So you’re moving to Tallinn? Excellent choice! Now what?
Welcome to Jobbatical’s quick yet thorough guide to life in Tallinn, Estonia. We’ll take you through the whole process, from arriving at the airport and finding a home to stocking your fridge and finding a nice café to hang out.
What to expect when you get off the plane
Landing in winter
Winters here are cold. The average temperature in February, the coldest month of the year, is −5.7 °C (21.7 °F). That definitely calls for warm boots, a serious winter jacket, gloves, a scarf, and a hat.
Temperatures occasionally dip much lower than that, so think all of the above + extra layers underneath.
In the winter months, nights are long and there’s not much daylight to go around. The law requires you to attach a small reflector (widely available in grocery stores) to your clothes for visibility in the dark.
- Sidewalks can get icy and slippery, so make sure your boots have good grip. If you’re not used to walking on ice and unsure if your boots are slip-proof, consider getting a basic pair of ice grips just in case. It looks a little silly but does the trick.
- Arrive with at least some cold weather clothes already. If you want to buy most of your gear on the spot, the Rademar sporting goods store is a good place to start.
- If you’re not sure if you’re a winter person to begin with, read this blog post and don’t worry about it too much. It’s pretty great once you get the hang of it.
- On really cold days (-10°C and below), use a thick oil-based cream on exposed skin. And try not to keep a lot of skin exposed to begin with!
- Once you’re settled, ask your doctor about the flu shot.
Landing in spring
Spring is when the sun comes back to these lands. You might still see snow (quite likely in March, less likely but possible in April, and very occasionally in May), but the days will be getting longer and the air warmer. You’ll need to master the art of layering clothes, as temperatures can fluctuate quite a lot over a single day.
You’ll need a lighter coat than in winter, but it should still be windproof. As the weather gets milder, you’ll be able to start dropping layers. It’ll all start making sense once you try it, we promise.
- Waterproof footwear will be very helpful in the snowmelt.
- On the first balmier spring days, cold winds can sneak up on you, so be prepared to cover your head and ears to protect yourself from headaches.
Landing in summer
Estonian summers are mild and fairly unpredictable but generally pleasant. Temperatures can reach 30°C (86°F) during heat waves, but usually stay in the 20-25°C (68-77°F) range, which most Estonians consider ideal. Anything above 25°C is intolerable in the long term for your average Estonian, and life will break down.
Nights are short and there’s more daylight than you’ll know what to do with. No, really—the longest day of the year (mid-June) has close to 19 hours of daylight.
- If you find it difficult to sleep in the light, make sure your bedroom has good blinds/curtains.
- The sun may feel less intense than in warmer climates, but even here we get sunburn, so use a moderate SPF when you’re out in the sunlight.
Landing in fall
Early fall (September) is often sunny and on the warm-ish side.
Like in spring, temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit, so be prepared to zip and unzip your jacket several times a day. And bring back layers. Towards October and November, you can probably keep everything zipped up—rain will turn to sleet will turn to snow.
An umbrella will become an important accessory in your life. Invest in a good quality one, because a small flimsy one will be blown inside-out by the first decent gust of wind.
Now that you’ve landed wearing your weather-appropriate clothing, it’s time to take on the daunting journey from the airport to the city.
Just kidding. Tallinn airport is fabulously close to the city, and you’ll get there faster than you can say “reisidokumendid ja passikontroll” (Estonian for travel documents and passport control).
Tram number 4 will get you from the passenger terminal to central Tallinn for 1-2 € in less than 20 minutes. There are a couple of convenient buses, too. Learn more on the airport website.
In a car, you'll be in the center in 10-15 minutes (!). Both local taxis and Uber are available from the airport, which, of course, has free wifi. A ride to most places in town will cost around 5-8 euros, give or take a couple depending on where you’re staying. Estonian-founded Bolt is another popular app for taxis, as well as Yandex.
Mind that some regular taxis can be noticeably more pricey (Tallink, Tulika).
