Estonia is indeed an exotic country. The more you explore it, the more you get into it. Out of several tourist attractions, medieval castles in Estonia are amazing and fascinating. There are plenty of beautiful palaces in Estonia built by Danes, Germans, Swedes, and Russians during various historical periods. Of course, these buildings are worth to explore. Check the following list of beautiful castles in Estonia and feel the charm of those fairy-tale lands.
Previously, castles were made of wood and earth. Later on, they were built out of stone. Hence, many of them are still alive. Standing proudly tall for around 900 years since the Middle Ages, you can find castles in different designs and architectural styles. Despite being different, they all are fortified.
These landmarks were initially designed to protect the cities and deal with attacks in the medieval era. Their capabilities were further improved by technologies like murder-holes, arrowslits, and moats. Finally, they fell off the favor with the advancements in gunpowder. More advanced offensive technologies like canons proved heavy to these castles.
If you are wondering where to start, we will recommend you to visit Narva/Hermann fortress which is positioned strategically on the Russia border. Feel how life was like in the past and witness the breathtaking view of the two warring castles between Narva and Ivangorod.
Already been there? Visit Haapsalu, a sleepy village in North Estonia and explore the Bishop’s Castle, where it is said that the White Lady lives here, who is the most famous Estonian spirit. So, without further ado, let’s talk about the most popular and exotic castles in Estonia.
Table of Contents
- 1 Here’s the list of the top castles in Estonia
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Here’s the list of the top castles in Estonia
Also known as the Narva fortress, the Danes founded Hermann castle in 1256. But the first stone castle was erected at the start of the 14th century due to various tensions with the neighbors – Russians. Denmark’s King Valdemar IV sold Narva and Northern Estonia in 1347 to the Livonian Order, who renovated the complex into convent building as per their needs.
This stronghold has preserved the floor plan mostly with its massive wings and the middle courtyard. The Herman Tower was finished at the era of Order, necessitated by the construction of Ivangorod Castle by the Russians in 1492 in the opposite of Narva River.
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Built by the master of the Livonian Order, Konrad von Mandern in Paide, the Paide Castle completed its construction somewhere around 1265 to 1266. This tower has been the heart of the complex with six stories. During the 14th and 15th centuries, this fortress was strengthened when the nearest walls were enhanced, and towers were added.
Roman troops continuously besieged the castle during the Livonian War, and it was used by soldiers of Ivan – The Terrible in 1573. The work of restoration conducted in 1895-1897 on the central tower and other parts of the fortress.
In 1941, Soviet troops set the central tower on fire during World War II, and it was retained as is until Estonia got freedom in 1990-1993.
Located in Pärnu town, the Pärnu castle in Estonia is known as “The Red Tower.” In the 15th century, it was initially built as a prison. It is the last protective tower standing in the New-Parnu, a Hanseatic town.
It had four stories in the 17th century and a 6m deep prison cell. It was used as an archive for the city during the 19th century. There are only three stories left today.
Pöide was a church in Pöide Commune on Saaremaa Island in Saare County. The Pöide church complex is supposed to be built on the ruins of the chapel which dated back from the 13th century.
In 1227, the east side of the island was occupied by the Livonian Order after the conquest of Saaremaa. They built a castle at Pöide as their hub during the end of the 13th century.
The Saaremaa natives destroyed the fortress during the uprisings wave over the forces occupying this place in Saaremaa and Estonia during the rebellion of St. George’s Night in 1343.
On the south of the fortress, there was a chapel and the walls from the center of Pöide church today. It is collectively called as fortress-church due to its enormous structure.
During World War II, the building was blown and looted and used for storage. In 1940, lightning struck the tower, and it was set on fire and faced severe damage. You can still witness the large crack due to lightning.
Gradually, this church has been rebuilt and renowned since 1989. The stone altar, chancel, and vestry have been restored. The roof, nave, and spire are the main areas of the complex but still need renovation.
In the church, a lot of large tombstones can be seen behind glass. It seems the church has been used as a cultural hub for the nearest communities over the centuries.
Located in Rakvere, the Rakvere Castle is located 20km south of the Gulf of Finland in Northern Estonia. It is settled since the 3rd to 5th centuries AD. Initially, it was fortified around 1252. Built by the Danes, it was first a wooden stronghold named Wesenbergh.
When the Danish king sold the Danish Estonia to the Livonian Order in the year 1346, a vast stone castle was built as a protection wall for the eastern border.
In 1600-1629, there was the period of Polish-Sweden War, and it was half blown up in 1605 by the Polish and later by Swedes. You can still witness its best-kept ruins.
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Located on Toompea hill in the center of Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, the Toompea Castle is an ancient castle that has been used since the 9th century. Currently, Toompea serves as the Parliament of Estonia.
The Order of the Brethren of the Sword took over the castle in 1227, who started schemes for rebuilding old heritage. They started building the castle, and it is visible to a large extent today.
Again, the castle befell the Danes only ten years later, and it was sold in 1346 to the Teutonic Order, and it belonged to them for the rest of the Middle Ages.
