Tallinn - the capital of Estonia is the largest city in Estonia where almost 1/3 of the inhabitants of Estonia live. Tallinn with its beautiful Old Town is located by the Gulf of Finland and is the window to the world for Estonia - from the port of Tallinn ships depart to Helsinki, Stockholm, Rostock, etc., Tallinn Airport connects Estonia with the most important airports in Europe.
The history of Tallinn dates back to the 12th century when the city was first mentioned by the Arab geographer al-Idris under the name of Kolyvan. In the 13th century Tallinn was conquered by the Danes who called the city by the name it has today. For centuries Tallinn passed from one conqueror to another - the city has been ruled by the Germans, Swedes, and Russians.
The Old Town of Tallinn with its uniqueness and well-preserved historical buildings has been entered in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage. The Old Town with its medieval houses, churches and narrow cobblestone streets offers the pleasure of discovering and beautiful views over the walkers. There are also a lot of cultural institutions and museums in Tallinn; the city offers activities for people with all kinds of interests.
The Town Hall building belongs within the best-preserved medieval town hall buildings in Northern Europe having located at its present site for more than 600 years.
Toompea Castle which is situated on the steep limestone coast, 50 metres above sea level, was built in the 13th-14th century and is one of the most potent symbols of reigning power. Every day at sunrise the Estonian flag is hoisted at the top of Tall Hermann's Tower, the highest point of Toompea Stronghold.
After its completion St Olav's Church became the tallest building in Medieval Europe (as well as in the whole world) of the time. The spire of the church was also used as a maritime signpost.
Nevsky Cathedral on Toompea Hill is dedicated to Prince Nevsky, under whose leadership the Russian troops won the Ice Battle on the banks of Lake Peipsi in 1242.
Kadriorg Palace and Park have been established by Peter I for whom Tallinn was one of the residences and strongholds. Today Kadriorg Palace serves as the residence of the President of the Republic of Estonia.
Tallinn Song Festival Grounds is the site of the world-famous song festivals, which at their golden age attracted hundreds thousands of people to the Song Festival Grounds to sing along.
St Brigitta's Convent Ruins in Pirita belonged to the biggest convent of the Europe of the time, today the Convent Ruins house different concerts and open-air events.
Rocca al Mare Open Air Museum in Tallinn presents a historical collection of the village life, national traditions and surroundings of centuries ago. Different cultural events, which introduce Estonian culture and folk customs, are often held there.
Those who want to enjoy nightlife can visit the numerous restaurants, pubs and nightclubs where it is possible to pass time until the early morning hours. One can also spend several hours in shops and department stores by having a look at different goods and trying these on.
In 2011 Tallinn will be the European Capital of Culture. Many interesting and memorable cultural events are being planned to arrange in Tallinn for that time.
The border town of Narva is the most important transit corridor between Estonia and Russia. Perched on the banks of the Narva River, it is the third biggest city in Estonia. It is also one of the fastest developing and gaining in importance thanks to it now representing the eastern border of the European Union.
Historically it was of such strategic significance that when Estonia was under Swedish control, Narva was named Sweden's second capital. Sadly, the Second World War saw Narva almost completely flattened by Soviet bombers, with only a few of its historical buildings remaining.
Narva's biggest attraction is the Hermann Fort, which has been defending Estonian soil for centuries. It is also one of Estonian symbols. The building is represented on Estonia`s five-kroon bank note.
Reconstructed between the 14th and 16th centuries by the Livonian Order, it was the site of two significant battles during the Great Northern War. In the first in 1700, the Swedish forces of Karl XII prevailed, while the 1704 battle ended with Russian troops victorious. Narva`s Hermann Castle makes unique border fortifications pair with Ivangorod (Russia) castle.
The castle is currently home to the Narva Museum and Art Gallery. The museum`s main exhibit presents the city`s history from the 13th to the 20th centuries, while a variety of temporary exhibitions, concerts and events are held in the castle`s 50-metre high tower. Narva Town Hall and Alexander's Church which are ones of those better extant from the bombings during II World War, are both on restoration and the both buildings will become Narva's visiting cards to guests from East and West in future. The buildings of Krenholm Manufacture belonged to Europe's largest textile industy in the past. Buildings created to the island of Narva River form a part of wholesame city quarter where located industrial, dwelling and social buildings.
The centre of north-eastern Estonia - Jõhvi - is a fast-developing small town, which is one of the four most important centres in Estonia. Jõhvi, which is one of the genuine examples of an industrial area, is under constant construction, a lot of new shopping centres and recreational establishments are founded in the town.
