Tallinn is frequently identified as one of Baltic cruise passengers favourite cruise port destinations. Most people aren’t quite sure what to expect and then are immediately charmed by this lovely city.
Estonia’s capital is one of northern Europe’s oldest and best-preserved cities. Its main attraction is its entire medieval district, known as Old Town (Vanalinn), which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. This historic area has remained almost unchanged since its construction between the 13th and 16th centuries thanks to a sturdy defensive wall – most of which is still standing – and a strict ban on combustible building materials imposed on the buildings within. That prudent piece of Middle-age urban planning has meant that modern visitors can still walk the same narrow cobblestoned streets, admire the same peak-roofed buildings and absorb much of the same age-old atmosphere that locals have experienced for centuries.
Tallinn’s pristine condition is made all the more remarkable considering its volatile history, which has seen it fought over, attacked and occupied by several of its neighbours over a period of 800 years. These various eras of foreign rule have endowed Tallinn with a diverse and unique culture, influencing its architecture, religion and even its cuisine. But they also served to foster a national ideology of resistance, one that has kept Tallinners deeply patriotic throughout their long centuries of subjugation. The result: a collective cultural awareness that is as well preserved as the city’s oldest buildings.
As a cruise destination, Tallinn is very conveniently designed. It’s small enough to mostly be explored on foot, and it packs so many attractions – and so much vibrant energy – into such a small area that there’s never a dull moment. Both Old Town and the modern city centre are just half a mile from the harbour, and even outlying destinations like the quiet, leafy Kadriorg district, with its palace built by Peter the Great, are only a few minutes’ walk from the middle of town.
Written by Stephen Palmer