Tallinn, located on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, is the capital and cultural center of Estonia. The city, which has a thousand-year history, is famous for its well-groomed medieval streets, ancient castles, and interesting museums.
Who and why goes to Tallinn
Tallinn is a beautiful big city with outstanding architectural monuments. Tourists come to see defensive fortifications, stone towers, baroque palaces, temples of different faiths.
The capital of Estonia offers a varied cultural program — depending on the season:
- At the end of May, guests go to the days of the Old City. Fairs, exhibitions, theatrical performances and concerts are held on the streets.
- In mid-July, a festival dedicated to the Middle Ages starts. During the holiday, the squares and streets are filled with people dressed in national costumes. Everywhere there are workshops of artisans, markets where craftsmen sell handmade goods.
- Music and theater lovers aspire to Tallinn in August — to the beginning of the Birgitta festival. More than 8,000 people gather at the ruins of an ancient monastery near the Pirita River to watch innovative theatrical performances, listen to concerts by pop musicians and opera singers.
Within the capital there are well-equipped public beaches that are popular in the summer. On the beaches of Pirita, Stroomi, Kakumäe, people swim in cool clear water, play football, volleyball, surf, and go boating.
When traveling with a child, it is worth visiting the Marzipan Gallery in the Old Town. An amazing place — a paradise for the sweet tooth, where elegant edible figurines of people and animals are exhibited. Those who wish can attend a master class on making marzipan and try a delicious treat.
There are many interesting places for family holidays in Tallinn. Parents with children enjoy the Miia-Milla-Manda entertainment center, the Atlantis H2O water park, the botanical garden and the zoo.
The historical part of the capital, covering an area of 118 hectares, is conditionally divided into the Upper and Lower Towns. The first, surrounded by a high wall, was intended for the nobility, the second was inhabited by merchants and artisans.
Walking along the streets and squares of Old Tallinn, you can plunge into the medieval atmosphere, see outstanding architectural monuments, museums, take beautiful photos and buy souvenirs.
Town Hall Square
In the same center of Old Tallinn, it is easy to find the Town Hall Square, founded in the 14th century. In ancient times, fairs and festivals were held here. People flocked here to buy goods and learn the latest news. Today’s square is the venue for concerts, parades and festivals. It is surrounded by cafes, shops, souvenir shops.
Tourists can see the Town Hall, the oldest European pharmacy, the house of the merchant Yegorov. At Christmas, the main Christmas tree is set up in the center of the square.
The oldest square in the Upper Town is the heart of Tallinn. It is surrounded by buildings representing different historical periods.
The Long Herman tower tells about the Livonian era, the house of the commander Schlippenbach tells about Swedish times, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral tells about the period of the Russian Empire. Modern Estonia has supplemented the architectural ensemble of the square with a wind rose made of flat stones in front of Toompea Castle.
The walls erected in the 13th century around the Upper Town have been perfectly preserved to this day. The fortifications were designed to protect local residents from enemy invasion and performed their function well.
A powerful stone fence 20 meters high includes defensive towers. On their peaks, sentinels used to stand and watch the surroundings. Now museums, restaurants, viewing platforms are open in the towers.
The length of Katarina Street does not exceed 135 meters. The attraction, located in the Old Town, attracts the attention of the cobblestone pavement, stone arches and the ruins of the monastery of St. Catherine of the XIII century.
Stone slabs of ancient burials are attached to the preserved wall of the monastery church. On one of them is carved a portrait of the wife of Burgomaster Schotelmund, who died in the 14th century.
The palace and park baroque ensemble was erected in honor of the wife of the Russian Emperor Peter the Great — Catherine.
Construction began in 1718 according to the design of Niccolo Michetti and continued for several years. The complex includes a palace, a house of Peter the Great and a park with ponds. Walking in the fresh air, you can admire the fountains, go to the Japanese Garden and greenhouses with exotic plants. The palace houses a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia.
In the center of Tallinn, a medieval fortress rises on Toompea Hill. The complex was built by order of the Danish king in the 13th century. It originally consisted of a castle, high walls and corner towers. Soon the ensemble was expanded and the Long German fortress was erected in the southeastern part. An observation deck is equipped on its roof, where a convenient staircase leads.
