The first Tallinn City Wall was ordered to be constructed by Danish Queen Margrethe in the middle of the 13th century, but the old Margrethe's Wall doesn't exists anymore. Instead a new and better wall was raised, and in the 16th century, it was the strongest defence system in Northern Europe: 46 towers and 2.4 kilometers of wall (with 8 gates) protected the city.
Today, around half of the original towers and 1.9 kilometers of the wall remains, giving Tallinn its medieval character. I found it quite interesting to take a walk along the wall and have a closer look at some of the gates and towers. Gates and towers all have names, like the artillery tower Kiek in de Kök (which is now a museum) and the Viru Gates from the 14th century.
At the Old Town the Medieval Walls are well preserved and still intact. When you are walking on the cobblestone between the walls at times you will walk underneath a tower and some of these towers you can go up and see the view. In the old days the brick on the walls are for defensive purpose and today it’s a great tourist attraction. Even artist hang their paintings to sell at passing tourist at the medieval wall. The wall definitely gave me the feeling part of Tallinn Old Town history.
The Old Town of Tallinn is surrounded by a defensive wall. Although there are now bits missing there are still large sections that are complete. Apart from the section at Suur Kloostri (see separate Things To Do Tip) there is an intact section from the Viru Gate to the "Fat Margaret" tower. The wall for part of this section is used as a backdrop for an outdoor market.
The Viru Gate is the entrance to the Old Town from the direction of the airport and bus station.
For 1.30€ you get access to this section of the town wall. Not only do you get some great views of the Old Town, but also a close-up view of the construction of the town wall. Well worth the admission.i
The Tallinn fortifications are some of Europe's best preserved and walking along the city walls gives you a great view over old Tallinn and one of the places to do it is the Helleman Tower. It was built at the beginning of the 15th century and is probably named after someone who lived nearby. It is 22m high and was in use until the Great Northern War 1700 - 1710. Entrance is just 3 Euros and you go into the tower and up the stairs. There are a couple of exhibitions on the two floors of the tower and the exit to the walls is on the second floor (American first floor).
This photo is a must have (if you believe in must-haves, I actually don't.) Among the 22 preserved defense towers along the town wall, these four are remarkable because they are standing in one straight row.
This stretch of wall is in the northwest of the old town along Laboratooriumi - Epping tower, the museum tower mentioned in an earlier tip, is one of them. However, to catch the photo you have to leave the old town and walk through the park along the outward side of the wall.
Hellemann Tower is more than a tower – in the sense that hardly anyone visits it to visit a tower – people pay the entrance fee to be able to climb up to the top of the town wall and walk along a 200-metre stretch of it. It’s definitely not recommended if you are scared of heights. View from the top, admittedly, are not that fantastic, but I really enjoyed the opportunity of seeing from up-close how the defensive walls looked like in the Middle Ages.
The tower is open Mon-Sun 10-18 and in August 2010 it cost 30 EEK (adults) and 20 EEK (children) to get in.
All along the defensive walls that today form the borders of the Old Town
The wall system wa sbegun in the 13th century, with the majority of the gates and towers constructed during the 14th-15th centuries. Some of the towers can be visited, and a few boast colourful names:
- Kiek in de Kök, or 'peeping into the kitchen'
- Neitsitorn, or 'Maiden's tower' (which was more of a brothel, in the Middle Ages)
- Fat Margaret's Tower and The Great Coastal Gate
- Viru Gates
- Nunna Tower
- Sauna Tower (hmmmm....)
- Kuldjala Tower
- Epping Tower (and what do we in London think of this one? :) )
Epping Tower (Eppingi Torn) is one of the four towers in a row along the northwestern flank of the old town - those everyone has to have the photo of. The tower can be climbed. A small interactive museum has been established inside. It presents and explains how military defence in the middle ages worked, how the wall and towers were built and how they were used.
The funniest part is on the ground floor: there is a whole assortment of 'medieval' armour: helmets, cuirasses, steel gloves, mail shirts and hoods that you can try on . Taking photos is also allowed, so have fun... Not only kids will enjoy dressing up as a knight.
I had expected more of the view from the top floor, it is only through small dirty windows.
The entrance fee is 60 krooni (4 €) for adults, above average compared to other sights in Tallinn.
When you are walking around in the Old Town, you will see parts of the old wall and towers. They date from the 14th century. These walls and towers were build to protect the city from 'the bad guys' and wars.
Tallinn's famous town walls are really what gives the Old Town its unique identity. The red roofed towers and walls which run around the Old Town are the quintessential symbol of Tallinnn and is one of the unforgettable sights of the city.
The town's medieval fortifications began to appear in the late 13th century and grew to form one of the most formidable city defensive systems in Northern Europe. The fortifications grew steadily and were constantly added to, so that by the 16th century, Tallinn had a town wall, 3 metres thick, 16 metres high, running for 4km around the town and connecting 46 defensive towers. The true testament to the strenght and construction of the walls and towers is that, today, over 2km of the original walls and 26 original towers remain intact.
There are several towers which are open to the public and some of them house museums.
The medieval walls are magnificent. There can be few other cities in the world with walls so complete and well preserved as Tallinn's. It surrounds almost the entire old town, and contains 26 towers. Sometimes the walls just blend with the rest of the buildings, other times, like on Muurivahe near Viru Gate, they tower over you claustrophobically.
Apparently nothing remains of the original 1219 Danish castle except for three corner towers. These all looked pretty impressive to me! The best of the three is the 14th century Pikk Hermann (in English Tall Hermann).
The best way to get up here is at the west end of Pikk and up Pikk jalg taking you through the 1380 redroofed gate tower but there is a walkway up steps that brings you up under Pikk jalg and through a door in the wall.
It is a construction, that, possible, most impress visitors of Tallinn, as not much towns, especially in Northern Europe have old town walls and towers left. About half of town wall and towers survived - Tallinn old town has 2 kilometers long wall and 26 (from 46) towers.
It was constructed in different periods, but in the 16th century the town wall was one of the strongest in Europe. The most important cause why defensive structure still exists is that in medieval times most battles took place outside old town and almost never reach walls.
What is it about city walls and ramparts that make me want to scramble around them? Possibly because, built in defensive positions, they often have marvellous views over the surrounding area, maybe it’s the adult equivalent of climbing trees and the excitement that brings or simply imagining what it would have been like to have been there on a cold winter night looking out into the dark and wondering whether any attack on your city is imminent.
Tallinn’s city walls were mainly constructed in the 14th-16th Centuries, ran for 1 ½ miles, were between 46-52 feet high, 10 feet thick and contained 46 towers. Today there is over a mile of wall and 20 towers still standing which give a really good impression of how impenetrable a bastion Tallinn was.
The stretch of wall connecting the three towers of Nunna, Sauna and Kuljada is open to the public from where there are excellent views over the surrounding area, especially from the Nun’s Tower. Be aware though that the stone steps up and into the towers are steep, dark and uneven so you do need to be surefooted. Look out also for the facets which remain of everyday life of on the walls, the fireplace and the latrine!
Opening times are variable, especially in winter but between the end of June and August the walls are open every week day from 11.00am-7.00pm and 11.00am-4.00pm at weekends (the latter seems to be standard throughout the year). If visiting at another time it may be better to check with the Tourist Information Centre in Tallinn itself.