Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, 80 km (50 mi) south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg in Harju County. From the 13th century until 1918 (and briefly during the Nazi occupation of Estonia from 1941 to 1944), the city was known as Reval. Tallinn occupies an area of 159.2 km2 (61.5 sq mi) and has a population of 444,591. Approximately a third of Estonia's total population lives in Tallinn.
Tallinn was founded in 1248, but the earliest human settlements date back 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest capital cities of Northern Europe. The initial claim over the land was laid by the Danes in 1219 after a successful raid of Lyndanisse led by Valdemar II of Denmark, followed by a period of alternating Scandinavian and German rule. Due to its strategic location, the city became a major trade hub, especially from the 14th to the 16th century, when it grew in importance as part of the Hanseatic League.
Tallinn's Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tallinn is the major political, financial, cultural and educational center of Estonia. Often dubbed the Silicon Valley of Europe, it has the highest number of startups per person in Europe and is a birthplace of many international companies, including Skype. The city is to house the headquarters of the European Union's IT agency. Providing to the global cybersecurity it is the home to the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. It is ranked as a global city and has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. According to the Global Financial Centres Index Tallinn is the most competitive financial hub in Northern Europe and ranks 42nd internationally. The city was a European Capital of Culture for 2011, along with Turku in Finland. Tallinn is situated on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, in north-western Estonia.
The largest lake in Tallinn is Lake Ülemiste (9.44 km2 (3.6 sq mi)). It is the main source of the city's drinking water. Lake Harku is the second largest lake within the borders of Tallinn and its area is 1.6 square kilometres (0.6 sq mi). Tallinn does not lie on a major river. The only significant river in Tallinn is Pirita River in Pirita, a city district counted as a suburb. Historically, the small Härjapea River flowed from Lake Ülemiste through the town into the sea, but the river was diverted for sewage in the 1930s and has since completely disappeared from the cityscape. References to it still remain in the street names Jõe (from Jõgi, river) and Kivisilla (from Kivisild, stone bridge).
A limestone cliff runs through the city. It can be seen at Toompea, Lasnamäe and Astangu. However, Toompea is not a part of the cliff, but a separate hill.
The highest point in Tallinn, at 64 meters above sea level, is situated in Hiiu, Nõmme District, in the south-west of the city.
The length of the coast is 46 kilometres (29 miles). It comprises three bigger peninsulas: Kopli peninsula, Paljassaare peninsula and Kakumäe peninsula. The city has a number of public beaches, including those at Pirita, Stroomi, Kakumäe, Harku and Pikakari.