Jõhvi fortified church was one of the strongholds for repelling enemy forces. Now a museum has been opened in the church, which offers an overview on the history of Jõhvi. The museum displays a survey on the history of the region, including, among other things, also the oldest Estonian iron objects which have been dug out from Jäbara graves.
The crypt chapel located deep under the ground is a place where centuries ago intimate masses were held and where the church relic was stored.
The Estonian famous song festival tradition originates from the Jõhvi parish song festival, which took place in 1865.
The heart of cultural life in Jõhvi today is the most modern concert house in Estonia, where tens of world-famous performances are presented.
The town of Kohtla-Järve is very young. It was born in the middle of the last century, on June 15, 1946. Despite the young age, the town is the fifth largest in Estonia.
Kohtla-Järve is located in the most dynamically developing region of Estonia, in Ida-Viru county (the North-East of the country). Its geographic location - being close to the eastern border of the EU, near the railway route from Tallinn to St Petersburg, and in the vicinity of the sea port of Sillamäe - is in itself an important resource.
Kohtla-Järve is an industrial town, the centre of the oil-shale field; it takes its prominent place in the economy of the country. Among the people of Kohtla-Järve, the most wide-spread professionals have always been those of a miner and oil-shale chemist. Most of the electricity produced in Estonia - about 95% - has been generated by burning oil-shale excavated by miners of the town. In addition, oil-shale is a kind of "hard oil", which is used for the production of different kinds of chemicals.
Industries which are not related to oil-shale have also been sufficiently developed in the town; for instance, production of construction materials, sewing industry and metal processing.
However, the industrial potential of the town is far from being exhausted. The closeness to the transportation hubs and the abundance of highly-qualified work-force create very good conditions for further economic development.
The industrial character of the town does not presuppose lack of other spheres of life which are vital for people. The cultural life of the town is vibrant and versatile. The town's dance, music and theatrical groups are well-known not only throughout the country, but also abroad.
Paldiski is a small town situated on the Pakri peninsula of north-western Estonia, just 50 km away from Tallinn. It is a truly unique place with a rich past as well as natural and cultural environment. Paldiski is the ideal place for a one day trip - whether you decide to explore it by car, bike or on foot. The road network on the peninsula offers various options for hiking, trekking or bike tours. There are regular railway and bus lines with Tallinn, as well.
Originally a Swedish settlement known as Rågevik, it became a Russian naval base in the 18th century when the Russian Czar Peter I begun the construction of a marine fortress in 1718. Catherine II named the city 'Baltiiskii Port' during her visit in 1762. 'Paldiski', the Estonian pronunciation of 'Baltiiskii', became its official name in 1933. In 1939 it was handed over to the USSR and became a naval base. In 1962, Paldiski became a Soviet Navy nuclear submarine training centre. With two land-based nuclear reactors, and employing some 16,000 people, it was the largest of such facilities in the Soviet Union. Because of its importance, the whole city was closed off with barbed wire until 1994. A number of soviet artifacts and abandoned bunkers can still be found around Paldiski. The entire peninsula is still covered in abandoned bunkers, piles of unidentifiable junk and varied military debris.
The major attraction of the Pakri Peninsula is its coastal cliffs. The most impressive and highest (approximately 24 m) one is on the Pakri Cape just next to the Pakri lighthouse. You cannot find any other place in Estonia where the Earth's crust is presented in such an amazing and colourful way.
There are several other historical sights in Paldiski, as well: the ruins of Peter the Great Fortress, the St George Orthodox Church (1787), the Lutheran St Nicholas Church (1842), the ruins of Leetse manor (1860s) and the Amandus Adamson's Workshop Museum. There is also a Town Museum and a good collection of historical exponents presented at the local pub Tavern "Peetri Toll".
Rakvere has been one of the most important centres in northern Estonia for centuries.
Rakvere has received its name after the primeval bovine 'tarvas.' In 2002 a giant statue of the animal after whom the town was named was opened on Vallimägi Hill near the castle ruins.
The evocative castle ruins towering over the city conceal one of Estonia's most attractive museums, where visitors are given the opportunity not only to take in the fascinating historical displays, but also try their hand at wielding weapons from the Middle Ages. In addition to having a look at the historical exhibitions the visitors can try to use medieval weapons, feel the medieval life, see the chapel, wine cellar and torture chamber as well as test their skills in medieval handicraft.
Rakvere Town Square is one of the most modern ones in Estonia, forming a peculiar architectural and artistic composition.
