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First mention

Tallinn's earliest mention in historical records dates to 1154, when Arab cartographer al-Idrisi marked it on his world map. Locals had been using this spot as a market and fishing port, but little else is known about life here during that time. Photo by: Toomas Tuul

First mention

Foreign settlement

The Danish conquest of Estonia in 1219 marks the beginning of Tallinn's history as a town. Legend holds that the national flag of Denmark originated in the pivotal battle to take Toompea hill, on the spot now called the Danish King's Garden. The shapes and colours of Tallinn's coat of arms, as well as the three lions symbol of Estonia, are derived from the period of Danish power. While the Danish crown held the land, the majority of Tallinn’s early settlers were actually ethnic Germans, who called the town Reval. Photo by: Toomas Tuul

Foreign settlement

Hanseatic town

From the 13th to the 16th century, Tallinn flourished as a member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval trade network. Salt was the main commodity that boosted the wealth of the local German merchants, who, in turn, left their mark in Tallinn’s grand architectural legacy by building remarkable structures such as the Three Sisters and the Great Guild Hall. Photo by: Toomas Tuul

Hanseatic town

Swedish time

From the mid-16th to the early 18th century, Estonia was under Swedish rule. It was the Swedes who drastically improved the town’s defences, adding ramparts and tunnel systems. Photo by: Toomas Volmer

Swedish time

Tsarist Tallinn

The time of Russian imperial rule in Tallinn lasted from 1710 until 1918. The city's beloved Kadriorg Palace and Park were established by Peter the Great at the beginning of this period. The first railway connection in the 1870s brought industrialisation and a population influx, giving rise to wooden-house neighbourhoods such as Kalamaja and Pelgulinn. Photo by: Kadi-Liis Koppel

Tsarist Tallinn

Independent Estonia

By the 1930s, Tallinn was a fast developing European capital, an international melting pot with a thriving café and cabaret culture. Building was again booming. Photo by: Toomas Volmer

Independent Estonia

Soviet period

During the period of Soviet occupation, Tallinn gained the position of a cultural metropolis that was envied throughout the USSR. Hosting the yachting events of the 1980 Summer Olympics brought Tallinn extra investment including Old Town renovation and the addition of the Tallinn TV Tower. Photo by: Tõnu Tunnel

Soviet period

Re-established independence

A wave of peaceful protests known as the Singing Revolution led to the re-establishment of Estonia’s independence in 1991. While reforming and focusing on the future, the city never forgot its rich past. In 1997, Old Town was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list as “an exceptionally complete and well-preserved medieval northern European trading city.” Photo by:

Re-established independence

New developments

Modern Tallinn is a rapidly developing, high-tech capital. To see where the city is heading in the 21st century, take a stroll through the Rotermann Quarter, the former factory complex between Old Town and the Passenger Port. The area's biggest project, the Rotermann Centre, is a trendy shopping and dining zone. Photo by: Karel Koplimets

New developments

Historical heritage