Toompea Hill - History and Facts | History Hit

Toompea Hill

Tallinn, Estonia

Peta Stamper

29 Sep 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Toompea Hill

Toompea Hill in the capital city of Estonia, Tallinn, stands between 20 and 30 metres taller than the city skyline and has risen with the fortunes of the rulers of Estonia. In folklore the hill is known as the mound over the grave of Kalev – a legendary heroic figure in Finnish and Estonian lore – erected in his memory by his grieving wife.

Toompea Hill history

The first stronghold is believed to have been built on the hill in either the 10th or 11th century by residents of the ancient Estonia. The late Iron Age fortified settlement was not permanently inhabited, but was used seasonally to guard the harbour and its marketplace. 

In 1240, the great cathedral was begun in the place it stands today (albeit much changed). During the same period, Toompea turned into the centre of provincial authority, clergy and nobility in Northern Estonia.

The Swedish Empire conquered Northern Estonia in 1561 and held it until the Great Northern War, when Tallinn was conquered by Russia in 1710. Toompea, designated a separate town, kept special rights and privileges which remained until 1889. 

The beautiful cathedral, in front of the Toompea Palace, was built during the period of Russification as a symbol of the tsarist rule and Russian dominance. It only just survived demolition in the 1930s.

Toompea Hill today

Today, Toompea is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listing of Tallinn’s Old Town. Toompea is the heart of Estonian government and the seat of the Riigikogu (parliament), both of which are often simply referred to as ‘Toompea’. The Riigikogu meets at Toompea Castle, situated in the southwestern corner of the hill and topped by the Tall Hermann tower.

There are several viewing platforms around Toompea, which offer stunning views of the surrounding city.

Getting to Toompea Hill

Located on a hill in the centre of Tallinn, Toompea is hard to miss. There are 157 steps connecting Toompea hill to the town below, with the stairway coming out in Toompark.