The old town of Tallinn is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’ll see why the second you set foot there. Tallinn is incredibly charming and so well-preserved as a medieval walled city that it draws in and fascinates visitors from all over the world.
I’m a firm believer that the best way to get to know a city is through its food. So we embarked on a sightseeing and food tour in Tallinn, Estonia, through the cobblestone streets, to discover the traditional and modern Estonian food & drink that is enjoyed by locals.
We’ll show you some of the great foods we sampled and where we ate them in this post. Tallinn’s Old Town is split up into two parts – the lower town, called All linn, and the upper town, called Toompea. Both are very different. The lower part of town is where most of the restaurants and bars are, while the upper part of town feels more like an upscale neighborhood.
At the top of the hill is an enormous Russian Orthodox Church, left over from the period of time when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire.
We stopped in Tallinn as part of our 12-day Northern Europe cruise on Celebrity. Many cruise ships stop there and it’s one of the best stops on the cruise.
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What and Where to Eat in Tallinn Estonia
As we were walking around the lower part of old town, we saw dozens of opportunities to stop off at restaurants and bars along the narrow passage ways. Outdoor seating was plentiful and everyone was taking advantage of the beautiful weather to enjoy a pint or a snack outside.
One of the central restaurants that draws a lot of tourists is the Olde Hansa Restaurant (pictured above). It’s not the most authentic restaurant to eat at, but you’ll definitely find lots of local specialties on the menu and it’s one of the best people watching locations in old town.
Since we had a little time before our food tour began, we stopped off for a taste of local Estonian craft beer by Õllenaut OÜ, called Eesti Rukki Eil. It was a pretty tasty Rye Ale. In old town, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to stop off for an Estonian beer. Just about any of the restaurants have a few craft beers on the menu.
We started our food walking tour in Tallinn by meeting our guide from Food Sightseeing Estonia at the old town information center. Be aware that it can get really busy in Tallinn, especially when there are cruise ships docked in port.
They allow quite a few ships at any given time and that can greatly impact your visit. I would encourage you to check the city’s port calendar to see which days have the fewest ships in town.
Where to Eat in Tallinn
Our first stop on our food tour of Tallinn was at a medieval eatery called Peppersack, which is housed in a large historical building that has been used for many purposes over the years, but has now been fully restored as a restaurant with plenty of room for large groups.
We started our culinary journey here with a bowl of winter squash and parsnip soup and a shot of pepper vodka. The bread basket that came with the soup ended up being our favorite part of the stop.
The bread was soft and warm and the butter that came with it was a mixture of butter and mayonnaise or sour cream – it was so good spread over the bread that the bread became more of a vessel for the butter than the main attraction.
The second stop we made was to one of the modern food markets in the city called Gourmet Market, which had shelves worth of great local products that you can just grab off the shelf and take with you, along with a pre-made section with pastries, sandwiches and desserts that all looked incredible.
We tried two spreads: Rostpeedi Hummus, made from oven-roasted beets and Varske Pesto, which translates to “fresh pesto”. We spread them both on thick, chewy pieces of rye bread and washed it all down with a traditional drink called Kali that is a homemade fermented drink somewhat akin to beer, but contains only small traces of alcohol. It tastes something like a flat, malty beer.
One of the coolest things about Estonia is the old town wall that surrounds the city. Built in 1265, the walls are still largely in tact and preserved. You are allowed to climb up the various towers along the wall, where Estonian citizens were once required to perform guard duty, for an incredible view of the city and then walk along portions of the wall.
At the top of the tower, we had a shot of traditional Estonian schnapps called Astelpajunaps along with a chocolate truffle from the gourmet market.
One thing we learned about Estonia is that they lay claim to a lot of different things. One such thing is marzipan. Estonia claims to be where marzipan was created, by a doctor’s assistant who was tasked with creating an elixir for a customer with a broken heart.
He put almonds and honey into the medicine in the form of a paste that the customer loved so much, it eventually became a treat served around the world.
There’s no way of knowing the truth behind this story, but we learned all about it in the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in Europe, called Raeapteek in Town Hall Square, where marzipan is said to have been created. You’ll have to go and check it out for yourself to see what you think.
