Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia that is extremely photogenic with wonderful sights that include ancient churches, medieval streetscapes, and noble merchants’ houses. I really loved how walkable the Old Town is. On every single street, there was something beautiful to see. Tallinn definitely ranks very high on my list of European cities and is probably my favorite in Eastern Europe.
St. Olaf’s Church is the closest attraction to the cruise port. It is only a 15-minute walk from the ship. The church is believed to have been built in the 12th century and to have been the center for old Tallinn’s Scandinavian community before Denmark conquered Tallinn in 1219. Its dedication relates to King Olaf II of Norway. The first known written records referring to the church date back to 1267, and it was extensively rebuilt during the 14th century.
The City Wall that surrounds the Old Town has several towers. The first that I stopped at was Koismae Torn.
The next was Loewenschede Torn, which was completed in 1373.
A little further is Nun’s Tower, in which you can go up and walk along the wall.
I then took a stroll through Toompark. It is the largest park in the bastion zone and is formed on the former earth forticifaction ground around the Shnelli Pond. The pond is the only remaining part of the moat that once surrounded the city.
Taking a walk up the steep Toompea Hill from the park, I came to St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was originally established by Danes in the 13th century and is the oldest church in Tallinn and mainland Estonia. It is also the only building in Toompea which survived a 17th-century fire. Originally a Roman Catholic cathedral, it became Lutheran in 1561 and now belongs to the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.
A very short distance from the Cathedral is Toompea Castle. It has been in use since at least the 9th century and today it houses the Parliament of Estonia. You cannot enter the castle but can walk around the exterior in Governor’s Garden.
Directly across from the castle is the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This orthodox cathedral was built to a design by Mikhail Preobrazhensky in a typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. The Cathedral is Tallinn’s largest and grandest orthodox cathedral. It is dedicated to Saint Alexander Nevsky who in 1242 won the Battle of the Ice on Lake Peipus, in the territorial waters of present-day Estonia.
Opposite of the cathedral is Danish King’s Garden, which is one of the most beautiful parks in Tallinn and serves as a remnant of the centennial Danish rule over the city.
I then headed towards Freedom Square, which is a plaza on the southern end of the Old Town, where military parades and various concerts often take place. It is bounded on the east by St. John’s Church, on the south by Kaarli Boulevard, and an underground shopping center, and on the west by a Victory Column commemorating the Estonian War of Independence 1918-1920.
Down the street is St. Nicholas Church, which was originally built in the 13th century. It was partially destroyed in the Soviet bombing of Tallinn in World War II. It has since been restored and today houses a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia, focusing mainly on ecclesiastical art from the Middle Ages onward. It is also used as a concert hall. There are lovely cafes across the street in which I had a few drinks while I enjoyed watching people walk by.
On the next corner is Raekoja Plats, or better known as Town Hall Square. It is a venue for numerous small festivals or concerts like Tallinn Old Town Days, and several bars and restaurants are located in the vicinity. The square also hosts a market regularly, with many stalls selling traditional Estonian items and souvenirs. This is a fabulous place to eat lunch.
Within the square is the ancient gothic Tallinn Town Hall. It is the only one of its kind in Northern Europe.
Also in the square is the Town Hall Pharmacy (Raeapteek), which is the oldest in Europe that has continually operated in the same premises. It was first mentioned in town records in 1422. You can go and take a look at the small museum inside.
Walk a little further and you will come to St. Catherine’s Passage. A charming example of medieval architecture, this narrow street is full of craftsmen’s workshops and artists displaying their beautiful work. At night, the passage is lit up nicely.
After you pass through the passage, you will come back to the Tallinn Town Wall. Here you can take the stairs up and walk along the medieval defensive walls. There is a small entrance fee.
If you follow the path of the walls and walk through the street market, you will come to Viru Gate. It is positioned on a trendy shopping street.
The last church that I visited was Holy Spirit Church. Also called Church of the Holy Ghost, it is a medieval Lutheran church located behind Raekoja Plats, and lies opposite the Great Guild and Maiasmokk, Tallinn’s oldest cafe.
I ended my day by walking down Pikk Street, Tallinn’s busiest and most picturesque street in the historic center of the city. It was perfect for an afternoon stroll and I found a nice spot to have a drink before heading back to the cruise ship.