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Sights in Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and is rich in culture and history. It was formerly occupied by Nazi and Soviet forces and only became an independent country in 1991.

  • Estonian Open-Air Museum—a sprawling complex with historic Estonian buildings, a chapel dating back to 1699, and an old wooden tavern serving traditional Estonian cuisine and activities such as weaving, blacksmithing, and cooking; Vabaohumuuseumi tee 12
  • Kumu—a futuristic-looking seven story building made of limestone, glass, and copper that contains the largest collection of Estonian art in the country and rotating contemporary exhibits as well as a permanent collection featuring works from the early 18th century to the end of World War II and art from the Soviet era; A. Weizenbergi 34
  • Lennusadam—a maritime museum honoring Estonia’s extensive history with the open seas that was designed in a concrete shell frame fashion and includes a walk-through 1930s naval submarine and ice-breaker and minehunter ships outside; Vesilennuki 6
  • Kadriorg Art Museum—a Baroque palace built by Peter the Great between 1718 and 1736 that has a branch of the Estonian Art Museum that is devoted to Dutch, German, and Italian paintings from the 16th to the 18th centuries and Russian works from the 18th to early 20th centuries; A. Weizenbergi 37
  • Niguliste Museum—a deconsecrated church originally built in the 13th century but was damaged by Soviet bombers in 1944 and a fire in the 1980s but has since been restored and is now home to a branch of the Estonian Art Museum devoted to religious art with artifacts such as painted altarpieces, carved tombstones, and ecclesiastical silverware; Niguliste 3
  • Great Guild Hall—a building dating back to 1410 that was once home to the Great Guild and is now the Estonian History Museum with interactive displays on Estonia, coins dating back to Viking times, military artifacts, and Estonian cultural exhibits; Pikk 17
  • Nuku—a puppet museum which has a collection that introduces the art of puppeteers from different cultures and eras through interactive exhibits and workshops; Nunne 8
  • Tallinn Botanic Garden—a lush garden with 8,000 species of plants scattered between greenhouses, themed gardens, and arboretums; Kloostrimetsa tee 52
  • Tallinn Zoo—this zoo has the world’s largest collection of mountain goats and sheep plus 350 other species of animals such as lions, leopards, elephants, bears, lynx, owls, and eagles; Paldiski mnt 145
  • Kadriorg Park—a large park commissioned by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine I after his conquest of Estonia that has oak, lilac, and horse chestnut trees; a formal pond; gardens; and a playground
  • Tallinn TV Tower—a 341-meter-tall tower opened in celebration of the 1980 Olympics that has great views from the 22nd floor, interactive displays in the space-age pods, and an adventure walk; Kloostrimetsa tee 58a
  • Museum of Occupations—a museum with displays that depict the struggles and hardships of 50 years of occupations briefly under the Nazis and then by Soviets with evocative videos, photos, and artifacts; Toompea 8
  • City Museum—the main branch of the City Museum (there are ten sites overall) is located in a 14th century merchant’s house and illustrates the city’s development from its early days with displays on Estonian language, everyday life, artifacts, and cultural development; Vene 17
  • Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral—a beautiful onion-domed Russian Orthodox cathedral completed in 1900 known for its icons and frescoes; Lossi plats 10
  • Town Council Pharmacy—the oldest continually operating pharmacy in Europe once run by the same family until 1913 and featuring painted beams and a small historical display; Raekoja plats 11
  • Mikkel Museum—a former kitchen in Kadriorg Palace that now has some of the Estonian Art Museum’s collection with a small collection of paintings and porcelain; A. Weizenbergi 28
  • Estonian Museum of Natural History—a natural history museum with over 300,000 examples of the country’s plants and animals with revolving exhibitions; Lai 29a
  • Maarjamae Palace—a limestone manor house built in 1874 for a Russian count that is now home to the Estonian Film Museum, a branch of the Estonian History Museum focusing on 20th century Estonia, and a Soviet sculpture graveyard; Pirita tee 56
  • Maarjamae War Memorial—a Soviet-era monument with a bowed obelisk set within a concrete plaza with part of the complex built in 1975 as a memorial to Red Army soldiers killed fighting the Nazis; Pirita tee
  • Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood—a museum featuring one of Europe’s largest collections of medals and military insignia; Kuninga 3
  • Estonian National Library—one of independent Estonia’s first public buildings designed with dolomite limestone that has frequent exhibitions on the upper floors; Tonismagi 2
  • Children’s Museum Miaamilla in Kadriorg—a small museum and activity center for children between the ages of 3 and 11 with a child-size grocery store, activity room, and café; L. Koidula 21c, Kadriorg Park
  • Architecture Museum—a museum that displays building and town models and temporary exhibitions; Ahtri 2
  • House of Peter I—a cottage that Peter the Great and Catherine I occupied during their visits to Tallinn that is filled with portraits, furniture, and artifacts from the period; Maekalda 2
  • Draakoni Gallery—a commercial gallery that has small but interesting exhibitions of contemporary art including works from many local artists; Pikk 18

 

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Sights in Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania and has endured a turbulent history of occupation and violence and has many memorials to victims of the atrocities that occurred within the city and country.

