Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia and is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, 80 km south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg.
Tallinn’s Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It 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.
The city was known as Reval from the 13th century until 1917 and again during the Nazi occupation of Estonia from 1941 to 1944.
Approximately 32% of Estonia’s total population lives in Tallinn.
Tallinn is internationally renowned as a tourist destination, receiving more than 1.5 million visitors annually. The number of visitors has been growing steadily over the past decade.
Tallinn Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as other major attractions, such as the Seaplane Harbour of Estonian Maritime Museum, Tallinn Zoo and the Estonian Open Air Museum contribute to the overall success of the city as a travel destination. While most of the visitors come from Europe, Tallinn has become increasingly more popular in recent years for tourists from Russia and Asia-Pacific region, for which a rapid growth is reported.
Tallinn Passenger Port is one of the busiest cruise destinations on the Baltic Sea, serving more than 520 000 cruise passengers in year 2013. From year 2011 regular cruise turnarounds in cooperation with Tallinn Airport are organised.
The Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn is an exceptionally complete and well-preserved medieval northern European trading city on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The city developed as a significant centre of the Hanseatic League during the major period of activity of this great trading organization in the 13th-16th centuries. The combination of the upper town on the high limestone hill and the lower town at its foot with many church spires forms an expressive skyline that is visible from a great distance both from land and sea.
The upper town (Toompea) with the castle and the cathedral has always been the administrative centre of the country, whereas the lower town preserves to a remarkable extent the medieval urban fabric of narrow winding streets, many of which retain their medieval names, and fine public and burgher buildings, including town wall, Town Hall, pharmacy, churches, monasteries, merchants’ and craftsmen’ guilds, and the domestic architecture of the merchants’ houses, which have survived to a remarkable degree. The distribution of building plots survives virtually intact from the 13th-14th centuries.
The Outstanding Universal Value of the Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn is demonstrated in its existence as an outstanding, exceptionally complete and well preserved example of a medieval northern European trading city that retains the salient features of this unique form of economic and social community to a remarkable degree.
The radial street network is well endowed with buildings from the 14th-16th centuries. The town defences have been preserved over large sections at their original length and height, rising to over 15m in places.
In addition to architectural continuity, Old Town has retained its traditional use as a living city, hosting domestic, commercial and religious functions, and retaining the upper town as the administrative centre of the country. Nevertheless increasingly historic residential buildings are being refurbished for touristic or public use and thus subject to increased life safety and accessibility requirements.
The authentic setting of the inscribed World Heritage property includes some significant architecture from the late 19th century and early 20th century including theatres and schools as well as a number of exceptional wooden suburbs which form an integral part of the historic, urban fabric round Tallinn Old Town.
The most prominent feature of the town is the Toompea limestone hill. The western part is occupied by the castle, of which the tower known as Long Hermann, two bastions and the imposing walls survive on the western, northern and eastern sides. Within the enceinte is the cathedral, which is basically Gothic but has been extended and reconstructed on a number of occasions since the Middle Ages.
The lower town preserves to a remarkable extent the medieval urban fabric of narrow winding streets, many of which retain their medieval names, and fine public and burgher buildings. The distribution of building plots survives virtually intact from the 13th-14th centuries.
Around the town hall (1371-1404) in Town Hall Square there are some exceptionally well-preserved burgher houses. These are high gabled structures in stone, the ground floors having been used for living quarters and the upper storeys as granaries and storehouses, many retaining their original projecting winch beams. An outstanding structure is the House of the Great Guild (1410), which is a splendid example of Northern Gothic with fine vaulted ceilings and richly decorated columns.
There are several medieval churches within the walls. The restored Church of St Nicholas (Niguliste) and the Church of St Olaf (Oleviste) are both in typical basilical form, with lofty vaulting and a precise geometry of form in what is recognized to be the distinctive Tallinn School. There are two monastic complexes surviving within the walls – the Dominican monastery of St Catherine and the Cistercian nunnery of St Michael, which was characteristically sited away from the main urban complex.
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