Saturday, 30 April 2011

Must See Places in Estonia

First time visitors to Estonia often want to experience all the wonderful things the country has to offer they but don't necessarily know that those things are. One thing I did with my family many years ago was to hire a vehicle and travel around the country for two weeks. We were able to take in the countryside, explore the delights of quaint villages and stay at cute little B&B's along the way.

Here are my suggestions for must see places in Estonia.


The Old Town
The number one place to visit in Tallinn is indisputably the Old Town. With its Gothic architecture, cobbled streets and maze of story book buildings it will both delight you and leave you in awe.  The quaint streets are full of enticing gift shops, cafes and restaurants all beckoning you to enter and sample their wares.

The Estonian Open Air Museum
The Estonian Open Air Museum is located 8km west of Tallinn. It is a full reconstruction of an 18th century village consisting of 72 separate buildings. Spread over some 79 hectares, the museum includes a church, school, inn, fire station, windmills and farms. Visitors can explore each of the buildings and gain an insight into rural Estonian life during the 18th century.

Kadriorg Palace
Located 2km east of the city centre, Kadriorg Palace is the former palace of Peter the Great and now houses The Art Museum of Estonia.

A few minutes walk up the hill from the Old Town lies Toompea. Here you will find the Riikikogu, the Estonian parliament building as well as the specular Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which was built in 1894. Viewing the interior of this cathedral is a definite must.

Pärnu is the seaside resort of Estonia. People from Finland and Sweden like to holiday there for its golden sandy beaches, relaxed atmosphere and world reknown spas. Pärnu is a very patriotic city; if you walk through residental areas you will find the Estonian flag flying on nearly every house. It is also interesting to see that most people have apple trees growing in their backyards and every house seems to own a cat.


The University of Tartu
One of the oldest universities in northern Europe and the oldest in Estonia, the University of Tartu was established in 1632 by Swedish King Gustav Adolphus and is still thriving as a centre of academic excellence in 2011.  The university is a central feature of the city. My grandfather's cousin Ralf Lesthal was a professor of linguistics here and I am happy to say I have all of his published works.

Luke Manor (Luke Mois)
Estonia has many manor houses spread throughout the country. Nearly all of them were built by the wealthy Baltic German landowners who constituted the ruling class of Estonia for many centuries. Many of these manor houses have fallen into disrepair over time and are nowadays either restuarants, museums, derelict or existing as part of a national park. Few of them remain as private residencies. Luke Manor is one such property that is now a national parkland. The manor hourse has been completely destroyed with only the ruins of the steward's house and restored gardener's house remaining today.  When I conducted my family history research I discovered that several generations of my family were the head stewards of Luke Manor which prompted me to visit there for the first time in 2007. I found Luke Manor to be a very charming place to visit. The grounds are nice to stroll around and you can enjoy a relaxed picnic by the pond.  Remnants of the lime tree labyrinth can also be found. Luke Manor is one of the major attractions in the Nõo municipality.

 The Estonian National Museum
This museum is a must see for any visitor to Tartu.  It features exhibits of Estonian life throughout the ages, stretching back thousands of years, right from Iron Age times through the bloody wars of the 20th century to today.  No visit to Tartu is complete without a visit to the museum.

The Gunpowder Cellar
Built into the side of a hill between 1768-1778, the premises were used as a storage area before being converted into a resturant and bar. It is a must see for all visitors to Tartu. The atmosphere is relaxed, cheerful and there is always excellent live entertainment!