Estonia’s capital city is Tallinn (previously known as Reval from the 13th century up until 1918). Tallinn’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with good reason.
The old cobble-stone streets are filled with a mix of well-preserved medieval buildings with refurbished stores and restaurants, all surrounded by stone city walls flanked with cone-topped towers.
The great thing is that the Old Town is quite compact, meaning after a few hours of strolling down winding streets and ducking into little courtyards and doorways, you really get a good feel for the place.
The crowds might gather in the Town Hall Square for an outdoor table at lunchtime, but you’re only a small jump, skip and hop away from a quiet little corner of your own.
Numerous narrow streets with stairs, gates and arches create an attractive labyrinth with photo opportunities at every turn.
But all roads lead back to the Town Hall Square, where many guild houses now serve a variety of cuisine and Baltic Amber. The Town Hall Pharmacy is the oldest in Europe that has continually operated in the same premises; since at least 1422. You can buy your modern medicines or peek into the museum at the interesting jars of ancient remedies.
Inside one of the many towers along the winding road up Toompea Hill is the Kiek in de Kok Museum (German for “Peek in the Kitchen”). It got its name from a legend about some soldiers in the tower who would peek into the windows of the Lower Town kitchens. The museum details Tallinn’s important war events and displays various weapons that brought all kinds of pain…
There are many more tower fortifications, best seen from outside the city walls.
The most important buildings, old and new, can be found on top of Toompea Hill.
Not only are the views across the Old Town spectacular, but the fortress-like setting is pretty impressive in itself.
As our free walking tour guide told us at the start of our day:
Estonians are a proud people. They’ve been resilient when outside invaders from all sides occupied their lands. Fought hard for their independence, which was only recognised (for the second time) in 1991. And are proud of their technological prowess.
With its rich history still visible for all to see, Tallinn is a prime example of Estonia’s heritage.
We would have to agree.
Visited 15th and 16th September 2014.