St Olaf’s Church in Tallinn, Estonia

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For me, there is nothing quite so vomit inducing as sheer drops from high places. I’m talking heights, people: I am scared of heights. I wouldn’t say I’m terrified. It’s not a phobia or anything. I just don’t like them, and when I experience them, I get a strange uncomfortable feeling in my lower GI tract that I could live without. So why I thought it would be a good idea to climb the stairs to the top middle of what was once the TALLEST BUILDING IN THE WORLD, I’ve no idea. As I’ve demonstrated before, sometimes I just don’t think things through.

By today’s standards of height, St. Olaf’s isn’t all that impressive. Let’s examine:

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur: 452 meters/1,483 feet


Taipei 101: 509 meters/1669 feet


St. Olaf’s Church in Tallinn: 159 meters/522 feet

So it’s not quite the same as, say, going up to the top of Taipei 101 (which I definitely did not do), or doing the edge walk at Toronto’s CN Tower (no way in hell am I ever doing that). But still, St. Olaf’s was once the tallest building in the world. And 124 meters (Its current height: like people, it has gotten shorter in old age. Unlike people, it’s reduction in height is due to the fact that it has burned to the ground several times.) is nothing to scoff at.

Entrance to the church is free, but a trip up the tower will cost you 2 Euro (1 Euro for kids, but why anyone would choose to take their child to this place is beyond me). Like many things in life and travel, the journey up the church tower is as impressive as the view from the top: the steps are carved out of solid stone, with nothing supporting them but the awesome strength of the stone itself. Not a great time to ponder whether Estonia sits on any major fault lines.

St. Olaf’s Church steps: not a great place for toddlers, earthquakes, or inappropriate footwear.

The walk requires you climb 258 steep and slippery stone steps — so wear sturdy shoes — and takes you about 60 meters up. You don’t go to the top of the steeple, but rather its base.

Because going to the top would just be ridiculous, and would require cat-like reflexes and balance.

The climb up was slow going – the tower is only open in the summer (closed in the “wintry” period), meaning it is busy, and there aren’t any controls about which way you go – we followed a family with a toddler, and had to constantly press ourselves against the stone walls as others paraded past us as they climbed down from the top. Because the line going up is so tight, I’d recommend you pack your DSLR safely away before you start the climb: I had ours over my shoulder, and it was constantly getting kicked by the guy in front of me as he climbed each stair.

Once you reach the base of the steeple, 60 meters up, the walkway around the steeple is probably less than half a meter wide – as you walk around the platform, you pretty much have to place your hand on the copper steeple to balance as you walk around the steeple for a 360 degree view of Tallinn…the view alone makes it one of the best things to do in Tallinn!

Is it just me, or does this look not-that-safe? Did I mention the steeple has been hit by lightening roughly 10 times in its history?

I didn’t manage to walk around the steeple – I made it out onto the walkway for a respectable 30 seconds or so, before handing the camera to The Geoff and waiting inside. But even I, filled with fear and an odd and uncomfortable feeling in my intestines, have to admit it’s a pretty spectacular view!


Ain’t it purdy?


If you look close enough, you can see Finland in the distance (not really).




2 thoughts on “St Olaf’s Church in Tallinn, Estonia”

    1. Ha ha! Yes – old churches do have a creepiness factor to them! Thankfully, I was so busy that I never really got a chance to think about it

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