Before you’re registered as an Estonian resident, you’ll need a prepaid SIM card for your phone needs. Some options:
Smart by Tele2 (SMART 2,99€ - 1000 minutes of calls + 100 SMS or SMART 6,99€ - 1000 minutes of calls + 1000 SMS + 3GB of internet). You can buy it from an R-kiosk (a chain of tiny convenience stores) or Tele2.
Telia calling cards - Super and Simpel. The starter kits and top-up cards are sold in Telia retail stores and in supermarket checkouts.
After registering in Estonia, you can sign a contract with these 3 major carriers in Estonia:
Telia and Elisa have branches in Viru Centre (Viru Keskus - Viru väljak 4/6, 10111 Tallinn). Tele2 is in Foorum Keskus, another mall close to Viru Keskus. This post from Too Many Adapters does an excellent job of explaining the differences. As Elisa and Tele2 don't have websites in English, Google Chrome's translator can be helpful.
One of the best things about Tallinn is how walkable it is. Most places of interest are no more than a 30-minute walk from each other (usually less), but if you’re going somewhere less central or just not in the mood for walking, there are other options:
You can buy a single ticket in cash (2€) from the driver. But it’s universally acknowledged that you should get a green Ühiskaart travelcard from the nearest R-kiosk. You can use this card on all forms of public transportation in Tallinn.
Swipe your card every time you ride and it’ll charge you the right fare. A single fare is valid for an hour so you don’t pay again if you change trams/buses/… within that time.
As you may have heard, public transport will be free for you once you’re a registered Tallinn resident. To get your free rides legally, you’ll need to purchase and register a travelcard anyway. See this site and its adorable English for more information.
You can top up your card online or at an R-kiosk.
- 1-day ticket - 3€
- 3-day ticket - 5€
- 5-day ticket - 6€
- 30-day ticket - 23€
Here you can see the most popular public transport lines in more detail. Information about different routes and timetables is available here. You can use the journey planner on that website, but Google Maps and the Trafi app will do the same work more conveniently.
- According to oddly specific local folklore we’ve heard, bus number 3 is always late. While this is completely anecdotal and your experience will be unique to you, it’s worth noting that public transport is usually pretty nicely on time.
Another good way to get around is a bicycle, as Tallinn is small and mostly flat. Hawaii Express is a bike shop in Kristiine shopping mall. Veloplus is another bike shop outside the city center. You can also rent a bike from City Bike for a reasonable price. Note that cycling is not the best option in winter, what with all the snow, ice, and freezing wind.
Pro tip: If you ride—instead of walking—your bike over a pedestrian crossing, you do NOT have right of way. Obviously, cars still shouldn’t hit you, but it’ll kinda be your fault if they do.
If you’re driving, note that parking is always paid in the very center (Südalinn) of town. You can usually buy a ticket from the machine or pay with your phone. Read all about parking zones and payment options here.
Finding an apartment
If you’re staying in temporary accommodation (such as an Airbnb) for now, you’ll probably be looking for a more long-term arrangement soon.
Most brokers will have no problem speaking English, and some speak Russian as well.
There’s usually a broker’s fee the size of one month’s rent. For example, if your apartment is €600 a month, expect to pay up front:
First month’s rent €600 + security deposit €600 + broker fee €600 = €1800 in total
Utilities can run up to €150 or more during the winter months and less in the summer, depending on the type of building. In older buildings, the bills are likely to be higher than in modern ones. Before renting, make sure to ask the broker for some sample utility bills (for summer and for winter) so you have a good overview of your potential costs.
Also ask the broker to clarify all the costs in the bill, to make sure you don't pay for things that aren’t your responsibility. For example the “remondifond” (repair fund) item in a utility bill should be paid by the owner.
The average internet + TV package should cost you around €30, though it will depend on your needs (bandwidth, cable, etc). It might happen that your home has only one potential provider, but you can check the providers' websites.
Choosing a neighborhood
Where’s a good place to live? As a newcomer, you probably won’t know Kalamaja from Kadriorg, but never fear! Here’s a brief rundown of some of the more popular districts and things to keep in mind when you’re choosing an area to live.
