The small and hospitable northern country of Estonia is the pearl of the Baltics. On the small territory of Estonia a lot of monuments of culture, history and nature are clustered together in an amazing way. The territory of this country is slightly larger than the area of Odessa region. Attractions of Estonia are very diverse. There are so many of them that it is sometimes difficult to choose among them those that will be included in the itinerary of your trip. One of the advantages of choosing Estonian destinations is that the short distances you need to travel in Estonia will allow you to save time on the road and devote hours and days to explore the sights of the country. So what to see in Estonia if you come here for the first time? Guided by the following rating of the most interesting places in this wonderful country, you can choose together with a guide the most interesting excursions. You can independently think about the tour route, taking into account your capabilities, and go on a vivid tour of the interesting and fascinating sights of Estonia.
Along with descriptions, you’ll find real photos of tourist sites in our list. Besides going on your own, there is an option to book tours in Estonia - of course, it will be a little more expensive, but you won’t have to think about how to make your visit to the sights exciting and informative.
What is the first place to go if you are in Estonia for the first time? To its cozy capital, Tallinn, of course. The historic center of the city abounds with a variety of noteworthy places, thanks to which it was included in the UNESCO heritage list.
In Estonia is really something to see. This is an ancient fortress and palaces, and old temples and historical museums. But first things first. What is the Old Town? This is a unified complex of ancient buildings of the Middle Ages, narrow streets and the main square, enclosed by a fortress wall on the perimeter.
Overall, the Old Town is conventionally divided into two parts - Vyshgorod and Nizhny Gorod. In each of these parts you can see and visit a lot of interesting places. For example in Vyshgorod there is one of the oldest churches in Estonia - the Dome Cathedral (18th century), the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (19th century) and Toompea majestic castle, which now serves as a government office.
In the center of the Lower Town there is Town Hall Square, where all sorts of festivals, concerts and festivals take place. There’s also a lot to see:
Toompea Castle, which has already been mentioned as a key attraction of the Old Town, deserves special attention as a point in your sightseeing program.
For several centuries Toompea has been a symbol of Estonian state power, and today it is one of the main landmarks of Estonia. The area of the castle is about 9,000 square meters, and it rises 50 meters above sea level. The history of the castle started in the 13th century. It was built on the territory of the wooden settlement of Estonians. The location of the castle on the high, almost vertical hill made it impregnable and well-defended. According to legend, this hill was created by Linda - widow of Kalev, the leader of Estonians. After his death the inconsolable widow dragged the boulders to her husband’s grave, which eventually formed this hill.
The whole castle complex consists of three parts, which were built at different times:
Official website: https://www.riigikogu.ee
Visitors to the aforementioned Old Town in Tallinn have a lot to see in Estonia. The monuments alone in this small area are enough for many days of sightseeing. For example, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral has become an important religious site in Tallinn. The five-domed cross-domed church was erected at the end of the 19th century and is decorated in the Neo-Byzantine style. The author of the project was the famous Russian architect Preobrazhensky, and the temple itself symbolized the memory of the extraordinary rescue of blessed Prince Alexander III Nevsky during a train crash. In 1988 the train in which the royal family was returning from a vacation in the Crimea, derailed, and only a few cars survived. The prince, who had great strength, held the collapsed ceiling on his shoulders to the bitter end, while his family members made their way out from under the wreckage.
In its more than 100-year history, the temple was twice on the verge of ruin. The first time was during World War II, when the church’s structures were threatened by Nazi reprisals. Later, in the sixties of the 20th century, Soviet officials intended to rebuild the church into a planetarium. However, the young priest Alexey Ridiger, the future Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, did his best to save the cathedral.
The interior of the temple is richly decorated: solemn mosaics and icons adorn the cathedral’s interior. The doors of the temple are open daily to many visitors. Thanks to its five domes of impressive size topped with gilded crosses, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is clearly visible from many points of the Estonian capital.
