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About Estonia » Tallinn


Some facts: Tallinn is the capital and the biggest city and seaport of Estonia. Tallinn is situated in the northen part of Estonia, on the coast of Finland gulf. The population of Tallinn is about 400 000 – Estonians 53.7%, Russians 36.5%, Ukrainians 3.7%, Belorussians 2.0%, other 4.1%. Distance from Tallinn to Helsinki is 85km, to Riga 307km, to St.Petersburg 395km, to Stockholm 405km.
History: The southern coast of the Gulf of Finland is thought to have been settled by Finnic-speaking tribes already in the 2nd millennium BC. In 1154 Tallinn was marked on the world map of the Arab cartographer al-Idrisi. As an important port for trade between Russia and Scandinavia, it became a target for the expansion of the Teutonic Knights and Kingdom of Denmark during the period of Northern Crusades in the beginning of the 13th century when Christianity was forcibly imposed on the local population. Danish rule of Tallinn and Northern Estonia started in 1219.
In 1285 the city became the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League - a mercantile and military alliance of German-dominated cities in Northern Europe. The Danes sold Tallinn along with their other land possessions in northern Estonia to the Teutonic Order in 1345. Medieval Tallinn enjoyed a strategic position at the crossroads of trade between Western and Northern Europe and Russia. St. Olav's Church (Oleviste kirik), once the tallest in the world, is still the tallest building in Tallinn. At the end of the 15th century a new 159 m high Gothic spire was built for St. Olav's Church. Between 1549 and 1625 it was the tallest building in the world. After several fires and following rebuilding, its overall height is now 123 m. With the start of the reformation the German influence became even stronger. In 1561 Tallinn became a dominion of Sweden. During the Great Northern War the Swedish troops based in Tallinn capitulated to Imperial Russia in 1710, but the local Baltic German rulers retained their cultural and economical autonomy within Tsarist Russia. The 19th century brought industrialization of the city and the port kept its importance. During the last decades of the century Russification became stronger. On 24 February 1918 the Independence Manifesto was proclaimed in Tallinn, followed by German occupation and a war of independence with Russia. Tallinn became the capital. During World War II Estonia was first occupied by the USSR in 1940-41, by Nazi Germany in 1941-44, and then again by the USSR in 1944. As Estonia was forcibly annexed into the Soviet Union, Tallinn became the capital of the Estonian SSR. During the 1980 Summer Olympics a regatta was held at Pirita, north-east of central Tallinn. In August 1991 an independent democratic Estonian state was re-established and a period of quick development to a modern European capital ensued. The Tallinn Old Town became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1997.
Town: The Old Town is a compact maze of cobblestone streets, historical buildings and great views and has a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Many of the old buildings have been renovated, but generally speaking in quite a good way. The Old Town is easy to cover on foot. Start near the Townhouse square (Raekoja Plats), head your way up to the Pikk Jalg, to the Castle Square. On Castle Hill you find Toompea Castle and the 19th-century symbol of the Tsar's power in Estonia, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. To fully get a grip on medieval Tallinn, you might consider walking around the walls and fortifications. The city used to have 66 towers (!) of which 19 remain. Some are restaurants or shops, others are offices. The three oldest towers, Nunna, Sauna and Kuldjala, can be visited in summer. Tallinn is full of museums, covering a range of fields from history and nature to art and architecture. For art lovers, museums show a range of established artists, but the city's art scene is also alive with constantly changing exhibits in galleries and halls. Paintings, sculpture, graphic art and applied art by lesser-known names and new talent from Estonia and abroad are shown in many venues throughout the city, giving a better taste of what's happening now.
What to see: Dominician monastery. One of Tallinn's oldest existing buildings is this monastery founded 1246. The part of the monastery administered by the museum includes the courtyard and surrounding passageways, where fascinating 15th- and 16th-century stone carvings are on display. To see the inner rooms, visit the Claustrum, listed next. Open from May 15th through the summer, other times only for groups.
St. Olaf‘s Church. St. Olaf's 124m spire is a Tallinn landmark, and some say that it was once the tallest building in Europe. The church took its name from the canonised Norwegian king, Olav Havaldsson. The first mention of the church dates to 1267, but the interior dates to 1840 and reflects that era's Historicist bent.
Town Hall Square. As a medieval market and a modern meeting place, Town Hall Square, has been the heart of city life for eight centuries. With the Town Hall at your back, you can survey some of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture in Tallinn. Hunt for a circular stone in the centre of the square marked with a compass rose. From here, if you stretch, you can see the tops Tallinn's five most famous spires.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Toompea's dominating landmark is the Russian Orthodox cathedral named for the duke who attacked southeastern Estonia and Pskov in the early 13th century. Tsar Alexander III ordered the cathedral designed in 1894 by St. Petersburg master Mikhail Preobrazhensky and it was completed in 1900. According to legend, the cathedral was built on the grave of Estonian hero Kalevipoeg and has suffered structurally as a result.
Accommodation: Tallinn’s hospitality industry has undergone an explosion in the last five years, with several major new hotels like Radisson SAS and the Best Western Hotel Tallink coming on line, and older players like the Sokos Hotel Viru being revamped and expanded. The latest investment trend nowadays seems to be in the high-end, Old Town boutique hotels, but more frugal visitors will find options as well, including a few new Old Town hostels and apartment rentals in these listings. Prices listed below include VAT and breakfast unless otherwise indicated.