The unique architecture at the heart of Sillamäe makes it one of the most beautiful towns in the industrial belt of north-eastern Estonia today.
During the Soviet era it was a closed town you could only get into with a special permit. It was from uranium mined near Sillamäe that the Soviet Union produced its first atomic bomb, and the town currently boasts one of the top three precious metal enrichment factories in the world. The buildings of the town centre of Sillamäe date mainly back to the 1940s, the time when the town was established. The street network completed on the basis of a strictly geometric basic plan, Stalinist buildings, avenues and parks make Sillamäe a peculiar town different from other towns in Estonia.
One of the most important sightseeings of the town is the staircase which starts from the Town Square and heads from the steep limestone coast towards the sea. The staircase continues as a long avenue to the sea, the avenue is lined with stylish buildings from all sides. From its construction the staircase reminds of the famous Odessa staircases in the Ukraine, being like their little sister.
At first sight the representative building of the Sillamäe City Council reminds more of a church. The building, which was completed during the Soviet times and displayed surprising architecture, was under a constant threat of being demolished as it did not correspond to the ideology of the time, however by some miracle the building could be preserved.
Türi, one of the greenest towns in Estonia, is situated in the middle of Estonia, on the shores of the river Pärnu. Türi is known as a garden-town: 1/3 of the territory has been covered by green open spaces. Walking through Türi you can see well-kept gardens with rich selection of plants; step in at the house of museums or handicraft. The main event in Türi is the Flower Fair (30 000 clientele), but Türi is also gaining popularity as the spring capital of Estonia. There are many exciting events in Türi from March 20 to June 21.
Welcome to Türi - come and see the spring capital yourself!
Summer capital Pärnu is the centre of the Estonian summer life, where thousands of Estonians and foreign tourists come to spend time and sunbathe on hot coastal sands.
In 1251 a town was established at the delta of the Pärnu River which became one of the centres of the Ösel-Wiek Bishopric (Estonian: Saare-Lääne piiskopkond) of the time. Following its establishment Pärnu fell repeatedly victim to the sieges of the enemies who devastated the areas of Estonia. Not many years passed before the construction of Uus-Pärnu (New Pärnu) was started on the other bank of the River Pärnu, where today the city centre is located. About a hundred years later Pärnu was accepted within the Hanseatic towns and an active commercial life began to prosper in the city. Some hundred years passed and Pärnu became a regional centre where the power was concentrated..
At the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century in addition to power Pärnu could also enjoy spirit as Tartu University was temporarily brought to Pärnu.
However, Pärnu achieved its real prosperity at the beginning of the 20th century when the beautiful beach of Pärnu and its health resorts became famous in Estonia and beyond. Since then Pärnu has been the best-known and most visited health resort in Estonia.
Rüütli Street has become the main street of Pärnu, in the surroundings of the Street there are located a large number of shops, boutiques, service companies as well as the local authorities. The settlement of Rüütli Street dates mainly back to the 18th-19th century, when the merchants and more prosperous citizens started to establish their homes there.
The only retained bastion which belonged to the defence constructions of Uus-Pärnu is Red Tower in the centre of the city. The name of the prison tower established in the 15th century comes from the original brick siding after whose colour the tower also received its name. In the second half of the 20th century the building was restored, but from the original height the former prison tower has lost one storey.
Pärnu St Catherine's Church is the most stylish baroque church in Estonia. Built in 1768 at the command of Catherine II the church has influenced with its architecture the development of the entire clerical architecture of the Apostolic Orthodox Church in Estonia as well as in the entire Baltics.
Tallinn Gate is a symbolic link between the centre of Pärnu and the beach region. In the course of removing the defence constructions of Pärnu it was decided to preserve Tallinn Gate and today it is the only preserved moat gate in the Baltics which dates back to the 17th century.
In 1747 one of the most outstanding sacral buildings of the baroque era - Elizabeth Church - was completed in Pärnu. The church was sanctified in honour of Empress Elizabeth who funded the construction thereof. The altarpiece of Elizabeth Church has been made in Rotterdam; the organ in the church is among the best ones in Estonia.
Pärnu Concert House is one of the four cultural temples in Estonia besides the Estonia Theatre in Tallinn, the Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu and Jõhvi Concert House.
It is said that already for centuries the celebrating Swedes, whose voices and party noises have been heard by a lot of people, but seen by nobody, have been haunting in between the walls of the historic Port Artur building.