In the inner courtyard of the fortification there is a baroque governor’s palace — the Estonian parliament sits in it.
The Tallinn City Hall recently celebrated its 600th anniversary. This is the only building of the city government of the XIV century in the Gothic style, which has survived to this day. Inside are the Magistrate’s Hall, the Burgher’s Hall, the kitchen, the treasury, the cellar. The walls of the premises are decorated with paintings, paintings, ancient coats of arms.
In front of the Great Sea Gate stands the tower of the Tallinn city wall — Fat Margaret. It is 20 meters high and 25 meters in diameter.
Tourists are attracted by the impressive size of the structure, loopholes on the walls, ancient cannons and guns. The Maritime Museum is open in the interior, where navigational instruments, ancient maps, miniature models of ships and documents are stored.
In the southwestern part of the defensive wall there is the Maiden’s Tower, built at the beginning of the 14th century. The tetrahedral structure rises to 12.5 meters and has 4 floors. Over the years, there was a prison, a residential building, an artist’s atelier.
During the reconstruction of 1968, a glass wall was made in the tower. Now the building houses a branch of the Tallinn Museum and a cafe overlooking the historic district of the capital.
At the intersection of Pikk and Tolli streets, it is easy to find three four-story houses, built 700 years ago, pressed against each other.
According to legend, they were intended as a gift to merchant daughters. These buildings are bright representatives of the Baltic ancient architecture, distinguished by the strictness of its lines. Despite the fact that the facade was rebuilt more than once, the buildings managed to preserve their original appearance. Now a five-star hotel operates in the houses, so entry is limited there.
The Neo-Gothic manor was built by the aristocrat and architect Nikolai von Glen in 1886 for his family.
The three-storey gray stone castle with rounded towers and crenellated roof stands by a rocky ravine and is surrounded by a beautiful park. Among the trees, it is easy to find the Tallinn University Observatory, the Palm House with a greenhouse of tropical plants and statues of Scandinavian epic heroes.
In the vicinity of Tallinn, the summer residence of Count Orlov-Davydov has been preserved. The medieval-style mansion was built at the end of the 19th century. By order of the owner, the high main tower was decorated with arched windows and battlements on the roof, and a fountain in the form of a lion figure was installed in front of the entrance.
The building is surrounded by a forged fence. The historical museum is located in the inner chambers and the manor park. It even contains monuments to communist leaders that used to be in Estonian cities.
House of the Blackheads
The association of foreign shipowners and merchants, formed in the middle of the XIV century, was called the Brotherhood of the Blackheads. In 1531, its members bought a house on Pikk Street to be used for storage.
The facade of the Gothic building is decorated with hewn stones, on which the coats of arms of merchant guilds, figures of Justice and Peace are carved. Excursions, celebrations and chamber music concerts are held at the Brotherhood’s residence.
Temples of Tallinn
The Dome Cathedral
The stone Lutheran cathedral in the Old Town, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built on the site of an ancient wooden church of the 13th century.
The building has been repeatedly rebuilt and changed its appearance. The attention of tourists is riveted by the main tower in the Baroque style, a Gothic chapel, a pulpit with a wooden sculpture of Moses, as well as the burial places of the navigator I.F. Kruzenshtern and the hero of the Lithuanian war P. Delagardie inside the temple. The walls of the church are decorated with coats of arms of famous noble families.
Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky
In the Upper Town stands the Orthodox Cathedral, built in 1900. The elegant five-domed three-altar temple has a height of 58 meters. The facade is decorated with mosaic panels. The interior decoration is distinguished by sophistication and beauty.
Visitors admire the gilded wooden altar, ancient icons, wall paintings. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is included in the register of cultural monuments of Estonia.
Church of Niguliste
One of the central churches of Tallinn was founded by German merchants in the 13th century. The Gothic temple with a high spire can be seen from different parts of the capital. In 1944, it was bombed and seriously damaged, and church services in it stopped. The restoration took many years.
Now the church has been restored and is used as a museum. It contains medieval sculptures, altars, church utensils. The pearl of the collection is the painting «Dance of Death» by the German artist Berndt Notke.
Church of St Olaf
The Gothic church of the 13th century is dedicated to Olaf Haraldsson, the Norwegian king, canonized. The height of the main tower with a pointed spire reaches 123.7 meters. In ancient times, its silhouette was a landmark for ships, as it was clearly visible from afar.