Official website: http://tallinnanevskikatedraal.eu
Among those who travel in Estonia, there are bound to be those who prefer the natural beauty of the country’s natural sights to the grandeur of its cultural and historical monuments. And they undoubtedly have something to see in Estonia. This is Lahemaa National Park, a picturesque corner of nature, perfect for hiking. Here you will see nature in its pristine beauty: sandy and rocky shores, picturesque bays, waterfalls, rocky landscapes, dense forests, rivers flowing through crevices in limestone blocks, and huge boulders preserved here since the Ice Age.
In addition, Lahemaa National Park has become a sanctuary for numerous animals and birds. During the entire existence of the reserve 222 bird species and 50 mammal species have been registered here. As for the local flora, there is a huge variety of plants, including 44 protected plant species and 10 protected mushroom species.
Lahemaa Park was founded in 1971. Its area is as much as 725 square kilometers. The purpose of the park was to protect the unique natural landscapes of the Baltic coast. Nowadays Lahemaa has become a true center of mass tourism. Its areas are fully landscaped for visitors and recreation.
In the heart of Lahemaa National Park is another interesting landmark in Estonia - the Palmse Manor Museum, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful preserved manors in the country today. The buildings of the Manor House were built in the middle of the 18th century in the Baroque style, and for more than 2 centuries the Manor House belonged to the Barons von der Palen.
What can be seen in the manor museum?
you can also see an exhibition devoted to the history of the manor;
Official site: http://www.palmse.ee/en
When the so-called “Iron Curtain” collapsed, the variety of interesting and unfamiliar places on the territory of the former Soviet Union became apparent. Thanks to this, many travelers today have a lot to visit in Estonia, and Saaremaa Island is a prime example of that. This island once played the role of an important strategic point of our army. While the place was untouched due to its secrecy, its ecology could not be spoiled by industrial emissions or by-products of large ports.
The largest Estonian island is located in the western part of the country and is part of the Moundsunda Archipelago. It is also the 4th largest island in the Baltic Sea. Nowadays the island is very popular among tourists, attracting them with its pristine nature, ancient architectural monuments and modern resorts. Here everyone can find something to do, whether it’s fishing, horseback riding, jet skiing or quad biking.
The only town on Saaremaa is Kuressaare, which is home to one of Estonia’s most important landmarks, the Bishop’s Castle. This city is a popular Estonian resort. Here are mud baths, spa centers, where everyone can improve their health, relax body and soul.
The main symbol of the Estonian border town of Narva is the unique landmark of Estonia - Narva Castle or Hermann Castle. Located right above the Narva River, the castle formed a harmonious architectural composition with Ivangorod Fortress. Narva Castle was erected in 13th century on the place of the former wooden fortress at the time when Narva still belonged to the territory of Denmark. After the Danes sold the Narva lands to the Livonian Order, the castle was significantly strengthened. The Narva territory was additionally protected by the outside wall. The high tower-duzhon was also built. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the Swedish troops from taking the castle in 1558. The Swedish troops besieged the castle and the projectiles of their cannons penetrated the walls and showed how completely useless the castle was. In the early 18th century the fortress was captured again by Russian troops of Peter the Great, and during the Second World War the castle was completely destroyed. And only in 1950th of the 20th century restoration works of the castle and its unique interiors began.
Now there are many places worth seeing in the Narva Castle:
Official website: http://narvamuuseum.ee/rus/narvskij-zamok/
The question of what to visit in Estonia resolves itself when you find yourself in the center of Tallinn, within walking distance of the Old Town. Tallinn’s Kadriorg Palace, together with the adjacent park, is an important historical landmark in Estonia. The fresh sea air, abundance of greenery and picturesque alleys of Kadriorg Park have made it a popular stroll destination for locals and visitors. All this splendor is headed by a beautiful palace, whose history dates back to the times of the Northern War (first quarter of the 18th century), when the Russian Emperor Peter I, after conquering the Estonian lands, ordered to build here a mini-versailles for his wife Catherine. In this connection, the palace was originally called Ekaterinental, but later the local townspeople still renamed it in their own manner - Kadriorg, which translates as “Kadri Valley”.
