Tallinn's Top 5 Churches

Tallinn's Top 5 Churches

The Historic Center of Tallinn, a UNESCO world heritage site, is considered one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Northern Europe. Dating back to the 13th century, it remains the main attraction visitors enjoy during their stay in Tallinn. The historical churches of the site are among its most notable features, ranging from Gothic to Neo-Byzantine architecture.

Established in the 13th century by German knights of the Teutonic Order, Roman Catholicism dominated Estonia until the Protestant Reformation brought Lutheranism to the country. Therefore, the first churches in Tallinn were Catholic places of worship. Russian dominance in Estonia between the 18th and 20th centuries introduced Eastern Orthodoxy.

As a fan of architecture, I enjoy visiting the Estonian capital, one of the most beautiful in Europe. It has numerous historic and beautiful churches that I admired from inside and outside for a complete cultural experience. The following is a list of my top five churches in Tallinn, with brief descriptions of each.

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Tallinn Map

Top 5 Churches in Tallinn

1. St. Mary's Cathedral

Tallinn's oldest church
View of St. Mary's Cathedral from Toom-Rüütli Street

Dating back to the 13th century, the Gothic Cathedral of St. Mary is the oldest surviving church in Estonia. Originally Roman Catholic, it became Lutheran in 1561 and is now the main Estonian Evangelical Lutheran church. The interior reflects its history, with unique coats of arms from the 17th to 20th centuries adorning the walls and chandeliers that enchant the space. In addition to marveling at the splendid interior, visitors can also climb the 69-meter (226-foot) high Baroque bell tower and enjoy great views of Tallinn.

Address: Toom-Kooli 6, 10130 Tallinn, Estonia
Website: Tallinna Piiskoplik Toomkirik

2. St. Olaf's Church

Tallinn landmark
A view of the Church of St. Olaf's tower from Lai Street

The tallest medieval structure in Tallinn is the Church of St. Olaf. Initially built in the 13th century, the church only reached its present size and shape in the 16th century. As legend has it, Olaf, its architect, died when he fell from the tower after completing the church, and a snake and a toad come out of his mouth when his body hits the ground. This event is depicted on a wall carving in the adjacent Virgin Mary Chapel. The main embellishments of the church are the Gothic stellar vault and the 16th-century chapel. Its 124-meter (407-foot) tower is one of the symbols of the capital of Estonia. The observation deck, open from April to October, is accessible via 232 interior stairs.

Address: Lai 50, 10133 Tallinn, Estonia
Website: EEKBKL Oleviste kogudus

3. St. Nicholas' Church

Niguliste Museum
View of St. Nicholas Church from Harju Street

Westphalian merchants from Gotland founded the Church of St. Nicholas in honor of the patron saint of merchants and mariners in the middle of the 13th century. The building obtained its current appearance between 1405 and 1420. After reconstruction in the 1980s, the church now houses the Niguliste Museum, a branch of the Estonian National Museum of Art specializing in medieval religious art. Perhaps the most well-known work in the museum is a Danse Macabre by Bernt Notke, a German master of the 15th century. In addition to intricate altarpieces and Baroque chandeliers, visitors can also admire stunning works of art created by the craft guilds of the town in the Silver Chamber. Because of its excellent acoustics, the church is a popular venue for organ or choir concerts most weekends.

Address: Niguliste 3, 10146 Tallinn, Estonia
Website: Niguliste muuseum

4. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Orthodox Tallinn
View of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral from Komandandi Garden

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, constructed in 1900 when Estonia was a part of the Tsarist Empire, is the principal Russian Orthodox cathedral in the country and one of the most outstanding masterpieces of Orthodox sacral architecture in Tallinn. This onion-domed structure is atop Toompea Hill. Mikhail Preobrazhensky, a well-known Russian architect from Vabalninkai city (now in Lithuania but then in the Russian Empire), designed it in the Russian Byzantine style. Its towers have 11 bells, including the largest one, which weighs 15 tonnes, in Estonia.

Address: Lossi plats 10, 10130 Tallinn, Estonia
Website: Nevsky sobor

5. St. Charles's Church

Tallinn church
The front of St. Charles' Church

Considered the most splendid of all 19th-century sacred buildings in Estonia, the Neo-Romanesque Church of St. Charles, Tallinn's only church with two spires, is a fine example of using Estonian limestone. The front is reminiscent of Western European cathedrals, with two western steeples framing a rose window. The building has a tremendous open interior. The frescoes that adorn the altar will appeal to art enthusiasts. It is Estonia's largest church, with a capacity of approximately 1,500 people, and serves as a cathedral for Lutheran Christians in Tallinn.

Address: Toompea 10, 10142 Tallinn, Estonia
Website: Tallinna Toompea Kaarli Kogudus

2 Hour Tallinn Old Town Walking Tour

Set out on the 2 Hour Tallinn Old Town Walking Tour if you want to learn about the history of Tallinn and Estonia in a fun and easy-going way while also seeing the beautiful historic churches.

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