If there’s one part of Tallinn outside Old Town that a first time visitor absolutely, definitely, unquestionably has to see, it’s Kadriorg. Though it’s only a few minutes’ walk from the centre, this quiet area is a world unto itself, a secluded neighbourhood made up of large areas of forested park criss-crossed by paths and dotted with statues and ponds. It’s also home to a number of intriguing 19th- and 20th-century villas, and the nation’s top art museums.

The jewel in Kadriorg’s crown however is the Kadriorg Palace, a magnificent, Baroque structure surrounded by manicured gardens and fountains. This was the centre of an estate that Russian tsar Peter the Great established as a family retreat in the early 18th century. In fact, it was Peter himself who was responsible for creating Kadriorg.

The story started when his forces captured Estonia from the Swedes in 1710, kicking off the so-called Tsarist period of Estonia’s history, which lasted for the next two centuries. In 1714, the emporer launched a project to create a park on a large tract of land in was then on the outskirts of Tallinn. Later, in 1718, work on the summer palace began. It was dubbed Catherinenthal in honour of the tsar’s wife, Catherine I. In Estonian, Kadriorg literally means ‘Catherine’s Valley.’ The emporer never intended the palace to be anything more than a summer villa and knew that the family would rarely visit, so he ordered that the park and its carefully crafted gardens be open to the public.

After Peter died, Russian royalty lost interest holidaying in far-off Tallinn, but the area continued to be associated with culture and splendour. Wealthy families eventually began to built their villas nearby and continued to do so right up through the 20th Century. In 1938, the Estonian presidential palace was built here, just uphill from the Kadriorg Palace. Even today, telling people that you own property in Kadriorg will get you a few envious glances.

These days Kadriorg is also associated with art, since it’s home to some of the best art museums in the country. In 2006 the nation’s largest and most complete art museum, the Kumu, opened its doors to the public. What’s more, the former Tsar’s palace itself now houses the extensive Foreign Art Museum of Estonia, while the nearby Mikkel museum displays an impressive number of works, including some Rembrandt etchings. Just as rewarding as walking through the museums and admiring the paintings, visitors can also stroll through Kadriorg’s residential streets to find a few architectural gems, or simply meander through the park and ponder the lives of centuries past. There is also an extensive play-park for the kids and young at heart.

Getting there
On your map, look for the big, green patch and you’ve found Kardiorg. From the centre, walking to Kadriorg is an easy option - it takes about 15 minutes if you’re coming from the edge of Old Town nearest the Viru Hotel. Tram N°3 will also get you there. Once you’ve arrived, nearly everything you want to see is located conveniently on, or just next to, the same short stretch of Weizenbergi.

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