According to legend, in 1718 the Russian king himself laid the first stone in the foundation of the future palace. Together with the court architect, he determined the future composition of the palace and the layout of the gardens. Unfortunately, the Russian monarch himself did not get to see the castle in all its glory. By his last visit to Tallinn in 1724, the interiors of the palace had not yet been completed and the finishing work was already finished after the czar’s death. Later the palace began to serve as the residence of all Russian emperors who visited Tallinn.
The ensemble of the Kadriorg Palace, designed in the Italian manner, includes the palace itself on a hill and two pavilions on either side of the palace. Fountains, pavilions, ponds and avenues have been arranged in the park, and open-air concerts are held on the island of Swan Pond in the summertime.
Official site: https://kadriorumuuseum.ekm.ee/ru/o-muzeje/
Among the historical monuments of the Old Town in Tallinn is the Church of St. Nicholas, a Danish landmark that has preserved its appearance over the centuries and survived even after the troubled times of the Reformation. The temple was named in honor of St. Nicholas - the patron saint of all sailors and traveling merchants. Therefore, the temple belonged to those fortified trading churches, which since the 12th century were used as storehouses for goods and centers for trading transactions.
A notable feature of St. Nicholas Church was its transformation, as a result of conversion from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy. In 1846-47 Estonians almost completely converted to Orthodoxy and by the order of Czar Nicholas I the former Lutheran church building was transferred to the Orthodox parish. Therefore a bulbous dome was erected on the bell tower.
The church building was badly damaged during the Second World War. Most of the valuables were destroyed, and only a few of them could be saved. Then for many years the church remained closed. The first restoration began in 1953, and the church reopened its doors only in 1984.
Today, in the church of St. Nicholas is a museum of church art. It contains rare exhibits of medieval art: altars, confessionals, paintings, church silver, gravestones and other props that once adorned Estonian monasteries.
On the shore of the Gulf of Finland, in the valley of the river Pyuhajogi, is the small resort town of Toila, which is popular with the locals. Along with the beautiful nature and clear sea, there is a wonderful attraction of Estonia - the park Toila-Oru, created at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries around the palace of a wealthy merchant from St. Petersburg Eliseev. The park was designed by the architect Georg Kuphalt, who was famous at that time in Riga.
The landscapes of the park, which has an area of about 80 hectares, are diverse and especially beautiful. Here a steep shore of the Gulf of Finland rises above the sea level to a height of 50 meters, and in a deep valley, formed in preglacial times, flows the winding and rough river Pyuhayogi.
In 1914, Eliseev emigrated to France. And in 1934 local industrialists bought the park, presenting it to the government as a summer residence of the head of the Estonian Republic.
During World War II, the park complex was completely destroyed, after which the local forestry began work on the restoration of the territory. In 1996, major restoration work began here to renovate the destroyed palace, the surrounding garden, arboretum and other areas.
Today, there are more than 250 species of plants growing in the park. Fountains grace the landscape, and there are numerous avenues through the grounds in the shade of old maples, lindens, and poplars.
Here are a couple more interesting objects worthy of tourists’ attention. It is worth visiting these places if you want to feel the full spirit of this wonderful country, where time flows slowly, but you can feel progress in every detail. Guides in Estonia will help to make every tour exciting, so you should not refuse their services.
Huge underground galleries of sandstone, with a total length of passages of about a dozen kilometers, inhabited by a large colony of bats. Have you ever seen anything like this? If not, you have something to see in Estonia. In the valley of Piusa River, known for its sandstone deposits, there are man-made caves formed during the excavation of sand from 1922 to 1966. Later research revealed that this underground area has as many as 6 caves of different types. Their total area is 46 hectares. This area was declared a protected area in 1999. Today, the Piusa Caves are known to many as a wintering place for the largest colony of bats in Europe.
What do the caves look like? They are galleries with rounded vaulted ceilings and columns made of sandstone, a sedimentary and fragmentary rock, light and low-density. When visiting the caves, one must follow the main rule: one must not make any noise or make loud noises, as it may disturb the sleeping bats. This rule applies especially to the wintering period - from September to April. In addition, it is not allowed to touch the sleeping bats or even come closer than 1 meter, as for visitors it can lead to diseases transmitted through a bite.