One of the most iconic foods you’ll find in Tallinn is an open-faced sandwich of fish on rye, which we’d already had the joy of sampling in Russia. None of us were very keen on this traditional snack that is served all over Northern Europe, but we did our best.
It consists of a piece of rye bread, a schmeer of mayo, two or three raw sprats (little fish, like sardines), topped with sliced boiled egg, red onions and chives. It’s a beloved dish in Estonia and is served regularly at parties and get-togethers. We were just not big fans of it.
Along with the kiluvõileib, we also had a cup of kama, which is a traditional summer drink that consists of a milled kama flour mixture and a soured or fermented milk product. It tastes a bit like yogurt and oatmeal blended together.
If you walk up the hill from old town, you’ll end up at the narrow passage between the lower and upper parts of the city. The upper part of town is where the aristocrats of the city lived and the riff-raff lived in the lower part. You can definitely see the difference in socio-economic status as you ascend the hill.
At the top, we walked around to see the cathedral, Toompea Castle, and Stenboch House, which is the official seat of the Estonian government. It’s a beautiful area with many great vantage points from which to capture the splendor of the city from above.
The food tour in Tallinn was so much fun. I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to learn a little bit more about the food culture in Estonia, while checking out the sights along the way.
(I wasn’t paid to provide this review of their services, by the way. All opinions are my own. I just really enjoyed the tour.)
Where to Stay in Tallinn, Estonia
If you’re planning a trip to Tallinn, Estonia, I would recommend staying in or new the old town, as it’s really fun to walk around there and it’s where you’ll likely spend most of your time.
Our top two recommendations are Hotel Telegraaf and Swissotel Tallinn. You can check out prices and book on Expedia using these links:
Have you been to Tallinn? What do you think of the Estonian food you ate there? We’d love to hear about what you liked.
Be Prepared For Travel
Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:
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- Find and book the best hotel (our favorite booking site is Expedia)
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.
13 thoughts on “Estonian Food Tour in Tallinn: Where & What to Eat”
Oh this post brought back a lot of memories, I had a brief but awesome visit to Tallinn about a decade or so ago now and I always said I’d go back! Maybe it’s time I got that ticket! I’ll definitely look up that tour when I do!
Mike, we said we’d go back too, because we didn’t get enough time there. Hopefully it won’t be a decade between visits, but there’s just so much to see in the world.
Sounds like a great visit! I wasn’t able to visit Tallin when we were nearby in Riga, but it looks amazing. It’s still on my list… I will definitely check out the food tour when we make it over!
This is such en eye-opening article! I had no idea it was so magical and beautiful there. That soup looks delicious. Sounds like you guys had so much fun. This is definitely on my list now!
Well now I’m hungry! What a cool article about a place I knew nothing about. The variety of drinks and food look really interesting to try. Any place that serves pepper vodka as a side with soup has to be good!
This sounds like a fabulous way to explore and experience Estonia. I love that the tour doubles as a walking tour of the historic parts of the city as well as being mainly a food tour. Sounds like one of the best ways to go. And I’ve never tried pepper vodka before so I’ll have to make sure I’ve got that noted down when we hit up Estonia!
I really liked that it doubled as a walking tour and food tour, too. Often it’s one or the other, so this one was great!
What a great way to learn about Estonia. I always have trouble with food tours as they don’t usually cater to vetetarian travelers, but I guess thats our problem because meat is usually part of every culture 🙂 I love how the tour added all those historical places in the walk.
Alejandra, this would have been a good tour for a vegetarian. The only thing we had with meat was the fish sandwich and that could have easily been substituted.
Funny story about marzipan! I love spreads and especially rye bread(my husband dislikes it so when there is a basket of mixed breads, I always get the rye!) Great photos–have never been but would like to visit now!
I’ve never been a big fan of rye, myself, but it was really good there. They eat a lot of it, so they really know how to make it.
i really like the idea of a food tour! in new places i can never decide what to get!
I have that same problem, Lindsay! I’m a bad orderer to boot. It helps having someone pick for me.