The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds (Lauluvӓljak) was the site of one of the most stirring events in Estonian history. Here, in September of 1988, 300,000 people (more than a quarter of the country’s population) filled the grounds for the Song of Estonia festival. Together they sang patriotic hymns and demanded independence in what later became known as the Singing Revolution. Two years later, half a million people came to the festival grounds for the Estonian Song Festival, which was the last major event before Estonia finally gained its independence.
The open-air amphitheater has an official capacity of around 100,000 and hosts the Estonian Song Festival every five years in July, as well as regular rock concerts. The festival was established in 1869, along with the Estonian National Awakening, a period when the country was still under the rule of the Russian Empire. The festival is one of the world’s largest amateur choral events, usually featuring more than 25,000 singers and an audience of at least 100,000.
Next to the concert arena is the 137-foot (42-meter) Song Ground Light Tower where every song festival is opened by the lighting of a flame atop the tower. A photo exhibition of song festival history lines the tower’s staircase and there is an observation platform at the top where you can get excellent views of the Old Town and even, on clear days, the coast of Finland.
The grounds are around two miles east of Tallinn’s old town center, past Kadriorg Park, and are free to visit.