Official website: https://piusainfo.wixsite.com/
In order to protect pristine bogs, woodlands, forests and flood meadows, Soomaa National Park was established in southwest Estonia in 1993 and has become a popular attraction in Estonia. This was facilitated by natural diversity, including a wealth of flora and fauna, as well as a certain anomaly of the local landscape. The fact is that, since the Ice Age, the bedrock here has had a considerable slope under the upper layers of soil. This phenomenon has caused the Halliste River, at an unnatural angle of 160 degrees, to flow into the Navesti River against its flow, causing unprecedented floods every year. The flooding period here has even acquired its own name, the “fifth season. These natural processes, in turn, have led to the formation of peat bogs and swamp forests on the territory of the national park. The local population, however, managed to adapt to the peculiar conditions of nature and even achieved successful results in agriculture.
Due to the peculiarities of the landscape in Soomaa Park, the best way to explore this area is to take a canoe trip along one of the rivers that cross the park. As you cut through the water, you may occasionally see wildlife such as deer, moose, beavers and other animals in their natural habitat. There are also other wild animals: wolves, lynxes, bears, as well as rare representatives of the bird world: meadow harrier, golden plover, woodpecker, black stork.
Official site: http://www.soomaa.com/
The main tourist attraction in the city of Rakvere, located in the north of the country, is the medieval Rakvere Castle. This is not just another attraction in Estonia but an entire entertainment park where you can watch theatrical performances, try on the role of a knight, try your hand at archery, spearfighting and practice pottery and blacksmithing. Here you are able to recreate the typical atmosphere of the Middle Ages, and once you are here, you can spend some time in the atmosphere of that time.
The first mention of the castle dates back to the 13th century. Around the middle of the century the crusaders of the Livonian Order started building the castle on the Vallimagi hill. Then the first buildings appeared, a fortress wall was built. Construction and permanent strengthening of the castle continued until the 16th century. During the Livonian War the area of the castle grew to 4.5 hectares.
In the middle of the last century archaeological excavations began to be carried out here, in the course of which a variety of objects were discovered, from which it was possible to recreate a general idea of the everyday life of the inhabitants of the castle in the Middle Ages.
Today visitors have a chance to see the inside of the castle, and then take the long corridors and steep spiral staircases up to the roof, which offers a wonderful view over the castle surroundings. Visitors are invited to visit the castle dungeon with its torture chamber, to experience the workings of the instruments of corporal punishment, and to view the castle’s shrine.
Not only the capital of Estonia is famous for its numerous sights, but also its vicinity. The most beautiful waterfall is Jagala Waterfall, located 23 km to the east of Tallinn. The waterfall is 50 meters wide and about 8 meters high.
The violent water stream rushing downhill has formed an entire valley of about 300 meters long, where the depth of the river reaches 14 meters. Moreover, the valley is increasingly eroded year by year and increases in size towards the source of the river. Falling down, the water continues its way, bypasses the swamps and numerous rapids, and finally reaches the dam of the former hydroelectric power station, which was built in 1922, and then was partially destroyed during the Second World War.
It is noteworthy that beneath the waterfall there is a certain ledge, along which you can walk along its entire width. The opportunity to see this spectacle in all its glory has made the waterfall a popular place to visit in any season of the year. In the summer you will be impressed by a rough falling stream of water, and in winter there will be impressive-sized blocks of ice.
Once you are on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa, the second largest island after Saaremaa, you will find something to see in Estonia. You will find one of the oldest lighthouses in the world that has survived to this day. Kopu lighthouse was built in 1505 and lasted for 26 years. It was not until August 1531 that a light was first lit at the top of the lighthouse tower. At that time, there was an important trade route from Hiiumaa island and the ships that were often lost at night in the sea waters needed a lighthouse. Since then, for nearly five centuries, Kopu lighthouse has lit the way for the ships and vessels that sail to the many ports of the Baltic coast. Up until the 20th century, the light in the lighthouse was supplied by usual fires made of dried resinous wood. It was not until 1901 that a light-optical system purchased in Paris was installed on top of the lighthouse. On the eve of World War II, in 1940, the lighthouse was connected to the state power grid.