After the Second World War, the church was not used for its intended purpose for a long time, and then passed into the hands of the Baptists. Parishioners and tourists can explore the interior, listen to an organ music concert, and climb to the observation deck at the top of the tower.
Museums in Tallinn
The Historical Museum is located in the Great Guild House on Pikk Street. The basis of his collection is made up of exhibits purchased from the famous collector of antiquities Johann Burchardt. Visitors are shown objects of Kund culture, ancient knightly armor, ritual masks.
The City Museum in the old part of Tallinn introduces guests to the history of the capital. Exhibits found during excavations or acquired from people in different years are preserved here.
Tourists can see collections of glass and crystal objects, ceramics, fabric samples, ancient tools and weapons. Antique furniture, paintings by Estonian artists, sculptures, graphics, musical instruments are exhibited in separate rooms.
In the Rottermann quarter, there is a museum of Estonian architecture, which tells how Tallinn was built. Drawings, street maps, house layouts are available for viewing. Guests get acquainted with articles on urban planning, look at rare photographs and documents that help to understand how the architectural appearance of the capital has changed from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.
Museum of Orders of Knights
In a medieval house within the Old Town, there is a museum of the Orders of Knights. It is designed to show the general public a collection of award badges from different eras. The museum stores 700 original exhibits, including religious, royal, military orders.
The central places of the exposition are occupied by awards of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires, the Order of the Garter, the Order of Malta and the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky.
The artillery tower with a cone-shaped wide roof was built in 1475 and is part of the city’s fortifications.
Inside it, there is a permanent exhibition «Tallinn 1219-2019», which tells about wars, famine, plague and urban crimes. The guests are shown an armory chamber, a bastion, underground tunnels. At the top of the tower, there is a restaurant serving medieval and modern dishes.
For families with small children, the Miia-Milla-Manda Museum is a real find. The spacious playrooms have cars, slides, houses, doll utensils and furniture. Here you can build, sculpt, draw, paint pictures, play toys. While visiting the museum, children get acquainted with different professions and learn about the world around them.
Museum of Rocca al Mare
The open-air historical museum in Rocca al Mare occupies 79 hectares of land. In a picturesque area, there are buildings from the 17th-20th centuries, typical for Northern, Western and Southern Estonia.
Tourists are shown village houses, chapels, schools, pottery workshops, taverns. Guests look at tools, kitchen utensils, furniture, ride horses, rent bicycles. There is a cafe on site serving national cuisine.
Nature and entertainment
Danish King’s Garden
A small square near the defensive wall in the Old Town was named the Garden of the Danish King in honor of an amazing event that took place in 1219. According to legend, during the battle between the Estonians and the Danes, a red canvas with a white cross fell from the sky and everyone saw Dannebrog — the future flag of Denmark.
The square with a terrace is framed by a fortress wall. Sculptures of Franciscan monks, a shield with a Danish cross, benches are installed in a cozy courtyard. Dannebrog’s birthday is celebrated here every year.
The city’s botanical garden is located in the Pirita area. The appearance of the park was designed by the famous designer A. Niine.
The green zone is divided into several sectors:
- A colorful carpet of alpine flowers has been planted on the hills.
- Trees and shrubs of Northern Europe grow in the arboretum.
- In the Palm House there are tropical plants, cacti, succulents.
The botanical garden has orchid beds, a rose garden and a shop selling seeds and seedlings.
Atlantis H2O Waterpark
In the suburbs of Tallinn, the Atlantis H2O water park hospitably opened its doors. It consists of several large pools with high-speed slides for adults, Slow River attractions and rafting.
For children there is a shallow pool with safe slides, a playground with trampolines and swings. The recreation area on the territory of the water park offers cozy rooms, a sauna, a spa and a restaurant.
In 1939, a zoo was opened in Tallinn, which became the pride of the capital. Today it is home to 595 animal species from the Alps, South America, Asia, the Arctic, and Africa.
Especially for kids, there is a small petting zoo with goats, rabbits, hamsters and birds. Everyone, without exception, has access to an excursion to the forest, where you can watch birds and insects in natural conditions.