13 Unmissable Places To Visit In Estonia

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If you’re planning a trip to Northern Europe, and are looking for something a little off the beaten track, yet still interesting to see, then Estonia is a must.

With tons of history, both old and recent, there are so many places to visit in Estonia that any traveler will enjoy, especially if you’re a photographer or history buff.

Evidence from the ancient past scatter the country. It has gothic castles and ancient churches, and historical buildings throughout this tiny country.

Then there’s the aftermath of two World Wars and the Cold War, as well as Soviet occupation and withdrawal, making it a fascinating country to visit.

Although only joining the EU in 2004, it has a ton of amazing things to do and is a country that is still to be discovered by travelers around the world.

The Best Places To Visit In Estonia

Whether you love architecture, nature, or old town charms, don’t skip these destinations in Estonia off your bucket list!

1. Old Town Tallinn

a town with historic buildings

Like many other backpackers I met, The UNESCO World Heritage site of Tallinn Old Town captured my heart. What planned to be a one week visit, turned out to be much much longer.

This amazing little-walled city, with its cobblestone streets, old brickwork buildings, and giant churches is extremely beautiful and photogenic.

The Tallinn Town Hall Square is another iconic landmark in the city, and visitors should not miss a chance to see Toompea Castle, perched on top of Toompea Hill.

I felt at home here and did not want to leave, plus the medieval architectures and quaint little shops just beckons you to stop and take it all in for a while.

Be sure to try out Kompresor for some amazing meat pancakes, and Kodu bar for a Saku beer.

To get the most from the Old Town consider a guided tour from a local Estonian.

2. Saarema Island

cabins in a forest on Saarema Island Estonia

A short bus and ferry ride from Tallinn, is Estonia’s biggest island of Saarema.

It is good to visit for a night or two and hike around the entire island. The island is abundant is quaint light houses and windmills, along with 12th century or older castles and churches.

The island has been conquered and later returned to Estonia so many times that I can’t keep track: Denmark, Sweden, Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, Estonia.

From Vikings to Communists, there’s a ton of history to see.

Saarema Island made this list of top destinations in Europe on a budget. See what other European destinations made it!

3. Parnu

picnic tables on the beach

This pretty little city is known as Estonia’s summer city. It’s most famous for its spas and mud baths and is the most popular health tourism destination in the area.

Since the first spa was built in 1837, Parnu Mud Baths have rapidly expanded into international recognition. Today, disorders of the joints, spinal column and peripheral nervous system, gynecological problems and dysfunction of the central nervous system are treated at Pärnu Mud Baths.

The therapies include hydrotherapy, mud and ozocerite therapies, massage, laser and electrotherapies, lymph and inhalation therapies, aromatherapy and ECG.

4. Tartu

a cobbled stone street through a town

The student city! High-end shopping, a science center, and a fantastic water-park are just a few attractions that one can enjoy in Estonia’s second largest city.

Called “The City of Good Thoughts”, Taru has been a student city since Swedish occupation in the 1600s.

Many tourists and stag partiers take the cheap Ryanair flights from London or Dublin, and are content with just staying in Tallinn.

It only makes sense that there are more bars and night clubs here than in the capital, as it is Estonia’s biggest student population.

There are so many other things to discover than just the partying, like the KGB museum and it’s torture chambers. Don’t miss them!

5. Naissaar Island

Naissaar Island Estonia

This is one tiny island in the Baltic Sea that you probably never heard of. Unlike the big island of Saaremaa, Naissaar is tiny, but just the same, it is still full of untapped wonders, and far less touristy.

My hostel offered a day trip from Tallinn, and I took it, not knowing a thing about it beforehand. It turned out to be a very unique and interesting deserted island. Only a few guides live here, and some Estonians come here to pick mushrooms in the forests.

We took a tiny train car through the forest cut-out, and what was most interesting to me were all the old soviet era sea-mines and bombs.

They even have a tiny museum with artifacts from the era when the Soviets used the island as a submarine base. Definitely worth a visit!

6. Viljandi

person's feet with the view of lake Viljandi

Nestled in the Southern tip of Estonia is Viljandi. This small city has a long history can be seen in the medieval architecture that still remains.

One of the most iconic landmarks in the city is the 16th century ruins of the Viljandi Order Castle, and of course the stunning Lake Viljandi which is the perfect place for a swim on a warm summer’s day.

Most people visit Viljandi for the annual open-air folk music festival which takes place every July. It’s the largest festival in the country and receives roughly 20,000 visitors each year.

Be sure to head over to the nearby Soomaa National Park for more nature experiences.

