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Tallinn was a late-comer to the European tourist scene, but the 21st century has been kind to this beguiling city. Booking accommodation in Tallinn old puts visitors in prime position to visit medieval churches, peruse trendy boutiques and enjoy the café culture on foot.

Tallinn’s centuries-long succession of foreign rulers – the Danes, Swedes, Germans and Russians – left behind a dynamic medieval quarter that’s easily one of the finest in Northern Europe. It’s well-preserved, with nine out of ten historic buildings surviving the bombs of WWII.

One of the oldest structures in the quarter is the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin (also called 'Toomkirk'), built in the 13th century and renovated repeatedly over the years. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is much more recent, displaying Russian influence with a trio of onion domes. The cathedral is directly across from Toompea Hill, where the city’s castle and Danish King’s Courtyard are found.

Tallinn is divided into upper and lower towns. The lower town is announced by Viru Gate, looming over the shopping street by the same name. Some of the trendiest hotels in Tallinn lie on Viru Street, within easy walking distance of the city’s most popular sightseeing and commercial attractions. The lower town fans out around the base of Toompea Hill, includes a few attractive parks and is hemmed in by the city’s medieval walls.

Tallinn’s cosmopolitan character is a bit more subtle than its UNESCO-honored architecture, but the dining and shopping scene has steadily improved since independence in the 1990s. Handmade woolen garments, leatherwork and ceramics make the best souvenirs. Restaurants in Tallinn serve mostly Northern European fare including plenty of seafood, but the international selection continues to grow as tourists arrive in greater numbers.

Getting into Tallinn is easier than ever before. Tourists regularly arrive from Stockholm and Helsinki, usually aboard hydrofoils. It’s also possible to fly direct into Tallinn Airport from cities across Europe.