I’ve been anticipating my arrival in the Baltic states for months, I’d heard that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were steeped in history, dripping with culture and that their cities were full of the most amazing architecture, and my first stop in Tallinn, Estonia certainly fulfilled my expectations.
The entire Old Town in Tallinn is a UNESCO world heritage sight which is a grand claim indeed, but as soon as you set eyes on the 14th century spires popping up from every corner you can quickly see why. I couldn’t wait to explore the place.
My first day, I popped into tourist information and they told me that there was a free 2 hour walking tour around the city every day, you just show up and go, it takes in all the main sites and it gives you a great grasp of the city, so I whacked in in my itinerary and showed up the next day.
The walking tour is quite leisurely but it probably amounts to 3 or 4km so keep the flipflops in your backpack for this one. Here are the highlights of the tour, and of Tallinn:
The Walls and Gates Throughout the City:
The Old Town still has it’s walls and gates largely intact, you’ll see them at every turn and they never fail to impress. The Great Coast Gate and Pikk Jaig Gate Tower are two of the best kept sections.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral:
I spent a long time in Russia coming across the Trans Siberian Railroad, but Russian Orthodx churches never fail to leave their mark. This huge cathedral can be seen dotted on every skyline photo, they light it up in the evening for an even more breathtaking scene, really cool. You can go inside but it’s nothing too special actually.
Town Hall and Raekoja Plats:
You’ll think you’re back in the medieval times here, aside from the free WiFi and fake Raybans. Europe’s only remaining Gothic town hall over looks Tallinn’s old square, you can climb the tower in the town hall for city views (but there are better views coming, so don’t bother!).
Town Council Pharmacy:
This is more of a quirky site, but in the town square is the world’s oldest apothecary or pharmacy, still in use now.
Holy Spirit Church:
Still in the square, check out the Holy Spirit Church, another great photo opp. Costs around $2 to get in, I’d give that a miss, it’s just a church inside!
St Olaf’s Church:
Tallinn’s most iconic church and worth the $3 entrance for that alone. It’s huge, it’s old and it’s awesome.
If these old Eastern European cities conjure images of cobbled streets and archways then make a beeline to Katarina Kaik and fill your boots. There are a million and one (overpriced) cafes in the area too so sit back and soak it up.
If you take the Tallinn walking tour, which I’d definitely recommend, give yourself the rest of the day to catch up on the sites. The tour doesn’t give you time to enter, and walk around, the places so use the tour so show the highlights then go and re-explore yourself. Happy travels!