Arriving from Riga our last stop on our Baltic trip was Tallinn. The Estonian Capital has everything you need for an amazing time. With an incredible walled Old Town, churches galore, coastline and great local food make this, world famous UNESCO Site well worth a look
Starting your Estonian adventure at Tallinna Lennujaam airport you will need to catch the bus outside. The bus to the walled city is a short journey and ends outside the National Opera Estonia.
Staying at the Baltic Hotel Vana Wiru near the Viru Gate is a great place to stay.
It is inside the city walls, incredible close in fact, and only a 5-minute walk to the town hall where food and refreshments await. It also has a great breakfast selection.
The barbican of Viru Gate was part of Tallinn’s defensive system that extended all the way around the city. The wall and gates were built in the 14th century. Within a few centuries it was already consisting of 8 gates and several towers with curtain walls connecting them. Viru Gate is just one of these.
Estonian National Opera
One of the largest buildings in the Capital, and the largest in the early 20th century this Jugend classicistic building was designed by Finnish architects Armas Lindgren and Wivi Lönn. One side of the two-winged building was intended for a concert hall and the other being a Theatre. It is still the same today. The concert hall was inaugurated in 1913 and has a restaurant and cloistered inner court. The outside is beautiful and well worth a look.
If you head south west, around the city wall you’ll end up at Freedom Square. This Plaza holds military parades and concerts and is a great open space to enjoy Tallinn in.
The square is flanked by St. John’s Church to the east and Kaarli Boulevard on the south. It also houses a Victory Column in the west which commemorates the Estonian War of Independence in 1920.
St. John’s Church
The church is built in the neo-Gothic style, with soaring lancet arches, with a tower in the west end. It is built on the eastern edge of Freedom Square and dominates the plaza. It is a surprise the church is there at all as plans to demolish it were proposed in the 1930s and 1050s. Luckily these plans never were fulfilled, and this glorious building still stands.
War of Independence Victory Column
Opened in 2009 as a memorial for those who fell during the Estonian War of Independence. It is a great reminder to those people who fought for independence and the struggles Estonia has faced. The pillar is 23.5 m high and consists of 143 glass plates. The memorial incorporates the Cross of Liberty, Estonia’s most distinguished award.
St. Charles’s Church
A Lutheran church built between 1862-1870, it is Tallinn’s grandest church. Tõnismägi hill has been the location of a chapel since the 14th century and the first church standing on the spot was order by Charles XI of Sweden during Swedish rule. It was made of wood and burnt down. The new church that sits on that site was finished in 1882 and is of Romanesque Revival style. The bells are still the original ones used in the wooden church that was burnt down.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This orthodox cathedral in situated in the Old Town and was built between 1894 and 1900. During this time Estonia was part of the Russian Empire.
The cathedral sits on to of the Toompea hill which is one of several places where according to legend the Estonian folk hero Kalevipoeg’s father Kalev is said to have been buried. AS the USSR was officially non-religious, many churches including this cathedral were left to decay. Since independence the church has been restored to past glory.
Tallinn Town Hall
Situated in the Old Town, the hall is the oldest town hall in the whole of the Baltic region and Scandinavia.
A Gothic style, the building dates back to the 13th century and it was completed in 1404. The rarest items are the benches of aldermen from the 14th and 15th century.
Town Hall Square
A market place and the centre of this old Hanseatic town since the Middle Ages, the square hosts an array of events, such as medieval festivals and Old Town days.
The tradition of celebrating Christmas festivities in the town dates back to 1441. It is said that the Brotherhood of the Blackheads erected the world’s very first Christmas tree in the square.
Orthodox Church of St Nicholas
Situated at the north end of Vene street, this church was the very first one to be built in thew town. With its twin bell towers and copper dome, the structure was designed by St Petersburg court architect Luigi Rusca and built in 1820-27. The church survived both Hitler and Stalin.
St Olaf’s church
First mentioned in 1267, the church is the city’s biggest medieval structure, taking its name from the sainted Norwegian king, Olav II Haraldsson.
