Palaces, manors and town halls in Estonia

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

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

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

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

Pärnu Town Hall

The Town Hall is actually a whole quarter. Its oldest building, the merchant's house, was built in 1797. In 1806 it served as an accommodation for the Russian Czar Alexander I during his visit to Pärnu. Legend has, that in 1819, on the command of the Czar, the merchant's house was turned into the house of the commandant of the town. Since 1839, the building was used as Town Hall. In 1911 it acquired an Art N ...
Founded: 1797 | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

The Knighthood Building

The Knighthood Building was built by von Dellingshausen at the end of the 18th Century and today, it accommodates the County Government of Saaremaa. At the beginning of the 19th Century, the house belonged to the Nobility of Saaremaa, then in 1912, to the Noblemen's club. The County Government of Saaremaa bought the house in 1920. The foundation of the building is symmetrical, with a high socle floor. The façade is propo ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Kuressaare, Estonia

Keila-Joa Manor

There has been a manor house on the site of Keila-Joa manor (Schloss Fall) since the 17th century. The present manor house was built in 1831-1833 and designed by St. Petersburg architect Andrei Stackenschneider. The manor represents one of the earliest examples of neo-Gothic architecture in Estonia. It was built for the family of count Alexander von Benckendorff (whose graves can be found in the p ...
Founded: 1831-1833 | Location: Keila-Joa, Estonia

Kuressaare Town Hall

Kuressaare town hall was built in 1654-1670. The initiator of town hall building was count M. G. De la Gardie. Town hall is simple and dour but appears to be grand representative of so called northern baroque the decoration of which is hewed portal that dates 1670. Reference: Visit Estonia
Founded: 1654-1670 | Location: Kuressaare, 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

Heimtali Manor

The Heimtali manor was established in the 16th century, but was rebuilt in a more impressive style during the time it belonged to Peter Reinhold von Sivers in the 1850s. The historic main building is now used as a school. The turreted cheese dairy (sometimes incorrectly thought to be a vodka distillery) was completed in 1858 and reminds one of a medieval stronghold. It was restored in the 1980s for holding different event ...
Founded: 1855 | Location: Pärsti, Estonia

Palmse Manor

Palmse is probably the most grandiose and well-known manor in Estonia. It was originally established by the Cistercian convent of Tallinn, but owned by von der Pahlen family over two centuries, from 1676 to 1922. The mansion is one of the few Swedish main houses and its building was started under the design stewardship of Jakob Stael von Holstein in 1679. The present form of the building stems from rebuilding in 1782 to ...
Founded: 1782-1785 | Location: Vihula, Estonia

Roosna-Alliku Manor

The Roosna-Alliku Manor was donated to von Rosen family in 1620 by Christina, Queen of Sweden. The coat of arms of family features a white rose, which has become the symbol of the manor. In 1721 it was acquired by von Stackelbergs. The present main building is one of the most impressive examples of early classical manor architecture in Estonia, completed by Otto Friedrich von Stackelberg in 1786. Worthiest of attention in ...
Founded: 1786 | Location: Roosna-Alliku, Estonia

Narva Town Hall

The town hall is one of the three buildings in Narva survived from World War II. The Baroque-style building was built by the order of Swedish king Charles XI. The project of the master George Teuffel from Lubeck formed the basis of the building, the construction of which started in 1688. After three years, at the latest in 1691, the building was finished when a gold-plated forged weathercock in the form of a crane was put ...
Founded: 1688-1691 | Location: Narva, Estonia

Sangaste Manor

The first mention of Sangaste Manor date back to the year 1522. The present main building is one of the most gorgeous manor houses in Estonia. The red-brick house, built between 1879-1883, represents the Gothic revival style with English features. It was designed by architect Otto Pius Hippius and the owner of the building throughout its existence as a private house was the scientist Count Magnus von Berg (1845-1938). Th ...
Founded: 1879-1883 | Location: Sangaste, Estonia

Padise Manor

Padise Manor is an 18th century historic mansion housing a boutique hotel and restaurant in the countryside of Estonia.  The manor house sits just 25 meters away from the extraordinary 14th century Padise monastery ruins. The history of the von Ramm family and this estate begins in 1622 when King Gustav Adolf II of Sweden granted the Padise monastery ruins and surrounding land to Thomas von Ramm as a gift. The manor ho ...
Founded: 1780 | Location: Padise, Estonia

Taagepera Manor

The history of Taagepera manor date back to the 16th century. It was owned between 1674-1796 by the Stackelberg family and the village of Taagepera is named after them. The present Art Nouveau-style manor house was built between 1907-1912 according the design of Otto Wildau. Today Taagepera manor houses a hotel-seminar centre. In addition to the main building of the Manor Complex worth seeing are also the gate building, ...
Founded: 1907-1912 | Location: Helme, Estonia

Suuremõisa Manor

The first record of Suuremõisa Manor date back to the year 1519. The present manor house was built by the countess Ebba Margaretha Stenbock in the middle of the 18th century. The countess is buried in the mausoleum next to Pühalepa Church. Several dramatic events took place at the manor at the turn of the 18th–19th century. Baron Otto Reinhold Ludwig von Ungern-Sternberg (1744-1811) was a nobleman of Baltic German or ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Hiiumaa, Estonia

Sagadi Manor

Sagadi Manor had owned by the von Fock family from the year 1687 to 1922. The current main main building was completed in 1753 and enlarged in 1793. It is one of the rare Rococo-style buildings in Estonia. The manor house, annexes and the surrounding park have been restored. Today Sagadi hosts a manor museum (the interior has been also carefully restored and refurnished), forestry museum, park and hotel.
Founded: 1753 | Location: Vihula, Estonia

Rakvere Manor

Teatrimägi hill is one of the oldest places in Rakvere – people have lived here for thousands of years. In the first half of the 16th century there was a Franciscan monastery here, but it was not until 1670 that the first, baroque manor house was built here. The park surrounding the manor was named the “People’s Park” when Estonia gained its independence. Today the original manor building (the ...
Founded: | Location: Rakvere, Estonia

Kernu Manor

Kernu estate was established in 1637. The current building owes its stately neoclassical appearance to a thorough renovation executed 1810-1813, possibly by the designs of renowned Helsinki architect Carl Ludvig Engel. The front façade is dominated by a richly decorated portico, while the side facing the park displays a 4-column half rotunda, unique in Estonian architecture. A care home has been ...
Founded: 1810-1813 | Location: Harjumaa, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.