18 Must-see and Must-see Sights in Estonia
Estonia is a surprisingly beautiful and interesting country with many attractions that attract tourists. Before your upcoming trip, making and planning your itinerary, the question arises: where to visit Estonia and what to see for sure?
The number of interesting and unusual objects in this wonderful country is impressive, but unfortunately, the duration of the trip does not always allow to see them all. Therefore, let us look at the most iconic places of the country to visit first, and find out what is interesting in Estonia.
Tallinn Old Town
The oldest part of the capital of Estonia, which preserves the historical atmosphere and takes you back to the Middle Ages. Medieval streets and buildings, theatrical performances, taverns where they cook according to ancient recipes – all this allows you to feel what it is like to live in the times of the knights.
The Old Town of Tallinn is so well preserved that it was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as an example of the historic center of a Northern European merchant city.
The area of the old city is divided into two parts, which are separated from each other by a fortress wall: the Upper and Lower Town. In the Upper town lived the higher classes of society: the nobility, aristocrats, the influential. In the Lower town lived artisans, merchants, and other important, but less wealthy people.
In the Lower Town is the town hall building and Town Hall Square. Tallinn Town Hall is beautifully preserved from the Middle Ages, and the weathervane that crowns the spire is a symbol of the city and is called Old Thomas. Also nearby is the observation deck, which offers a breathtaking view of Tallinn and the port.
The castle, built in the ⅩⅠⅠⅠⅠ, towers over the city on a hill in the heart of Tallinn. The fortress once had strategic military and defensive significance. Now the observation towers serve as vantage points from which you can see the entire city.
Toompea Castle is beautifully preserved, and in spite of its centuries-long history, it looks the same as it did a few centuries ago. Nowadays the Estonian parliament sits in the castle.
At the top of the longest tower, which bears the name “Long Hermann”, daily raises the national flag of Estonia. You can climb the tower by a comfortable staircase, the entrance is open to all comers.
The castle looks especially appealing in the evening, when the lighting adds even more mystery and enigma.
Up to now the age of the castle is not precisely known, but according to the most conservative estimations it is not less than 700 years. During its long history the Narva Castle has changed many owners; there was also a period when the castle belonged to Russia.
During the Second World War the Narva Castle was partially destroyed and its reconstruction is going on up to now. In the castle there is a museum exposition devoted to the city, its history and inhabitants.
The northern courtyard of the castle recreates the life of the city of ⅩⅤⅠⅠ: workshops with craftsmen, a pharmacy, merchants and merchants. Those who wish can feel themselves in the role of an inhabitant of the city and experience the atmosphere that reigned 4 centuries ago.
The Narva Castle Museum offers master classes in candle making and other medieval occupations, where everyone can make a souvenir that will long remind you of your trip.
After Estonia was annexed to Russia after the end of the Great Northern War, Peter Ⅰ visited the country with his wife Catherine. The emperor was so taken with the Tallinn countryside that he bought a manor near Lasnamäe from a local woman and established his residence there. The king was fascinated by the view of the city and the harbor from the cliff. The palace is sometimes called Catherineenthal, in honor of the emperor’s wife.
For a time the imperial family lived on the estate. But the existing house did not correspond to its status, it was decided to build a new palace and park ensemble. Kadriorg was built according to a design by an Italian architect. The imperial couple never got a chance to live in the new palace.
There is a legend according to which Peter Ⅰ personally laid three bricks in the wall under construction. During the exterior plastering of the walls these bricks were left untouched. The “royal” bricks in the north wing of the palace are still intact.
In the park at the palace is the Peter Ⅰ House Museum.
Toil-Oru Park in Toila
The park is located on the picturesque shore of the Gulf of Finland. In ⅩⅠⅩ century it belonged to a famous Russian merchant, who built a luxurious palace here. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during the Second World War, and has not been preserved to this day.
Toil-Oru is interesting with its ensemble of wooden sculptures, which everyone who comes to the park likes to take pictures with. In addition, there is a grotto with a stream flowing out of it and a gazebo called “Swallow’s Nest”.
Gazebo is a favorite place for locals and tourists, because of the view from it: the whole Gulf of Finland in the palm of your hand. And the sunsets here are incredibly beautiful.
The plants planted in the park have been brought from various countries, and it’s a pleasure to walk around among them and admire them.
The ⅩⅠⅠⅠ castle is not fully preserved, but its ruins are the main attraction of the homonymous city. Nowadays the castle has become a real interactive museum: visitors can try on knight’s armor and learn sword fighting, as well as watch exciting theatricals about life in the Middle Ages.
