Tartu is a famous 11th-century city of Estonia and the second largest one after its capital Tallinn. It is located to the south-eastern part of Tallinn at a distance of 186 km and the north-eastern part of Riga at a distance of 245 km.
Tartu houses various renowned universities and is also ‘Estonia’s major administrative center featuring the Supreme Court of Estonia, Ministry of Education and Research and National Museum of Estonia.
Tartu can be reached by flight from Helsinki or Tallinn to Tartu Airport. It can be reached by train from Tallinn, Valga, Rakvere, Narva, and Koidula to Tartu railway station and even by waterways through Tartu Sadam Ferry service from Lake Peipus and Lake Lammijarv.
The intellectual city of Tartu has a gorgeous Estonian setting and serves as a major tourist destination. From traveling in its ancient historical Old town to exploring the gorgeous Tartu landmarks and partying the night away in nightclubs, you can enjoy all flavors of enjoyment in Tartu.
Tartu is also renowned as the originator of Estonian Song Festivals. So, if Tartu is your next vacation spot, this travel guide is here to help you with the best places to see and the things to do in Tartu.
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Top 6 BEST Things to do in Tartu (Estonia)
Wondering what to do in Tartu? Start with Raekoja Square. It is the biggest tourist attraction in Tartu, also known by the name of Townhall Square and is an essential landmark of the Old Tartu town, it features a Trapeze shaped square surrounded by neo-classical buildings on both sides, the heart of Tartu in Estonia around which the entire village has been evolved.
Initially, this place was known by the name of Great Market which further got named to Adolf Hitler Platz from 1941 to 1944 and Soviet Square during the Soviet era.
Currently, it is the most significant cultural hub of Tartu hosting various major events, musical concerts, and celebrations. It houses the town hall of Tartu and also Barclay de Tolly House featuring the Tartu Art Museum.
Tartu Town Hall
The town hall of Tartu is its core administrative unit located in the Townhall square area. Initially, the city of Town Hall was used for trading by the settlements in the Toome Hill castle area and the Emajogi riverside port. It was during the medieval period when the municipal power slowly started emerging and after the massive Great Fire of 1775 that destroyed Tartu. The city was rebuilt again with the construction of the current Town hall building.
It is the third construction of Townhall in the same location. It follows a Neoclassical architecture with a beautiful blend of Rococo and Baroque style. The three-storeyed building featuring a high hip roof and a ridge tower with a giant clock and the Carillons, which are played daily. The building is very appealing and draws the maximum tourist crowd.
The Estonian neighborhood of Supilinn is one of the things to see in Tartu. The reason why Supilinn is known as the Soup Town is due to its innovative names of the streets like Kartulli ( Potato in English); Herne (Pea in English); Oa (Bean in English); Marja (Berry in English); and Meloni (Melon in English).
The neighborhood features the pre-war wooden architecture building in different styles. All buildings have slanted rooftops and cross-section windows with a pure Bohemian ambiance.
The houses have different colorings according to style and mood, which makes the entire area look like a painted watercolor picture. Do not miss this exciting destination when you are in Tartu.
This is an important heritage destination in Tartu sightseeing. The destination features the Toome Hill housing the 600 years old Tarbatu settlement, which is also the original settlement of Tartu.
Toome Hill has a major military history associated with it, which currently features a beautiful lush green park and various historical attractions.
Lossi Street separates the hill into the eastern and western parts. While the eastern part of the mountain features the Old Anatomical Theatre and a 19th-century Observatory.
The part of the west features 13th-century cathedral ruins offering panoramic views of the Tartu city from its ruined areas, and the sanctuary housing the University’s history museum.
Apart from these, the classic yellow and white-colored Angel Bridge and the dark stoned Devil Bridge are the other major attractions close to Toome Hill.
Sitting or strolling by the beautiful Emajogi riverfront is one of the most relaxing things to do in Tartu. The river Emajogi flows by the entire town area of Tartu from Lake Vortsjarv via Tartu and finally entering to Lake Peipus. It flows along a stretch of almost 10kms through Tartu. There are three courses in Emajogi River.
The upper course is from Vortsjarv to Karevere Bridge, the middle course is from Karvere to Kavastu while the lower course is through the Alam-Pedja Nature reserve.
Surrounded by the beautiful lush greeneries, the riverfront serves as a perfect bliss to relax amidst the calm environment, take pictures of the panoramic surroundings, and watch several boats sail by the waterbody.
Luke Manor and Manor Park
One of the lists of things to do in Tartu is this Neo-Baroque Park at Luke Manor is one of the gorgeous destinations in Tartu. Luke Manor is an old wooden manor from the period of 1557 that follows the Heimat and Neo-Baroque style architecture.
The main centers of the manor were destroyed in the period of Second World leaving behind its few structures like- The ‘gardener’s house, a handicraft studio, a renovated workers’ house, a cascading pond, and a small pavilion.
The vibrant green park surrounding the manor areas belongs to the 19th century, which features a terrace, a fierce lion sculpture, and is further divided into different sections for exploration.
Museum and Churches
One of the renowned museums of Tartu is the Estonian National Museum that gives you a detailed insight of Estonian local folk culture and art and pays tribute to the famous Estonian folklorist ”Jakob Hurt”.
It showcases the traditional Estonian culture through national costumes, handcrafted items, wood crafted beer tankards, carpets and lines, and different other materials.
Other best museums to explore are – Tartu Art Museum, Toy Museum, and Estonian Sports Museum. Tartu has also got a collection of beautiful churches among which ‘St. Paul’s Roman Church, Roman Catholic church, Dome Church ruins, and ‘St. Peter’s Church reflects the brilliant Estonian architecture and a must-visit.