Living in Tallinn: A Real Estate and Lifestyle Guide to Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn—the Modern World in a beautiful Medieval Setting
Estonia is a small country with distinct regional differences and a low-population density. With just 1.3 million residents, including 430,000 in the capital, Tallinn, it is ideal for those seeking space and privacy. Speaking of space and privacy, Estonia is a picturesque landscape with vast swathes of forests, miles of coastline, and 2,222 islands, including the largest, Saaremaa. Despite its small size, Estonia competes on the global stage, thanks to its cultural heritage and forward-looking, tech-savvy environment.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Living in Tallinn, Estonia
Estonia may be one of the smallest countries in Europe, but it’s also one of the most sparsely populated. At roughly the size of the Netherlands, it has a population of just 1.3 million (compared to the Netherlands’ 17 million). Despite its size, you could spend a lifetime exploring the country’s cultural and recreational attractions—galleries, theaters, concert venues, festivals, markets, fairs, and beaches. The country’s untouched natural preserves are very rare in the developed world. Forests, lakes, and nature preserves are never more than a 30-minute drive away. More than 50 percent of Estonian territory is forest, 23 percent is conservation land, and 22 percent is organic farmland. It’s no wonder that the country’s air quality is ranked among the highest in Europe by the World Health Organization. Estonians know how to care for their environment, and are proud of it.
Estonia has a very high standard of living. In fact, it’s one of the world’s most digitally advanced societies. If you’re looking for the most cosmopolitan and well-connected place to live and work in Estonia, then Tallinn is the place to be. The Estonian capital is not large by international standards, but it’s home to 32 percent of the population (just over 430,000). Despite its size, Tallinn punches above its weight on the international stage. Tallinn is one of the world’s best preserved medieval cities—its beautiful Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, yet it’s a leading digital destination and ranked as a global city.
The cobbled streets of Old Town are surrounded by the city’s newer urban districts, where grand apartment buildings and romantic villas line wide, tree-lined avenues. The city’s leafy suburbs provide a peaceful escape for families. The sea is never far away. The city’s 30-mile-stretch (50 km) of coastline offers breathtaking views of the Tallinn skyline, as well as beautiful parks, recreation land, and a beach promenade ideal for running, walking, and cycling.
The city is cosmopolitan. While most residents are Estonian, there’s a wide mix of nationalities, including Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Finns, and, in recent years, an increasing number of Britons, Italians, and Americans, who have relocated to Tallinn due to its high standard of living and connection to nature.
Where Is Tallinn Located?
Tallinn has a population of 437,811 (as of 2022) and administratively lies in the Harju Maakond (county). Tallinn is the main financial, industrial, and cultural center of Estonia. The city is situated on the Bay of Tallinn in the Baltic Sea, 187 km (116 miles) northwest of Estonia’s second-largest city, Tartu; 80 km (50 miles) south of Helsinki, Finland; 300 km (190 miles) north of Riga, Latvia; and 380 km (240 miles) east of Stockholm, Sweden.
What Is the Weather in Estonia?
The Estonian climate is characterized by warm summers and cold winters. It can be windy and humid at times, due to the proximity to the Baltic Sea. There are four seasons, and temperatures vary widely. Average temperatures range from 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer to -8 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter. July is usually the hottest month, and occasionally the temperature may rise above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). In January and February, it can drop as low -23 degrees Celsius (-9 degrees Fahrenheit).
What Are the Desirable Neighborhoods in Tallinn?
Tallinn is a fairly small city and is easy to navigate. The city’s unique neighborhoods have something for everyone.
Legendary Old Town Tallinn
The beautifully preserved medieval city center, Old Town (Vanalinn), dates from the 13th century. The first mention of Tallinn was in an Arab geographical text in the year 1154. Two world wars could not devastate this beautiful neighborhood, which continues to stand the test of time. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its medieval church spires, grand merchant houses, and narrow cobblestone streets look like they’re from the pages of a fairy tale.
Old Town’s walkable city center oozes with charm, from cozy corner cafés to and hidden courtyard bars serving cocktails and music for all tastes. Every house in Old Town is a living museum, and most have been updated to modern standards. The key attraction is Raekoja plats, the Town Hall Square.
