If you are seeking a departure from the customary European vacation experience, be sure to include Estonia among your potential destinations. This former Soviet state, characterized by its scarce crowds, unfolds with well-preserved medieval towns, enchanting woodlands, mist-laden bogs, and age-old customs. It’s akin to a realm from fairy tales brought to life.
Your escapades are likely to commence in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, a city brimming with diverse activities. In this locale, you’ll stroll atop ancient city walls, indulge in countless servings of Estonian black bread, explore the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, and savor panoramic vistas of the entire city from the Tallinn TV Tower.
From there, venture forth to explore the broader offerings of this diminutive yet captivating nation. Luxuriate in opulent spas in Pärnu, the country’s summer capital. For avid birdwatchers, Matsalu National Park stands as one of the world’s premier destinations. Embark on a cycling journey along the picturesque Narva River Promenade. And when you’ve sated your appetite for mainland exploration, set your course for one of Estonia’s 2,000-plus islands.
In this remarkable destination, monotony is an impossibility. Chart your sightseeing endeavors with the aid of our compilation of the foremost attractions in Estonia.
Tallinn’s Old Town
Whether your trip to Estonia is a full-fledged vacation or a one-day stop on a Baltic cruise, you should devote as much time as your itinerary allows to explore Tallinn’s Old Town. It was home to affluent merchants from Denmark and Germany in the 13th century and is one of the world’s most pristinely maintained Hanseatic town centers.
In 1997, the Old Town, with its cobblestone streets and ancient buildings, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Begin your adventure with Raeapteek, Europe’s oldest continuously operating pharmacy. It features amazing museum-style exhibitions on historical medical instruments and practices. Look for the unusual round stone outdoors in the middle of Town Hall Square. You may attempt to locate the steeples of Tallinn’s five old churches from there.
See the art and Gothic arches in Tallinn Town Hall, then explore the remainder of the Old Town, stopping by churches, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, and the postcard-worthy panorama from the Patkuli platform. Sightseeing in this area feels like stepping back in time.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Tallinn: Best Areas & Hotels
Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour
Catering to both avid travelers and casual tourists, the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour offers an unforgettable travel experience. Located in the beautiful city of Tallinn, there is an award-winning museum that showcases a fascinating collection of around 200 authentic maritime artifacts and vessels. This remarkable museum is housed in a historic seaplane hangar, which boasts the distinction of featuring the world’s first high-volume, columnless, thin-shell concrete dome.
When you travel to this destination, you will have the opportunity to explore a fascinating collection of maritime artifacts. Among the highlights are a 1930s-era submarine, a 100-year-old steam-powered icebreaker, and the well-preserved remains of Estonia’s oldest ship. These captivating exhibits are part of the museum’s permanent collection, offering a unique glimpse into the rich maritime history of the region. While traveling, you may have the opportunity to try on a navy uniform for a memorable souvenir photo. Additionally, you can immerse yourself in the art of throwing paper airplanes.
Experience the thrill of soaring through the skies as you take control of a plane in a range of interactive simulators. These cutting-edge technologies allow you to fully immerse yourself in the world of aviation, providing a realistic and exhilarating flying experience.
Located on the picturesque coastline of the Gulf of Riga, Parnu is a charming destination that boasts a stunning stretch of pristine sandy beach, considered one of the finest in the Baltic region. The vibrant Beach Promenade is a must-visit destination for travelers. With its babbling fountains and charming al fresco restaurants, it offers a delightful atmosphere. Additionally, the area boasts a fantastic bike track, perfect for those looking to explore on two wheels.
In the heart of the city, you’ll find the remains of a vibrant Art Deco era from the 1920s, which brings a touch of elegance to the resort. Surprisingly, there are spas conveniently located on street corners, adding to the overall charm. Ruutli Street comes alive with a lively atmosphere after dark, and the outskirts are adorned with delightful timber villas. In summary: this destination is Estonia’s ultimate summer getaway!
Narva River Promenade
Scarcely any region in Estonia can match the captivating opportunities for sightseeing offered by the Narva River Promenade. Extending for nearly one kilometer, this waterfront pathway meanders along the western shores of the Narva River, which serves as the natural demarcation between the European Union and Russia.
