City Orientation Walk (Self Guided), Tallinn

Tallinn is the largest city and the capital of Estonia. A great city with a great history, Tallinn is visited every year by a huge number of tourists. This orientation walk offers the most popular attractions that you should take into consideration when visiting Tallinn.
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City Orientation Walk Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walk
Guide Location: Estonia » Tallinn (See other walking tours in Tallinn)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 16
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 km
Author: kane
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Town Hall Square

1) Town Hall Square (must see)

Town Hall Square is located in the heart of downtown Tallinn, Estonia, adjacent to Tallinn Town Hall. It is most prominently known as a gathering place for the locals, as many wonderful festivals and concerts are held here each year.

The main purpose of the location, though, is as a commercial marketplace for many vendors in town. This is a good place to come on market days to find deals on local foods, cheeses, baked goods, and the like. During festival times, such as Christmas, the place is alive with fun and entertainment. In fact, the local community places a large Christmas tree in the middle of Town Square each season. It is something to behold.

In older days, however, the Town Hall Square was not such a happy place. It used to be used as the place where executions were carried out. So, it is highly fitting that the place has a happier appeal in current times.

In the immediate vicinity of the Square, though, are some great bars and restaurants that add to the night life of Tallinn, so you may want to check out those locations while visiting.
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Holy Spirit Church (Puhavaimu Kirik)

2) Holy Spirit Church (Puhavaimu Kirik) (must see)

There is a lot of historicity associated with the Holy Spirit Church of Tallinn. In 1531, they became the very first church to hold regular worship services in Estonian. The pastor at the time was Johann Koell, who also happens to be the person who authored the oldest surviving book known that was written in Estonian. With the assistance of Pastor Simon Wanradt from the St. Nicholas Church, they compiled a short catechism for the people in German and Estonian. It was published circa 1535.

Pastor Balthasar Russow of the Holy Spirit Church is another famous author/clergyperson from the organization. He wrote a history book on the countries of Estonia and Livonia, as well as the war that happened between both countries in the 16th Century.

The building dates back to the 1200s, which also served as an almshouse church and chapel for the magistrate of Tallinn. From an architectural perspective, the locals call the church the museum of styles, because the sanctuary and altar have artifacts from the medieval, Baroque, and Renaissance periods. You will also want to see the woodcarvings on the balcony that were done by Elert Thiele, as well as the arch and pews. The work is exquisite. The church bell here is also the oldest surviving in the country, dating back to 1433.

The church holds services in English, every Sunday at 3.00 p.m.
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Tallinn City Museum (Tallinna Linnamuuseum)

3) Tallinn City Museum (Tallinna Linnamuuseum) (must see)

The Tallinn City Museum is a parent organization for nine different museums across the city of Tallinn, Estonia. The main campus is located in the central portion of the Old Town. Besides the main campus, there are the following group of museums in the whole complex: Kiek in de Kok and Bastion Passages, the Photo Museum, Emperor Peter I House Museum, St. John’s Almshouse, A.H. Tammsaare Museum, the Eduard Vidle House, the Children’s Museum of Tallinn, and finally the Miia-Milla-Manda Children’s Museum

The main campus is housed in a building that dates all the way back to the 1300’s. It is a good representation of what dwellings were like in the Medieval days, which its lancet arched portal and double windows display so well. The building was owned by many famous merchants and politicians over the years. In 1963, the location was changed into the main campus for the Tallinn City Museum. Renovations were completed in 2000.

The permanent collections on display here are designed to give the viewer a good history of the old city, beginning with the conception of the town and ending with the Independence movement for the country of Estonia in 1991. In 2003 the Tallinn City Museum was nominated for European Museum of the Year Award.

There is a small café located in the museum, and a gift shop, where you can stop and have a bite to eat after visiting the main campus. (1 October – 30 April)Tue: 10.00–20.00; Wed–Sat: 10.00–17.00; Sun: 10.00–16.00;(1 May – 30 September) Mon–Sun: 10.00–18.00.
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St. Nicholas' Orthodox Church

4) St. Nicholas' Orthodox Church

St. Nicholas' Orthodox Church is a gorgeous, neoclassical church located on Vene street. Built in the middle of 19th century, the building hosts the much treasured iconostasis, 16th-century icons, and many other objects of artistic value. Inside the Church there are brochures, postcards, souvenirs, and religious books available for sale.
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Estonian Maritime Museum (Eesti Meremuuseum)

5) Estonian Maritime Museum (Eesti Meremuuseum) (must see)

The Estonian Maritime Museum is a very popular tourist attraction in Tallinn. It has been built inside a very historic tower that is called the Fat Margaret by the locals. The institution puts on display the history of the ships of Estonia, as well as related information on what sea life was like on the Baltic. The location extended down to Seaplane Harbour where there are nine old ships on display.

The Fat Margaret tower itself was built from 1511 to 1530, during the reconstruction of the medieval city gate system. The name of the structure derives from the fact that it was built to show off how impressively the fortifications and walls of the city were constructed. The structure is very thick here. It was also a defensive location for the city. If you add in the Great Coastal Gates towers, you have the three tiered defense structure for the coastal defense of the town. During its history, though, it also served as a place to store gun powder, as well as also being used as a prison for a bit. It was taken out of commission in 1917, during the Communist Revolution.

