Lined by the harbor, Tallinn Old Town and the Viru Centre shopping mall, lies the Rotermann Quarter, the official center-point of Tallinn. Being the meeting point of three main roads, the quarter was busy as far back as the 19th century.
That’s probably why an entrepreneur called Christian Abraham Rotermann found the place and founded his company there in 1829. Rotermann’s factory produced building equipment, and soon also housed a distillery, a pasta factory, and it wasn't long before Tallinn’s largest mill followed it into the neighborhood.
During the Soviet occupation the quarter was badly dilapidated, but in 2001 it was ordered to be preserved and the planning of its renovation began. Today, the Rotermann Quarter is an architectural masterpiece mixing old and new, and it has also been given significant international awards.
The bustling quarter is filled with fashion shops, cafés, restaurants and activities ranging from beauty parlors to a cinema. Don’t forget the brand new Tallinn Design House with its diverse collection of Estonian design! Above all that, the quarter is home to many kinds of companies, such as legal offices and advertising agencies – and many people of Tallinn, as well.
The Stalker’s Path (Stalkeri käik) is named after the famous Russian film ”Stalker” by Andrei Tarkovsky, filmed on this very spot back in 1979. The path is the latest and undoubtedly the most delicious part of the whole Rotermann Quarter. Many restaurants and cafés have recently opened in the old grain elevator, serving all kinds of delicacies for their hungry clients. Why not pop in before a night at the Coca-Cola Plaza Cinema! And while you’re out and about, remember to try the Kalev Chocolate Shop, filled with confections from Estonian’s major candy factory.
Friends of architecture should also visit the Museum of Estonian Architecture in the former salt storage building. Just around the corner are the Estonian Firefighting Museum and the Hotel Viru & KGB Museum, the latter offering its visitors a fascinating throwback to Soviet history not so long ago.
Freedom Square Tallinn
A good starting point for sightseeing the Rotermann Quarter in Tallinn is Freedom Square (Vabaduse Väljak), right next to the Old Town. The square is a popular meeting spot, but it also offers a glimpse into the Estonian past.
On opposite sides of the square stand two of its most striking structures. St. John’s Church (Jaani kirik), built in the 1860’s, is a true survivor among the city’s churches. Despite two attempts to tear it down during the last century it’s still standing to this day.
Those interested in churches should also visit the nearby Charles XI Lutheran Church (Kaarli kirik), known for the first Estonian fresco and the country’s largest church organ. Both churches are popular concert venues.
On the other side of the Freedom Square, the Monument to the War of Independence is reaching out to the sky, reminding us of Estonia’s rocky path to its freedom between 1918-20. The medieval canon tower Kiek in de Kök peeks right behind it, and on the north-western corner of the square, right next to the pharmacy, there is another chance to have a look at history: a glass panel in the street reveals the foundation and stairs of the medieval Harju Gate Tower.
Thanks to its central location, Freedom Square is full of life and passers-by, but it’s also a place for those looking for a relaxing moment on a bench or in a café. Wabadus (Freedom) Restaurant is near the square since 1937. The menu of this stylish-but relaxed-restaurant is, however, modern and tasty.
Café KuKu is a couple of years older than its neighbor, and it's the place for the artists of Tallinn. No wonder – the café is next to Tallinn Art Hall and two galleries: Tallinn Art Hall Gallery and Vabaduse Gallery. Modern everyday art can be admired – and purchased – at Nu Nordik, a design shop completely dedicated to Estonian design.
Museum of Estonian Architecture
The Museum of Estonian Architecture was founded on January 1, 1991 – at a time of political anxiety that lasted for a little over six months more, until the restoration of Estonian independence. Since 1996 its permanent home has been the historical building of the Rotermann Salt Storage – one of Tallinn’s most outstanding examples of industrial architecture.
The Museum of Estonian Architecture aims to operate on a broad front and be able to offer something to specialists, tourists, as well as schoolchildren. The Museum also communicates actively on the international level – it is a board member of the International Confederation of Architectural Museums (ICAM) and has good relationships with both Nordic and European architectural institutions.
Like the majority of architectural museums in the world, the Museum of Estonian Architecture focuses on collecting, researching, and displaying 20th-century and contemporary architecture. The Museum possesses a very good archive of drawings and design projects from the 1920s–1930s as well as from the Soviet period, and also a photo archive and a constantly-expanding collection of models.
The greater portion the latter is on display as part of the permanent exhibition titled “Space in Motion: A Century of Estonian Architecture”. Active engagement with the issues surrounding contemporary architecture is important to the Museum too, as residing in a very quickly-changing era means an obligation to analyze and acquaint today’s living environment to the greater public. The Museum’s exhibitions on local architectural history, international practice, as well as the most up-to-date architecture still in its conceptual phase are one way to teach individuals to notice that environment.
Kalev Chocolate Shop Tallinn
In 1806, the confectioner Lorenz Caviezel lays the foundation for the Estonian confectionery industry by opening his confectionery store on Pikk Street, Tallinn, where Maiasmokk Café is now situated. This will become the oldest precursor of today’s Kalev. In 1864, the confectionery store changed hands many times, until Georg Stude senior buys it in 1864 and greatly expands it. Marzipan figurines and hand-made chocolate confectionery were the most sought-after items in Stude’s store. The Russian Imperial Court was among those clients who ordered sweets from Stude’s company regularly. Unique marzipan figurines are made at Maiasmokk Café to this day, using historical marzipan moulds and methods.
The start of the nationalization and merging of confectionery companies happened in 1940. Brandmann’s company merged with the Riola factory, and the new name of the company became the Karamell Confectionery Factory. Later, the department of marzipan and chocolate confectionery of Georg Stude’s company joined Karamell. At this time, cakes and pastries were still made in the building on Pikk Street, which is still known as Maiasmokk Café. The Efekt, Eelis, Endla and Soliid factories were soon merged with Kawe, as was the Ermos syrup production facility in Kloodi Manor near Rakvere. The merged company continued operating under the name of Kawe.