Regardless of your location along this tranquil promenade, you’re certain to encounter captivating sights of interest. Gazing westward, you can explore the bastion walls and the Hermann Castle, a medieval stone edifice dating back to the 14th century. To the north, the Narva harbor commands attention, while to the south, tourists can explore the Joaorg recreation area, complete with a beach house. Here, visitors have the opportunity to rent bicycles, sun loungers, volleyballs, and badminton sets.
Dedicate an afternoon to strolling or cycling along the promenade, observing the skilled fly fishermen, and immersing yourself in the mesmerizing sunset views.
Adjacent to the modest town of Rummu, lies one of the globe’s most unparalleled diving destinations: the Rummu Prison. Formerly a Soviet penitentiary, the site witnessed inmates toiling within a limestone quarry. Upon Estonia’s reclamation of independence, the facility was deserted. In the wake of this abandonment, subterranean groundwater swiftly engulfed the erstwhile prison, conserving its mining machinery, edifices, barbed wire, and lampposts. An additional enthralling facet is the inundated forest adorned with algae.
It is imperative to recognize that this dive site constitutes an enclosed environment. Explorers should exercise caution and prudence, as only adept divers boasting substantial training should venture forth to explore this distinctive location.
Estonian National Museum
The Estonian National Museum garners acclaim for its captivating permanent displays that delve into Estonian history and culture, while also commanding attention through its striking architecture.
Situated on a former Soviet military base, this conceptual masterpiece emerged in 2016, resembling an airfield poised for departure into the cosmos. When illuminated at night, the structure’s lighting lends it a particularly awe-inspiring aura.
Allocate at least half a day to fully immerse yourself in the museum’s riches. The primary permanent exhibition, “Encounters,” offers visitors a glimpse into the lives and culture of ordinary Estonians, spanning from the Ice Age to the contemporary era. The museum’s other enduring exhibit, “Echo of the Urals,” centers on the Finno-Ugric peoples, presenting a dazzling array of cultural attire and everyday implements, including culinary tools. The incorporation of cutting-edge technology throughout the museum elevates the overall experience to a more interactive level.
Soomaa National Park
The submerged woodlands and mystical bayous of Soomaa National Park undeniably rank among the most captivating and enchanting destinations throughout Estonia. In total, this site spans an impressive 359 square kilometers, encompassing undulating dunes and low-lying peat bogs that transition through shades of ochre brown, lush green, and frosty white as the seasons shift.
Not surprisingly, the realm of ecotourism has flourished here in recent times. Presently, adventurers and nature enthusiasts are drawn to this locale to explore the intricate waterways of the Raudna River and Parnu Basin via canoes and kayaks. Others opt to traverse the alluvial meadows, accompanied by the sight of cranes and the presence of weathered wooden farmhouses.
AHHAA Science Centre
The AHHAA Science Centre in Tartu offers a unique experience for travelers seeking something beyond the ordinary science museum. Instead of keeping exhibits behind glass, the expansive 3,000-square-meter area provides interactive displays that allow visitors to engage with science, creating an enjoyable and enchanting experience.
Travelers can navigate through a maze of mirrors, pedal a bicycle across a suspended rope, and capture memorable photos while bursting a balloon in the Hall of Technology.
The Hall of Nature showcases the diverse wildlife found across the globe. In this captivating travel destination, you will find a fascinating permanent exhibit showcasing a vibrant colony of 20,000 wood ants and a mesmerizing 6,000-liter tank filled with schools of tropical fish. Alongside these captivating displays, there are numerous other exciting attractions to explore. The travel destination also offers tourists the opportunity to witness the hatching of adorable fluffy chicks from their eggs.
Plan your visit around one of the captivating travel shows at the Planetarium, where you can embark on an extraordinary voyage through the cosmos.
Matsalu National Park
Comprising a breathtaking tapestry of riparian wetlands, expanses of reed grass plains, and flourishing flood meadows along the Kasari River Delta, Matsalu National Park stands as a captivating haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife admirers traversing Estonia.
Encompassing an area of 400 square kilometers, this park is renowned for its avian inhabitants. Among its famed feathered residents are endangered species such as the white-tailed eagle, immense congregations of barnacle geese, tufted ducks, and the largest migrating assembly of cranes on the continent – a spectacle that unfolds during their autumn stopover. Amidst the wetlands, glimpses of wild horses grazing punctuate the landscape, as they move between the rustic fishing huts and the pathways of the Suitsu hiking trail.