It became one of the main churches in the Lower Town, forming its own congregation. Lightning is said to have struck the tower of the church around 10 times, three of which led to extensive fires in 1625, 1820 and 1931. Climbing the town is a must for great views of the Tallinn.
Estonian Maritime Museum
If you get to the Fat Margret tower in the Old Town, you’ll find a museum. The museum presents the history of the ships and navigation in Estonia. It is worth a look around and at worst the exterior is very interesting. The tower is part of the medieval city gate system and was the largest part of the wall with walls 25 metres high either side. Here, you can really see why Tallinn’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The cinema is one of the oldest cinemas in Estonia and was constructed in 1955 at the height of Stalinism. The interior has been restored and the exterior is very brutalist in style.
Le Coq Arena
This ones for the football fans or shirt collectors. The stadium hosts the Estonian International team and is home to FC Flora.
With a capacity of 14,405, it is the largest football stadium in Estonia. It was opened in 2001 and is part of the Lilleküla Football Complex.
St. Nicholas’ Church and Museum
On your travels around the city you’ll no doubt bump into this medieval former church.
Originally built in the 13th century, partially destroyed by the soviets in WW2 and restored back to its brilliance, this church is now a concert hall.
Church of the Holy Spirit
Located behind Raekoja plats, the Holy Spirit church is a Lutheran church in the centre of Old Town. It lies opposite Tallinn’s oldest café, Maiasmokk and the Great Guild.
Building of the church started in the 13th century and is unusual as it doesn’t face east, which suggests it was building in a built-up area and had to adapt to street layouts.
Construction finished in 1410, with interiors finished in 1417 and is of Gothic style. The façade is decorated with is decorated by blind arches and the main hall still maintains the medieval atmosphere. With the church of the Holy Spirit outside, and the oldest café next door, it is well worth the short walk from the centre.
Long Leg Gate Tower
At the southern end of the street called Pikk in the Old Town of Tallinn you can see one of the gates called Long Leg Gate Tower. It dates to the 14th century and was one of two gates which linked the nobles, upper town to the commoners. The other gate was the Short Leg Gate Tower.
St Mary’s Cathedral
Originally established by the Danish in the 13th century, it is the oldest church in Tallinn and mainland Estonia.
Built as a Roman Catholic cathedral, it became a Lutheran in 1561 and now belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The viewing platform at the top of the church is amazing.
Kohtuotsa Viewing platform
After a walk up Toompea hill it is a great place to catch your breath and appreciate where you are. This viewing platform is on the northern side of the hill. It provides excellent views of the red roofs and towering spires of the Old Town as well as the high modern buildings in the background.
Eppingi Tower and the city walls
If you are looking to dress up in medieval armour or handle replica weapons, then this is the place. With interactive exhibits on each floor, bringing out the warrior in you, this makes it a great stop for all the family.
You can’t escape the fact that the Old Town is enclose in these huge city walls. The walls are 20 metres high and you can really imagine how it might be like in Medieval times.
Hellemann Tower and Town Wall Walkway
This three-storey tower dates back to the 14th century and it stands adjacent to Müürivahe street next to Old Town’s knit market.
You must climb tower and stroll atop its 200m stretch of Town Wall. Fantastic views of the city and the medieval defences await. Entrance is free with a Tallinn card.
The tall tower is part of the Toompea Castle, on Toompea hill. The first part was built between 1360-1370. It was rebuilt in the 16th century, at a height of 45.6 metres. The tower consists of 215 steps and has a viewing platform at the top. Pikk Hermann stands next to the Estonia Parliament building at the East of the Old Town.
Finish off your trip with some cracking Estonian beer. This spacious restaurant-brewery just off Old Town Square produces tasty varieties of natural, live beer.
There is live music on Thursdays to Saturdays. It is a great place to grab some great food and refreshments, close to all the attractions in the walled city.
As you travel back to the airport on the local bus, you’ll wonder where the time went and when you can get back to one of the best medieval walled cities on the planet.
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