Ammende's Villa is one of the most important architectural masterpieces in Estonia. The Art-Nouveau building was completed in 1905 for celebrating the marriage of the daughter of Ammende, a prosperous merchant of Pärnu. The key words of the entire building, the surrounding park and rich decor are luxury and style. At the moment Ammende's Villa accommodates one of the most elegant hotels and restaurants in Estonia.
Since its establishment in 1880 the Kursaal (Beach Salon) has been a much-loved place for spending free time. Both holidaymakers as well as townspeople used to spend their free time in the Kursaal, there performed Raimond Valgre, one of the most important performers in Estonia, there was a cinema and today there is the biggest pub in Estonia.
Pärnu Mud Baths, completed in 1927, is a symbol of Pärnu as the health resort. The neo-classicist building greets everybody who arrives at the beach down the main street and those walking in the coastal area will certainly notice it as well.
One of the masterpieces of European functionalism - beautiful Beach Hotel (Rannahotell) at Pärnu sand beach was completed in 1937. Konstantin Päts - the first president of Estonia - often stayed in the hotel overnight and today the hotel accommodates well-known and important visitors as well.
Pärnu is well-known for its treatment and health centres. In the coastal area one can find smaller and larger spas, which are full of visitors all the year round.
The nightlife in Pärnu is vivid all the year round and even in midwinter a lot of people find their way to the city in order to spend their free time and have fun.
Haapsalu shot to fame for the curative effects of its mud, which draws huge numbers of people to its spas and sanatoriums every year. By the beginning of the 19th century it was the place to convalesce, and it has maintained its reputation as an R&R oasis to this day. The ruins of Haapsalu Castle, completed in the 13th century have been reconditioned and the castle yard has become a popular place for holding summer events, festivals and concerts. There is also a castle museum there, depicting Haapsalu in the past and today. Dome Church with excellent acoustics is also located by the Castle.
The forecourt of Haapsalu Castle is well-known for the legend of the White Lady (Valge Daam). One of Estonia`s most famous ghosts, she makes a fleeting one-night-only appearance at the castle windows before disappearing back into her otherworldly realm for another twelve months.
The appearance of the White Lady is celebrated in the town every year with a succession of festivities culminating on the night when the finicky phantom reveals herself to the people. For the rest of the summer the castle forecourt is used for concerts and open-air events.
One of the most pleasant meeting places in Haapsalu is its waterfront Kursaal, renovated to its original design, where you can find good eating or just relax and pass the time.
The platform of the Haapsalu Railway Station was the longest platform in Europe for a long time, today there is the Estonian Railway Museum in the building of the railway station and on the rails just in front of the platform it is possible to see locomotives from different periods as well as the rolling stock.
The seaside town of Kuressaare is a favourite destination for sailors. Every summer the harbour overflows with yachts and motor boats from all over the globe.
During the 13th and 14th centuries, a mighty vassal fortress was built in Kuressaare. It was not, however, constructed to ward off foreign invaders as most such castles were: it was built to protect the nobles from attacks by local citizens.
Repeatedly renovated over the course of the centuries, the building was designed to provide a meeting place for the nobles of Saaremaa as well as to defend against enemy assaults. It was also the residence of the Saare-Lääne bishopric until the outbreak of the Livonian War.
Today Kuressaare Castle is one of the very few remaining strongholds of the Middle Ages in the Baltic States not to have been extensively reworked. It was (and is) an architecturally well ordered and fiercely guarded building which would undoubtedly have caused headaches for any enemy trying to besiege it. A lot of historical buildings make the centre of the town more expressive - among the other buildings the Weighhouse, completed in the 17th century, which is the only building of that type having survived in Estonia.
The baroque Town Hall of Kuressaare was also completed in the 17th century under the leadership of nobleman De la Gardie. Other sightseeings in Kuressaare worth mentioning also include the Knighthood Building, the Kurhouse and the mill in Old Town, which has become a symbol of Saaremaa.
Several health centres in Kuressaare have become popular places for improving health and attract thousands of tourists to visit the town all the year round.
Tartu is the second-largest city in Estonia and is located in the south of the country on the picturesque banks of the Emajõgi River. Tartu is one of the oldest cities in Estonia, with written references dating back to the 11th century. It's a university town and is home to the country's (and one of Europe's) oldest universities. There's an aura of academia about the place, as it is also the seat of a large number of scientific institutions.
Tartu is one of the oldest cities in Estonia, with written references dating back to the 11th century. The Main Building of Tartu University, erected in the 19th century, is one of the most outstanding examples of classical architecture in Estonia.
