Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia, with a population of 431,184. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, west of Saint Petersburg, Russia and 80 km south of Helsinki, and east of Stockholm, Sweden. Tallinn’s Old Town, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites is ranked as a global city and has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. The city was a European Capital of Culture for 2011, along with Turku in Finland.
City Highlights and Observations
After a full day and two nights at sea out of Copenhagen, Denmark Holland America’s Eurodam cruise ship arrived at the Port of Tallinn, Estonia about 8:00am in the morning. We met our local guide from SPB-Tours about 9:00am for our first off-the-ship tour.
I highly recommend SPB Tours over the cruise ship-sponsored tours, especially if you like smaller groups (and want to save money!) … and the tour guides were excellent (for more information on SPB Tours, go to: https://spb-tours.com). There were 13 of us in the tour group, so it was easy to make our way around in the small van.
The first part of the tour was a drive to the outlying areas around the central old town, where we stopped at the current President’s mansion, and the Kadriorg Palace, also known as Catherine’s Palace (built for her by Tsar Peter the Great), both of which are set in public Kadriorg Park, along with several museums. Kadriorg is considered to be the grandest example of palace and park design in Estonian architectural history. The palace, originally an imperial summer residence, has been extremely well preserved since the early 18th century. Designed to resemble the Italian palaces of the time, the palace has a facade that is three levels at the front and sides and two levels at the rear in a mix of architectural styles. A banquet hall and winter garden were added to the rear facade of the palace in 1933/34. The palace currently houses the Kadriorg Art Museum, a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia, displaying foreign art from the 16th to 20th centuries. The KUMU branch of the museum, showing Estonian art from the 18th century onwards is located in the park, just a short distance away.
We also stopped at the site of Estonia’s Song Festival, held every five years at an outdoor amphitheater attended by 100’s of thousands of Estonians. In 1869 Johann Voldemar Jannsen established the Estonian Song Festival while the nation was still a province of the Russian Empire. This festival was considered responsible for fostering an Estonian national awakening.
After that, the new tradition was born and the Song Festivals are still held every five years. Other concerts are played there every year, including concerts by Michael Jackson, Madonna, Metallica, and others.
A short drive in the single-family “suburbs’ showed us that not all Estonians live in high density apartments; the drive along the waterfront highlighted the public parks and other outdoor space available to all; and we could see that modern-day business seems to be thriving in the new downtown core.