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Patarei Sea Fortress and Prison

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Discover the Haunting History of Patarei Sea Fortress and Prison in Tallinn

Tucked away in the charming Kalamaja district of Tallinn, Estonia, lies the enigmatic Patarei Sea Fortress and Prison. This imposing triangular-shaped building complex holds a fascinating history that dates back to the 19th century. Let's delve into the captivating story of this iconic landmark.

A Fortress Built for Defense

Commissioned by Emperor Nicholas I, the Patarei Sea Fortress was constructed from 1830 to 1837 as part of the fortifications for the Russian state. Its strategic location on the shores of Tallinn Bay made it an ideal defensive structure. The fortress served as a crucial line of defense for the Russian Empire during times of conflict.

From Barracks to Prison

Following Russia's defeat in the Crimean War, Tallinn was removed from the list of fortresses, and the Patarei Sea Fortress was converted into barracks in 1864. However, its fate took a dark turn during the Soviet occupation of Estonia. The building was transformed into a prison, known as the Tallinn Central Prison or Patarei Prison.

Uncover the Dark Secrets

Patarei Prison became the largest prison in Estonia, with a capacity for nearly 1,000 prisoners. The complex included not only prison cells but also a hospital. The building was fortified with internal walls, iron gates, and double bars on some windows, creating an eerie atmosphere that still lingers today.

Walk the Exterior

While it is currently not possible to enter the fortress-prison, visitors can still explore the exterior of the complex. Take a leisurely stroll around the perimeter and marvel at the imposing architecture. The triangular shape and sturdy walls are a testament to the fortress's original purpose.

Historical Significance

Patarei Sea Fortress and Prison played a significant role in Estonia's history. It replaced the previous jails in Toompea Castle and the Fat Margaret artillery tower, becoming the primary correctional facility in the country. The prison housed political prisoners, criminals, and even spies during its tumultuous past.

The Future of Patarei

In recent years, there have been plans to transform Patarei Prison into a museum of crimes of communism. The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory aims to establish an international research center alongside the museum. This ambitious project is scheduled to open its doors in 2026, offering visitors a deeper understanding of Estonia's troubled past.

When to Visit

While the interior of Patarei Prison is currently inaccessible, the exterior can be visited throughout the year. The fortress is particularly captivating during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when the light casts a haunting glow over the imposing structure. Remember to bring your camera to capture the eerie beauty of this historical landmark.


The Patarei Sea Fortress and Prison in Tallinn is a captivating destination that offers a glimpse into Estonia's tumultuous past. From its origins as a defensive fortress to its transformation into a prison during the Soviet era, this landmark holds a wealth of history within its walls. While you can't explore the interior just yet, a walk around the exterior is a must for history enthusiasts and curious travelers alike.

Updated on 27 May 2024

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