Saaremaa Island, a highly praised destination, rivals Tallinn in its allure. It boasts unbelievably stunning scenery, featuring weathered wooden windmills and open meadows, expansive spruce forests, and breathtaking coastlines infused with the fragrant scents of juniper and Baltic salt.
Travel enthusiasts and nature lovers will be thrilled to explore the enchanting landscapes of Loode. They can immerse themselves in the vibrant orchid-filled areas, meander through the enigmatic Kaali meteorite craters, admire the picturesque Bear Lake, and indulge in the rejuvenating hot springs of Puhatu. For an exhilarating experience, they can also embrace the invigorating sea breezes at the revered Panga clifftops.
When exploring Saaremaa, travelers can immerse themselves in the local folk culture, which adds a unique touch to the land. From captivating folklore and intriguing traditions to a delightfully ironic sense of humor, there is much to discover. And of course, one cannot miss the opportunity to savor the high-quality vodka that is proudly produced here.
Lahemaa National Park
Stretching over an impressive 725 square kilometers, the untamed hinterlands of Lahemaa National Park are adorned with towering pines. This expanse ranks among Europe’s most extensive protected natural regions. Positioned between the salty waves of the Baltic Sea and the eastward highways originating from Tallinn, this area remains easily accessible to travelers rooted in the capital, providing a splendid contrast to urban existence.
Venturing through this landscape, you’ll encounter undulating peat bogs to traverse, meandering boardwalks to navigate, dense thickets of spruce and beech trees to wander among, and the primeval Oandu Forest – a territory frequented by lynxes and packs of wolves. Furthermore, the resplendent Hauaneeme Bay stands as a captivating spectacle, donning shades of pink and mirroring the Estonian sunset in the evening hours.
Kuressaare Episcopal Castle
Among the most impeccably preserved fortifications in the Baltic region, the Kuressaare Episcopal Castle, encircled by its moat, has stood resolute since the 1380s.
A full day can be dedicated to immersing oneself in the castle’s Gothic ambiance and exploring its diverse chambers. These include the convent edifice, labyrinthine staircases, central courtyard, cloister, refectory, and the bishop’s abode – a residence adorned with 11 Baroque wood carvings. While savoring a delightful meal at the Tower Cafe, relish breathtaking panoramas.
The on-site history museum offers insights into life during the bygone era when this castle thrived. It showcases a myriad of unique relics, such as over 2,000 antique coins dating back to the 1620s. Throughout the bustling summer season, visitors can also engage in traditional activities like archery, pottery crafting, musical performances, and even experience the firing of Estonia’s oldest operational cannon.
For those traveling as a group, consider reserving the castle’s Bishop’s Dinner. This two-hour culinary affair features dishes prepared from historical recipes, served in goblets, accompanied by a presentation on centuries-old table etiquette.
Q: What are the must-visit attractions in Estonia?A: Estonia offers a plethora of attractions, including Tallinn Old Town, Lahemaa National Park, Saaremaa Island, Telliskivi Creative City, and more.
Q: Are there any unique cultural experiences in Estonia?
A: Absolutely! You can explore the Estonian Open-Air Museum to learn about rural heritage, connect with the Old Believers community at Lake Peipus, and enjoy contemporary arts at KUMU Art Museum.
Q: What are some of the adventure opportunities in Estonia?
A: Adventure enthusiasts can explore Soomaa National Park’s flooded forests, enjoy skiing and snowboarding in Otepaa, and experience the adrenaline rush of adventure sports.
Q: What culinary delights can I experience in Estonia?
A: Estonian cuisine offers a mix of traditional and modern flavors. Don’t miss the chance to try black bread, herring, blood sausage, and innovative dishes in Tallinn’s restaurants.
Q: Are there any attractions that showcase Estonia’s history?
A: Absolutely! Explore the historic Tallinn TV Tower, visit Tartu University, and immerse yourself in the stories at the Museum of Occupations.
Q: What’s unique about Estonia’s art scene?
A: Estonia’s art scene is diverse and innovative. Visit NO99 Theatre for avant-garde performances and KUMU Art Museum for contemporary and classic artworks.