Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia’s compact, buzzing capital, with its enchanting heart surrounded by medieval walls, has been shaped by nearly a millennium of outside influence.

Raekoja plats, the cobbled market square at the heart of the Old Town, is as old as the city itself. On its southern side stands the fifteenth-century Town Hall (Raekoda), boasting elegant Gothic arches at ground level, and a delicate steeple at its northern end.

Near the summit of the steeple, Vana Toomas, a sixteenth-century weather vane depicting a medieval town guard, is Tallinn’s city emblem. The well-labelled and informative museum inside the cellar hall depicts Tallinn town life through the ages, and there is a good view from the belfry. For an even better view of the town square, climb the spiral staircase of the Town Hall Tower.

The fourteenth-century Church of the Holy Ghost (Puhä Vaimu kirik) on Pühavaimu is the city’s oldest church, a small Gothic building with stuccoed limestone walls, stepped gables, a carved wooden interior, a tall, verdigris-coated spire and an ornate clock from 1680 – the oldest in Tallinn.

Contrasting sharply is the late Gothic St Nicholas’s Church (Niguliste kirik), south-west of Raekoja plats. It now serves as a museum of church art, including medieval burial stones and the haunting Danse Macabre (“Dance With Death”) by Bernt Notke.