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Best Places to Visit in Estonia, Top Attractions
Gifted with lush nature in summer and beautiful snow-covered cobblestones in winter, you’ll be amazed by how many places to visit in Estonia there is. Pay a visit to its small yet charming medieval capital city, Tallinn, and its surrounding islands where you’ll see and experience a different way of life. That said, don’t be afraid to go to the south of Estonia, where you’ll find yourself surrounded by nature as far as your eye can see! Located in Northern Europe, Estonia is a largely underrated gem. In addition to being affordable for travelers, Estonia boasts medieval cities, scenic coastlines and a fascinating history. Bordered by Russia, Latvia, the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea, Estonia is also more accessible than many travelers expect. Among the best places to visit in Estonia are castles, national parks and cultural hotspots. Tallinn is amazing, but it’s not the only Estonian destination worth exploring! Its capital Tallinn may be its best asset, but there are other cities in this small Baltic country. It is not as crowded as some other European cities and its well-preserved architecture is definitely worth seeing. Nonetheless, Estonia’s less populated countryside surely attracts nature lovers, especially the national parks that are all about the sustainability of untouched nature.
#1- Rummu Prison
It was once a Soviet prison, where inmates would toil in a limestone quarry, but the site was abandoned when Estonia regained its independence. Since then, natural groundwater has rapidly submerged the former prison, preserving its mining machines, buildings, barbed wire, and lampposts. There's also a flooded forest covered with algae.
#2- Haapsalu Old Town
Tallinn's not the only place in Estonia with a popular Old Town. Drive 90 minutes southwest of the capital, and you'll reach Haapsalu, a picturesque seaside town whose historic center still stands on a peninsula. It features well-preserved medieval streets and the stunning Haapsalu Castle. Built in the 13th century, the castle is now a museum with exhibits on its construction, the history of Haapsalu, and the lives of local rulers. There's also an interesting Lace Center Museum and Gallery.
#3- Toompea Hill
While here, you can also see the Toompea Castle, a striking pink building that serves as the headquarters for the Estonian parliament. You can watch sessions of parliament from the public gallery or take an excursion through the castle on weekdays (advanced booking required). Be sure to take a look at the flag waving atop the castle's Tall Hermann tower–it's considered an important symbol of Estonian independence.
#4- Oru Park
Tucked in the picturesque Pühajõgi River valley, Oru Park makes for a relaxing getaway in the northeastern Estonian town of Toila. The park has the regal design sensibilities of the rich Russian man who built it in the 19th century. Think Topiary gardens in hypnotic shapes, pretty fountains, viewing platforms on balconies, and flowers galore. Pack a swimsuit if you're visiting Oru Park during the summer. There's a path that takes you to a pristine pebble beach–perfect for sunbathing or wading in the water.
#5- Tallinn's Old Town
Whether your visit to Estonia is a full-fledged vacation or just a one-day stop on a Baltic cruise, you should spend as much time as your schedule allows touring Tallinn's Old Town. It's one of the world's most pristinely preserved Hanseatic town centers and was home to wealthy merchants from Denmark and Germany in the 13th century. The Old Town, with its cobblestone streets and medieval churches, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
#6- Kuressaare Episcopal Castle
One of the best-preserved fortifications in the Baltic region, the moat-ringed Kuressaare Episcopal Castle has been standing tall since the 1380s. You can spend the entire day soaking up the castle's Gothic atmosphere and wandering around its many unique spaces, including the convent building; steep staircases; central courtyard; cloister; refectory; and the bishop's living quarters, where 11 Baroque wood carvings are on display. Take in glorious views over a tasty lunch at the Tower Cafe.
#7- Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour
Appealing to both maritime enthusiasts and everyday tourists, the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour is one of the best places to visit in Estonia. This award-winning museum in Tallinn houses around 200 authentic maritime artifacts and vessels in a historic seaplane hangar, which features the world's first high-volume, columnless, thin-shell concrete dome. This attraction includes a 1930s-era submarine, 100-year-old steam-powered icebreaker, and the remains of the oldest ship in Estonia in the museum's permanent collection.
Just a two-hour drive from Tallinn, Pärnu beckons tourists with its gorgeous beach and small-town feel. This is the place to go in Estonia when you're ready to kick back, relax, and enjoy the sunshine. Don't miss the opportunity to tour the beautifully preserved historic town, which dates back to 1265. The tourist information center can connect you with a knowledgeable guide who will take you sightseeing around Pärnu. Pärnu is also a great base for tourists who want to visit Kihnu island. Inhabited by a close-knit group of 700 people, the majority of whom are women, the island is known for its rich singing and musical traditions that date back 1,000 years.
#9- Estonian National Museum
The Estonian National Museum is equally renowned for its fascinating permanent exhibits on Estonian history and culture, as well as its arresting architecture. The building, a conceptual art piece opened on a former Soviet military base in 2016, was designed to resemble an airfield taking off into space. At night, the lighting makes it an especially impressive sight. Give yourself at least half a day to explore the treasures inside the museum. The main permanent exhibition, "Encounters," allows tourists to peek into the lives of ordinary Estonians and their culture from the Ice Age to the modern day.
#10- Matsalu National Park
Tourists planning a trip to Estonia should be sure to pack their binoculars. The country's Matsalu National Park is reputed to be one of Europe's best bird-watching destinations. Its 48,610 hectares are designated as a protected natural area for nesting, molting, and migrating birds, including the magnificent white-tailed eagle. The park is home to more than 22 protected plant species and 10 mammals undergoing conservation efforts. Tourists can get a panoramic view of this beautiful landscape from several bird-watching towers in Haeska, Keemu, Kloostri, and other areas in the park. You can also enjoy a few hiking trails that will take you through the wetlands, coastal pastures, and meadows.
Think the art of print and typography is lost in the digital age? Think again. Estonia keeps this cherished tradition alive at Typa, a private museum-studio in Tartu. Formerly known as the Estonian Print & Paper Museum, Typa displays a range of historical printing machinery and paper-making equipment that will make you fall in love with the printed word once again. Tourists will see a mesmerizing array of letterpress alphabets in every style imaginable, sure to blow design lovers away.
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