  • Arkikatedra Bazilika—Vilnius’s main cathedral that has been a national icon for centuries and inside is the 17th century Chapel of St. Kazimieras; this cathedral was originally a temple to a pagan god before becoming a church in the 13th century when Lithuania converted from paganism to Christianity (the last European country to convert); Katedros 1
  • Ausros Vartai (Gates of Dawn)—the only remaining gate of Vilnius’s nine 16th century gates which has to the right of the gate a door leading to the Chapel of Our Lady of Vilnius, a room that has its walls covered with metal and silver hearts and an icon of the Virgin Mary known for its healing powers; Ausros Vartu 12
  • Vilnil Museum of Illusions—a fun museum that explores how different illusions work through interactive displays; Vokieciu g.6
  • Apastalu Petro ir Povilo Baznycia (Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church)—a Baroque style church with extensive white décor inside the church including sculptures and intricate stucco carvings; Antakalnio g. 1
  • Paneriai—a forested historic site that serves as a memorial to the many Lithuanian citizens who were killed in the Holocaust; Agrastu 17
  • Money Museum of the Bank of Lithuania—a museum that provides an overview of the monetary development of Lithuania such as the transition to a central bank; Totoriu g. 2/8
  • Anne’s Church—a Gothic church known for its impressive façade; Maironio g. 8
  • John’s Church—a beautiful church located on the campus of Vilnius’s university that was reconstructed in 1749 with a high altar and elaborate blue organ and is known for its adjoining bell tower which can be accessed via a modern glass lift elevator; Sv. Jono g. 12
  • Church of St. Theresa—an early Baroque-style church with ornate carvings and frescoes inside; Aushros Vartu g. 12
  • KGB Museum (Genocido Auku Muziejus)—a museum dedicated to the Russian KGB and its prisoners who had to survive unbearable conditions; Auku g. 2a
  • Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania—a fortified palace that has been remodeled, expanded, destroyed, and rebuilt over the years and is now shown in its restored version of a Baroque palace built for the grand dukes in the 17th century with a central courtyard and ceremonial halls; Katedros aikste 4
  • Antakalnis Cemetery—one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful graveyards with the burial sites of those killed by Soviet special forces on January 13, 1991, and a memorial that honors Napoleonic soldiers who perished from starvation and injuries in Vilnius while retreating from the Russian army; off Kariu kapu gatve
  • Vilnius University—founded in 1579 during the Counter-Reformation, this university was run by Jesuits for 200 years before being closed by Russians in 1832 and not reopening until 1919, it has 23,000 students and is home to Lithuania’s oldest library with 5 million books including one of two original editions of The Catechism by Martynas Mazvydas (the first book published in Lithuanian); Universiteto gatve 3
  • Mindaugas—a landmark statue that depicts the early unifier of the Lithuanian tribes in the mid-13th century and Lithuania’s first king; Arsenalo gatve 1
  • Gediminas Castle and Museum—the last of a series of settlements and fortified buildings that have occupied the site since Neolithic times and is a brick structure built by Grand Duke Vytautas in the early 15th century with great views of Vilnius and an exhibition that traces the history of the castle over the years with some scale models; Gediminas Hill, Arsenalo gatve 5
  • Tolerance Centre—one of the three main branches of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum that has served as a refuge, concert hall, and theatre over the years that displays Lithuanian Jewish art, cultural, and historic collections with a small permanent exhibit on the Jewish avant-garde movement in Vilnius; Naugarduko gatve 10/2
  • Presidential Palace—a classical edifice that is home to the president and chancellery with a ceremonial changing of the guard every day at 6 pm and the flag-hoisting ceremony on Sundays at noon, tours must be booked in advance; S. Daukanto gatve 3
