Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia located on the shore of the Baltic Sea, is a beautiful city that is growing more and more popular as tourist destination in Europe.
Its Old Town is one of the best preserved Hanseatic town centres in the world and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1997. Its medieval charm of cobblestone lanes, iron street lamps, and Gothic buildings is undeniable. Its vibrant feel of bars and cafes adds to the appeal.
My Tallinn experience started on a sunny day in April, enjoying a typical Estonian meal in the Town Hall Square (the hub of the Old Town) while checking out the map and planning my afternoon. On my left, the Town Hall, a beautiful Gothic building built in 1402-1404. On my right, a series of grandiose houses mainly turned into restaurants and cafes.
I didn’t know then that my discovery of Tallinn would continue in not-so-pleasant weather conditions the following days (hence the mix of good/bad weather photos), but this is another story….
The Old Town is surrounded by well preserved fortifications with high and thick walls, guard towers and gates visible in many parts of town. As I started wandering down the cobblestone lanes on day 1, I was more and more drawn into the medieval atmosphere.
Churches are certainly not disappointing: visit St. Olaf’s Church – a 14th century Gothic church – the world’s highest building from 1549 to 1625. Nowadays, a climb up the 258 steps of its spiral staircase will give you the opportunity to enjoy great views from the top.
Unrelated to medieval times but worth a visit are the KGB Prison Cells: formerly the KGB headquarters and a symbol of the former Soviet oppression in Estonia, this building has been open for visitors since 2017. Inside there is a small exhibition about the crimes against humanity committed here.
Toompea Hill, the upper part of the Old Town and connected to the Lower Town by two streets, is where many Estonian government institutions are located. Toompea Castle, with its Pikk Hermann tower, originally built in 1371 and reconstructed in 1500, has been the seat of power in Estonia since Medieval times and nowadays houses the Parliament.
Across from the castle is St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a classic example of Orthodox tradition, with its onion-shaped domes. I really loved its colours, particularly striking against the vivid blue sky of my first day in Tallinn.
As you walk down the hill you will encounter a couple of observation platforms that offer amazing views of the Old Town.
Back in the Lower Town, keep wandering around and down every lane, as each one of them has peculiar traits, beautiful houses and quirky shops.
Do not miss St. Catherine’s Passage (Katariina käik), the most picturesque of all lanes, especially at night: this is a must see!
And whilst you are here, the night time view of the Town Hall is equally stunning!