Get wonderfully lost in Tallinn’s charming Old Town (Vanalinn in Estonian) with its small cobble-stoned alleys, city gates and small passages. Walk past impressive churches and cathedrals, colorful merchant houses, almond vendors, street artists, museums and many souvenir shops. Walking in Tallinn’s Old Town feels like walking in an open-air museum. Get ready to travel back in time!
So, let me take you past a few highlights of the Old Town!
The first highlight for me were the cobble-stoned alleyways! How lovely with the colorful merchant houses and a bright blue sky!
I visited the main branch of the City Museum, a well-organized museum with stories about Tallinn’s Hanseatic past, local heroes, the plague, occupations etc.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This gorgeous Russian-orthodox cathedral lies directly opposite the pink parliament building (no coincidence!). In front of the cathedral stairs four old Russian ladies were begging for money from orthodox believers and tourists. A strong contrast to the wealth of the cathedral filled with golden details, icons and frescoes.
St. Catherine’s Passage
There are many passages in the Old Town but St. Catherine’s Passage (Katariina Käik) was the most beautiful one: a small passage with old stone tombstones from the Dominican monastery on one side and a small terrace and artisans studio’s on the other side.
I received a warm welcome by a Dome church volunteer. This small church houses a number of ‘coats-of-arms’ of Estonia’s noble families. I also decided to climb the winding stairs leading to the church tower providing a beautiful view on Tallinn’s Old Town.
Museum of Occupations
This small museum lies just outside the Old Town, but covers the three occupations by the Sovjets, the Nazis and then again the Sovjets. I found it quite interesting, since I admittingly did not know much about this part of history. The Estonians became finally independent in 1991. That’s only 23 years ago!
Raekoja Plats (Town Hall sq.) is not really a highlight, but it cannot be missed. It’s a large square full of restaurants with staff dressed in traditional medieval ropes. It’s touristy and over-priced, but still a good place to have a drink in the sun.
Townwall Tower and Walkway Cafe
Another highlight was the Townwall Tower and Walkway Cafe. How many times can you drink a cup of coffee on a medieval townwall? Nearby the cafe is the Short Leg Gate Tower (being short legged myself I love that name!). To be honest, there is not much to see, but it’s suppose to be the most haunted building in Tallinn with stories about crucified monks and black dogs with burning eyes. Gotta love a bit of ghost stories and creepiness.
Patkul lookout and Court sq. lookout
Both lookouts offered splendid free views across Tallinn and the sea. There were definitely two of the main highlights of Tallinn’s Old Town!
The people of the Old Town
Despite its name, the Old Town is far from old, stuffy and quiet. It’s vibrant and full of street musicians and artists, friendly medieval-dressed waiters and of course many many tourists (some are on segways)! Don’t miss the Old Town in the evening, when (if possible) it becomes even more beautiful and fun!
Some final Old Town tips by BoB!
– Don’t wear high heels
– Bring your own water (water in the touristy shops is expensive!)
– Explore Tallinn’s Old Town by foot to truly soak up the ‘medieval’ atmosphere and explore the different sights more extensively. If short in time, you can also do the highly recommended Lonely Planet Old Town walking tour.
– If you want to have the opportunity to ask questions: do the Tallinn Free Walking Tour, starting every day at noon at the City Information Point.
– Try the delicious almonds at one of the many stands
An overview of websites on Tallinn can be found here