Stop the boat: The best way to spend a day in Tallinn
Tallinn is one of Europe’s finest medieval cities, and a favourite stop off point for cruise ships in the area. Read on to discover some of the highlights awaiting you if you find yourself disembarking for a day in Tallinn.
Did you know that if you’re taking a cruise and approaching Tallinn from the sea, you’re participating in a seafaring tradition that stretches back throughout the city’s 1,000 year history?
For its entire history the Estonian capital has been a powerhouse of water-based trade. Nowadays the city is still enormously popular with ships visiting the region – although these days the cargo of these ships is likely to be tourists looking forward to enjoying the many highlights of the intoxicating city.
If you find yourself in the port city for a day you’ll be hard-pressed to fit in all the great sights and sounds of the city. However, there are a few must-sees that’ll be sure to make your brief stay in Tallinn memorable. If you’re on a tight schedule we’ve picked out the best way to spend your day:
The Old Town
The fairy-tale, medieval charm of Tallinn‘s famous Old Town is the city’s main draw and if you’re short on time then this is the place to spend most of your day. Perched atop Toompea Hill, around the narrow cobbled streets you’ll find the breathtaking sights which led to this area of Tallinn being put on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The jumbled labyrinth of twisting cobbled streets and lanes was built between the 13th and 16th century when Tallinn was a thriving trading town. The Old Town doesn’t take up a lot of space but you’ll find it easy to spend a considerable time in the area as it’s packed with great sights, intriguing architecture and historically significant locations.
Head to the Old Town straight off your cruise ship and look out for the following highlights:
- Cathedral of St Mary the Virgin: At the centre of the Old Town is this beautiful medieval cathedral, more commonly referred to as the “Dome Church”.
- Estonian History Museum: Learn about the history of Estonia in this grand museum, tracing the story of the country back as far as prehistoric times.
- Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret Tower: These imposing defensive structures were built to both protect Tallinn from attack, and impress visitors to the city. When you see the grand buildings you’ll realise how successful they are in the latter!
- St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral: Estonia’s main Russian Orthodox cathedral is a symbol of opulence and grandeur, topped with glorious domes and full of exquisite mosaics and icons.
- St Olav’s Church and Tower: From the mid-16th to early-17th century this building was the tallest in the world. Although a series of fires mean that the current tower is smaller than those past structures, climbing to the top still reveals some of the best views of Tallinn available.
- Toompea Castle: This impressive medieval location has been the Estonian seat of power since it was first built in the 13th century. Now the thick stone walls house the national parliament.
Stopping for lunch
The Old Town has no shortage of fantastic places to eat during your stay and picking the best spot to enjoy lunch can be a tricky prospect. Here are a couple of our favourite places.
If you’ve worked up a thirst during your exploration of the sights of Tallinn then Beer House could be a good choice. The restaurant also runs a brewery serving seven types of non-filtered, unpasteurized beers.
If the history of the Old Town has inspired you to delve into the medieval past of Tallinn, why not explore some of the culinary past at Olde Hansa? The restaurant offers medieval feasts in the stylised home of a merchant from the period. The food, décor and atmosphere are all great fun.