Being the stronghold with the cathedral, the Haapsalu Castle was founded in the 13th century in Haapsalu Estonia as a seat to the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek. The expansion, construction, and renovation works of the castle continued across several centuries, with the architecture being changed as per the siege weapons development.
The castle was used no longer as a defensive structure in the 17th century by the Swedes who ruled the Estonian Swedish province.
In 1710 during the Great Northern War, Estonia was ruled by Russians, and its walls were demolished partially at the order of the Peter I of Russia, and it turned into ruins.
Also known as Koluvere Episcopal Castle, the Koluvere Castle is a castle in Lääne County in the west of Estonia. It has existed in its promising location since the 13th century. It came into possession of Saare- Lääne bishop in 1439 and served as one of his principal residences. Von Löwen family used the castle from 1646 to 1771.
It had lost its defensive importance by that period and was used as a royal residence. It was transferred to Grigory Orlov in 1771. Later on, Empress Catherine the Great owned it.
Also known as Kuressaare Episcopal Castle, the Kuressaare Castle is located on Saaremaa Island in Kuressaare of Western Estonia. It was mentioned in the earliest written record from the 1380s when the Teutonic Order started its construction for the Ösel-Wieck bishops.
Since then, it belonged to the Saare- Lääne bishop as a stronghold. It was one of the most prominent castles of Bishopric until it was destroyed during the Livonian War. It was recovered by architects Wilhelm Neumann and Hermann Seuberlich in 1904-12. It went through another restoration work led by Kalvi Aluve, an architect, in the year 1968.
Built on an island by the Tallinn bishop Simon von der Borch on the lake in 1479, the Porkuni Castle surrounded a courtyard as a four-sided structure, which had a small church.
There is a cannon tower in each corner, and it also had a gate tower which is preserved till date, even with a couple of changes later. The castle went through several stages of construction and walls were made higher gradually.
During the Livonian War, the castle was damaged. A new manor house was constructed in 1870-74 at the site by Otto Ludwig von Rennenkampff, who owned the land. It is developed in neo-Gothic style, with various details like turrets influenced by a serene view of the Middle Ages.
On the first floor, the ceremonial rooms of the manor have been rebuilt. It still has a staircase made of wrought iron and a well-known nouveau tiled stove.
Glehn Castle is a castle located atop Nõmme hill, partly in Tallinn, Estonia. The manor was founded and designed by Nikolai von Glehn on the north of his Jälgimäe Manor lands to become his new home.
The construction of the castle was finished in the year 1886. It is covered well by a park with various buildings like observatory tower (1910), palm house (1900-1910), and sculptures like Crocodile (1908) and Kalevipoeg (1908) which were designed by Glehn.
After the emigration of Glehn in 1918 to Germany, the castle fell into decline and was looted. It started to restore in the 1960s. The rebuilt palace was inaugurated on March 24, 1977. It was also the site where a Russian film, The Hound of the Baskervilles, was shot in 1981.
The castle of a Purtse manor, the Purtse Castle in Estonia was built in the heart of the 16th century by Johann Von, a landowner when old Gothic styles of the building were being abandoned eventually for the ideas of Renaissance era. Hence, the building has partly aspects that were archaic even for the time, and it was partly concepts of the Renaissance.
It was built as a manor house which was fortified differently from an utterly defensive standpoint. The floors have several rooms. There are three stories in this castle. The upper was used for defense, middle for the living, and lower for storage.
It was entered on the second one through a ladder that could be pulled up in case of the threat. The basement had a typical hypocaust system which could be helpful to warm the main hall on the second floor.
Being a mansion in Taagepera village, Valga County, Helme Parish, Taagepera Castle was declared as a national monument in September 1999. The palace was first recorded in the 16th century.
During the Swedish and Polish rule of Estonia, the mansion was owned by the Rehbinder family. It was sold to Otto von Stackelberg in 1674.
The mansion was almost bankrupt in 1819 and was acquired by Bernhard Heinrich von Stryk (1746-1829) who was married in 1782 with Anna Elisabeth von Oetting (1763-1825). Hugo von Stryk, his great-grandson, was the last owner of this mansion, who lost it in land reform in 1919.
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It is an ancient castle built on the Neo-Gothic style in Alatskivi in Estonia. Dating back to the 17th century, Alatskivi Castle is located in Alatskivi Parish in Tartu County. It was reconstructed by the late 19th century and modeled on aristocrat residence of Balmoral. It was again renovated from 2005 to 2011.
On the first floor, its five rooms house Eduard Tubin museum, demonstrating the achievements of Eduard Tubin who was also a music composer.
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Located in Väike-Maarja Parish, Vao is a village in Lääne-Viru County in the northeast of Estonia. Vao Castle is located here which accommodates as an asylum since 2014. It has gained a lot of media attention in Estonia, and it has demonstrated the European migrant crisis.
The external wall was blown in September 2015, but no one was hurt. But it is still a well-preserved fortress with a medieval tower. At the end of the 14th century, it was built as a famous vassal castle.
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