This museum dedicated to all sea-faring aspects of Estonia’s history is housed in one of Tallinn's fattest cannon towers.
Fat Margaret (Paks Margareeta) and the attached Great Coastal Gate (Suur Rannavärav), two of Tallinn's most impressive defensive structures, stand guard at the north end of Pikk street. They were built not only to defend the city from the seaward side of town, but also to impress any visitors arriving via the harbour.
Today, the complex provides an overview of maritime trade, agencies, and navigation in the Middle Ages, as well as in the era of sailing, steam, and motor ships. There is a total of 1,000 m² of exhibition space. The star exhibit is the 700-year-old Koge wreck found in Kadriorg in 2015. There are about 70 ship models out of which 17 have been created especially for the exhibition, nearly 700 items, and 50 digital and hands-on solutions.
You can also visit the museum's rooftop for a picture-postcard view of the Tallinn harbour and Old Town while enjoying refreshing drinks from the terrace's café.
The Great Coastal Gate, along with the Viru Gates, are the last of six gates that controlled access to the town in medieval times. The gate system here on Pikk street originated in the 1300s, but it was during reconstruction in the early 16th century that the Fat Margaret cannon tower was added. Built from 1511 to 1530, this hefty, round tower has a diameter of 25 metres, a height of about 20 metres, and walls up to 5 metres thick.
The origins of Fat Margaret's name are a mystery. Some theories insist it was named for one of its larger cannons, while others hint at a cook called Margaret who once worked here.
In any case, the tower has served a number of different functions throughout its history. It has been used a storehouse for gunpowder and weapons, and as a prison.