Old Town, Tallinn’s historical center, is a prime location. One of the most beautiful areas, it’s also the most touristy one. Prices are a bit steeper and depending on the specific street, there might be a lot of noise. You may want to check if the apartment is near a bar, as parties in the area can get pretty loud in the summer.
Lots of buildings here have medieval features like wood-beam ceilings and stone walls. Though they may look quite old from the outside, the inside is often completely renovated and very nice indeed. Elevators are extremely rare, but few buildings have more than four-five storeys anyway.
A charming residential area. There’s a big beautiful park, a castle, and a handful of museums (including KUMU, the HQ of the Art Museum of Estonia). The area is quiet, but only about a 10-15 minute walk (or a short tram ride on the 1 or 3) to the town center.
Great access to the seaside here, but mostly for the views—the nearest proper beach in Pirita is still a bus ride (or a nice leisurely walk) away. Apartments in older Kadriorg buildings might have wood-burning stoves for heating.
Kalamaja (subdistrict of Põhja-Tallinn)
People may tell you that this is the place to be if you want to live in the coolest part of town. Telliskivi, a lively Kalamaja area named after the street it’s on, is brimming with cool artsy design shops, bars and cafés where young people like to hang out.
The market at Balti Jaam (the main train station) is a city-wide hub of activity and has everything you need from antiques to waffles. If you don’t happen to need antiques or waffles, there are also restaurants, a gym, a grocery store, a farmers’ market, a pet store, an organic goods store, and much more.
If you enjoy street food, you can find that too. The area used to be an industrial zone, so you will still see some abandoned factories and crumbling infrastructure incorporated into the shabby-chic aesthetic. Apart from Telliskivi, Kalamaja is still very much a sleepy residential area. You’ll find many older buildings in a unique architectural style.
The area around Viru Keskus, a popular mall, is as central as it gets, with the hustle and bustle of Old Town just across the street. Solaris mall is only a short walk away from Viru, and so is Stockmann, which is a fancier department store. Bear in mind that these 3 places are all within 10 minutes’ walk of one another.
Renovated industrial buildings stand next to modern architecture here, creating a vibrant atmosphere that has developed quite recently. There are many restaurants and shops, and this quarter is also home to the multiplex Coca Cola Plaza cinema. The area lies between the port and the Old Town, providing easy access to anything you need. The Nautica mall is close by, and Viru Keskus is right around the corner too.
This residential neighborhood is slightly farther out from central Tallinn than the areas we’ve covered so far. Kristiine is known for its shopping mall, Kristiine Keskus, that has a large Prisma supermarket and a JYSK (kind of an IKEA equivalent). Buses and trolleybuses stop right in front of the mall, making shopping here convenient even if you come from further away.
The biggest district in Tallinn, Lasnamäe is divided into a residential and an industrial area, split by Peterburi Street. A large portion of the district is dominated by Soviet-era blocks of flats. The area as a whole doesn’t have the best reputation in terms of safety. However, the part adjacent to Kadriorg is very close to the center and just a tram-ride (no 2 and 4) away,
Ülemiste (subdistrict of Lasnamäe)
This area is home to Tallinn’s biggest shopping mall and Ülemiste City, the biggest privately owned business campus in Northern Europe. The airport is pretty much right next door. Ülemiste has a good connection with tram number 4, as well as trains.
5km from the city center, housing here is mostly represented by blocks of flats 5-9 storeys tall, built in the 1960–1970s. The Tallinn University of Technology is in Mustamäe. There are also several shopping centres: Magistrali, Mustikas and Mustamäe Kaubanduskeskus (has a cinema and a gym).
The most populous part of the district is Väike-Õismäe, a residential area consisting of big panel houses built in the 1970s. Haabersti also has an extensive beautiful beach area at Kakumäe, one of Tallinn’s most popular beaches. Haabersti is home to the Estonian Open Air Museum, Saku Suurhall, Tallinn Zoo, and Rocca al Mare Shopping Centre. If you work in the center, this’ll already be a bit of a commute, by Tallinn standards.
