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Photo by: Toomas Tuul

Photo by: Toomas Volmer

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City Centre – Rotermann Quarter and the modern Tallinn

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Tallinn is known for its medieval Old Town, but that’s not all the Estonian capital has to offer. Welcome to Tallinn’s modern city centre! 

With medieval churches nestled between modern highrises, Tallinn’s city centre is a place of fascinating contrasts. The area boasts a number of major landmarks, which are conveniently located a short stroll away from each other.

Freedom Square

Our modern sightseeing tour begins at Freedom Square (Vabaduse Väljak), standing right next to the Old Town. The square is a popular meeting spot, but it also offers a glimpse into the Estonian past.

On opposite sides of the square stand two of its most striking structures. St. John’s Church (Jaani kirik), built in the 1860’s, is a true survivor among the city’s churches.  Despite two attempts to tear it down during the last century it’s still standing to this day. Those interested in churches should also visit the nearby Charles XI Lutheran Church (Kaarli kirik), known for the first Estonian fresco and the country’s largest church organ. Both churches are popular concert venues. 

On the other side of the Freedom Square, the Monument to the War of Independence is reaching out to the sky, reminding us of Estonia’s rocky path to its freedom between 1918-20. The medieval cannon tower Kiek in de Kök is peeking right behind it, and on the north-western corner of the square, right next to the pharmacy, there is another chance to have a look at history: a glass panel in the street reveals the foundation and stairs of the medieval Harju Gate Tower.

Thanks to its central location, Freedom Square is full of life and passers-by, but it’s also a place for those looking for a relaxing moment on a bench or in a café. Wabadus (Freedom) Restaurant has been standing by the square since 1937. The menu of this stylish-but relaxed-restaurant is, however, modern and tasty.  

Café KuKu is a couple of years older than its neighbour, and it is the place for the artists of Tallinn. No wonder – the café is situated next to Tallinn Art Hall and two galleries: Tallinn Art Hall Gallery and Vabaduse Gallery. Modern everyday art can be admired – and purchased – at Nu Nordik, a design shop completely dedicated to Estonian design.  

Rotermann Quarter

Lined by the harbour, the Old Town and the Viru Centre shopping mall, lies the Rotermann Quarter, the official centre-point of Tallinn. Being the meeting point of three main roads, the quarter was busy as far back as the 19th century. That’s probably why an entrepreneur called Christian Abraham Rotermann found the place and founded his company there in 1829. Rotermann’s factory produced building equipment, and soon also housed a distillery, a pasta factory, and it wasn't long before Tallinn’s largest mill followed it into the neighbourhood.   

During the Soviet Era the quarter was badly dilapidated, but in 2001 it was ordered to be preserved and the planning of its renovation began. Today, the Rotermann Quarter is an architectural masterpiece mixing old and new, and it has also been given significant international awards.

The bustling quarter is filled with fashion shops, cafés, restaurants and activities ranging from beauty parlours to a cinema. Don’t forget the brand new Tallinn Design House with its diverse collection of Estonian design! Above all that, the quarter is home to many kinds of companies, such as legal offices and advertising agencies – and many people of Tallinn, as well.  

The Stalker’s Path (Stalkeri käik) is named after the famous Russian film ”Stalker” by Andrei Tarkovsky, filmed on this very spot back in 1979. The path is the latest and undoubtedly the most delicious part of the whole Rotermann Quarter. Many restaurants and cafés have recently opened in the old grain elevator, serving all kinds of delicacies for their hungry clients.   Why not pop in before a night at the Coca-Cola Plaza Cinema!   And while you’re out and about, remember to try the Kalev Chocolate Shop, filled with confections from Estonian’s major candy factory.  

Friends of architecture should also visit the Museum of Estonian Architecture, situated in the former salt storage building. Just around the corner are the Estonian Firefighting Museum and the Hotel Viru & KGB Museum, the latter offering its visitors a fascinating throwback to Soviet history not so long ago.  

Tallinn’s “Manhattan”

The quarters filled with glass-walled skyscrapers in the very centre of Tallinn are often playfully called Manhattan, though formally the name of the area is Maakri – the same name one of its streets has.

Maakri Street is the home of some excellent cafés. Apart from those with a sweet and coffee tooth, the Maakri area is also heaven for home furnishers: this the spot for some of the best furnishing shops in the city. Otherwise Tallinn’s Manhattan is mainly dominated by banks, media houses and offices of national and international companies. The empty lots are filled with new high-rise buildings, in which some Tallinn-dwellers have even found their homes. 

According to an old legend, Tallinn is a city which will never be completed. The local Manhattan proves the legend right and shows us that the city is nowadays growing also in height. 

Read more about City Centre restaurants and bars.

Tallinn areas

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