7. Kuressaare, Saaremaa Island

bridge leading to fortress Kuressaare

Not many people know this about Estonia, but it actually has over 2,300 islands. One of the most famous and most visited is Saaremaa Island, which is famous for the fortress of Ivangorod castle which sits on the Russian side of the river.

It’s the largest island in the country and connects to the Baltic Sea. Over the last 8,000 years, the island has been conquered by the Danes, Swedes, Germans and Russians, but today it is a proud member of Estonia.

The capital of the island is Kuressaare, which has a gorgeous medieval castle, which dates back to the 14th century, and museum.

This small town is a perfect destination to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in nature.

In addition to its natural beauty and cultural attractions, Kuressaare hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the Kuressaare Maritime Festival and the Kuressaare Chamber Music Festival.

One of the more unique attractions on the island is the Kaali Meteorite Crater, which is a series of 9 craters made between 1530-1450 BC by meteorites.

8. Haapsalu

homes on lake on misty morning Haapsalu

Haapsalu is a small town located on the western coast of Estonia, known for its picturesque natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.

This charming town attracts tourists wanting to see its unique architecture, sandy beaches, and unwind in the relaxing spas.

The main attraction of Haapsalu is its stunning medieval castle, which dates back to the 13th century.

Apart from the castle, you can also explore the town’s quaint streets, lined with traditional wooden houses and colorful gardens.

Haapsalu is also known for its beautiful beaches, such as Paralepa Beach and Väike Viik Beach, where visitors can sunbathe, swim, and enjoy water sports.

In addition to its cultural attractions and natural beauty, Haapsalu hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the White Lady Festival and the Haapsalu Tchaikovsky Festival.

9. Rummu Quarry and Prison

ancient runs of Rummu Quarry and Prison in middle of torquoise lake

Another unique attraction in Estonia is the Rummu Quarry and Murru Prison, which is known for its turquoise lake that was formed by groundwater.

Inside the lake is the ruins of the former Rummu prison which you can swim around of get a kayak and explore by boat.

This is the perfect place to visit in Estonia on a hot summers day, or for photography enthusiasts looking for something unique to capture.

10. Narva Castle

Narva Castle perched on edge of river

Located in the city of Narva, is the Narva Castle, also known as Hermann Castle, one of the most well-preserved examples of a medieval fortress in Northern Europe and dates back to the 13th century.

The castle has been beautifully restored and offers visitors a chance to see what life was like during the medieval period.

You can explore the castle’s different rooms, including the chapel, the living quarters, and the guard tower. They can also admire the castle’s impressive architecture, which includes a series of towers, walls, and gates.

Apart from the castle, visitors can explore the city of Narva, which is located on the border between Estonia and Russia and separated by the Narva River.

11. Rakvere Castle

grey crumbling walls of Rakvere Castle

Rakvere Castle is another beautiful and historic castle that’s worth a visit.

The castle was once under the Danish rule until 1346, when Estonian Duchy (Northern Estonia) was sold to the German Order.

It has also belonged to knight-monks of the Livonian Order and the Swedish and Polish states.

Rakvere Castle is also a thematic park where children and adults can enjoy the day, wear knight and warrior clothes, play games and study the life of medieval people.

Visitors can immerse themselves in medieval culture by participating in various activities like archery, sword fighting, and tasting medieval cuisine.

12. Lahemaa National Park

wooden boardwalk going through the forest in Lahemaa National Park

For hikers and nature lovers, don’t miss out on a chance to visit Lahemaa National Park in Estonia.

Lahemaa National Park is a beautiful and unique destination that offers breathtaking natural landscapes, including vast forests, picturesque bogs, and stunning coastal regions.

It’s also known to be inhabited by many wild animals, such as wild moose, boars, lynxes, foxes and brown bears.

13. Hiiumaa Island

Kõpu Lighthouse with red domed roof

The second largest island in Estonia is Hiiumaa Island, which is a hidden gem in Estonia worth adding to your bucket list.

Hiiumaa is home to untouched natural beauty, including pristine forests, stunning views of the sea, and endless beaches.

Hiiumaa also has several cultural landmarks, including Kõpu Lighthouse, which is one of the oldest lighthouses in the Baltic and has been protecting sailors for over 500 years.

Visitors can also explore the island’s traditional wooden houses and learn about its unique heritage.

The island offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, fishing, and camping, making it a perfect place for adventure enthusiasts.

Hiiumaa is also known for its peaceful and tolerant people who live close to nature, making it an ideal place to unwind and rejuvenate.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, those are some unmissable places you should add to your itinerary on your next trip to Estonia.

Whether you’re looking to visit Estonia for nature or history, you can be sure that these beautiful places will leave visitors with fond memories and a lasting impression of Estonia.

Have you been to Estonia? What’s your favourite place to visit? Let us know in the comments.

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