Top Historic Sights in Tallinn, Estonia

Explore the historic highlights of Tallinn

Tallinn Town Hall

Tallinn Town Hall, located in the main square, is the only surviving Gothic town hall in Northern Europe. The first recorded mention of the Town Hall dates from 1322. Its present form dates from 1402-1404, when the building was rebuilt. The spire was destroyed in an aerial bombing on March 9, 1944. It was rebuilt in 1950. The Town Hall is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites with the Tallinn's Old Town. The buil ...
Founded: 1322 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

The Church of Holy Spirit

The Church of Holy Spirit is the only sacred building from 14th-century Tallinn preserved its original form. The church was originally founded as part of the neighbouring Holy Spirit Almshouse, which tended to the town's sick and elderly. Throughout Medieval times it remained the primary church of the common folk. First Estonian-language sermons were held there, and the famous Livonian chronicler Balthasar Russow worked a ...
Founded: 1319 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Great Guild Hall

Since the 14th century craftmen’s guilds were significant brotherhoods who drove interests of their members. The big guild of Tallinn was an union of wealthy merchants. Their base was the Great Guild Hall in downtown, opposite the church of Holy Spirit. The building itself was built in 1407-1410 and is a well-preserved sample of Medieval construction. Today the Great Guild Hall houses a museum presenting Estonia's hist ...
Founded: 1407-1410 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral in Tallinn. It is 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 Pe ...
Founded: 1894-1900 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St Mary's Cathedral

St Mary’s Cathedral was originally established by Danes on 13th century and it is the oldest church in Tallinn and mainland Estonia. It is also the only building in Toompea which survived a 17th century fire. The first church was made of wood and built there most likely already in 1219 when the Danes invaded Tallinn. In 1229 when the Dominican monks arrived, they started building a stone church replacing the old wooden ...
Founded: 1229 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas' Church (Niguliste kirik) is a medieval church in Tallinn. The church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron of the fishermen and sailors. It was founded and built around 1230-1275 by Westphalian merchants, who came from Gotland in the 13th century. While the city was still unfortified, the church had heavy bars for closing the entrances, loopholes and hiding places for refugees. When the fortificatio ...
Founded: 1230-1270 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads

The House of Black Heads (Estonian Mustpeade maja) is a Renaissance-style building in Tallinn old town. The building's name is derived from its developers, the Brotherhood of Black Heads which was the guild of foreign unmarried merchants. The Brotherhood was founded sometime around 1399 and was active in Estonia and Latvia. A 14th-century residential building probably occupied this site when the Black Heads bought ...
Founded: 1597 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Swedish St. Michael's Church

This small church on Rüütli street has been the spiritual home for generations of Estonian Swedes, an ethnic group that's been present in Tallinn since the Middle Ages. The location had originally been an almshouse for the city's poor, but in 1733 the tsarist government gave it to the Swedish congregation, which been left without its own church since the Great Northern War. During Soviet times the building was converte ...
Founded: 1733 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Dominican Monastery

The Dominican monastery was founded in 1246 and it is the oldest one in the medieval old town. The center of monastery was St. Catherine's Church, which was completed in the late 1300s and was the largest church building in the lower town. The Monastery was expanded several times, most recently in the 16th century. St. Catherine's convent closed down in 1525, when the monks were expelled from Tallinn during the R ...
Founded: 1246 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Kiek in de Kök

Kiek in de Kök is an artillery tower built between 1475 and 1483. It is 38 m high and has walls 4 m thick. Cannon balls dating back to 1577 are still embedded in its outer walls. Compared to the other Tallinn towers Kiek in de Kök was predominant in its fire power, due to its 27 embrasures for cannons and 30 for handguns Kiek in de Kök (low German Peep into the Kitchen ) is an old German language nicknam ...
Founded: 1475-1483 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn City Museum

The building of the City Museum dates from the 14th century. The oldest record in the real estate register dates from 1363. The permanent exhibition provides an overlook of Tallinn’s history through centuries – beginning with prehistory and ending with Estonia’s regaining of independence in 1991. Various sectors of medieval society are explained using a combination of texts, artefacts, life-sized models and sound e ...
Founded: 1363 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. Olaf's Church

St. Olaf’s Church (Oleviste kirik) is believed to have been built in the 12th century and to have been the centre for old Tallinn's Scandinavian community prior to the conquest of Tallinn by Denmark in 1219. Its dedication relates to King Olaf II of Norway (a.k.a. Saint Olaf, 995-1030). The first known written records referring to the church date back to 1267, and it was extensively rebuilt during the 14th century. ...
Founded: 1267 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Toompea Castle

Toompea Castle is situated on the steep limestone hill in the central part of Tallinn. The first wooden castle is believed to have been built on the hill in either the 10th or 11th century by residents of the ancient Estonian county of Rävala. It was probably one of the first inhabited areas of what later became Tallinn. In 1219, the castle was taken over by Danish crusaders - led by Valdemar II. According to a legen ...
Founded: 13-14th century | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

The church, with its twin bell towers and copper dome, was designed by St. Petersburg court architect Luigi Rusca and built in 1820-27. The main iconostasis is from the 19th century and the older ones in aisles from the turn of 17th and 18th centuries. Today the church is used by the Russian Orthodox Parish of Tallinn.
Founded: 1820-1827 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Pikk Hermann

Pikk Hermann (Tall Hermann) is a tower of the Toompea Castle. The first part was built 1360-70. It was rebuilt (height brought to 45,6 m) in the 16th century. A staircase with 215 steps leads to the top of the tower. Pikk Hermann tower is situated next to the Estonian Parliament building and the flag on the top of the tower at 95 metres above sea level is one of the symbols of the government in force. The national flag, ...
Founded: 1360-1370 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Freedom Square

