The heart of Tallinn is undoubtedly the beautiful medieval old town, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Whether it’s the historic buildings, exciting museums or the beautiful streets that capture the essence of the past, this perfectly preserved area offers visitors plenty to discover.
Read more about the places you need to see in Tallinn Old Town.
Niguliste Museum and Steeple
When entering the Old Town via Harju Street, you’ll soon catch sight of a grand church. This is the Niguliste Museum – a medieval art museum located in a former church from the 13th century. The Niguliste Museum has some of the most important examples of medieval art in Estonia – Bernt Notke’s Danse Macabre and late medieval retablos from North Germany and the Netherlands. The church’s newest attraction is a steeple with an amazing view accessible via a comfortable glass lift. The steeple offers views of the entire Old Town, so it’s the perfect place to get a complete overview of Tallinn’s historic centre.
Town Hall Square – Town Hall Pharmacy and Town Hall Tower
When entering the Old Town via Harju or Viru Street, you’ll soon reach the heart of Tallinn Old Town – the Town Hall Square. For centuries, the square was the location of the town market. Now it is surrounded by restaurants, cafes and shops. The most important building on the square is the Tallinn Town Hall from the 13th century, which also happens to be the oldest town hall in Northern Europe. During the summer season, the Town Hall is open to visitors every day. From autumn to spring, it requires a reservation. The Town Hall Tower can be visited separately. From its top, you can enjoy the Old Town in its full glory. The Town Hall Square is home to another extraordinarily old building – the Town Hall Pharmacy with its 600 years of history is considered the oldest continuously operational pharmacy in Europe.
Toompea and its Observation Decks
The Old Town is made up of two sections – the Lower Old Town and Toompea Hill. During the Middle Ages, the former was the centre for German-descent merchants and craftsmen. Toompea was where the noblemen lived and ruled from. Toompea is to this day connected to ruling the country. It is the location of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) and the Estonian Government. The Patkuli, Piiskopi and Kohtuotsa viewing platforms in Toompea offer amazing views of both the Old Town and Northern Tallinn.
Kiek in de Kök Fortification Museum
If you only have time to visit one museum in the Old Town, Kiek in de Kök is a great option. Four city wall towers make up the museum: Kiek in de Kök, the Maiden’s Tower (Neitsitorn), Stable Tower (Tallitorn) and Short-Leg (Lühiksese jala) Gate Tower. Each tower tells its own story and together they give a good overview of Tallinn’s history. The main attraction of the museum is the Bastion Underground Passages – defensive tunnels built during the 17th-18th century and were in use until the 20th century. The expedition through the Bastion Underground Passages introduces the history of the defensive structure and the most important military events up until the end of the 20th century. It’s also the location of a vast collection of carved stones.
Old Town’s Hidden Treasures – St Catherine's Passage and Masters' Courtyard
Some of the most beautiful locations in Tallinn Old Town are hidden among the larger historic streets. The beautiful Masters' Courtyard is accessible from Vene Street through a small alcove path. The courtyard is home to several craftsmen and the beloved Chocolaterie cafe. Walking a few steps further along Vene Street, you’ll reach the historic St Catherine’s Passage. This small street has perfectly maintained its medieval atmosphere and can make you feel like you’ve travelled back in time. St Catherine’s Passage got its name from St Catherine’s Church built more than 700 years ago. The small street is also the location of St Catherine’s Guild, which unites eight studios and fourteen female artists.