The walls of the lighthouse tower are made of huge stones and reach a thickness of 3 meters at the bottom. Today Kopu is considered the most important historical landmark in Estonia. After seeing this creation, you can go on to explore its history - visit the place where the lighthouse owner lived, the engine room and the bathhouse. All these objects are recognized as the architectural heritage of the country and are protected by the state.
There is no better place in Estonia for romantic getaways than Tagepera Castle situated in the south of the country, 250 kilometers from the capital. It is already impossible to define the exact year of foundation of this castle, but the first references to it in historical sources date back to the 16th century. During its long history the castle has changed owners many times, was rebuilt and changed its appearance. Only a 40-meter tower and features of Art Nouveau architectural style are left from the former grandeur of the knight’s castle. What remains is a beautiful 25 hectare park with a lake. Nowadays the castle is a private property, a spacious villa with a hotel, a spa complex and a restaurant, and on the surrounding land you can not only walk, but also engage in various sports, as well as arrange hunting on a feathery game.
Official website: https://www.wagenkull
A group of islands in the Baltic Sea near the north-western coast of Estonia is part of Vilsandi National Park, which was established in 1993 to protect the coastal area, explore it and preserve the cultural heritage of the Western Estonian archipelago. Among all the islands, only the main island of Vilsandi is inhabited; its coastline is indented with bays, capes and inlets. The national park is famous primarily as a bird sanctuary, which is home to 2.5 hundred bird species, almost half of which nest in this territory. The diversity of birds is represented here by the whole colonies of common eider, mute swans, mottled terns, ducks, thin-billed guillemots, sea sandpipers, golden-crowned siskins and many others. The local flora has also distinguished itself - about 600 species of plants, including rare ones, grow in the reserve. For tourists in the reserve there is a number of routes with a large number of observation sites.
All travelers, when first exploring the sights of Tallinn, discover an interesting feature of the city’s panorama - whichever way you look, silhouettes of various towers loom up everywhere. The towers are one of the symbols of Tallinn, and among them there are really strange constructions - such as Fat Margaret. It is a cannon tower, built in the 16th century according to all the canons of fortifications, when the defense of the port required the maximum use of artillery. There is even an entire legend, which is willingly told by local guides to tourists - the story of the great love between Margaret and Herman. An evil sorceress, jealous of their bright feelings, turned the boy into a tall tower - Long Herman, and the girl into Fat Margaret. The old squat structure does look very powerful - its walls are 6 meters thick, and inside these walls today displays the collection of the maritime museum.
Official website: http://meremuuseum
On Mount Borodica near the village of Kuremae is the Puhtitsa Assumption Convent, whose history is closely linked with the names of many devotees of the Orthodox Church - among them Patriarch Alexis III and St John of Kronstadt. It is also the only Orthodox monastery in Estonia with many stories of miracles of healing through the icon of the Assumption. The monastery got its name from the word “Pyuhtitsa”, which means “Holy Place”, and such a name was given not by accident. After all, the monastery was founded in the late 19th century after the miraculous apparition of the Blessed Virgin, and since then the monastery was never closed, even in the Soviet era. Among other things, the Pyukhtitsa Monastery is a beautiful example of Estonian architecture and a graceful place that preserves its special atmosphere. In the most beautiful building of the complex, the Assumption Cathedral, the main part of the divine services is held and all the shrines are kept, including the image of the Assumption of the Mother of God.
Official website: https://www.puhtitsa
Matsalu is not just a national park, it is a paradise for bird lovers, with about 250 species, including gulls, terns, eiders, velvet scoters, mergansers, gooses, geese and mallards. The reserve is located in the western part of the country and covers a huge area of almost 500 square kilometers. This area is dominated by forest landscapes, vast areas with water reservoirs and flood meadows. In addition to birds, on the territory of the park are some species of large mammals - wild boars, elks, roes, among small animals - hedgehogs, foxes, raccoon dogs, moles, water rats. The flora of the reserve is represented by almost 8 hundred plant species. Visitors can watch the fauna, especially the birds, from special viewing towers, and you can admire the beauty of the reserve during hikes or boat trips. There is also a hotel and museum for visitors in the heart of the park.
