The capital of Estonia has a long, fascinating history. Thanks to its strategic position on the Baltic Sea, it was considered a gem by several empires. Tallinn changed hands many times in its history. Today, in more peaceful times, it has become one of the Baltic region's top tourist attractions. Its old buildings, beautiful landscapes and charming old town have made Tallinn a popular destination for visitors.
To get a feel for Tallinn, go for a stroll around the old town. Put on your most comfortable walking shoes, as it's very easy to lose your way in this twisting maze of cobblestone streets. You won't mind getting lost, though - everywhere you turn, you'll see something beautiful, like an old house, a charming church or an enticing café. The entire old town is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it's more than just a huge museum. Visit Town Hall Square, the beating heart of the city, where lively events take place all year round. This is where you'll find the Christmas market in winter and medieval-themed celebrations in summer.
Estonia was a key part of the Russian Empire, which left its mark on the city. Take a look at Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral, a striking red and white Russian-style building high on Toompea Hill. The people of Estonia once planned to tear this cathedral down, seeing it as a symbol of oppression. However, they decided to keep it, reclaiming it for the nation of Estonia. Inside, you'll find beautifully decorative woodwork and mosaics.
Near the cathedral, you can see one of the oldest buildings in Tallinn, the 13th-century St Olaf's Church. This has an incredible spire, reaching an impressive height of 123 m. You can climb to the top for great views of the city - but be careful. The church has been struck by lightning many times over the centuries!
Another example of the Russian legacy in Estonia can be seen in Tallinn's KGB museum. This is a fascinating place for anyone interested in modern history. The museum is set in the old KGB headquarters, which was in use until the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. Check out the range of surveillance equipment, uniforms and Soviet artefacts for a fascinating glimpse into the days of the Cold War.
Use car hire in Tallinn to explore the area outside the city. Start with a trip to the Estonian Open Air Museum, where you'll find close to 100 reconstructed historical buildings. Walk through Estonia's history, admiring the old mills, farms, churches and houses. Trained artisans give demonstrations of traditional crafts and recipes, bringing this museum to life.
A car or van hire in Tallinn also allows you to visit Kadriorg Park, just outside the city. Close to the Baltic Sea, this 18th-century park is stunning, with manicured flower beds, fountains, elegant sculptures and more. The baroque palace at its heart is now home to a small art museum.