Toompea is the hill where the Danes built their fortress after conquering what is now Tallinn in 1219. According to legend, it is also the grave of Kalev, the mythical ancestor of the Estonians. Approach through the sturdy gate tower – built by the Teutonic Knights to contain the Old Town’s inhabitants in times of unrest – at the foot of Pikk jalg. This is the cobbled continuation of Pikk, the Old Town’s main street, that climbs up to Lossi plats, dominated by the impressive-looking Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. This imposing onion-domed structure was built at the end of the nineteenth century for the city’s Orthodox population – an enduring reminder of the two centuries Tallinn spent under tsarist rule.
At the head of Lossi plats, the pink Toompea Castle stands on the original Danish fortification site. Today’s castle is the descendant of a stone fortress built by the Knights of the Sword, the Germanic crusaders who kicked out the Danes in 1227 and controlled the city until 1238 (when the Danes returned). The building is now home to the Riigikogu, Estonia’s parliament.