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Tallinn, Estonia. Autore Gunnar Bach Pedersen. No Copyright
Tallinn, Estonia. Author Gunnar Bach Pedersen

Tallinn: the most beautiful of the Baltic capitals

Tallinn (about 570,000 inhabitants, of which: Estonian 54.8 %, Russian 36.6 %, Ukrainian 3.6 %, Belarusian 1.9 %, Other 3.1 %), Estonia’s capital and port in the Gulf of Finland. Tallinn was founded by the Danes in 1219, who built a fortress. In 1285 the city became part of the Hanseatic League, and in 1346, the Danes sold the city to the Teutonic Order.

Between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the city grew thanks to its strategic position at the center of the lines that connected the north-western Europe with Russia, Tallinn during this period had 8,000 inhabitants, and it was fortified with strong walls and 66 watchtowers, this was the heyday of the city. Between 1561 and 1710 it belonged to Sweden, and then, by 1710, become part of the Tsarist Russia.

A new impetus was given to the development of the city with the construction in 1870 of the railway that connected it to St. Petersburg. The name of the city was Reval until 1918 the year when Estonia became an independent state. In 1940, following World War II, Estonia was occupied by the USSR, then after the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Tallinn was occupied by Hitler’s Germany, but in 1944, with the defeat of Germany, Estonia returned to be part of the USSR. In August of 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tallinn became the capital of newly independent Estonia.


Tallinn, Estonia. Autore Јакша. No Copyright

Tallinn, Estonia. Author Јакша

Tallinn is a complete and well-preserved example of medieval mercantile city of northern Europe, for this reason, in 1997, UNESCO included the historic center of Tallinn in the list of World Heritage Sites.

Tallinn is one of the best preserved Baltic cities, much of the medieval Old Town still retains its charm with cobbled streets, walls, churches and ancient buildings still preserved. The old town of Tallinn is formed from the upper town, situated on the hill of Toompea, and the lower town, which preserves the medieval layout and is still surrounded by walls.

The tour of Tallinn begins from the lower city, the best preserved part of the old Tallinn, still almost completely surrounded by turreted walls, the entrance to the city is made from what remains of the Viru Gate (Viru väravad), built in the fourteenth century, and that was one of the most important gates of the city. Today there are only two towers, from where a short detour to the north brings us to St. Catherine’s Passage (Katariina kaik), located between the streets Vene and Müürivahe, the passage is formed by houses of the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries that house artisan shops. Here you will find the Cloistered monastery and the Dominican Claustrum (Dominiiklaste Kloostri klausuuris, Dominiiklaste klooster), this is the oldest convent in Tallinn, founded in 1246, inside is located the Church of St. Catherine (Katariina kirik) of the fourteenth century.

The lower town has its center in the Town Hall Square (Raekoja platsi), this was the old market square, today, in the summer, is the cultural center of the city life, full of outdoor cafes, concerts are held there, markets and fairs, while in winter it is the place where the Christmas tree is erected and where is the Christmas market. On the square is the town hall of Tallinn (Tallinna Raekoda) building in late Gothic style, is one of the symbols of the city, built in the thirteenth century, was rebuilt between 1402 and 1404, and it contains some interesting rooms, including the Hall of the Citizens and the Council Hall.

Another interesting building, located at the corner of Town Hall Square (Raekoja platsi) is the Town Hall Pharmacy (Raeapteek), one of the oldest pharmacies still operating in Europe, it is found to exist since 1422. A short distance away is the Church of the Holy Spirit (Puha Vaimu kirik), an interesting church of the fourteenth century, the bell tower is the oldest bell tower in Estonia, and its clock is the oldest public clock in Tallinn. The interior of the church is richly decorated with wood carvings, while the altar from 1483 is one of the most valuable works of medieval art in Estonia.

