This beautiful old town is a hidden gem and a walking tour is the ideal way to enjoy this. While Estonia is technologically advanced (Did you know Skype was developed here?), the old town with cobblestone paths, historic buildings and open air markets takes you back in time!
- The cruise ship docked close to old town and a short walk brought us to the gates. SS Tip: There is free wifi at multiple spots all over Tallin (port, tourist centre, restaurants) so you can use google maps or just follow the crowd!
- The city is organized in 2 parts – Upper town and Lower town. The Upper town (also called Toompea) is situated higher up on a limestone hill and this is where the “higher class” used to stay in medieval days. To really see the height difference, head up to city’s oldest medieval structure, St Olaf’s Church. Walk up the spiral staircase (200+ steps) for some great 360 views! The two sections are connected by Short-leg Street and Long-leg street.
- We set off towards the tourist information centre from where multiple walking tours start. We went for the official free tour organized by the city and were delighted with our fun guide (She was local resident who works in tech start-up half the year and works as tourist guide rest of the time!). Refer http://www.estadventures.ee/free-old-town-walking-tour/ for timings. SS tip: In case you have time to kill before the tour, check out St Nicholas church and museum close to the centre.
- We started off the tour with Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This is a pretty cathedral and the Russian influence is quite visible. We went in for a quick look before proceeding with the tour. Another famous cathedral nearby is St Mary’s Cathedral (also called Dome Church). This is the oldest church in mainland Estonia and is quite a simple structure.
- Right opposite the cathedral is the Toompea Castle. This is now the seat of Parliament. Painted in a bright pink colour, this is easy to spot.
- Moving on, we entered the Danish King Garden. Guarded by 3 hooded statues, this little area is surrounded by medieval walls and beautiful views overlooking the old city on the other side. Various pubs have now opened shop in the walls and this is a great spot to take a break!
- We then headed to the other viewing platform Kohtuosta which offered better views of the town… The red rooftops are hard to miss!
- We walked along the city walls back listening to old tales and exploring the town… There are plenty of winding and meandering lanes so don’t lose the guide…
- We took the Short leg street (steeper path) to walk back to Lower Town..
- One of the most vibrant places in this old town was the Town Hall Square. Multiple roads end in the square bringing locals and tourist alike to this area. There are restaurants on the side and lots of pop-up stores in the centre.
- One key attraction is the old Town Hall Pharmacy which has been there since 15th century. While it is an operational pharmacy, check out the back room which is like a mini museum. Key items on sale include a love potion!
- If you have some more time, you can explore the Maritime museum or Tallinn museum called, Kiek in de Kök (means Peep in the Kitchen, as tower’s guards could look into the kitchens of nearby houses!) Other sights outside old town include Freedom Square or KGB Museum!
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