The beautiful city of Tallinn is one of the Baltic's great surprises, a fairyland jewel of medieval architecture perched dramatically above the sea.
The capital of Estonia, Tallinn has endured its share of hardship through the ages. In 1991, Estonia won its independence from the Soviet Union without bloodshed, and since then, Tallinn has succeeded in restoring its beauty and charm, becoming a very 21st century city with a captivating 14th century flair.
TOOMPEA HILL -- THE UPPER TOWN
Tallinn's highest elevation was the perfect site for its first fortification in the 12th century, and is today a quiet and dignified area of cobblestone streets surrounded by ancient walls and fairyland bastions. Palace Square, named after the pink, baroque Toompea Castle is home to the Estonian Parliament. Also noteworthy is the view from the Maiden Tower and the "Peep-in-the-Kitchen" Tower, so named because you can see straight down to the Lower Town and the kitchens of the houses below!
CHURCHES IN CONTRAST
Wind the stone streets to the magnificent St. Mary's Cathedral, known as the "Dome Church" by the locals, with its gothic exterior and surprising baroque interior. This landmark has served as a burial site for nobility since the 15th century. In vivid contrast to the Dome Church are the Russian-style onion domes of the nearby Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This Russian Orthodox Cathedral is a strong testament to the influence of years under the rule of Russian Tsars.
THE CENTER OF TOWN -- LOWER TOWN
For the city's real pulse, Town Hall Square in Lower Town is where you'll find the best in commerce and culture. The gothic Town Hall, built in 1371 and the oldest surviving building of its kind, is now a museum and concert hall, while the Town Hall Pharmacy has occupied the same site for over 500 years. You'll also find shops and restaurants full of local temptations.
OUTDOOR MUSEUM -- AN ENTIRE TOWN Rocca Al Mare, a unique open-air museum set in parkland, features a collection of traditional 18th and 19th century buildings, from barns to taverns and houses to windmills, all gathered from around the country. Learn of Estonia's history and culture, enjoy a performance of folk music and dance, and browse the many gift shops full of local handicrafts.