Tallin, the jewel in Estonia's crown, is worthy of a visit in the autumn, for it's never ending magic. The incredibly beautiful buildings, silhouetted against the autumn skies can take your breath away when looking westwards from the numerous vantage points along the compact old city walls. Towers, domes, turrets all glow with the colour of the sunset skies. Eat outside around the old square, wrapped in the fleeces and sheepskins provided, under heaters, and watch the magic of the old town light up in front of your eyes, while eating a hearty stew. Stroll around the ancient streets and alleyways to cosy basement bars, fires blazing, while picking up beautifully made Estonian gifts on the way.
A building that is now home to the interior ministry.
Look out for the bricked up windows of the cellars. This was the location from where people were dispatched to Siberia or to their deaths.
A plaque outside on the wall in Estonian reads 'This building housed the headquarters of the organ of repression of the Soviet occupational power. Here began the road to suffering for thousands of Estonians'.
The nearby St Olaf's church spire was used by the KGB to send radio transmissions.
Not open to the public.
Pagari 1 on corner of Pagari & Pikk ( a stones throw away from St Olaf's church)
Google map: bit.ly/eVUK7B
19th century industrial quarter that has been given a makeover so that old factory buildings have been renovated to create bars, galleries and trendy shops.
Just outside old town off Mere pst.
Lovely cafe located in a cellar on the Town Hall square (Raekoja Plats). Nice coffee, cakes and beer.
Considering the ambience and location it is not surprisingly more expensive than other locations in town. (Beer about €4).
The tower's wonderful name Kiek in de Kok means, in Low German, "peep into the kitchen". Apparently soldiers in the tower used to be able to see into the kitchens of houses below it, hence the name.
The 118 ft (36 m) cannon tower was originally built in the 15th century as part of the city's defences. Its solid 13 ft thick stone walls proved invaluable during the siege of 1577 when Russian soldiers blasted a huge hole in the tower but could still not penetrate it or the city.
Now the tower contains an interesting museum relating to the defences of Tallinn and the various wars and sieges that the city, and tower, has witnessed. Exhibits include two cannons, which, like the tower, have great monikers "The Lion" and "Bitter Death". Along side these are some of the paraphernalia, such as a long loading stick, needed to work the cannons and quite in-depth descriptions of how cannons were loaded, fired and used. Indeed there is quite a lot of historical information given throughout the exhibition that can be a little overwhelming as you try to remember dates, wars, allies and enemies however, rather that than little or no information.
There is also a shiver-inducing representation of the Plague Doctor, all in black with a beaked hood - the beak was filled with medicinal herbs to try and ward off infection - and a stick for prodding and pointing.
On the top floor, where seagulls and pigeons perch in the windows, are some fantastic views of the city and beyond. It's easy to imagine the soldiers sitting up there trying to keep warm by the fire with just the birds for company.
A short walk from Alexander Nevsky Cathedral or Freedom Square.
Open: Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4.30pm closed Monday
The heart of Tallinn's Old Town is the Raekoja plats, or Old Town Square. Surrounded by elegant pastel hued buildings and the creamy limestone facade of the Town Hall, the square has been used as a marketplace, meeting place and also a place of execution.
It is still somewhere to meet up, perhaps in one of the restaurants that overlook it or, during the warmer months, one of the outdoor cafes that are set up on its cobblestones. There is also a reminder of its commercial past with handicraft stalls during summer and its Christmas Market. Indeed you get the sense that this is not a square that has been frozen in aspic - beautiful but untouchable - but a place that is still much in use by locals and visitors alike. There is also an intimate feel about the square, but without it seeming small, and an openness about it without it feeling bare and exposed.
As an introduction to Tallinn's Old Town you can't do worse, and as a place to visit in and for itself you can't do worse either.
Built by Tsar Peter I as an imperial summer residence. From 1929 the palace has served as the residence of the Estonian head of state.
Weizenbergi Street. From the city centre, you can take tram No 1; www.ekm.ee/english/kadriorg
Built by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine, this palace provides an opulent backdrop to much of Estonia’s foreign art collection.
The galleries contain paintings, prints and sculpture by mainly Flemish, Dutch and Russians artists of the 16th -19th century and include works by Breughel the Younger and Cranach. There are some excellent portraits by Anton Graff and an interesting room dedicated to 19th century views of Tallinn. As the information plaques explained these were produced almost as equivalents to today’s postcards, souvenirs for the more well-heeled visitor.
Also impressive are the Russian realist pictures - such as "A Soldier’s Tale" by Ilja Repin and Ivor Shisnkin's "The Pine Forest" - which have a very earthy, tactile feel to them.
There was also a small but interesting temporary exhibition about copies of masterpieces - not fakes but copies made, again, as a kind of souvenir or as a tribute to the original artist, or as practise for an apprentice painter.
Information plaques, in Estonian and English, are found in each room and the exhibits themselves are well labelled.
The Palace is open 10.00am-5.00pm closed Mondays May-September and both Monday and Tuesday October-April.
Weizenbergi 37/Valge 1;
Take Tram No. 3 to Kadriog, then it is a short and rather pleasant walk;
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