Nõmme is known for its beautiful parks and peaceful private houses for lovers of suburbia. Similarly to Kadriorg, many apartments/houses still have wood heating. If you want to get out of the city, Pääsküla bog is only a 30-minute drive and has several walking trails and an observation tower.
Pirita mostly consists of newly built, modern buildings and private houses. It is one of the wealthiest and most prestigious districts of Tallinn, partly thanks to its beach and yachting harbour. Pirita beach is the largest in Tallinn, and can attract up to 30,000 visitors a day in summer. If you are looking for more activity, visit Pirita Adventure Park.
Groceries and supplies
A home’s not a home until you fill it with food and stuff, so better get shopping. These are the main stores you’ll need to know about:
- Kaubamaja: Located in the basement of the Kaubamaja/Viru Keskus department store (they are connected), this one has a pretty decent selection and a small but good organic section as well. Very good fresh food (meat, fish) section. Try “Kaubamaja graavilõhe” (salmon to die for).
- Solaris: Located near the Old Town, next to the Opera house. Good variety of groceries.
- Stockmann: Located next to the Swissotel. Grocery store on the first floor. Very good selection of ingredients you won’t find elsewhere (e.g. Asian spices).
- Rimi: The most common grocery store chain. Quite affordable, and although the smaller ones aren’t exactly extravagantly stocked, any Rimi is good to have close by for essentials.
- Selver: Estonian grocery chain. Good local food, decent selection. They also have an e-store that you can start using once you have an Estonian ID card and can register yourself for online shopping.
- Prisma: Finnish grocery chain. They also have an online store www.prismamarket.ee but you need an Estonian ID card for that too. Most importantly, Prisma has a few stores that are open 24h.
- Maxima: Lithuanian retail chain.
- Coop (Maksimarket and Konsum): e-store where you can log in with your Facebook or Google account.
- You might need to pay 20-50c for a grocery cart and to use the toilets in the malls.
- Most products don’t have ingredient lists in English.
- It's not essential to buy bottled water, as tap water in Tallinn is perfectly drinkable.
The aforementioned Viru Keskus, Solaris, Stockmann, Kristiine, Ülemiste, Rocca al Mare, and Foorum should cover most of your clothing needs. For quick basics, H&M and Zara are present in the bigger malls.
For second-hand clothes, try Humana and Paavli Kaltsukas.
Euronics (from home appliances to PC's and phones) in Viru, Stockmann or Kristiine. ONOFF (similar to Euronics) in Sikupilli centre and Mustikas. Klick (computers, phones, cameras and TV's) in Viru, Ülemiste, Rocca al Mare and also at the airport.
Jysk (cheap and decent quality) and H&M Home (mid-price) at the Ülemiste shopping mall. Hemtex at Solaris for pricier goods, as well as Telliskivi (Home Art). Sotka and Asko are good for furniture and can be found in Rocca al Mare shopping center.
Non-EU nationals can open a bank account before they receive their residence permit. It costs up to €250 to open an account.
- LHV. The fee is 1 euro a month; exempt if you make at least 1 transfer a month. As of July, you can’t transfer US dollars overseas. LHV does not let you deposit or withdraw cash at the bank. You can only do so through their ATMs. Opening fee before you have the residence permit €200.
- Swedbank. The monthly fee for Debit Card Plus is between 0,32 - 1,28 euros, depending on your age. You can make contactless payments up to 25€.
Before you get your residence permit, we strongly recommend getting a Transferwise Borderless account and a Monese account. You can order a debit card from them and use the accounts just like regular ones. The only thing you need is a rental contract to verify your address.
Digi-ID, Mobile-ID & Smart-ID
A digital identity card or Digi-ID is a smart card you can use for authentication and digital signing. You can apply for a digi-ID in the service offices of the Police and Border Guard Board and it will be issued to you in the service office while you wait.
You can apply for digi-ID if you have a valid residence card/ID-card, or if you apply for digi-ID along with the residence card.
Mobile-ID is your digital identity card in your mobile phone. Mobile-ID lets you enter web portals, use e-services, make payments and transactions, and give digital signatures.