Just north of the Town Hall Square (Raekoja platsi), is the Palace of Corporations (Eesti Ajaloomuuseum-Suurgildi hoone), now the Estonian Museum of History, this was of importance, the second civil building of medieval Tallinn, was the palace where met the merchant guilds of the city. The palace was built between 1407 and 1417 and still has its original façade with the arms of the corporations and the date 1430 above the entrance. An interesting Renaissance palace is that of the House of the Brotherhood of Blackheads (Mustpeade maja), used since the sixteenth century by this confraternity of merchants, it has a facade in the Dutch Renaissance style, to signal the beautiful front door of 1640, inside there is the Hall of Brotherhood with two aisles and vaulted ceiling.

Tallinn, Estonia. Author Hannu. No Copyright

Tallinn, Estonia. Author Hannu

Then we come to the Historical Museum of the City of Tallinn (Tallinna Linnamuuseum), continuing towards the northern end of the lower town we reach the church of St. Olav (Oleviste kirik), an ancient Gothic church built in the thirteenth century, the spire of the bell tower of the church, was the highest of medieval Europe, reaching 159 meters in height. Within walking distance you can reach the impressive city walls at the point where it opens the Great Coastal Gate and the Tower Margareeta (Great Coastal Gate ja Paks Margareeta), two defensive structures of the city walls on the side facing the sea, near the port. The gate was rebuilt in the sixteenth century and in the occasion was added the big round tower called Margareeta, 20 meters high and with a diameter of 25 meters, it served to defend the port, but it was also used as a store of gunpowder and weapons and also as a prison. Today the tower is home to the Maritime Museum of Estonia (Eesti Meremuuseum), we have very beautiful view of the city from the top of the tower.

We continue our journey along a long stretch of the north-western walls this section has a number of defensive towers, the walls date back to the thirteenth and the sixteenth century, they were originally 16 meters high and 3 meters thick, and completely surrounded the city for about 4 km with 46 towers, today, this powerful defense system, at the time one of the most powerful of northern Europe, have 2 km of walls and 26 towers. In this part of the walls are the medieval towers of Nunna (Nunnatorni), Sauna (Saunatorni) and Kuldjala (Kuldjalatorni) that can be visited and from which we can have a beautiful view of the lower town and on the hill of Toompea.

Continuing south we reach the Church of St. Nicholas (Niguliste kirik) and the adjacent Museum of St. Nicholas (Niguliste muuseumis), this thirteenth-century church has a Renaissance atrium and a Gothic chapel dedicated to St. Anthony, here is the painting “Dance Macabre” by Berndt Notke of Lübeck from the late fifteenth century. The church museum contains three important works of medieval art. Prior to entry into the upper part of the city is worth a visit to the Tower Cannons (Kiek in de Kok), once the most powerful cannon tower of the Baltic Sea, built in the fifteenth century, round in shape, had a diameter of 17 meters, a height of 38 meters and a thickness of 4 meters. Today, the tower houses an exhibition on the military history of the city from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century.

We then enter into the upper town, situated on the hill of Toompea, once a separate town (Dom zu Reval), the residence of the power that controlled the city, there are three main buildings located on the hill: the Toompea Castle, the Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral and the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin. Toompea Castle (Toompea loss) and high Hermann Tower (Pika Hermannitorni), are among the most important works of fortification of Estonia, the castle was built between the thirteenth and fourteenth century and dominates the city from the hill 50 meters in height. Today the castle is the seat of the Estonian Parliament. The tower of Hermann, the most impressive of the fortress, 48 meters high, is located in the southwestern part of the castle and was built in the fourteenth century.

In the square of the castle is also the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Aleksander Nevski katedraal), building quite recently, it was built in 1900, the building has the largest dome in the city, inside the church is richly decorated, and is dedicated to the Prince of Novgorod, Alexander Nevsky Yaroslavitz. A short distance from the Orthodox Cathedral   there are also the Danish King’s Gardens (Taani kuninga aed), the place where according to legend the Danes Danes received from above their national flag. The Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin (Toomkirik), is the largest Lutheran church in the city and in the nation, the church building dates back to the thirteenth century, but the church is baroque, inside there are tombs of the thirteenth century.