There are three permanent exhibitions in the museum:
- History of the Livonian War.
- Swords through the Ages
- Torture of the Middle Ages – a real torture chamber has been preserved in the castle dungeon.
In the courtyard of the castle normal life of the Middle Ages is recreated, each visitor has the opportunity to become an inhabitant of this city: to become an apprentice to a craftsman, learn how to shoot an arrow or ride a horse, try food in the local tavern.
Despite the fact that the castle has been partially destroyed, many halls and corridors have been preserved: you can reach the roof of the castle by a spiral staircase.
Jägala is one of the most visited natural attractions of the country and the pride of Estonians. The waterfall is 50 meters wide and only 8 meters high, of course, will not impress you with its scale and power, but for Europe it is big enough. That’s why Jägala is among the natural landmarks of Estonia that are protected by the state.
Behind the waterfall, there is a trail of stones that you can walk along and find yourself behind a wall of water. However, you must be very careful not to slip. In the warm season, you can swim in the waterfall, but it is quite an extreme activity.
Every year the waterfall moves back a few centimeters because the river erodes the ground. In each season the waterfall is beautiful in its own way: in winter it is frozen; in spring the river is at its fullest and the waterfall falls to the ground with all its might.
Kuressaare Bishop’s Castle
An amazing feature of the castle ⅩⅠⅠⅠⅠ is that it is not just well preserved, but has not been substantially altered throughout its existence.
Kuressaare was originally designed as an administrative center from which the city could be governed, meetings could be held, but also to withstand a siege for a long time in case of enemy attack. The defensive significance of the fortress is evidenced by the deep moat filled with water that surrounds the castle.
There is now a museum and an art gallery in the castle, whose exhibitions tell the story of the place, the castle itself, the inhabitants of the city. In the courtyard is recreated life of the Middle Ages: blacksmiths, artisans, theatrical knights’ fights are held. Everyone can learn the craft from a master and try making a figure out of glass, for example.
Tartu Town Hall Square
The central square of Tartu was formed back in ⅩⅠⅠⅠ century. At that time it was a large market and shopping square. In the center there was a public well that was important to the town. A fortified wall separated the square from the river.
The town hall, which stands on the square now, is the third in the history of the city: the historic wooden building burned down in a huge city fire, the second was destroyed by bombing raids in 1944.
Every day in the neighborhood ringing bells set on the town hall: 34 bells rejoice the tourists and locals with their shimmering.
The highlight of the square and the main symbol of the city is the “kissing students” fountain. It is surrounded by plates with the names of sister cities with the distance to them.
Valaste waterfall is the highest waterfall not only in Estonia but also in all Baltic countries. Its height is more than 30 meters. Due to its importance it has been declared a natural heritage and a national symbol of Estonia.
Around the waterfall there are stairs and viewing platforms, so you can enjoy the scenery and take some pictures. There is a beach close to the waterfall, and the descent to it is also equipped.
The waterfall falls from a height of a thin stream, in the rock itself you can clearly see all the layers of the earth, which were formed over 400,000 million years.
The waterfall is especially beautiful in winter, when it is frozen as ice blocks under the influence of frost and winds, and in spring, when the river is at its fullest and the waterfall becomes more spectacular.
Keila Yoa Falls
The waterfall is located in a small village that has a park with an estate. The center of the estate is the ancient Castle Fall. It was built in this picturesque place in the early 19th century. Within the walls of the castle is a museum, and all the tourists are happy to walk through the park and enjoy the waterfall.
The height of the waterfall is almost 6 meters. Its width varies, depending on the season: in the spring, when the river is filled with meltwater, it can reach 70 meters. In winter, part of the waterfall freezes, forming ice sculptures, but to ice completely frozen waterfall – a great rarity.
For tourists equipped with trails and an observation deck, which offers the most picturesque view of the waterfall. There is a small suspension bridge across the river.
The locals have a tradition of visiting Keila Yoa Falls on their wedding day. A lock is attached to the railing of the observation deck with the names of the newlyweds, and the key is thrown into the water.
AHHAA Science and Entertainment Center
The center, which operates as a project of the University of Tartu, conducts its activities in the direction of popularizing science. The main goal is to show and prove that science can be interesting and fun, AHHAA’s motto is “Thinking with play!”
The center’s employees believe it’s never too late to learn, so the center’s doors are open to visitors of all ages.
