Tucked into a corner just inside the northernmost gate of the Old Town, the Maritime Museum is well positioned – with the Baltic just a few hundred yards away, you can see the gulls and hear the ferry horns, reminding us that Tallinn still depends as much as ever on sea trade for its prosperity (although today it comes more in the form of people than goods).
The first thing you should notice when you arrive is the plaque on the front wall commemorating the British naval forces who gave their lives assisting Estonia in its fight against the Bolsheviks in 1918-20, winning its first period of independence. This excellent museum, housed inside a 16th-century fortified tower and former prison, is worth seeing for its setting alone, and the view it offers of Estonia’s history through the filter of maritime events, from the Viking raids right up to the tragic loss of the ferry Estonia in 1994.
Medieval stairways take you past a spectacular collection of sea-going and military hardware, maps and diagrams across five floors. Emerge from vast, 6-metre walls to the open-air roof of the tower for unbeatable views of the Old Town and the sea.