  • Michael the Archangel Church—an early 17th century church built by the Sapiega family with a Gothic nave, colored marble high altar, and alabaster statuary that is a unique example of late-Renaissance architecture with an exhibition inside with religious art, liturgical vessels, rare manuscripts, and reliquaries from Vilnius Cathedral; Sv Mykolo gatve 9
  • Bernardine Church and Monastery—one of Vilnius’s most impressive churches which was extended and improved in the 17th and 19th centuries and converted to a warehouse by the Soviets before being regained by the Bernardine community once Lithuania gained its independence and is now back to its original state with trails to explore the complex; Maironio gatve 10
  • Museum of Applied Art—housed in the Old Arsenal which was built in the 16th century and restored in the 1980s, this museum features temporary exhibitions and a permanent collection of 15th to 19th century Lithuanian sacred art; Arsenalo gatve 3a
  • National Museum of Lithuania—this museum displays artifacts that show how Lithuanians lived from Neolithic times to the 202th century with special collections devoted to the country’s folk traditions such as numismatics with some of the very first Lithuanian coins and burial goods; Arsenalo gatve 1
  • TV Tower—a 326-meter high TV tower with a tall needle that is symbolic of Lithuania’s resilience and strength as 12 pro-independence protesters were killed by the Soviet army here on January 13, 1991, with memorials to the victims near the tower and a revolving restaurant and observation deck at 165 meters high; Sausio 13-osios gatve 10
  • Theatre, Music, and Cinema Museum—a museum with three centuries worth of musical instruments such as the pusline (a primitive Baltic string instrument made from animal bladders) and kankle (plucked fretted-string instruments) as well as memorabilia from Lithuanian and Soviet films and an extensive collection that documents the national theater; Vilniaus gatve 41
  • House of Signatories—the 18th century home where Lithuania’s Declaration of Independence was signed on February 16, 1918, and now has an exhibition of materials related to the National Movement and the signatories; Pilies gatve 26
  • Holocaust Museum—a museum that depicts the destruction of Lithuania’s Jewish community, the Litvaks, through photos, documentation, and firsthand accounts; Pamenkalnio gatve 12
  • Amber Museum-Gallery—a small museum that is dedicated to Baltic gold and what can be created from it with trinkets and jewelry upstairs and in the basement pieces of many-hued amber, kilns, and other archaeological finds; Sv. Mykolo gatve 8
  • Kazys Varnelis Museum—a museum that features the personal collection of Kazys Varnelis, an artist who became famous for his optical and 3D paintings, with the collection including paintings, furniture, sculptures, maps, and books; Didzioji gatve 26
  • Bernadinu sodas—gardens located between Gediminas Hill and the Bernardine Church with riverbanks, paths, trees, and flowerbeds; Maironio gatve
  • Contemporary Art Centre—the largest center for contemporary art in the Baltic region with 2400 square meters of photography, video, installations, exhibits, and events such as lectures, live music, and film screenings; Vokieciu gatve 2
  • Vilnius Picture Gallery—built in the 17th century with additions in the 19th century, this former palace features a permanent collection of Lithuanian art from the 16th to the 19th centuries as well as temporary exhibitions that showcase Lithuanian movements, artists, and mediums; Didzioji gatve 4
  • Energy and Technology Museum—Vilnius’s first power station that operated between 1903-2003, is now home to exhibitions on energy, technology, and their historical development with original machinery for power generation preserved; Rinktines gatve 2
  • Memorial Complex—located on the grounds of the Tuskulenai Manor is this memorial to the victims of violence during the 20th century in Lithuania; Zirmunu gatve 1F
  • Radvilos Palace—a 17th century palazzo that is home to the foreign fine-arts section of the Lithuanian Art Museum; Vilnaius gatve 24
  • Europa Tower—the highest skyscraper in the Baltic region; Konstitucijos Prospektas 7