The largest area of the center’s work is introducing people to science through interactive classes, a multifunctional learning environment, and additional education programs. You can spend your time at the center in an interesting and enjoyable way:
- try out interactive exhibits on an exhibition area of three thousand square meters
- visit an exciting rotating exhibition that changes every six months
- watch scientific theater performances
- take part in popular science workshops
- go on a space voyage in a planetarium
- go shopping in the best science store in the Baltics
The largest island in Estonia was inhabited more than 5000 years ago according to archaeological findings. Even Viking ships of the ⅤⅠⅠ century were found on the island.
The island town of Kuressaare, apart from the famous castle, has health resorts and spas offering mud and spa treatment to its guests.
On the island is a small lake Kaali, which is actually a crater from a huge meteorite that fell more than 4,000 years ago.
Another interesting place on the island are the windmills. All of them are no longer used for their intended purpose, but have been restored and look great. Mills in the middle of the vast fields as if transported back a few centuries.
At one end of the island is framed by the Pangas Cliff, a steep, vertical cliff, more than 20 meters high. In ancient times, victims were dropped from this cliff as offerings to the gods. In this part of the island you should be especially careful and not try to get as close to the cliff as possible.
Lahemaa National Park
The national park was created to protect the unique landscapes of the coast and develop recreation. It is an ideal place for a day hike, getting together with nature and exploring the Estonian landscape.
In the park you can admire the seashores with sandy and pebble beaches, swamps wrapped in a mysterious fairy-tale atmosphere, pine forests, wild and silent rivers, and most importantly – the heritage of the Ice Age – huge boulders.
It is only an hour’s drive from the capital city of Tallinn to Lahemaa Wilderness Park. The park welcomes visitors all year round.
The national park is home to many animals. Located to the south of the national park, the large Kõrvemaa forest area is home to moose, wild boars, brown bears, lynxes, foxes and other wildlife.
Palmse Manor Museum
The Palse Manor Museum is located in Lahemaa National Park. It is the first fully restored complex that includes parks, gardens and architectural monuments.
The main house has been restored to its period furnishings, and there is also an exhibition devoted to the history of the manor and the von Palen family. In the Palase Manor there is a souvenir store located in the restored Cavalier House. In the greenhouse is a collection of plants. In memory of the fact that there once was a small winery here, there is a wine cellar where guests can taste wines.
Events for the youngest visitors, historical readings, and adventure quests are organized in the manor museum. The farmstead hosts exhibitions of famous artists, musical concerts and theatrical performances.
Pyukhtitsa Monastery of the Assumption
The only Estonian nunnery was built in 1891 and has never closed its doors or stopped serving. The name of the village in which it is located is translated as “Crane Mountain”.
According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to the residents of the local village. Later, the icon of the Mother of God of the Assumption was found at the place of her apparition. At first a small chapel was built, but over time there were so many pilgrims that the small church became a monastery.
The main attraction and shrine of the monastery is a spring, which the Holy Mother of God blessed with her presence. Moreover, the monastery ensemble includes a church, a bell tower, a holy gate, a baptismal church and a small hotel for visitors.
Many pilgrims visit the monastery every year: some come to admire the ensemble for a day, and some stay for several weeks to retreat and take time for spiritual life.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is over a century old. It was built in memory of the miraculous rescue of Emperor Alexander III in a train crash. 60 000 rubles were allocated for the construction, which at that time was a fairly large sum.
Several times the cathedral was on the verge of being closed. First time it was planned to be demolished in 1930s, during the wartime they wanted to destroy it again, and then by some miracle the church was saved from being rebuilt into a planetarium in 1960s.
The cathedral stands out for its unusual black domes and the ringing of its bells is heard throughout the area. It can be seen from everywhere because of its impressive size: the cathedral is almost 60 meters high and there are 11 bells in the bell tower.
Krenholm District and Krenholm Manufactory
Krenholm – unusual, semi-abandoned industrial area, which attracts tourists with its former power and grandeur.
Krenholm district is a separate island on the Narva River, surrounded on both sides by powerful waterfalls. The first factory buildings were built in only 2 years and in 1857 the manufactory started production.
Production grew and expanded, the number of employees increased, and the island with the manufactory became a full-fledged city: housing for workers, schools and kindergartens, hospitals, stores, churches, recreation facilities were built. Twelve thousand workers worked simultaneously at the peak of productivity.
The manufactory worked for 150 years, not stopping its workshops neither during the wars, nor during the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2012, the factory went bankrupt, despite attempts to revive production. The island was abandoned and some of the buildings were demolished. Some of the buildings have been recognized as cultural monuments – this provides an opportunity to preserve Krenholm.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to enter the territory of the factory alone. Entrance is possible only in an organized group. Excursions are organized by Narva museum in warm seasons.