Smart-ID is another easy, fast and safe way to authenticate yourself online. Apply for it with your existing ID-card or Mobile-ID or by visiting a bank office. Then, all you need to use it is your smartphone or tablet and an internet connection.
First of all: In an emergency, call 112.
Once you're employed and officially registered as a resident in Estonia, you'll be covered by state-provided health insurance.
Read all about how to choose or change your family physician here.
Pro tip: If you’re too sick to go to work, notify your family physician about your illness from day 1. More information about sick leave here.
Fitness and leisure
Tallinn is a good city to stay active, whether its indoors or outdoors. Although in all honesty, it'll probably be mostly indoors for at least some of the year, because of the weather situation.
Some places to start:
- MyFitness: locations all around the city. MyFitness clubs have spacious training halls and well-equipped gyms. All of the sports clubs have a sauna, but some of them (Ülemiste, Rävala and Rocca al Mare) also have a swimming pool, hot tub and steam sauna. In most of the clubs, there is a playroom for children.
- Kalev Spa: on the edge of the Old Town. Biggest pool in town. Recently renovated.
- Viimsi spa is a spa complex located on the outskirts of Tallinn. It has a fitness club, a beauty and health center, spa and sauna. Their Spa18+ is intended solely for adults and therefore quiet and calm. Near the spa, there's also an Atlantis Aquapark and Viimsi cinema.
- Saunas in spas and fitness centers are nice, but they lack the character that makes for a true Estonian sauna experience. Check out some of Tallinn's best public saunas for the real deal.
- If you're a stranger to winter sports, Estonia is a very beginner-friendly place to discover them. Go skiing, ice skating, or snowboarding in Tallinn's rinks, slopes, and trails.
- As a seaside city, Tallinn has a solid handful of lovely beaches. Pirita, Kakumäe, and Stroomi are a few of the more popular ones for a swim or a stroll. The water rarely gets very warm, but on a nice summer day it's perfect for a refreshing dip or just some time in the sun.
- Go for a stroll or a jog in one of the parks: Kadriorg and Kalamaja parks are both lovely and close to the sea.
If working from a cozy, sleek, artsy, or the adjective-of-your-choice café is your thing, there are plenty of options around town. We’ll just give you a couple examples from each neighborhood to start from, then you’re off to explore on your own.
Robert’s Coffee. A Starbucks-esque Finnish chain in Viru Keskus. Cafe Lyon. French food and delicious cakes/pastries in Viru Keskus. Cafe More: Inside the Rahva Raamat book store in Viru Keskus. Great pastries. RØST. In Rotermanni, known for its amazing coffee, bread, and fresh cinnamon/cardamom rolls.
Pegasus. Great food + the best semolina mousse (a classic Estonian dessert) in town, a must-go! Kehrwieder. An iconic little spot that's also great for people watching in the summer, when their outdoor terrace is open.
Cafe Trühvel. Daily coffee and great lunch specials for 5.50. T35 Bakery & Specialty Coffee. Seattle-style. Levier Cakery. A tiny, quiet place that does great pastries and cakes. Nordic Design Home. Quite possibly the best coffee in town. Tragically, they're currently closed, but should be opening again soon in a different location, so keep your eyes open.
Cafe Nop. Healthy and delicious dishes. Popular place for brunch. Gourmet Cafe. Right on the edge of Kadriorg Park.
Reval Café. A no-frills chain with locations all around the city.
Traditional Estonian food gets its main influences from Russian and German cuisine. In its simplest form it is hearty peasant food that relies heavily on root vegetables, dairy, and meat. The whole story is more complicated, of course, and the food scene in Tallinn is international and growing in complexity. Still, beloved local dishes and ingredients are in fashion.
Typically Estonian dishes and flavors you'll almost certainly come across:
Any combination of potatoes and pork. The boiled potato (hallowed be thy name) is the very foundation of Estonian cooking. New potatoes straight from the field are a late summer delicacy. Other root vegetables (carrots, beets, turnips) are also very popular. While meat in general is a big deal, pork somehow feels more Estonian than anything else.
