smoothies to vegan schnitzel!) and it was the perfect way to fuel up for a day of exploring Tallinn.

Getting To Tallinn

One of the reasons that Tallinn has been surging in popularity with travelers is because it's a stop on many cruises (like the one I did two years ago) and a popular day trip destination from Helsinki, Finland. (Tallinn is just a two-hour ferry ride from Helsinki.)

Scenic summer panorama of the Market Square (Kauppatori) at the Old Town pier in Helsinki, Finland copy

However, both of these options only leave you with a day to explore Tallinn, and I highly recommend spending more time than that! Three days was a great amount of time for me.

There are currently no nonstop flights from the U.S. to Tallinn, but you can easily connect through any major European city to get here. Or you can take the Tallink ferry over from Helsinki, which has better flight connections to cities worldwide.

Travel Off Path was a guest of Nordic Hotel Forum, who helped with the creation of this itinerary by hosting some of our accommodations and attractions. Our opinions, recommendations, and suggestions remain our own.

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