10 Places to Visit in Tallinn Estonia
One of the best things about traveling is being able to experience the places that you might otherwise never get to experience in full, or at all. This is especially true when it comes to locations that are often overshadowed by larger or more prominent neighbors. Such is the case with Estonia. With the Scandinavian states to the North and Russia to the East dominating tourism to Northeastern Europe, Estonia is all too often overlooked.
That’s a shame, because Tallinn, Estonia’s lovely capital, can boast something few other places can – namely, a city center that still boasts many of the hallmarks and sites of its Medieval past. The Old Town section of Tallinn is one of the best-preserved examples of Medieval city architecture, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several of the sites listed below belong within that historic center, affording visitors the chance to step back in time and experience the past like
Tallinn Town Hall
Completed in 1404, this town hall is one of the oldest in the region, and it serves as a perfect architectural reflection of the period with its austere Gothic architecture and large tower, which was added over a century later. Gargoyles adorn the façade, while the interior is home to the Citizens Hall, which has been a seat of decision-making and community for hundreds of years.
One of the most beloved icons throughout Tallinn is, without a doubt, Old Thomas. This iron statue of an Estonian warrior sits atop a weather vane which is itself situated at the height of the tower adorning Tallinn Town Hall. There are actually a few Old Thomases, as some have been retired over the centuries. The 1530 original resides in the town hall’s basement archives, while the present one, installed in 1996, sits atop the weathervane overlooking the city as his predecessors have for centuries.
The biggest symbol of Tallinn political power, Toompea Castle dates back to at least the 9th century and was a critical stronghold for the defense of the city. The castle received massive Baroque additions and a Neoclassical overhaul in the wake of Estonia being absorbed into the Russian Empire. Today, the castle is home to Estonia’s Parliament.
Located within the boundaries of the Old Town section of the city, Toompea features some of the greatest natural beauty within the city with its famed hilly geography. Toompea is the site of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a grand Russian Orthodox Church built at the end of the 19th century in the style of tsarist-era Russian cathedrals. These hills were historically overseen by The Teutonic Order as well as Swedish and Russian regional governors. Today, the Estonian government still operates within these hills, with their official seat of power being at Stenbock House.
Estonian Museum of Natural History
In addition, the Estonian Museum of Natural History provides a great place for families to see hundreds of thousands of incredible specimens from around the world. These include examples of nearly all the plant and animal species found in Estonia.
Walls of Tallinn
As has been demonstrated above, so much of what makes Tallinn unique comes from its rich and largely intact Medieval heritage and architecture, with one of its most impressive features being its immense walls. With dozens of different defense towers connecting these walls, some of which still stand today, touring Tallinn’s complex system of walls can be a great opportunity to view Medieval architecture and military defensive systems up close.
St. Olaf’s Church
They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice. However, lightning has indeed struck the tall spire of St. Olaf’s Church in Tallinn at least ten times over the centuries. The church is thought to have stood since the 12th century, with its iconic spire nearly 124 meters tall.
Estonian Maritime Museum
Throughout its history, Estonia has been largely impacted by its role as a seafaring and trading nation. Nowhere has that been more acutely felt than Tallinn, and nowhere is that history commemorated better than the Estonian Maritime Museum, boasting vessels from throughout Estonia’s long history through the Soviet occupation and up to the present day.
The Four Branches of the Art Museum of Estonia
Tallinn is proud to be home to an immense art museum that stretches across four elegant buildings. The Kumu, Kadriorg, Mikkel and Niguliste Museum centers all boast lovely exteriors and incredible collections from Estonian, Russian, and other European artists.
As stated, Tallinn is a city that has long been impacted by sea trade and travel, making Tallinn Bay itself a must see. A trip there affords visitors an unmissable chance to see ships coming and going while they enjoy the natural beauty of the bay.
From its historic Old Town to its present day treasures, Tallinn is an oft-overlooked tourist destination that you’ll want to see for yourself.
© 2019 Karolina Klesta