If you want to combine the comforts of modern world, versatile nightlife and luxurious adventures with rich cultural scene in the local historical setting, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia is the ideal place for your vacation. There are a bit less than 500 000 people living in Tallinn, so it’s hardly a world metropolis, but it’s awesome just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Most of the citizens are Estonians. Russians (about a third) are the biggest national minority, followed by Belarusians, Ukrainians and Finns making a total of 6% when combined. Estonian and Russian are the most common languages, though you won’t have any trouble with English. Also, German and Finnish are quite widely spoken as well.
Tallinn’s medieval Old Town is known around the world for its authentic Hanseatic architecture. Enjoy the cobblestone streets and houses dating back as far as to 11th century, visit few of the local galleries and museums, indulge in small cafés or restaurants and buy stuff on the summer or Christmas open air Hanseatic fairs.
Katariina Käik (St. Catherine’s Passage) in the Old Town, lined with craftsmen’s workshops, is a favorite for many visitors.
St. Olaf’s Church, once the tallest building in Europe, is still the tallest building in Old Town Tallinn; no buildings may exceed its current 124-meter height.
Legend surrounds this Gothic church. Its spire acted as an excellent lightening rod, endangering its continued existence several times throughout the centuries.
Some say that its great height (which reached almost 160 meters in the in the late 16th, early 17th centuries) acted as a marketing ploy to attract travelers to Tallinn.
The story of its construction is connected with a mysterious builder who hid his name from the townspeople as a sort of bargain: if they guessed his name, he would waive his fees, but if he could retain his secret, he would receive a large sum for his services.
Kiek in de Kök
Kiek in de Kök means “peek into the kitchen” because men guarding the tower were said to be able to see down the chimneys of the city into its kitchens. This tower, with its 4-meter-thick walls, bears evidence of Ivan the Terrible’s attack on Tallinn in the 16th century: 9 cannonballs are embedded in its stone, symbols of its impenetrable strength.
It’s possible to view the inside of the tower along and take and accompanying tour of connecting passageways.
The pink façade of the parliament building faces Castle Square on Toompea, initially the most noticeable section of Toompea Castle. Around the back of the castle, what remains of its medieval architecture, including the Hermann Tower, can be seen by descending the hill and viewing it from its posterior.
The Toompea viewing platforms offer the classic postcard-perfect angles of Old Town Tallinn, as well as a view of the sea (and if you’re lucky, or prone to hallucination, an image of Finland on the distance shore). The platforms can be crowded even in the slow season, but it’s worthwhile to elbow through to the railing to snap the photo all of your friends want to see.