The fairy-tale-like Tallinn is a colorful city, with ancient castles, magical medieval infrastructures with gardens full of life and color that give rise to a fantastic old town that is almost untouched by modern development. Explore it on foot or by bicycle and make your visit an unforgettable journey through the Middle Ages.
Where is Tallinn?
Tallinn, located on the south coast of the Gulf of Finland, in northwestern Estonia, is the capital and largest city of this country. Considered one of the most beautiful capitals, it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997 by UNESCO, which doesn’t surprise us because this impressive destination is classified as a historic center which was the European Capital of Culture in 2011 and has been included among the 10 most important digital cities in the world.
Vibrant and exciting, this historic center with 51 years old shows its walls, towers, old houses, alleys and red tile roads that line the cobblestone streets, turning it into a medieval setting, even its restaurants and shops have strived to achieve that typical aspect of the Middle Ages.
No visit to Tallinn would be complete without visiting each of these iconic places:
The Town Hall Square
The Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) is located at the heart of the medieval city of Tallinn and is usually a place with a lot of life. It regularly hosts a market of handicrafts, souvenirs, and local products, and often concerts or large events are held. The main tourist attraction of the square, without a doubt, is the imposing City Hall, built in Gothic style in 1404. It is easily recognizable by its 64 meter tower, similar to an Arab minaret. At the top is Vana Toomas (soldier Tomás), placed in 1530 and a symbol of the city since then (although the current one is a copy). The interior of the City Hall is open to tourists from the end of June to the end of August. You’ll find large meeting rooms with vaulted ceilings, the attic and several “treasures” of the city. From the windows, you have good views of the square (although you do not climb the tower). Another prominent place in the square is the Raeapteek, the City Hall pharmacy. It is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. Its opening date is usually set around 1422.
The Walls of Tallinn
Tallin is known for its beautiful walls. Although partially rebuilt, nowadays there are 20 towers, two gates and about 2 km of the wall. The original wooden fortification dates back to the end of the 13th century, but already in the 14th century, the current stone wall began to be built. The stretch of wall that can be crossed on foot (indicated with the generic name of Tallinna Linnamüür) is the one that joins the towers of Nunna, Sauna, and Kuldjala, which is connected with Dannebrog coffee, located in the wall itself. This cafe is located in the Gardens of the Danish King, an ideal place to enjoy the fortification. Also, you shouldn’t miss the two doors that are still standing. The most spectacular is the Puerta Viru, which still keeps two of the towers that formed it. At the end of Pikk Street, one of the most beautiful in Tallinn, there is the Great Coastal Gate, attached to the Paks Margareeta Tower.
St. Olaf Church
One of the churches you have to visit in Tallinn is the Church of St. Olaf (Oleviste Kirik), built between the 12th and 13th centuries. Not that it has an especially beautiful interior, but the exhausting climb to the belfry, which reaches 124 meters at its highest point, has as a reward a fabulous view over the city.
The Toompea HillThe Hill of Toompea extends like an appendix of the old helmet in its southwestern part. From this hill, the numerous foreign powers that have occupied Estonia throughout the centuries exercised their power. It is said that whoever managed to raise their flag in the Pikk Hermann tower of Toompea Castle, automatically ruled the country. Currently, the castle is the seat of the Estonian Parliament and it is not surprising that the flag they flaunt there today is a national symbol. From the inside of the hill you can see the baroque façade and from the outside, it has a more medieval feel.
Tallinn, as you can see, is a city to be enjoyed from different angles. Perhaps the best viewpoint in the city is Patkuli, located in the northern part of Toompea. The views are simply sublime, with the church of San Olaf in the foreground, the towers and the sea in the background. A little further south is the viewpoint of Kohtuotsa, another place from which you can see Tallinn in all its splendor. In both viewpoints, you’ll often findseagulls that pose for photos without any shame. If you want to go higher, you can go to the Tallin Television Tower. It is a bit far from the center, but the views are incredible.
The historic center of Tallinn is full of beautiful nooks and crannies, but perhaps the most picturesque place, where the most medieval atmosphere of the city is, is the Santa Catalina Passage (Katariina käik), a street that runs through the remains of the city. In addition to being a very photogenic site, you can see several workshops where people work in a traditional way with glass, ceramics, different types of fabrics, etc.
The Kadriorg Palace and Park
If you have at least two days to visit Tallinn, we suggest you go to the Kadriorg Palace (25 minutes by bus from the center). This colorful Baroque palace, built by order of the Russian czar Peter the Great in 1718, now houses an art museum. Even if you are not interested in visiting the collection, it is worth going there to enjoy the beautiful gardens of the palace and the entire environment of the Kadriorg Park, full of fountains, small lakes, trees, and several period buildings, as well as the outdoor amphitheater Lauluväljak. If you want to complete your journey, you can visit the modern art museum Kumu, awarded in 2008 with the “European Museum of the Year” award.
Tallinn City Museum
The City Museum (Tallinna Linnamuuseum) is spread across several points of the city (such as the aforementioned Kiek in de Kök tower), but its headquarters, with the largest permanent exhibition, is located on Vene 17 Street. It is a very advisable place if you want to delve into the history of Tallinn and Estonia. Another very interesting museum is the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor, located in a seaplane hangar facing the sea, you must visit it because the exhibition includes a submarine, a seaplane, the oldest boat in Estonia… The experience is fantastic!
And last but not least we have the Freedom Square, dominated by the bland Church of San Juan, probably not one of the main places to see in Tallinn, but it is interesting to see a brushstroke of that other Tallin beyond the wall and the medieval center. This square, completely renovated in 2009, is an important patriotic symbol where military parades and different civil events take place. On one of its sides stands the Victory Column that honors the fallen in the War of the Independence of Estonia.
Unquestionably, Tallinn is the jewel of the Baltic and discovering this medieval city is an experience that makes your life a pleasant moment. If you loved this article or found it useful, don’t forget to share it with your adventurous and travel-loving friends! If you want more posts like this, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter!
Unquestionably, Tallinn is the jewel of the Baltic and discovering this medieval city is an experience that makes your life a pleasant moment.
If you loved this article or found it useful, don’t forget to share it with your adventurous and travel-loving friends! If you want more posts like this, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter!