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Old Town in Tallinn | © Guillaume Speurt / Flickr
Old Town in Tallinn | © Guillaume Speurt / Flickr
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A History Buff's Guide to Tallinn's Old Town

Picture of Kasparas Asmonaitis
Updated: 20 June 2017
People already lived in the area of Tallinn 5,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest cities in Northern Europe. Throughout the years, many different nations controlled Tallinn and added some of their culture’s most iconic attributes to the city. Today, it is an example of a perfect mix of rich culture, stunning nature, and breathtaking architecture. Let us help you better get a sense of the spirit of Tallinn and guide you through the history of this extraordinary city.

Historical names of Tallinn

Tallinn has belonged to many different nations, from Russians to Danes to Germans to Estonians. Naturally, the name of Tallinn has changed throughout the years as well. It has been known as Qalaven, Kolyvan, Lindanisa, Rafala, and Reval before becoming Tallinn.

Saint Bridget Convent ruins
Saint Bridget Convent ruins | © Guillaume Speurt / Flickr

Estonian History Museum

Located in Great Guild Hall, the Estonian History Museum is the place where you can learn even the most delicate details about Tallinn and the whole of Estonia. Established in the 19th century by chemist Dr. Johann Burchard, the Estonian History Museum is home to various exhibits, from historically dressed mannequins to ancient weapons to time-worn artifacts. Approximately 60,000 people visit this museum every year.

Estonian History Museum, Pikk 17, Tallinn, Estonia

World’s first Christmas Tree

There is no clear evidence if this is true, but Tallinn claims that they erected the world’s first Christmas Tree in 1441. The whole city is proud of this achievement, and every year, during Christmas season, the streets of Old Town are decorated with the most colorful lights and garlands, which creates a festive atmosphere and attracts guests from all over the world.

Christmas Tree in Tallinn
Christmas Tree in Tallinn | © Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar / Flickr

Gothic architecture

Tallinn is the best preserved medieval city in the whole of Northern Europe, attracting fans of Gothic architecture from all over the world. In the Old Town, you’ll be able to see authentic cobblestone streets, old churches, and enormous merchant houses, which date back to the early Middle Ages. Tallinn’s Old Town, without any doubts, is the best place to get familiar with the Gothic architecture.

Old Town in Tallinn
Old Town in Tallinn | © Guillaume Speurt / Flickr

Tallinn Town Hall

Located in the heart of Tallin’s Old Town, Tallinn Town Hall is the best-known architectural monument in the whole Estonia. It is also the only remaining Gothic Town Hall in Northern Europe. First mentioned in 1322, Tallinn Town Hall was the seat of a local government up until 1970. Today, it is still used for special and festive occasions.

Tallinn Town Hall, Raekoja plats 1, Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn Town Hall
Tallinn Town Hall | © Eesti.pl / Flickr

Local bars for local drinks

Estonia is well-known for its tasty beer and strong liquors. You cannot claim that you have visited Tallinn if you have not tried Saku beer and Vana Tallin liquor. Good thing, there are plenty of authentic bars in Tallinn’s Old Town where you’ll be able to enjoy the classic spirit of Estonia (pun intended).

Clayhills Gastropub
Clayhills Gastropub | © Bernt Rostad / Flickr