Eye-catching sights in Tallinn Old Town, Estonia

In CULTURE, EUROPE by Janice and George10 Comments

tallinn old town

Forget the map in Tallinn Old Town.

Dating back at least 1,000 years, the Estonian capital’s well-preserved Old Town is a jumble of cobblestone alleys, squares buzzing with cafes and bars, attractive shops, medieval merchant houses and churches crowned with tall Gothic spires.

The Old Town is perfect for soaking up its years of history by strolling aimlessly – and letting your curiosity guide your feet.

tallinn old town

Tallinn Old Town has a 1,000-year-old history

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic Old Town of Tallinn is divided into two sections – Toompea Hill (upper town) and the lower town.

We started our walking tour of Tallinn Old Town in Toompea Hill. But it doesn’t really matter where you start. Two narrow, steep streets – the “Long Leg” (used by horses in days gone by) and the “Short Leg” (an alley with stairs for people) connect Toompea with the Lower Town.

Tallinn Old Town is also small enough that you won’t get too lost. (If you do, just ask a local to point you in the direction you want to go.)

So, come, join us on our photo tour of Tallinn Old Town

tallinn old town

Toompea Castle

Perched on top of Toompea Hill, the tower of Toompea Castle flies the blue, black and white flag of Estonia.

tallinn old town - toompea castle

tallinn old town - estonian flag

Toompea Castle dates back to the 1200s, but the pink Baroque-style palace is an 18th century add-on built by the Russians.

tallinn old town - toompea castle

Today, Toompea Castle is home to Estonia’s parliament.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The splendid, onion-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral faces Toompea Castle.

We were told most Estonians don’t really like the cathedral, as it was built in 1900 at a time when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire. But it’s beautiful to look at. And in true Russian Orthodox style, it’s richly decorated inside with mosaics and icons.

tallinn old town - alexander nevsky cathedral


Eye-catching oddities and decorations

In Tallinn Old Town, you never know what you’ll see by looking up!

Be sure to look out for the drain pipe shaped like a large cowboy boot, complete with spurs.

tallinn old town - boot drainpipe

Tallinn Old Town - drainpipe boot

And don’t overlook the wrought-iron street lamps and gates.

Tallinn Old Town street lamp

tallinn old town - gate

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin (Dome Church)

Also known as the “Dome Church,” this is Estonia’s oldest church, built sometime before 1233. The inside is decorated with elaborate medieval coats of arms, and tombstones pave the floor.

You can also climb to the top of the 226-foot spire for incredible views of Tallinn Old Town below.

tallinn old town - cathedral of saint mary the virgin

Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square)

The Town Hall Square bustles with life.

tallinn old town - square

Thankfully, benches invite you to sit down and engage in some interesting people watching!

We saw a young maiden dressed in period costume, tied to a cart and being dragged along the cobblestone square – advertising  for a museum or medieval dungeon attraction?

tallinn old town

The Tallinn Old Town square is also home to the oldest pharmacy in all of Europe, still operating today.

We popped in to buy throat lozenges and Sudafed (for the inevitable travel sniffles). The Burchardt family established the pharmacy in the 1500s and ran it until the mid-1800s. As a sideline, they also invented marzipan which, in addition to being delicious, was originally used as a cure for many ills, including flu, headache and jealousy.

In Olde Hansa, a restaurant/shop lining the square, we couldn’t resist trying their famous spicy, sugared almonds. Addictive!

Tallinn Old Town - almonds

Saint Olaf’s Church

When Saint Olaf’s Church was built in the 12th century (rebuilt in the 14th century), the idea was to erect a church so tall it would attract ships (and commerce) from miles around.

And at one time – between 1549 and 1625 – the church was indeed the tallest building in the world.

Today, at over 400 feet high, it’s still a recognizable landmark – and one of Tallinn’s most photographed sites! If you’ve seen photos of Tallinn, you’ve seen photos of Saint Olaf’s Church!

tallinn old town - eye-catching sights

Shopping in Tallinn Old Town

You’ll pass lots of cute little shops in Tallinn Old Town. What catches your fancy? Amber jewelry? Or matryoshka (nesting) dolls from Russia?

talllinn old town - amber jewelry

tallinn old town - russian nesting dolls

We usually don’t collect too many souvenirs when we travel, but we do end up collecting lots of photos!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these…

Our Baltic Cruise


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  1. What a great way to introduce Tallinn! I’ve never been there, even though I live close by – in Poland. I need to make sure I visit my neighbors soon!

    1. Author

      We didn’t stay in Tallinn – we visited Tallinn for a day while on our Baltic cruise on the “Viking Star.” It would be nice to stay longer though…

  2. Pretty looking town and the ironwork quite spectacular. Tallinn (and Riga) places we’d like to see, we’ve never been to the Baltics.
    I like Orthodox churches – we’ve just arrived in Belgrade (Serbia) and lots of those onion shaped domes.

    Frank (bbqboy)

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