Tallinn City Guide
Beautifully preserved medieval architecture and quaint historical sites make Tallinn one of the most charming cities in northern Europe but beside old-time churches and towers, the Estonian capital is also home to cont...
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Tallinn City Guide
Beautifully preserved medieval architecture and quaint historical sites make Tallinn one of the most charming cities in northern Europe but beside old-time churches and towers, the Estonian capital is also home to contemporary museums, bohemian quarters and a fantastic night-life scene. This compact city on the Baltic Sea blends modern and ancient in a way that captivates the heart.
A sightseeing tour of Tallinn begins with a visit to the Old Town
The picturesque Old Town of Tallinn is a UNESCO world heritage site that has sealed the architectural heritage of the city in a time capsule. The marvellous historic buildings are a reminder of the days when Tallinn was a flourishing medieval commercial port and member of the Hanseatic league.
The centre of the Old Town is Raekoja plats (aka the Town Hall square) where a market was held as early as the 11th century. Markets, fairs and concerts are still held in the square today. The square is lined with pastel-coloured medieval buildings and open-air cafés while the Gothic Town Hall is now a functioning museum welcoming visitors.
The Old Town itself is a maze of winding, cobbled alleys, passages, courtyards and period buildings erected by affluent medieval merchants. Many of the townhouses, spired churches and warehouses date to the period between the 15th and 17th centuries. The old-world charm of the area is undeniable but the numerous open-air eateries and souvenir sellers are the real temptation.
The historic centre of Tallinn is a tale of two cities
For many centuries, the city at the foot of Toompea Hill was a commercial powerhouse, while the city on top of the hill was an administrative centre. Steep cobbled alleys lead to the hilltop where a fortification stood in medieval times. Today the site of the ancient fortress is occupied by Toompea Castle, which has served as the seat of the Estonian government for nearly seven centuries.
There are many striking historical buildings and sites on top of the hill, such as the Danish King's Garden, the imposing, stone cannon tower and the Russian-built Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. For fantastic bird's eye views over the city head to one of the two viewing platforms.
Enjoy greenery and art in Kadriorg
Slightly outside of the touristy centre of the city, the Kadriorg area is dominated by extensive parkland, villas and museums, and the eponymous Baroque palace. Commissioned in the 18th century by the Russian tsar, Kadriorg Palace is incredibly well preserved and set amidst beautiful landscaped gardens. All in all, the perfect spot to catch your breath and escape the city.
There are several museum in the quarter but the most notable are the Art Museum of Estonia. It's striking headquarters, known as Kumu, is a contemporary limestone and copper building that stands out among the greenery that surrounds it. Kumu holds the largest collection of fine art in the country. The paintings offer an insight into Estonian life from the middle ages to idyllic 18th-century life and Soviet-era realities.
Modern-day Tallinn is a mix of glassy buildings and bohemian quarters
The less ancient parts of Tallinn differ from the rest of the city and if you are visiting on business, you can't help but notice the contrast. The business district is dominated by glass towers, modern hotels and restaurants. It's a very convenient area to stay for business travellers and with free Wi-Fi easy to find in public places, any visit becomes a breeze.
The abundance of pubs, bars and nightclubs make Tallinn's nightlife quite the eclectic experience. The Old Town is home to many laid-back pubs, taverns and bars, some of which host live music nights. Jazz and rock bars can be found throughout other areas of the city, as well as quite a few glitzy DJ clubs.
As with many modern cities, Tallinn also has its industrial district turned trendy bohemian quarter. Kalamaja is the only part of Tallinn that is dominated by quaint timber buildings. Once a fishing village and later an industrial precinct filled with factories, today the area houses galleries, shops and restaurants.
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Best of all, Kalamaja is more reasonably priced than the touristy areas of the city. While in the area, check out the Seaplane Harbour, one of the two buildings housing the Estonian Maritime Museum, which showcases a variety of marine artefacts, including entire ships and submarines.