Tallinn – the capital of Estonia – lies on the southern shore of the Finnish Bay. It was established in 1154, and it is the oldest of the three Baltic capitals. In the year 2004 it will mark a great anniversary as it will have reached the venerable age of 850. Tallinn is the historical, cultural and political centre of Estonia. The Old Town is on the World Heritage List under the auspices of UNESCO (1997). It has preserved the features of a 15th century trading town, and the general look of a typical hanseatic town with period administrative buildings and dwelling houses.
Two main features of Tallinn protected its Middle Age architecture from being destroyed through the time space were its powerful defensive structures, which enabled this town to survive in wars, and its lack of wooden buildings has protected Tallinn from burning down.
When Tallinn gained membership in the Hanseatic League its powerful role spread through all Baltic Sea area, helping to rise the economic might to its maximum for defending the city and enriching its architectural face during the early 15th and mid 16th centuries.
The city as such is not very big and the best way to see it is on foot. It has a very medieval look and is a culturally very rich city and has its fair share of theatres, museums, cinemas, concert halls and libraries.
It is divided into two parts, the lower merchant town and the upper administrative town.
The lower part of town is known for the Town Hall, called Raekoja Plats, and tower, both date back to the 15th century. The upper part of town is famous for the Castle Toompea. There are also several viewing towers, which open the spectacular view of the Tallinn city.
The lower and the upper towns are connected with a few narrow cobbled streets like the Pikk Jalg (long leg).
The city is also famous for its fortifications. When Tallinn was built, it boasted of 8 gates and 48 towers. In about 20 of them, which survived until nowadays, various museums or cafeterias are housed.
There are a lot of places in Tallinn that are a must to visit. For instance, Alexander Nevsky cathedral, built in 1900 in a very Tsarist style, is known for its impressive and striking structure.
This cathedral has very colourful domes and the interiors are filled with golden icons and mosaics.
Another place of interest near Tallinn is the ruins of the Pirita Abbey. The construction of this abbey was started in 1407. It was bigger than any abbey in the whole of Estonia and was consecrated in 1435. Nowadays there are a few sections of the walls of the four buildings and the remains of a chapel base that can be observed by the tourists in this sacred place are what remain of the abbey.
Apart from all these historical wonders, like any other European city, Tallinn is also a very modern city. But no matter how modern the city gets one thing that it should never lose is its laid back charm and its fine rich heritage and architecture.