Tallinn, Estonia. Author Diego Delso. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

Tallinn, Estonia. Author Diego Delso

To complete the tour of the city are few attractions outside the city center, the most important, is located about 2 km east of the city center, and is undoubtedly the Kadriorg Palace (Kadrioru loss), it is a baroque palace built in eighteenth century as a summer residence for Tsar of All Russia Peter I Romanov (known as Peter the Great), the work began in 1718 and was entrusted to Italian Niccolò Marchetti, at the time of its construction the building was called Ekaterinenthal, or Catherinenthal, in honor of the wife of the Tsar, Catherine I. The building is currently used as the headquarters of the foreign art collection of the Estonian Art Museum KUMU, and several other museums are located there. The palace of Kadriog is surrounded by a large park, near the old Tsarist palace is the official residence of the Estonian head of state.

In the suburb of Pirita, 2 km north – east of Kadriorg are the ruins of the Convent of St Bridget (Pirita Kloostri varemed), founded in 1407, in the Gothic style, was one of the most important monasteries in the country, which was destroyed in the second half of the sixteenth century today there are evocative ruins.


There are numerous museums in the city of Tallinn, among others: Kadrioru loss- Kadrioru Kunstimuuseum (visit to the Kadriorg palace rooms and foreign art collection of the Estonian Art Museum KUMU). Kumu Kunstimuuseum (Estonian Art Museum). Mikkeli muuseum (art museum: Chinese porcelain, Flemish and Dutch paintings, Italian engravings). Niguliste Muuseum (religious art, paintings). Eesti Ajaloomuuseum – Suurgildi hoone (visit to the Palace of the Corporations and the Estonian History Museum). Tallinna Linnamuuseum (museum dedicated to the history of Tallinn). Adamson – Ericu muuseum (dedicated to Adamson -Eric an Estonian artist of the twentieth century). Eesti Teatri-ja Muusikamuuseum (Museum of Theatre and Music: musical instruments). Raevangla Fotomuuseum (Museum of the History of Photography). Dominiiklaste Kloostri klausuur (Dominican Cloister). Dominiiklaste Kloostri muuseum (Museum of the Dominican Monastery). Kiek in de Kok (military museum on the history of Tallinn). Bastionide käigud (Passing under the fortifications of Tallinn). Peeter I majamuuseum (antique furniture). Jaani Seek (museum dedicated to charity and altruism). Eesti Loodusmuuseum (Natural History Museum). Eesti Meremuuseum (Estonian Maritime Museum). Eesti Meremuuseum – Muuseumilaevade sadam (Estonian Maritime Museum – Ship Museum). Miinimuuseum (Museum of Mine). Lastemuuseum (Doll Museum).


By plane: The international airport of Tallinn (Tallinn International Airport, Tallinna Lennujaam) is located about 4 km from the city center. The airport is connected to the city center by a bus service every 30 minutes, from 7 in the morning to midnight. Tallinn Airport is connected by flights with most of the capitals of northern Europe.


The old town of Tallinn turns easily on foot, however, the city is served by an extensive network of public services: bus (64 lines), tram (4 lines) and trolley-bus (8 lines).

Public transportation is available between 6 and 23. Tickets (cost 13 EEK) and must be purchased before you get on public transport (if you buy tickets on board the public transport almost doubled their cost (cost 20 EEK)) and must be stamped once hopped on the bus, they are in sale at the kiosks adjacent to bus stops.

There are many possible combinations of tickets, in addition to the normal ticket for a ride (13 EEK), there are tickets valid for 1 hour (18 EEK) or 2 hours (24 EEK) and also 1-day (55 EEK) or 3 days (100 EEK). There are also season tickets for 10 rides (90 EEK) and for 30 rides. These types of tickets are on sale only in newspaper kiosks and can not be purchased from the driver.

Tallinn Card: Interesting for tourists can be the purchase of the Tallinn Card a special card that allows you to move freely on all public transport for 24 hours (250 EEK), 48 hours (300 EEK) or 72 hours (350 EEK), free admission to museums, as well as discounts at restaurants and shops.

Tallinn climate.

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