Sour cream on everything (and more generally, dairy everywhere). Local sour cream is a great source of national pride. Estonians abroad are known to have been driven to the brink of despair by sour cream that is wrong. Ditto for milk.
Dill on everything. It’s probably safe to say that dill is Estonia’s answer to the concept of spices.
Potato salad. Some might serve it ironically, others sincerely, but old-school potato salad is still very much a thing. Recipes vary. Wars are fought and families are torn apart over whether or not to add apple.
Mulgipuder. A mushy stew of potatoes and pearl barley, best served with crispy bits of bacon... And sour cream. And dill. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you)
Ühepajatoit. Literally, one pot food. A stew of vegetables and meat, usually pork (to the surprise of no one).
Pickled pumpkin. A Christmas dinner staple, and arguably the one true way to serve pumpkin.
Hapukapsas (sauerkraut). Fermented cabbage. Another Christmas classic.
Chanterelles. Most Estonians would probably place this far above the truffle in the mushroom hierarchy (we have no data to back this claim, but it’s just true). Many people have their own secret kukeseenekoht (chanterelle spot) they visit religiously to pick these precious golden mushrooms.
Pea soup. A very hearty, wintry soup traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday. This is just another thinly veiled excuse to eat smoked pork (a vital ingredient).
Herring, Baltic herring, fish in general. Herring is traditionally very Estonian, but has lost some ground to less peasant-y varieties of fish like salmon and trout. If you ever find yourself driving along the shores of lake Peipsi, do yourself the favor of stopping at a smoked fish stand. If you spot smoked rääbis (Coregonus albula), invest in some. If rääbis is not available, everything else is nice too. Siig is another delicacy you'd be wise to try.
Rye bread. Yet another inexhaustible source of national pride, rukkileib (or must leib, black bread) is something Estonians don’t really notice until they leave the country for somewhere that doesn’t have it. Panic inevitably ensues. Families of Estonians abroad are known to send them care packages with rye bread to cure homesickness.
Kohuke (curd snack). A smallish and delicious chocolate-covered sweet snack made from curd cheese/quark. It tricks you into thinking it’s healthy (quark—that’s gotta be good for you, right?), but the sugar content is quite high (many brands add jam), so be careful. Another popular nostalgic care package item for Estonians abroad.
Sea-buckthorn (astelpaju). A sour berry considered by many to be a superfood. Used in many desserts and drinks. Possibly an acquired taste.
Cloudberry (murakas). A golden berry that looks a bit like a small plump raspberry but isn't. Rare to see cloudberry sold in berry form, but try the jam. It's excellent with most cheeses.
More, let’s say... exotic items you might come across:
Kama. A fine flour of barley, rye, oat and pea, usually mixed with kefir or yoghurt. Often eaten as a dessert, with the addition of jam or berries. Most Estonians will concede that it is an acquired taste. Slightly reminiscent of dust, if we're honest.
Sült (head cheese/brawn). Meat jelly. Mostly eaten around Christmas time. Traditionally made from the bits of the pig no one could think of another use for; most commercially available brands today are far less crunchy and more pleasantly pâté-like. Put some on a hot, freshly boiled potato and you’ll have a great time.
Verivorst (blood sausage): Insanely popular around Christmas. They come in about a million different shapes and sizes.
Sprotid (smoked sprats). Small smoked fish preserved in oil. Serving suggestion: Go for the open-faced sandwich approach (toasted rye bread, butter, sprats, a sprinkle of chives).
Given the city’s size and still quite small (but certainly vibrant!) expat community, you won't find the kind of dizzying variety of international cuisines you might see in places like Berlin or London.
That said, the restaurant scene in Tallinn is certainly lively and you shouldn't have any trouble finding places you'll love. We haven’t met an expat who’s said they don’t like the food here.
- Many (most, even) restaurants offer daily lunch specials for lower prices than the regular menu. These usually start at noon and go for 2-3 hours or until they run out. Pretty popular with the lunchtime crowds—convenient and good value.