On the inside, there are old tools on display here, as well as other Maritime objects. Some of the old objects here were original bone tools made before the time of Christ. So, you will not want to miss them. The museum is open to the general public on Monday-Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
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Great Coastal Gate (Suur Rannavärav) and Fat Margaret's Tower (Paks Margareeta)

6) Great Coastal Gate (Suur Rannavärav) and Fat Margaret's Tower (Paks Margareeta)

If you take a trip down to the sea along Pikk Street in Tallinn, Estonia, you will find two of the remaining 26 defensive towers for the city. They are the Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret Tower. They were designed to protect the city from seafaring invaders, as well as impress visitors that would have arrived in the city by the sea. The message they portrayed was clear: don’t even think about attacking the city from the sea.

The Great Coastal Gate is one of six remaining gates that are still intact from the old city wall system. They controlled access to the city during medieval times. This particular gate was added during the 14th Century. Fat Margaret Tower was added during the 16th Century, while improvements were being made to the fortifications. It was built from 1511 until 1530, and rose 25 meters above the surrounding area. This particular coastal Gate and tower have walls that are actually a little thicker than most of the surrounding structures. They measure up to 5 meters thick. (The average thickness of the city walls is 3 meters.)

The origins of Fat Margaret's name are not well known. The best conjecture is that the tower was named for one of its larger cannons, while others hint at a cook called Margaret who once cooked for the troops that stood guard.

In today’s times, the Estonian Maritime Museum is located in the Fat Margaret Tower. Visitors should take a moment and climb to the top of the tower to get one of the best views in town.
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St. Olav's Church (Oleviste Kirik)

7) St. Olav's Church (Oleviste Kirik) (must see)

St. Olav’s Church is one of the oldest churches in the city of Tallinn, Estonia. It was built sometime during the 1100s, and has been the center for religious life for the Scandinavian community of the city since. Many of the people that attend here can trace their heritage back to when Denmark conquered Tallinn in 1219. The church is dedicated to King Olaf II of Norway though. The oldest surviving records that refer to the church are from 1267.

On a different note, there is also an old legend that the builder of the church, who was also named Olaf, fell to his death from the towers of the church, so that adds some mystery to this place. There is a painting depicting the event in the Chapel.

Sadly, the building was damaged during the 1300s, and had to be heavily rebuilt. In the 1500s, the tower of the chapel was raised to 159 meters in the air. It has been struck by lightning many times, but really has a utilitarian function: it is a seaside landmark for naval vessels. From 1549 until 1625, when the tower was burned from a lightning strike, it was the tallest structure in the known world.

During the Soviet era, and until 1991, the KGB used the church’s spire as a radio tower and surveillance point. Since that time, the building now houses a Baptist church.

The tower's viewing platform offers tourists one of the best views of Tallinn, and is open to the public from April through November of each year. It is closed during the winter months due to weather.
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The Estonian Museum of Natural History (Loodusmuuseum)

8) The Estonian Museum of Natural History (Loodusmuuseum)

The location has been designed to make the viewer aware of the abundance of plant and animal life in the Tallinn area. So, they have literally stuffed three stories of the building with taxidermy of every kind of animal from the area, as well as dried specimens of the most popular plant life. The largest single fish ever caught in the Baltic is also on display here, and is the mascot of the museum.

The museum was founded in 1841 by a group of naturalists who belonged to the Estonian Literary Soceity. In 1864, it was renamed the Provincial Museum. The People’s Commissars of the Estonia SSR officially started the museum and gave the first money. Eerik-Madis Kumari was the first staff member and acting director. The institution managed to amass close to 100,000 geological, botanical, and zoological specimens through the years. Sadly, the museum was damaged by bombing in 1942. It was restarted after the war, but was limited in its ability to display the true history of Estonia by Communist law. After Estonia gained independence in 1991, the museum was again upgraded.

The museum is open on Monday-Wednesday; Friday-Sunday: 10 am- 5 pm; Thursday: 10 am- 7 pm.
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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

9) Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (must see)

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral in the Tallinn Old Town. It was built to a design by Mikhail Preobrazhensky in a typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Tallinn's largest and grandest orthodox cupola cathedral. It is dedicated to Saint Alexander Nevsky who in 1242 won the Battle of the Ice on Lake Peipus, in the territorial waters of present-day Estonia. The late Russian patriarch, Alexis II, started his priestly ministry in the church.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral crowns the hill of Toompea which is one of several places where according to legend the Estonian folk hero Kalevipoeg's father Kalev is said to have been buried. The cathedral was built during the period of late 19th century Russification and was so disliked by many Estonians as a symbol of oppression that the Estonian authorities scheduled the cathedral for demolition in 1924, but the decision was never implemented due to lack of funds and the building's massive construction. As the USSR was officially non-religious, many churches including this cathedral were left to decline. The church has been meticulously restored since Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
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Toompea

10) Toompea

Toompea is a hill in Tallinn. The first wooden castle on the hill was built in the 11th century. Nowadays on the hill are located some of the most famous structures in Tallinn and among them is the Estonian Government and Parliament buildings.
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Pikk Hermann (Tall Hermann Tower)

11) Pikk Hermann (Tall Hermann Tower) (must see)

This location is called Pikk Hermann or the Tall Hermann Tower. It is located at Toompea Castle in Tallinn, Estonia, on the hill that carries the same name. It is situated next to the Estonian Parliament building. The flag of Estonia always flies here on the tower, which reaches up 95 meters into the air at the top of the flag pole. The original structure was begun in 1360, and ended up taking a whopping 40 years to complete. Later, the height of the tower was increased to 45 meters in the 16th Century.

