The view from Oleviste kogudus (St. Olaf’s Church)

The top of St. Olaf’s Church (map), in Tallinn, is a popular spot for taking photograph’s of Tallinn’s Old Town…both of them.

view of Tallin from St. Olaf's Church.JPG

Old Town

There is Vanalinn (Old Town), which I consider “lower Old Town”. According to what I remember from the trip (and corroborated by Wikipedia), Vanalinn was the part of the city where medieval trade took place. It was part of the Hanseatic League, meaning it was governed by its own law. Per Wikipedia:

“The League was created to protect the guilds’ economic interests and diplomatic privileges in their affiliated cities and countries, as well as along the trade routes the merchants visited. The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and furnished their own armies for mutual protection and aid. Despite this, the organization was not ac ity-state, nor can it be called a confederation of city-states; only a very small number of the cities within the league enjoyed autonomy and liberties comparable to those of a free imperial city.[1]

In the photo above, the prominent church to the left of center is St. Nicholas Church (map). This photo of St. Nicholas Church is taken from approximately here.

St. Nicholas Church Tallinn Estonia.JPG


Further up the hill from Vanalinn is Toompea, or “Cathedral Hill”. Toompea is contiguous with Old Town, but it can only be entered from a few access points (you can see the sheer stone/rock wall in the photograph above). As opposed to the Old Town, which was geared towards trade, Toompea was the seat of political power. Per Wikipedia,

[Toompea] “was the seat of the central authority: first the Danish captains, then the komturs of the Teutonic Order, and Swedish and Russian governors. It was until 1877 a separate town (Dom zu Reval), the residence of the aristocracy; it is today the seat of the Estonian parliament,government and some embassies and residencies.”

The three most prominent elements of Toompea seen in the photo are, from left to right:

1. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (map)

2. Pikk Hermann (map) (Wikipedia)

Pikk Hermann is a symbol of national pride, as the tower flies the Estonian flag and is situated next to the Estonian Parliament.

Pikk Herman Tallinn Estonia independence tower.JPG

3.  St Mary’s Cathedral (map)

St Mary's Cathedral Estonian flags Tallinn.JPG

A brief history

Today, a visitor to Tallinn would be excused for not knowing the differences between Old Town and Toompea. On a map they appear to be one concentrated area, and the architecture is sufficiently similar that they together could be described as “Old Tallinn”.

The rest of the city of Tallinn was where actual Estonians lived. This brings up another interesting point about Estonian history, which I’ll explore elsewhere. You see, the people who ruled from Toompea, and traded in Old Town…they largely (or exclusively) were not Estonian. Toompea was Danish, followed by successive outsiders. And Old Town was mostly German people (Baltic Germans).

As Wikipedia notes, it was “not until the mid-19th century that ethnic Estonians replaced the local Baltic Germans as the majority among the residents of Tallinn.”

Map of Tallinn (source):


Tweets about Pikk Herman:



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