Tallinn, Estonia provides a fascinating glance into medieval times, and into modern-day life in a former Soviet controlled country. The residents of Tallinn proudly embrace and celebrate freedom, and they cherish their medieval heritage in one of the best-preserved examples of medieval-architectured old towns anywhere.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is arguably the most fascinating attraction in Tallinn. It is a Russian Revival style Cathedral built between 1894 and 1900, a time period when Tallinn was a part of the Russian Empire. The namesake of the Cathedral, Alexander Nevsky, was victorious in the Battle of the Ice, Lake Peipus, present-day Estonia. Its signature onion domes burst up into the sky towering above all else, guiding all to witness it in all of its spectacular glory!
The Kadriorg Palace of Catherine I of Russia is a baroque masterpiece currently serving as home to the Art Museum of Estonia. Its fanciful pink pastel exterior shines brightly, providing a warm welcome to those entering the city at this popular entry point.
Tallinn has boldly risen from the ashes of Soviet dominance, and has a plethora of meticulous renovations on historic architecture as well as cutting-edge modern buildings to show for it. But head off the beaten path, down a cobbled side street, and you can catch a glimpse of the “other” Estonia – the impact that Soviet rule had on their economy and the hard work the Estonians have taken around the city to restore their urban landscape. Understandably, it will take time for these restorations to be complete. For now, the decay of some of these buildings provide important historical reminders.
From the Patkuli Viewing Platform you are afforded spectacular views over old town, into the modern district, and of the port (note the docked cruise ships here!) Tallinn’s signature red rooftops blanket the old town district.
This overlook is an ideal “first stop” before you head into Old Town, to catch an overview, and gain a perspective that includes both old and new that you cannot witness from street level. This view encompasses the spirit of the Tallinn of today – as a meticulous caretaker to history and modern metropolis all at once.
Old Town in Tallinn is a medieval history buff’s playground, with spires popping up around many corners, hilly cobbled pedestrian paths, and street musicians galore. I enjoyed the talents of more street musicians here than I have in any other city I have ever visited!
Town Hall Square is surrounded by powdery-pastel gabled buildings, brilliantly adorned with intricate details. Cafes abound here – an ideal place to enjoy the magnificent architectural surroundings and observe Tallinn residents enjoying their freedom and fulfilling their ambitions.
The Gustav Ernesaks Memorial, dedicated to the Estonian composer of the same name, is located at the Song Festival Grounds. Gustav Ernesaks is perhaps most well known for composing ‘Mu isamaa on menu arm,’ which the tourism bureau describes as “the unofficial anthem of the Estonians during the Soviet era.” (visitestonia.com) My guide explained that this location is of great sentimental importance to the Estonians because of this connection, symbolic of their independent spirit.
What better way to complete a visit to Tallinn than with a concert performed in the traditional medieval style? You can see these performers and more on my tour of Tallinn here: