As the capital city of Estonia, ancient Tallinn proudly displays the spirit of this hearty Baltic Republic to those lucky Royal Holiday Cruises travelers who visit during their voyage through northern Europe’s waters. The city is the heart of Estonia’s cultural, political, and economic life. For this reason, visitors with Royal Holiday Cruises will enjoy exploring its many sights, sounds, and tastes.
Like its sister nations Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia has reasserted its ties to Western Europe since earning its independence in 1991. Royal Holiday Cruises members will find Tallinn to be a fascinating mix of Western and Eastern European cultures. The country uses the familiar Latin alphabet, and has long practiced the Catholic and Protestant faiths. At the same time, the city abounds with impressive relics of its turbulent decades behind the Iron Curtain, as well as under Czarist Russia, Polish principalities, and Teutonic Knights in the centuries before that.
Today, the remarkably well-preserved historic center of Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In medieval cobbled streets and shadows of grand historic buildings, Royal Holiday Cruises tourists will have plenty of opportunity to sample Estonian culture in the city’s countless eateries, boutiques, craft shops, and more.
The ancient buildings of Toompea (or “Upper Town”) rest atop a stately hill beneath which mighty Kalev, epic hero of Estonian lore, is said to be buried. This is the oldest part of Tallinn and home to many historic buildings, including Toompea Castle, the seat of Estonia’s parliament.
Historically the commercial center of old Tallinn, Vanalinn (or “Lower Old Town”) today continues that tradition, with scores of shops and eateries serving Tallinn’s residents and tourists alike. At Old Town’s southern end rises the impressive Kiek-in-de-Kok, a magnificent old church with a great tower that houses a museum of ancient weaponry, maps, and contemporary art. The northernmost end of Old Town is a stout 16th century defensive tower called “Fat Margaret,” which contains the Maritime Museum. Also in the Old Town, tourists will delight in the many shops like Bogapott, where a husband and wife team produce many fine uniquely Estonian crafts.
Open Air Ethnographic Museum
Covering over 200 acres, this lovely museum lies a short drive outside the city center. In contrast to the narrow walkways of Tallinn’s Old Town, the Ethnographic Museum offers Royal Holiday Cruises visitors wide open spaces and an intriguing look at Estonian culture and history.
Town Hall Square
Tallinn’s Town Hall Square boasts a long and eccentric history of bloody intrigue and mercantilism. The town hall itself is a lovely example of Gothic architecture, and is adorned by “Old Thomas,” a weather vane that has stood atop the building since 1530. The Town Hall also houses the mellow Tristan ja Isolde Cafe, which offers hot coffee and cool jazz. Across the way from Town Hall stands the town apothecary, and even older establishment, which was erected in 1422.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
Founded in the 13th century, St. Mary’s is the oldest church in Estonia. It is known to the locals as the Toomkirik (or “Dome Church”).
This baroque palace was built by Peter the Great in 1721 for his wife Catherine. Notable for its gorgeous architecture and exquisitely maintained gardens, the edifice houses an impressive collection of artworks form the 16th through 20th centuries.
Alexander Nevski Cathedral
With sweeping cupolas and glittering golden crosses, this Russian Orthodox church gives Royal Holiday Cruises tourists an opportunity to view the largest bell in Estonia.