Like every medieval port city, Tallinn had towers for fortification and keeping an eye on approaching enemies. One of the must-see towers in Old Town are Kiek in de Kök, which is home to a museum of the city’s defenses including carved cannons and model of the full old city.
The stone-built Town Hall of Tallinn dominates the old city’s gigantic central square. As the only Gothic town hall in Northern Europe, this amazing building dates back 700 years, and its crowned dragon waterspouts and a soaring tower make it the city's most recognisable landmark.
Up until Tudor times, Tallinn was an important port. It was full of wealthy merchants, and its grand Town Hall reflected this prosperity. In later centuries, the city declined and was neglected for hundreds of years as Estonia lived under various foreign occupations. The Town Hall shared in these ups and downs, and underwent many changes over the centuries. Already large by medieval standards, the original hall was extended in the fifteenth century, the tower was added, and a new spire was created in 1627. The, there was more rebuilding in the nineteenth century. By the 20th century, though, the Town Hall was draped with pictures of Lenin and, like the rest of Tallinn, was rather the worse for wear under Communist rule.
An expensive and sensitive restoration took place after Estonia became free again. Now the Town Hall is used for all kinds of public events, and guided tours of its interior are popular with visitors.
The area around the hall is the oldest part of the walled city of Tallinn. It has a long history and a picturesque appearance, with carved doorways and swinging merchants’ signs still decorating the shops and houses which line the winding lanes.
There are numerous places to get a coffee, find a beer and generally enjoy the passing parade of Old Town. Find a place with outdoor seating. On a nice day, watching the passersby and marveling at the ancient architecture can’t be beat. Walking to the attractions may help you burn off all that boar and beer.
Olde Hansa is probably the best known restaurant in Old Town. It’s lit by candles hanging from fixtures in the ceiling and the young servers combine nose rings and tattoos with medieval garb. The English menu is charmingly translated with appetizer-sized portions designated as “Small Hunger” and larger amounts as “Much Hunger.” It would be unwise to skip the boar, bear sausage or the spiced claret. In summer, eating on the terrace is a delight.