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Getting To Know Tallinn – Cruise Port Guide
Tallinn is unquestionably one of Europe’s most magical capitals and our Tallinn cruise port guide will ensure you have the most unforgettable day ashore in this incredible destination. Estonia’s post-independence renaissance has given exuberant new life to this medieval Hanseatic city, whose Old Town – with its fairy-tale turrets and soaring spires – dazzles the eye and imagination alike.
The Old Town itself can be divided by its upper and lower town areas, providing a range of historical highlights that can be easily explored on foot and give the impression that you’ve been transported back to medieval times.
The Upper Town, known as Toompea, is where you will find Toompea Castle and Pikk Hermann, opposite which stands the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The medieval order castle was built in the 13th-14th centuries and has remained one of the most significant symbols of reigning power and today is the home of the Estonian parliament. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Tallinn’s largest cupola cathedral, built between 1894-1900, and represents the later development stage of Russian historicism. In comparison to the more modern Russian orthodox cathedral, The Dome Cathedral of St. Mary’s is a short walk away and is the city’s oldest church, dating to the 13th Century. From various viewpoints you can admire the rooftops of the lower town and the numerous church spires that rise up and tower over the city. These include St Olaf’s Church, one of the most imposing gothic churches in medieval Europe, first mentioned in 1267. Around 1500, the building reached the height of 159 metres, and became the world’s tallest building of the time. It even housed at one time KGB listening devices during the period under the USSR. St Nicholas Church is also viewable and is now home to the ecclesiastical art collection of the Art Museum of Estonia.
The Lower Town, known as All-linn, is dominated by the Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) and the best-preserved Gothic town hall in Northern Europe, retaining its basic structure from the 15th Century. All around the square you will find a wondrous array of old buildings that are now used as authentic medieval style restaurants, souvenir shops and craft workshops. One building of note tucked away in a corner of the square is the Town Hall Pharmacy, the oldest functioning pharmacy in the world still active today and first mentioned in 1422. Many cobblestone streets lead off it and you can lose yourself just pottering around and imaging yourself back in medieval times.
All of these and more sites of interest are contained within 2km of city wall with 26 defensive towers that have been preserved from the 16th century when Tallinn boasted one of the most powerful and strongest defensive systems in Northern Europe. At that time the wall was 3 meters thick and 15 meters high, and stretched for 4km around the city, with 48 defensive towers. Two of note and must see are Fat Margaret, the main entrance to Pikk Street and now home to the Estonian Maritime Museum, and Kiek in de Kök, which means Peep into the Kitchen in Low German, due to the ability for the tower occupants to see into nearby house kitchens. It is now a museum and photographic gallery.
The Old Town is definitely where you will spend the majority of your time, enjoying this UNESCO World Heritage Site and believing you’re in fairytale land of magic. It is hard not to come away from Tallinn and wish to return to explore more again.
The currency of Estonia is the Euro.
The port area has undergone extensive development works over the years and a new eco-friendly terminal complex with souvenir shops and tourist information is scheduled to open in July 2021. City Sightseeing buses and taxis also are available from the port, however it is feasible to walk into the Old Town, with well-arranged and sign posted routes. This is being actively encouraged by the local authorities to reduce road traffic and also to showcase the number of walking routes that are available to explore the city. It is approximately 2km to the Town Hall Square, although you can access the Old Town on Pikk Street at Fat Margaret which is only 1.2km from the port.
The Old Town of Tallinn is primarily pedestrianised, although large sections are cobbled and a bit uneven so do take care. In peak summer season the Old Town can become crowded and busy. If you wish to visit Toompea then there the route up Pikk jalg is easiest as it is a gentle slope to arrive at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Did you know that Kadriorg Palace was built by Peter the Great, founder of St Petersburg and Tsar of Russia, for his wife Catherine.It eventually became the first presidential palace of Estonia before a purpose built one located nearby in the palace grounds was built in 1938.
Pirita is a coastal district whose marina was constructed for the 1980 Moscow Olympics sailing events. Inland from the marina you can explore the Tallinn Botanic Garden, a 300-acre park with both open air and greenhouse exhibits of plant life, and the Tallinn TV Tower, with an observation deck on the 21st floor of the 314 metre structure.
Whilst most of the attractions in Tallinn are medieval and historical buildings, the city has an eclectic arts scene that is no better demonstrated than at the Telliskivi Creative City on the outskirts of the Old Town. It is an Art-focused venue featuring studios, galleries and theatres along with cafes, bars and cultural events. It also has lots of creative street art that acts as an interesting framing device for photos of the Old Town that can be seen in the background.
Key highlights of Tallinn
- Old Town
- Toompea (Upper Town)
- Toompea Castle (Estonian Parliament)
- Pikk Hermann Tower
- Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- The Dome Church (St. Mary’s Cathedral)
- All-linn (Lower Town)
- Town Hall square (Raekoja plats)
- Town Hall
- Town Hall Pharmacy
- Walls of Tallinn and Towers (Fat Margaret & Kiek in the Kök)
- St Olaf’s Church
- St Nicholas’ Church
- Church of the Holy Ghost
- Kadriorg Palace
- Presidential Palace
- Kumu (Art Museum of Estonia)
- Mikkel Museum
- Pirita Marina
- Tallinn Botanic Garden
- Tallinn TV Tower
- Pirita Convent Ruins
- Tallinn Song Festival Grounds
- Russalka Memorial
- Estonian Open-Air Museum
- Seaplane Harbour (Maritime Museum)
- Saku Brewery
- Toompea (Upper Town)
Regular cruise line visitors
- Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
- P&O Cruises
- SAGA Cruises
- Princess Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Viking Ocean
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