- Book ahead online or over the phone when going out for dinner. Especially on weekends.
- Tipping is appreciated when you’ve enjoyed the service.
Some places we love
- Brunch: Paju Villa
- Russian: Moon, Babulja, Masha
- American: Mack Bar-B-Q, BabyBack
- Burgers: Uulits, Burger Box, VLND
- Pizza: Kaja Pizza, Pizzanaut
- Vegan: Ülo, Vegan Restoran V
- Chinese: Dao Hua
- Korean: Gotsu, Ariran
- Japanese: Tokumaru
- Thai: Tai Boh, Krua
- Indian: Chakra, Lendav Taldrik
- Italian: Controvento
- French: Frenchy
- Mexican: Ancho
- Medieval: Olde Hansa, III Draakon
- Estonian: Leib Resto & Aed, MEKK
More good food: Pegasus, SALT, Rataskaevu 16, Tuljak, F-Hoone, One Sixty, Umami, Põhjala Taproom, Boheem, Fotografiska
Fancy places: Tchaikovsky, NOA, 180 Degrees
Street food: There are several street food stands between Balti jaam and Telliskivi. You can find kebab, waffles, burgers, Asian, and Indian dishes. Note that street food in Estonia is still a relatively new and trendy phenomenon and prices aren’t necessarily going to be much cheaper than in restaurants.
Nightlife in Tallinn really explodes in summertime, but there's plenty happening all year round. Telliskivi and the Old Town are the main hubs of activity.
A few good places to start:
- Whisper Sister. A cool underground speakeasy with excellent drinks.
- Frank and its sister Frank Underground next door for drinks.
- Manna la Roosa for fancy cocktails.
- Pudel. Craft beer, events, and people watching in Telliskivi.
- Paar Veini. A wine bar in the Old Town.
- PADA. A summertime open air club.
- Club Studio. One of the most popular night clubs in the Old Town.
- Erinevate Tubade Klubi. A club in Telliskivi with a chill atmosphere and live concerts every weekend.
- Junimperium. A cool gin spot.
Travel in and out of the country
The nearest countries to explore are Estonia's closest neighbors: Finland, Sweden, Latvia, and Russia. You don't even need to get on a plane to do it:
- There’s a visa-free 3-day cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the most beautiful cities in the region.
- Grab a ferry to Finland or Sweden.
- To take in the scenery and greenery of the Baltic countries, check out Eurolines and LUX Express for buses to Latvia and Lithuania.
But when you do want to hop on a plane, there's nothing easier: like we said before, Tallinn airport is very easily accessible from the city. It's also tiny and ultra-cosy, so traveling from here is as stress-free as air travel gets.
Before you rush out, though, there’s a lot to discover in Estonia.
- Ferries will take you from the mainland to Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, Estonia’s two biggest islands. In summer and around holidays, book in advance.
- Buses will get you pretty much anywhere from Tallinn coach station. Most of them have free wifi.
- Trains are more comfortable but have fewer destinations. But also free wifi.
- A lot of the best sights are in the countryside, so renting a car is probably the easiest way to explore.
- Check out visitestonia.com for all the travel inspiration you'll need.
Most of these providers have a stand at the airport near the tram stop, but Hertz also has a service point in the centre next to Stockmann. If you want to rent a car for a day or a couple hours, check out ELMO RENT for an electric car. They don’t have many pickup locations, but there’s an added benefit of free parking in most Tallinn zones (except Südalinn and Old Town).
Arts and entertainment
Tallinn may be pretty small, but there’s always something to do.
- The Art Museum of Estonia has expanded across several locations in town. [
- The Estonian National Opera](http://www.opera.ee/en/) starts its season in August.
- The Estonian Song Celebration is held every five years in July and is one of the world's biggest amateur choral events. The cultural importance of this event is immense.
- Don't miss festivals like the Kalamaja Days, the Old Town Days, or why not Robotex, a giant robotics festival.
- Apollo Cinemas in Solaris, Mustamäe, and Ülemiste.
- IMAX Kino Kosmos.