The tower itself consists of ten floors, along with a viewing platform. A total of 215 stairs were added to allow access to all floors, including the viewing platform. During the raising of the flag of Estonia here each day, you can hear the National Anthem played. This typically happens at sunrise, but never occurs earlier than 7:00 a.m. The same event takes places around 10:00 p.m. each evening. The song played is called “My Fatherland is My Love.” So, you get a real chance to see a bit of local patriotism here at the Tall Hermann Tower. It is also fun to go and see the local Parliament Building next door.
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Kiek in de Kök

12) Kiek in de Kök (must see)

The phrase “Kiek in de Kok” derives from German. It’s an old nickname for towers that are part of some fortified structure. Occupants of the tower used to be able to peek down into the kitchens of nearby homes. In the case of the tower located in Tallinn, it is an old artillery tower.

It was built as part of the impressive fortifications that used to surround the town. This particular tower was added in 1475. It stands an impressive 38 meters high, and is made with walls that are 4 meters thick, which were designed to stand up against canon fire. If you take a look at this structure, you can still see old cannon balls that are embedded into the walls of the tower that date all the way back to the 16th Century.

The old tower has been remodeled a lot during its lifetime. In the 17th Century, some of the lower floors were buried in dirt, and new gun holes were made in the top of the tower. The structure fell out of use by 1760. For a while, it became a repository for archives, and was used for a small time for apartments. You can climb the tower today, though, to get a great view of the city surrounding.
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Charles XI’s Church (Kaarli Church)

13) Charles XI’s Church (Kaarli Church)

The Charles XI’s Church is one of the grand things to see in downtown Tallinn, Estonia. It is an immense building, sporting twin steeples and a neo-Roman style of architecture. You can see the building from all over town.

It was built over a twenty year period that ended in 1882. The location was a replacement church for the original Kaarli Church of 1670. The original was a wooden church which burned during the Great Northern War in the early 1700s.

The architect for the project was the famous Otto Pius Hippius, who was from St. Petersburg. He designed the present limestone rock church using a special arch technique that gave it have a vast, open interior.

Because of the soft nature of limestone used in construction, as well as the vast open space of the sanctuary, there are wonderful acoustics in this old church. Add a seating capacity of 1,500, and you have the making of a venue for choral concerts, and that in fact is the case here.

The Kaarli Church is home to the first Estonian fresco ever painted. It is called, “Come to Me,” and was done in 1879 by the famous Estonian artist Johann Köler. It also boasts the country's largest church organ, installed in 1924. It is open to the public for visitation Monday- Wednesday, Friday on 10a.m-15 p.m, Tuesday 1 p.m-6.30 p.m ;Sunday 9am -12 p.m
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Rios Art Gallery

14) Rios Art Gallery

Rios Art Gallery features a wide range of paintings, prints, and drawings. The vast majority of the artwork presented here is created by native Estonian artists. Rios Art Gallery is highly recommended, as it exhibits a huge variety of styles.

Hours: Tuesday to Friday 11-18:00
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Tallinn Art Hall and Gallery (Tallinna Kunstihoone)

15) Tallinn Art Hall and Gallery (Tallinna Kunstihoone)

The Tallinn Art Hall and Gallery is situated in a magnificent 1930s building at Vabaduse square. Here you will find some of the bravest and most avant-garde temporary exhibitions, presented by both Estonian and foreign artists.

The Gallery is open on Wednesday-Sunday: 12 pm- 7 pm.
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Freedom Square

16) Freedom Square (must see)

Freedom Square was built to commemorate the soldiers who were killed during the Estonian War of Independence. This war was part of the Russian Civil War that occurred between WWI and WWII. The war actually took place from November 1918 through February of 1920. During the struggle, 4,000 people were killed and another 14,000 were wounded.

The actual idea for a tribute started in 1939, but Estonia was swept into WWII shortly after the independence was declared. They were again occupied and it wasn’t until 1991 that the country was again independent. During the Russian occupation, this plaza was called Victory Square. This beautiful area has been redesigned to reflect the freedom of the Estonian people and to pay tribute to its fallen citizens.

On the west side of the square is the Victory Column. It was completed and opened in June 2009. The column is surrounded by 143 plates of glass and is topped by the Cross of Liberty. This represents Estonia’s distinguished award during the War of Independence. On the east side of the square is the lovely St. John’s church. It is located in the Old Town portion of Tallinn and really deserves a visit while in Estonia.

Walking Tours in Tallinn, Estonia

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Tallinn is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
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