Official website: https://kaitsealad
The open-air museum in Tallinn is also known as the Museum of Estonian Life, where entire houses and farmsteads that have been built in Estonia for several centuries in a row serve as exhibits. The atmosphere of the Estonian countryside of the 17th-20th centuries has been recreated on the vast area of 80 hectares. You can see 74 different buildings with realistic reconstructed interiors and period furniture. Visiting the village streets and houses, you can get an idea of how both the poorest and the wealthiest members of the population lived. The museum also offers entertainment in the summer with horse-drawn carriage rides and in the winter with sleigh rides. After examining the exposition of the museum and other attractions in the capital of Estonia, you can go to the port, where the ferry takes only 1.5-2 hours to get to the neighboring country and visit the sights of Finland.
Official website: https://evm.ee
The best that Estonia is known for is not only on the mainland, but also on the island of Saaremaa, home to Kuressaare, an imposing bishop’s castle whose history goes back to the 13th century. This is the only surviving building in the Baltics that has not undergone any major changes over the centuries and has preserved its grandeur and architectural rigor. The fortress repeatedly changed owners - so, the Danes, who once owned it, modernized fortifications, constructing a new system with ramparts and bastions, and in the 18th century the fortress passed to the Russian Empire, but in this period it was not used for defense. Today there is a museum in the fortress, where you can learn the history of the island and visit the old pottery and glass workshops and blacksmith shop. The main exhibits of the museum are the old cannons at the gate of the castle.
Official website: http://www.saarema
Southeastern Estonia is rich in sights of all kinds. Tartu, for example, has a heritage in the form of the oldest university in Northern Europe and numerous cultural sites - museums, theaters, monuments. And just 40 kilometers from Tartu in Polva County there are other interesting places, attracted by the natural beauty. First of all, these are the cliffs of Suur-Taevaskoda and Vaike-Taevaskoda, the most visited sites in South Estonia. Suur-Taevaskoda is a sandstone cliff that rises 23 meters above the river. Less than a kilometer from the cliff is the recreation center of the same name. Another no less interesting object is Vaike-Taevaskoda, a sheer cliff about 13 meters high, in which the Maiden’s Cave is washed by springs - many interesting legends are associated with it. Nearby flows the river Akhya, where canoeing and kayaking is common today.
Valaste waterfall in Ida-Virumaa is considered to be the highest waterfall in Estonia, its height is just over 30 meters, but that is not its only peculiarity. As a result of melting snow or heavy rains its waters are colored orange from the surrounding soil, so the locals often call the waterfall “Red Tail”, during this period it becomes the most powerful and full-flowing. In general, Valaste is fed by a river of the same name, created artificially as part of a soil drainage program. Opposite the waterfall is an observation deck with interesting views of the falling streams of water and layered fossils, which were formed over millions of years. Valaste is especially picturesque in winter, when the water freezes, creating bizarre layering, and the winds blowing from the sea turn the trees into ice sculptures. Therefore, Valaste is a universal option for what to see in Estonia in winter for those who are not afraid of winter cold.
Official website: http://valaste.eu/
An ideal region for a quick tourist trip is the Baltics, which includes Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. The sights of these countries are easy to cover in a short period, given their minimal geographical distance from each other. Almost on the border with Latvia, in the village of Haanja Estonia is situated the highest mountain in the Baltics, about 320 meters high. Five towers have been built on it at different times, the first in 1812 and the latest in 1939. And only the last of them was destined to stay intact until today. The tower is called Suur-Munamyagi and consists of reinforced concrete, in contrast to its wooden predecessors. Its height is 29 meters, and inside there is a museum. Climbing to the observation deck at the top of the tower, you can see the surrounding countryside within a radius of 50 kilometers.
Official website: http://suurmunamagi