The Freedom Square ("Vabaduse väljak") is the main square of Tallinn and also the site of the War of Independence Victory Column. The square has had several names during history. The five-meter monument to Peter the Great was erected there by the Russian empire in 1910 and the square was named after him. After the Estonian independence in 1922 the statue was melted and recycled and the square named as the Freedom S ...
Founded: 1910 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Estonian Maritime Museum

Estonian Maritime Museum (founded 1935) is located in the cannon tower, Paks Margareeta (Fat Margaret), forming a part of medieval defence system. The exposition on the history of Estonian maritime - ship- and boat building, ports, navigational aids on the ships, lighthouses – is displayed on the four floors of the museum. In addition to the main exposition the exchangeable exhibitions take place on the ground floo ...
Founded: 1935 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Patarei Prison

In 1828 Nicholas I of Russia mandated the building of the sea fortress of Patarei. Completed in 1840, it is located on area of 4 hectares (10 acres). Over the years it has had different functions. Since 1867 Patarei functioned as barracks and in 1920 it was moved as a prison. It housed inmates until 2004, and has been left virtually untouched since. Visitors can explore the hallways to see cells, work areas, exercise yard ...
Founded: 1828-1840 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Kadriorg Palace

Catherinethal ("Catherine's valley") is a Petrine Baroque palace of Catherine I of Russia in Tallinn. It was built after the Great Northern War to Nicola Michetti's designs by Gaetano Chiaveri and Mikhail Zemtsov. In the 20th century the Estonian version of the name, Kadriorg, gained currency and came to be applied to the surrounding district. After the successful siege of Reval in 1710 Peter the Great of Russia b ...
Founded: 1718 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn Song Festival Grounds

The Tallinn Song Stage (Lauluväljak) was built in 1959 for the Estonian Song Festival. The stage was meant to hold over 15,000 singers but it’s also possible to use it the other way – the performance will take place in front of the stage and audience is sitting on the stage. The stage was the main places of the Estonian revolution and new independence in 1988-1991. Estonians gathered there to sing patrio ...
Founded: 1959 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Kaarli Church

The Kaarli Church (or Charles XI’s Church) was built between 1862-1882 to replace the original Kaarli Church, itself founded in 1670 on the order of Sweden's King Charles XI. Like many wooden structures located outside the city wall, the first Kaarli Church burned down during the Great Northern War in the early 1700s. Architect Otto Pius Hippius from St. Petersburg built the present limestone church using a spe ...
Founded: 1862-1882 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Museum of Occupations

The Museum of Occupations was opened on July 1, 2003, and is dedicated to the 1940-1991 period in the history of Estonia, when the country was occupied by the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany, and then again by the Soviet Union. During most of this time the country was known as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Founded: 2003 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Russalka Memorial

The Russalka Memorial is a bronze monument sculpted by Amandus Adamson, erected on 7 September 1902 in Kadriorg, Tallinn, to mark the ninth anniversary of the sinking of the Russian warship Rusalka, or Mermaid, which sank en route to Finland in 1893. The monument depicts an angel holding an Orthodox cross towards the assumed direction of the shipwreck. The model for the angel was the sculptor's housekeeper Juliana Rootsi, ...
Founded: 1902 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Pirita Convent

Pirita Convent (Pirita klooster) was a monastery, for both monks and nuns dedicated to St. Bridget. In 1407 two brothers from St. Bridget Order Convent in Vadstena, Sweden, had arrived to Tallinn to promote with advice and other assistance the expansion of order to Estonia. In 1417 finally the first limestone quarry permit was obtained from the town with the help of the Grandmaster of the Livonian Order and the building o ...
Founded: 1417 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. Simeon's and St. Anne's Church

The wooden Orthodox church was built in 1752-1755 on the initiative of Russian sailors. St. Simeon's is the second Orthodox church to have sprung up as part of the suburban building boom that followed the Great Northern War. The building was seriously damaged during the Soviet period, when it was turned into a sports hall. During this time it also lost its bell tower and onion dome. Fortunately the church was restored af ...
Founded: 1752-1755 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Maarjamäe Palace

Maarjamäe or Orlov’s Palace was commissioned by Count Anatoli Orlov-Davydov from St. Petersburg. The historicist limestone summer residence on the seashore was designed by architect Robert Gödicke. In the 1930s the building housed a magnificent restaurant – the Riviera Palace. In 1937 the Estonian Air force Flying School obtained the building, the Soviet Army took over in 1940. The restored palace op ...
Founded: 1874 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Defence Forces Cemetery

The Defence Forces Cemetery of Tallinn (Tallinna Kaitseväe kalmistu) was established in the years of World War I as the cemetery of the Tallinn garrison. The oldest grave dates back to 1916 and holds Russian, Estonian, and German soldiers killed during World War I. The graves from 1918–1944, the gravestones of the Estonian soldiers and the monuments of the Estonian War of Independence were largely destroyed by the Sov ...
Founded: 1916 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Glehn Castle

The Glehn Castle or manor was established by Nikolai von Glehn on the northern part of the lands of his Jälgimäe Manor to become his new residence. The castle was completed in 1886 and was designed by himself. The castle is surrounded by a park with several buildings like palm house (1900–1910), observatory tower (1910) and sculptures Kalevipoeg (1908), Crocodile (1908), all of those designed by Glehn hims ...
Founded: 1886 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.