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 legend very popular among Danes, the very first flag of Denmark (Dannebrog) fell from the sky during a critical stage of the Battle of Lyndanisse, fought near the castle, resulting in Danish victory over Estonians. The current castle is mainly constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The castle is one of the most potent symbols of the reigning power, which over the centuries has been conquered by various nations. According to the Altmark peace treaty of 1629, Estonian territories went to the king of Sweden. In 1583–1589 a new ceremonial building, the State Hall building, was erected on Toompea. It was located against the western wall between Tall Hermann tower and the convent building.
In 1710 the ownership of Toompea went from the Swedes to the Russian Czarist Empire. The Russian Empress Catherine the Great ordered the construction of the Estonian Government Administration building in the east side of the fortress; it was completed in 1773.
On 24 February 1918, Estonia became an independent state. From 1920 until 1922, according to the plans of the architects Eugen Habermann and Herbert Johansen, the building of the Parliament (Riigikogu) was built in the castle courtyard. The expressionist design of the building makes it unique among the parliament buildings of the world. In 1935, the palatial south wing was built on the south side, copying the style of the Government Administration building, and the Governor's Garden was laid out in appropriate design.
The Toompea castle and the surrounding old town are is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Nineteen of the original sixty six defense towers are survived. The old town is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The castle is open to the public with no charge. There are also guided services available.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.