The Old Town in the heart of Tallinn shows its visitors the whole of the city’s history.
Tallinn Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval old towns in all of Europe. This is why it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1997. The Old Town’s medieval buildings and network of streets date mostly from the 13th-16th centuries when Tallinn (then known as Reval) was a quickly developing part of the Hanseatic League.
In addition to medieval heritage, you can find places from later periods in the Old Town that make the area seem like the chronicles of the city, containing the story of Tallinn throughout the ages.
Museums in the Old Town Show a Glimpse into the Past
The Old Town is home to several museums that give insight into the history of Tallinn and Estonia – you could get lost in them for hours! The Tallinn City Life Museum introduces the life and customs of medieval citizens of Tallinn with its exciting permanent exhibition. You can admire rare medieval art in the Niguliste Museum, and don’t forget to visit its steeple! The grandGreat Guild Hall is one of thebuildings of the Estonian History Museum. In the heart of Old Town at the Town Hall Square is Europe’s longest continuously operating pharmacy, the Town Hall Pharmacy, which has a small museum section introducing medieval medicines and treatments.
Tallinn has plenty of churches. The majority of Tallinn’s 20 churches are located in the Old Town. The views are exceptional from both the grand St. Olav’s Church steeple as well as the newly renovated Niguliste Church steeple, which can be accessed with a comfortable lift. The Church of the Holy Spirit from the 14th century is the smallest medieval church in Tallinn but it’s special for the beautiful medieval clock decorating its outer wall.
At the centre of the state’s power in Toompea is the main cathedral of the Estonian Lutheran Church – St. Mary’s Cathedral. The construction of the cathedral began in the 13th century. The church’s long history is also evidenced by the beautiful wooden epitaphs placed on the church walls, which belonged to the noble families of Estonia. If you have the opportunity, you should visit the cathedral's steeple to enjoy an amazing view of Toompea and the Lower Old Town. Toompea is also the location of the Russian Orthodox church’s Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is beautiful from the inside and outside. Even though the cathedral is in the Old Town, it’s one of the newest buildings in the area, having been built at the start of the 20th century.
As expected from the heart of a city, there are plenty of dining locations in the Old Town, with something for every taste.
Those inspired by the medieval atmosphere should set their sights on Olde Hansa, which offers medieval dishes in a period-appropriate environment – namely, the restaurant operates in a medieval trade building. If a lighter meal will do, stop by a medieval tavern named Kolmas Draakon that offers fresh pies and delicious soups.
One of the most beautiful cafes in Tallinn is located in the heart of the Old Town and bears the name Maiasmokk. Here, visitors are treated to delicious desserts as well as a beautiful interior. Opened in 1864, Maiasmokk is also Tallinn’s longest continuously operating cafe.
You can’t see and know everything by just letting your curiosity lead you around. Numerous excursions provide information about the history of Tallinn. Like in many other European cities, Tallinn offers them in various languages and on different topics, ranging from walks with a personal guide to entertaining free excursions.
But if you want to feel like a time-traveller, take part in the virtual time trip ‘VR Tallinn 1939/44’. The virtual experience made up of two separate sections takes you back to the period before World War II as well as the end of the war. Thanks to modern VR technology, you can see how Tallinn looked in the first half of the previous century and how world events affected our country.