Its main building is ornamented with huge columns, which also form the university`s logo, and has one of the country`s finest concert halls. It also plays host to Estonia`s oldest museum - the Art Museum. Visitors can explore the historical lock-up in the attic.
Many of the country`s most renowned scientists and cultural figures have studied at the University of Tartu, which is why it can rightfully be called the cradle of Estonian culture, which is why it can rightfully be called the cradle of Estonian culture, science and higher education. Thanks to the University a lot of scientific research establishments, which support the University with their work, are also located in Tartu.
From the numerous churches situated in Tartu it is worth to mention St John's Church. Both the interior and exterior walls of the church are covered with terracotta sculptures and ornaments dating back to the 14th century - the time when the church was built. The church building which was in ruins for decades was restored by the year 2005.
Following its completion the Dome Church located on Toome Hill was the biggest cathedral in Old Livonia in the 15th century, a century later the church was demolished in the war and riots. Today the Dome Church' ruins house Tartu University History Museum, a magnificent view over the City of Tartu is unveiled from the viewing platform at the top of the towers of the Dome Church.
Otepää is the centre of winter life in Estonia. A little town nestled in the hills of southern Estonia, it forms the backdrop for international skiing championships and is the place the whole country descends on to delight in its wintry attractions.
It is also the birthplace of Estonia's distinctive blue, black and white flag. Originally the standard of the Association of Estonian University Students, it was consecrated in Otepää Church in 1884 and adopted as the national flag thirty years later.
The town is the setting for World Cup ski events and scores of other winter sports and competitions. Its skiing trails are graded according to difficulty and come in at over 50 km in total length.
Nearby Lake Pühajärv is popular for open-air events and concerts in summer, while in winter it hosts a traditional fishing contest.
Valga, the country's second most important border town, connects Estonia with Latvia. Known as Valga on the Estonian side and Valka on the Latvian side, it is a twin town that does brisk trade and sees heavy tourist traffic between countries.
Viljandi is well known for its cultural life. Once a key trade centre, it has since marked its place on the cultural map of Estonia, with the Viljandi Cultural College attracting students from all over the country.
The current site of Viljandi Castle saw the construction in the 11th century of the Estonian`s ancient fortress, forming the centre of Sakalamaa (the acient Estonian County). After crusaders surrounded and sized the fortress in August 1223, an Order Castle began to be built in the same place. Over the time the castle became an economic and political centre of the region. The ruins that remain today are testament to the streingth and power of that construction.
The deep valley beneath the ruins holds a beautiful lake very popular with holiday-makers. The captivating view from the castle across Lake Viljandi is picture-postcard material. A renowned international folk music festival and various other cultural events are held every summer among the city`s castle ruins, which date back to the Middle Ages.
One of the longest suspension bridges in Estonia extends just from behind the castle over the ravine of steep slopes. The bridge, which was installed above the moat in 1931, was a present of a landlord from Tarvastu to the town of Viljandi.
The newly completed Traditional Music Storehouse, which is located on the Cherry Hill in Viljandi, is a place where one can enjoy folk music concerts and plays.
Põltsamaa used to be one of the most important centres of Northern Livonia, from where both political as well economic life was directed. The fort, which was completed in the second half of the 13th century, was an important stronghold protecting the region against attacks by enemies. In the 17th century landlord von Wrangel decided to redesign the fort into a spectacular noble castle.
In the course of reconstruction a new church was established onto the castle in case of which the usual east-west trend was waived as regards the construction principles. But ignoring the traditions upon building the church did not probably turn out to be a very wise idea as during the centuries the church was repeatedly damaged both by wars as well as fires.
The Alexander School, erected in the second half of the 19th century in memory of Emperor Alexander, is also located in Põltsamaa. The school had to become the first higher educational institution teaching in Estonian and raising funds for the school was one of the most important steps in the national awakening of Estonians. But unfortunately by the time Russification was at its peak in Estonia, the school was opened, but the teaching language was Russian. The Estonian language was just one of the subjects.
The City of Võru, located on the shore of the picturesque Lake Tamula, was established in the 18th century. The regular street network with its rectangular intersections is one of the peculiarities of the City of Võru, posing at the same time a lot of problems for road users from outside the city.
In the city it is worth to cast a glance at St Catherine's Church, which was built with the help of Catherine II, but also at the Orthodox Church dating back to the same period.
Rose Island, located in Lake Tamula, can be accessed by a gorgeous suspension bridge. In the island there is a settlement, which is 5,000 years old.