On 20 August 1991, during the failed Soviet coup against Yeltsin, Estonia finally declared its independence. On that day Toompea Hill – once the seat of Tallinn’s feudal overlords – regained its position at the heart of Estonian politics and has remained there since. Cresting the Old Town on a fortified outcrop, the Hill is a tiny city in its own right – full of compact government buildings and lords’ houses dating from the 14th century onwards.
rnToday the modern parliament stands here (a 1920s building easily recognizable by its pink walls), as well as the onion-domed Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox cathedral – a controversial and striking symbol of Russian power for the last hundred years, built only 17 years before the fall of the Tsar.
rnIt was here, on the same patch as the parliament and the cathedral, that Tallinn’s earliest fort was built, in 1227 – and the heavy, military walls that circle the Hill still date from that time. Other attractions on Toompea include the Dome Church (Toomkirik), built in 1240 and added to over the years, which was the religious centre for the grand German families that ruled Tallinn – and the Baltic – for centuries. The Estonian Art Museum stands opposite, with exhibits limited mainly to relatively unknown local artists. Around the corner from the museum don’t miss the celebrated vantage-point over Tallinn – a favourite spot with tourists, locals and dog-walkers throughout the year.