The Old Town
Dating back as far as the 13th century, the old section of Tallinn is what keeps most visitors occupied during their stay. The winding, cobbled streets of the medieval capital take you past half-hidden lanes, courtyards, spired churches and old, merchant houses. For centuries, what’s now the Old Town has been divided into two distinct parts: Toompea Hill, which was home to the gentry that lorded over the countryside, and Lower Town, which was a separate political entity with rights as an autonomous town.
Climb Pikk jalg and you’ll find yourself on Castle Square (Lossi plats), smack-dab between the seat of the Estonian government at Toompea Castle and the 19th-century symbol of the Tsar’s power in Estonia, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. You are standing at the birthplace of Tallinn. Viewing platforms The Kohtuotsa and Patkuli viewing platforms are usually the first place that tourists want to see when they visit Tallinn. From here, sweeping views of the town, its red-tiled roofs, its towers, its walls and all of its charm open up. Get your camera ready.
Address: Lossi plats 1
Built on the spot where the ancient Estonians’ wooden fortress stood before the 1219 Danish invasion, Tallinn’s castle served for seven centuries as the seat of power for the nation’s foreign masters. Now it houses the Riigikogu, Estonia’s parliament. On one corner of the castle you can see Pikk Hermann tower with the blue, black and white tricolour flag waving above it. It’s commonly recognised that whoever’s flag flies on top of this tower is the ruler of Estonia. The pink section you see in front is actually a baroque structure added in the 18th Century. For a more castle-like view of this building, head behind it, down the opposite side of the hill.
Admission only with a guided tour, Mon-Fri from 10.00 - 16.00.
Call (+372) 631 63 45 for details.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Address: Lossi plats 10
Phone: (+372) 644 34 84
Toompea’s dominating landmark is the Russian Orthodox cathedral named for the duke who attacked southeastern Estonia and Pskov in the early 13th century. Tsar Alexander III ordered the cathedral designed in 1894 by St. Petersburg master Mikhail Preobrazhensky and it was completed in 1900. According to legend, the cathedral was built on the grave of Estonian hero Kalev and has suffered structurally as a result. Services in Russian.
Open: Mon - Fri 08.30 - 17; Sat 08.30 - 17; Sun 09.30 - 17. Admission free.
Danish King’s Garden
Address: Lühike jalg 9a
One of the most picturesque and secluded locations in Old Town, the Danish King’s Garden is filled with trees, benches, little nooks and a great view of the Niguliste Church spire. The best time to visit the garden is at night with the medieval walls at your back and the beautifully lit lower town roofs providing ambience. It also features two of Tallinn’s fortification towers, Neitsitorn (Virgin’s Tower) and Tallitorn (Stable Tower). They are currently currently under renovation, but in the future they’ll house a café and various exhibits.
Dome Church (Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin)
Address: Toomkooli 6
Phone: (+372) 644 41 40
What might be the oldest church in Estonia was founded in 1219 by the first wave of Danish forces. The Gothic exterior dates to the 14th century, but the interior was rebuilt after the 1684 fire. The Baroque pulpit (1686) and organ loft (1780) are worth a look. As you enter be sure to step on the tomb of Otto Johann Thuve, who asked that his grave be placed in this humbling location. Please be considerate and visit after the Sunday service.
Open: 09.00 - 15.00. Closed Mon. Organ music Sat 12:00. Admission free.
Kiek in de Kök (Peep into the Kitchen)
Address: Komandandi 2, Tallinn
Phone: (+372) 644 66 86
Built 1475 - 1481, this 45m, sixstorey cannon tower played a key role in the Livonian War and still has nine of Ivan IV’s cannonballs embedded in its walls to prove it. Medieval soldiers joked that from its top, they could see right into the kitchens of the houses below - hence the odd name. The tower now operates as a museum.
Open 10.00 - 17.30. Closed Mon.