- Coca-Cola Plaza across the street from Viru Keskus. If you’re staying in Estonia for a year or more and go to the movies often, get a Kinoklubi loyalty card for nice discounts.
The great outdoors
Once you’ve moved here, you’ll probably want to explore the natural wonders of Estonia at some point.
Good call! When it comes to natural disasters and such, estonia is literally one of the safest countries in the world. Sometimes you might experience strong winds and flooding. There might even be occasional hail (little pellets of ice falling from the sky), in which case, take cover and wait it out. But in general, the geography here won’t actively try to kill you.
Neither will the wildlife. We have one entire species of venomous snake (adder: rästik). They’re small, mostly pretty shy, and tend to mind their own business in the woods and other secluded areas.
- If you see a snake, don’t move towards it or otherwise engage with it. Snakes really just want to be left alone to do snake stuff.
- If you or someone with you gets bitten, call 112 immediately.
- Absolutely no rubbing the wound or “sucking out the venom,” that is NOT a thing.
The most common annoyances in the great Estonian outdoors are mosquitoes, horseflies, ticks, and wasps.
Mosquitoes and horseflies, while numerous in summer, are not dangerous. Wear plenty of bug repellent and you’ll be fine. They don't carry diseases.
Ticks are small arachnids that hide in tall grass and will attach to your soft bits to suck your blood. They do carry diseases (most notably Lyme disease and encephalitis), but there are steps you can take to avoid them quite successfully.
- There are conflicting views on whether light-colored clothing attracts ticks to you, so we don't actually know if it matters what you wear. But the fact is that ticks are definitely easier to spot on light-colored clothes.
- Whatever you choose to wear, use copious amounts of tick repellent (widely available in supermarkets from spring to fall, which is when ticks are active).
- Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks. Yes, we know—super attractive.
- Shower and thoroughly check your clothes and body when you get home from somewhere grassy.
- Ask your doctor about the encephalitis vaccine.
- If you're bitten by a tick, try to remove it as quickly as you can. It might stop Lyme disease from spreading. Encephalitis is transmitted very quickly so speed won't save you, but the vaccine will.
- Data shows that Estonia's most dangerous ticks (most likely to carry infections) live in the west of the country, including the islands.
- Also note that not all ticks are infected, so being bitten does not automatically mean you'll get sick!
- And finally, don't let all this talk of ticks stop you from enjoying Estonia's lush greenery!
Wasps are angry bastards. In late summer, particularly during heat waves, they can sting with little or no warning. It’s not life-threatening unless you’re allergic, but it can be pretty painful.
- Don’t wear strongly scented lotions or perfume. Wasps love getting all up in your business when you smell like a ripe apple.
- Try not to make sudden movements when you see a wasp. Walk away slowly.
- If your only option is to kill the wasp, never use your bare hand!
- If you get stung, apply something cold.
- If you develop a stronger reaction such as intense itching and/or strong swelling, an over-the-counter antihistamine is a good idea.
Bees are almost completely harmless and they’re dying out globally, so please don’t mistake them for wasps and kill them. Bees good. Wasps bad.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things to navigate in this country is the Estonian brain.
Haha, not really. Contrary to popular belief, Estonians are pretty standard humans. You’ll be fine. But there are a couple of stereotypes you might want to keep in mind just in case. Because they're totally true.
- Estonians are relatively reserved and introverted.
- Until you really get to know them, at which point they never shut up.
- Basic small talk is painful for many Estonians.
Estonians are very fond of their language and will love you for learning it.
The Estonian language in the tiniest of nutshells:
- The official language of the country.
- Related to Finnish and Hungarian.
- Not related to Russian (which is quite widely spoken, but do not assume all Estonians know it).
- Has been described as “sounding like a bunch of seals trying to communicate underwater.”
The Estonian government offers free Estonian lessons to new residents. Also check out Keeleklikk for basics.
Before you go...
This guide is just a quick dip into the waters of life in Tallinn, Estonia. There’s an infinite amount of things left for you to discover and we hope you have a blast doing it.