Tallinn is old, very old, and its old town is probably one of the best preserved medieval points in Europe offering fantastic Hanseatic architecture and an amalgamation of Russian, Swedish and Danish influences from over the centuries. Modern-day Tallinn is a sort of Silicon Valley for emerging tech companies in Europe and beyond due to its world-renowned WiFi capabilities and lower costs for rent and labor. In fact, both Hotmail and Skype were started here. But, for those interested in pure history, old town is where you will want to begin.
We suggest taking a walking tour of old town, this can be done through a privately hired local guide. If you’re with children the Vana Toomas, a fun and blue “Thomas the Train” trolley, can take you around. For those who just want to explore, walking it alone is just as easy. The compact area of old town offers medieval churches, restored merchant homes, barns and warehouses. Many of the stone and wooden buildings date back to the 11th century – which is very impressive.
Walking through old town you will see sights like the town hall square, the Raeapteek Pharmacy (Europe’s oldest continually working pharmacy), Viru gates (which are near one of the only left-standing original stone watch towers of the fortified walls that once surrounded the city), St. Olaf’s Church, Aleksand Nevsky Cathedral and Toompea Castle. Each impressive structure has a reason for being built and a reason for still standing today. The wonderfully hilly walk through town will mesmerize you.
While in old town, don’t forget to stop-in at one of the many cafes or restaurants that line the streets. Estonian cuisine is delicious and Estonians use only the freshest, mostly organic ingredients. If you’re lucky enough to be there during mushroom season (mid to late summer) – we recommend ordering as many dishes as possible with mushrooms.
All of old town can be seen in one day – each corner of the city calling you to the next with its beauty. But, there’s always reason to come back as just when you think you’ve seen all Tallinn has to offer, you’re surprised at just how much you’ve missed. I would return over and over again.