City Center of Tallinn
Modern Tallinn was developed in 1857, with most buildings completed from 1920 to 1940. Building resumed post-World War II until the 1950s. Major residential and commercial development began in the 1990s, and it has not stopped since.
The city center offers a contemporary cosmopolitan lifestyle—cultural attractions, world-class restaurants, pubs, and clubs—without the bustle of a major metropolis. Key attractions include the triangle between Vanalinn (Old Town), Viru Keskus (shopping center), and Vabaduse Väljak (the Freedom Square). There’s a lot to explore, and all within a short walk.
Tallinn city center has it all, all year round. Every September, the Tallinn Marathon (10K, 21K, and 42K distances). In November, it’s the internationally recognized PÖFF (Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival) and Restoranide Nädal (Tallinn Restaurant Week). Summer events include the Tallinn Bicycle Week (Tour d’Öö), Uue Maailma festival, rock concerts (such as Moby, Rammstein, and Robbie Williams), and the International Song Festival.
Kadriorg is part of the Kesklinn district. The area was settled at the end of 17th century. In 1718, the Italian architect Niccolo Michetti designed the Kadriorg Palace as the summer residence for the Russian tsar Peter the Great. The residential architectural ranges from 19th-century timber apartments to luxurious 21st-century villas.
Kadriorg is the most romantic and beautiful neighborhood in the capital. It is home to the presidential palace of the president of Estonia, several art museums (including Kumu, recently named among the ten best in Europe by Culture Trip), the Kadriorg Palace, and the surrounding park are gems of Tallinn. The key attraction is the park of Kadriorg. There are also year-round art exhibitions, film screenings, and music events indoors and outdoors. Each January, a large open-air ice sculpture show is opened until weather permits (usually from February to March).
Nõmme is an area of charming brick and timber private homes and cozy apartment buildings with private gardens.
What makes Nõmme so appealing? The garden neighborhood, with hundreds of thousands of pine trees, is the least densely populated and quietest suburb in Tallinn. In 1900, romantic summer cottages and villas were built. During the war years the building process slowed down but continued after that. Today, the streets have a vintage 1920s feel. There are several key attractions: Nõmme Keskus (Nõmme Center), the Cultural Center (Nõmme Kultuurikeskus), Nõmme turg market, and a small shopping mall.
Pirita and Viimsi
Pirita and Viimsi are highly sought-after residential areas comprising mainly private, single-family homes. Around 80 percent of the people living in Pirita are Estonians. English is also widely spoken. Pirita and Viimsi offer endless white-sand beaches, pine forests, and easy access to the city center and not as densely populated as the outlying districts.
The area comprised mainly villages until the mid-20th century. Today, the area features some of the finest examples of “villa” architecture. Cultural landmarks include the Tallinn TV tower and Pirita Marina, which hosts yachting, kayaking, and surfing competitions from May until September.
Haabersti: Rocca Al Mare
Haabersti’s architecture is mostly apartment buildings and beautiful private houses on the Kakumäe Peninsula. This coastal enclave has an abundance of recreational areas along Kakumäe Bay and Kopli Bay, as well as Tallinn Zoo, Rocca al Mare shopping center, and the Saku Suurhall Arena. The Estonian Open Air Museum is a life-size 18th-century rural/fishing village. It hosts special events throughout the year, including the traditional celebrations of Midsummer Day and Christmas.
North Tallinn: Noblessner, Kalamaja, and Kopli
Noblessner is a vibrant waterfront community of apartments, cultural venues, high-end restaurants, shops, bars, and Estonia’s most popular brewery and taproom, Põhjala. The history of the Noblessner seafront quarter dates back to 1912, when two St. Petersburg businessmen—Arthur Lessner, a machine manufacturer, and Emanuel Nobel, Europe's largest fuel tycoon—built the most important submarine factory in then Tsarist Russia. The factory produced 12 modern submarines between 1913 and 1917 for the Russian navy. Construction of submarines ceased after Estonia's independence in 1918, but shipbuilding and repair continued until 2018.
