Explore the top things to do in Old Town Tallinn. There is plenty to discover here. It is rich in medieval and Hanseatic history.
Old Town dates from the 13th century and it consists of two areas; Toompea Hill and Lower Town.
The charming, winding cobblestone streets lead you into an enchanting world. Discover a walled city of impressive medieval buildings, houses, warehouses and narrow alleyways. The architecture is incredible. It has one of Northern Europe’s most finely preserved city centres.
In 1997, Tallinn Old Town became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tallinn’s defensive Town Wall is one of the best medieval examples in Europe. Construction of the walls began in 1265. The limestone walls are up to three metres thick and as high as 16 metres tall. In the 16th century, the wall had a total of 46 towers and eight gates and was about 2.4 km in length. Today, 1.9 kms of wall remain with 20 towers. Some of the towers are now used as museums and others offer opportunities to climb and explore. View more photo galleries of Old Town Tallinn.
Top things to do in Old Town Tallinn
- St. Olaf’s Church and Tower, built in the 16th century, provides wonderful views from the top of the tower climb. The tower made this building one of the tallest in the world at the time.
- St. Mary’s Cathedral is a medieval domed church founded in the 13th century. Visitors can climb to the top of the 69 metre Baroque bell tower for breathtaking views of the city.
- Viru Gate still stands as a reminder of the Old Town’s 14th century defense system. This is the gateway to the busy pedestrian only streets. Market stalls, shops and restaurants are in this area. The market stalls sell wonderful handmade knit goods, roasted nuts and spices.
- Kohtuosta Viewing Platform offers stunning panoramic views of Tallinn and its harbour. There are also plenty of shops nearby offering lovely knitted sweaters and souvenirs.
Bastion Passages are tunnels dating from the late 17th century. They are accessible from Kiek in de Kök and you must book a guided tour. There are steep stairs on the tour and it is a little chilly. The temperature in the tunnels range from 7-10 degrees Celsius. There are about 1.3 kms of tunnel for the entire fortification but they are not all continuously connected. To date, 470 metres of tunnel has been restored and await exploration. Book the tour here.
- Town Hall Square (called Raekoja Plats) is in the centre of Old Town. It is always buzzing with activity and has been here since the 13th and 14th centuries.. Many cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops rim the square.
Gothic Town Hall built in the 13th century is the oldest town hall in Northern Europe.
- Kiek in de Kök is a six-story defense tower built in the late 15th century. It now houses a museum and the Bastion Passages are accessible at this location.
Tallinn Town Wall is one of the best medieval examples in Europe. Construction of the walls began in 1265. The limestone walls are up to three metres thick and as high as 16 metres tall. In the 16th century the wall had a total of 46 towers and eight gates and was about 2.4 km in length. Today 1.9 kms of wall remain with 20 towers. Some of the towers are now used as museums and others offer opportunities to climb and explore.
- Toompea Hill offers breathtaking views on the viewing platform out towards the harbour. Most buildings surrounding the hill date from the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Toompea Castle sits on top of Toompea Hill and now houses the Estonian parliament. Through the centuries, the Baroque style castle has been used by all ruling empires. Pikk Tower (Tall Hermann) is part of the defensive wall of Tallinn’s Old Town. It was built around 1371 on Toompea Castle’s southwestern corner. The flag indicates the ruling power. Each day the national anthem is played as the flag is raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset.
- Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox 19th century cathedral in the Toompea area. The colourful distinct architecture of black dome-like towers can be seen from many areas of Old Town. The church towers hold a set of 11 bells. The cathedral is an example of Russian Revival Style and Neo-Byzantine architecture.
- St. Nicholas Church was built in the 13th century is now the Art Museum of Estonia.
- Danish King’s Garden is the location of the most famous parts of The Wall.
- Catherine’s Alley is a fine medieval passage restored in 1995. It dates from the time of when St Catherine’s Church was built about 700 years ago. The passage contains 15-17th century homes, artists workshops and a few cafes.
- Tallinn’s Town Hall pharmacy (Raeapteek) dates from 1422, making it one of Europe’s oldest. Be sure to checkout the back room and basement.
Quick Facts about Estonia
- Tallinn began as a settlement named Reval and is the capital of Estonia
- In 1248, The King of Denmark allowed it to become a city. From 1219-1346, Estonia was known as Danish Estonia.
- Tallinn joined the Hanseatic League in 1285.
- The city was on the northern European trade route.
- Danish ruled again but only in Saaremaa (Western Estonia) 1559-1645.
- Estonia (excluding Saaremaa) was under Swedish rule from 1561-1645, when Sweden also took Saaremaa until 1710.
- Germany ruled the country from 1941-1944.
- It was under Soviet Russian rule from 1944-1991.
- In 1991, Estonia re-established its independence.
- The currency used in Estonia is the Euro.
- The language spoken is Estonian. Most residents are bilingual and also speak Finnish, English, German or Russian.
- There are more than 2,000 islands in Estonia.
- Estonia has 133,000 written folk songs making it one of the biggest collections in the world.
- In the 11th century, Estonian Vikings kidnapped Norway’s Queen Astrid and her son Olaf, Norway’s future king.
- The Song and Dance Festival is part of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Over 40,000 dancers and singers come together, dressed in traditional Estonian costumes. The event takes place about every two years. Find out more about the Song and Dance Festival.
- Estonia has the largest number of meteorite craters per square kilometres. Read more.
- Tallinn’s Town Hall pharmacy dates from 1422, making it one of Europe’s oldest.
- In 1441, the world’s first Christmas tree was raised in the Town Square by the Brotherhood of the Blackheads. Riga, Latvia claims it was the birthplace of the Christmas tree in 1510. Latvian historian Gustava Strenga told National Public Radio, Germany had the first Christmas tree in the 16th century and not the Baltics. Read his interview.
- Tallinn’s Gothic style 13th century Town Hall is the oldest in Northern Europe.
Coming soon – Learn about the traditional food of Estonia.
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