On a summer’s day, wandering through the cobble stone streets of Old Town, it seems as if there is a street musician playing behind every corner. And more often than not, the corner that you turn will also reveal a beautifully preserved old church or a part of a medieval castle.
Tallinn’s Old Town dates back all the way to the 13th century. Though Tallinn was heavily bombed during World War Two, the Old Town was miraculously saved from extensive damage. Today, the district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An no wonder – walking down these narrow streets really does feel like taking a step back in time.
The Old Town district is compact and easily accessible on foot – though some prefer to brave the bumpy cobble stone streets on segways which can be rented out by the hour. The Old Town is contained by majestic city walls and within those walls, the architecture is simply exquisite. Must-see landmarks include the gothic Town Hall and the sturdy tower of Kiek in de Kök, which today also houses a museum. It’s hard to pick any favorites, though, as the whole area is dotted with beautifully preserved buildings. The Three Sisters Hotel at Pikk 71 is a great example of medieval architecture as these three merchant houses date back to 1362.
At the heart of Old Town is the Town Square, which is lined with picturesque pastel colored houses and regularly hosts lively outdoor markets. Overall, Old Town is a good place for picking up souvenirs. You can find everything from kitsch knick-knacks to traditional local handicrafts, or käsitöö, as they are called in Estonian.
Though the rich history is a big part of Old Town’s charm, don’t let the period music blaring from medieval restaurants fool you. Far from a mere outdoor museum, Tallinn’s Old Town is still very much alive. A lovely example of this is the small but lively flower market located just outside Viru Gate, the impressive gateway which welcomes visitors into Old Town. Bursting with life and color, the market is at its best in the morning when sellers are just putting up their displays.
For those looking for a bit of entertainment, Old Town has a lot to offer, too. If you venture out into the narrow streets you’ll soon discover a whole smorgasbord of cool cafes and trendy restaurants of which to choose from. The fabulous Must Puudel at Müürivahe 20 is popular with locals and visitors alike. On the weekends, most bars on and around Suur-Karja Street stay open until dawn and club music blares out into the centuries old pavement until the wee hours.
Finally, when visiting Old Town, do make sure that you climb up Toompea Hill. From the terrific lookout point of Kohtuotsa you can take in all of Tallinn. It’s all here – the Old, the New and come Saturday night, the very, very merry.