In recent years, Noblessner has undergone rapid development. The yacht harbor and waterfront is a reminder of its seafaring past. The Noblessner development project (an innovative apartment building and commercial space) was awarded the Best Urban Regeneration category at the 2020 Baltic Real Estate Awards. Area attractions include the Kai Art Center, PROTO Invention Factory VR center, and the techno nightclub HALL. Culinary highlights include restaurant 180°, founded by Michelin starred chef Matthias Diether, and Lore Bistroo (a local favorite), but there are plenty more hotspots to explore.
What Is the Architecture in Tallinn and Estonia?
Tallinn is a city of contrasts, and its medieval old town, historic landmarks, and charming suburbs are its architectural treasures. Some compare Tallinn to Helsinki, for others it reminds them of Prague. In the 19th century, the capital was called the “Naples of Scandinavia. But all agree that Tallinn has an allure all its own.
Old Town’s Gothic churches, buildings, and fortifications have been magnificently preserved. Just a few blocks away is the ultramodern Rotermann Quarter. Opposite is the historic suburb of Kalamaja, comprising mostly charming wooden houses that once accommodated fishermen. Its Bohemian charm attracts hipsters from across Europe.
In Kadriorg, a baroque palace and modern art museum Kumu stand alongside each other. These two are adjoined by the picturesque quarter that even today exhibits a 19th century provincial atmosphere. In the center of town, the pre-war strict and integrated architecture representative of the Republic of Estonia is mixed with Soviet buildings.
The most important period in the architectural development of Tallinn was the 13-16th century. Tallinn's gothic architecture was influenced by the architecture of the island of Gotland, Lower Rhine and Westfalen and subsequently by the architecture of the Hanseatic Towns and the German Order. Local construction material – limestone – added character to the architecture.
What Is the History of Tallinn?
The origins of Tallinn date back to the 13th century, when a castle was built there by the crusading knights of the Teutonic Order. It developed as a major center of the Hanseatic League, and its wealth is demonstrated by the opulence of the public buildings and the domestic architecture of the merchants' houses, which have survived to a remarkable degree despite the centuries. Old Town of Tallinn represents an exceptionally intact 13th century city plan. Since 1997, the area has been registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Medieval and cozy Old Town, being surrounded by the modern part of Tallinn, adds the value and charming historical extra touch to the local real estate market.
Notable Restaurants and/or Cuisine in Tallinn
Estonia is for those who like to experience food at their own pace. Flavor seekers will delight in the country’s diverse array of traditional and contemporary fare. In Estonia, dining can last all day, compelling food connoisseurs to take quality time to savor the country’s finest produce, recipes, and farm-to-table fare. Steaming black rye bread served hot from is a tradition 7,000 years in the making. A leisurely eleven-course Nordic menu can take a half a day to devour. Hours can slip away while foraging the forest floor for the yellow caps of the chanterelle mushroom. A secret restaurant reached only by river is another experience worth waiting for.
In 2022, Estonia became the first Baltic country to be featured in the Michelin Guide. There are two Michelin-star restaurants, NOA Chef's Hall and 180° by Matthias Diether. Five restaurants are worthy of the Michelin Bib Gourmand designation: NOA, Härg, Fellin, Lore Bistroo, and Mantel ja Korsten. For those who prefer sustainable gastronomy, there are two Michelin Green Star restaurants: Põhjaka Manor and Fotografiska.
What to Do and See in Estonia
Museums and Art Scene
There are around 250 museums in Estonia, offering everything from local history to the international art scene, as well as immersive experiences for both for adults and children. From Estonia’s traditional village culture to historical attractions, there's plenty to explore. Among the must-see museums in Tallinn are KUMU art museum and Seaplane Harbor, both nominated as the European Museum of the Year. The Estonian National Museum in the southern city of Tartu is another draw. The AHHAA in Tartu science center is popular with children. Other cultural attractions around the country include the Estonian Open Air Museum, Ice Age Center, Telliskivi Creative City, Estonian Health Museum, and the Energy Discovery Center, Kadriorg Palace, and the castles of Narva and Kuressaare.
How Many People Live in Estonia?
Estonia has a population of 1,331,796 (437,811 of which live in the capital, Tallinn).
What Languages Are Spoken in Estonia?
The official language is Estonian, which has much in common with Finnish. Russian is by far the most spoken minority language in the country. English and Finnish languages are also widely spoken.
What Is the Currency in Estonia?
As a member state of the European Union, Estonia’s official currency