If you are visiting Estonia for more than a few days chances are you will find some free time and want to get out of Tallinn. When you’ve already gone to museums, walked the through the old town of Tallinn in a zig-zag and adventured out of the tourist area to Kalamaja or Kadriorg as well, it is time to look outside of the borders of the capital and get out of Tallinn. There are plenty of beautiful interesting and exciting things besides our capital as well which can be discovered in just one day!
1) Lahemaa National Park
Photo credit: globetrotter_rodrigo
Established in 1971, Lahemaa National Park is the biggest and oldest national park in Estonia and used to be so in the whole former Soviet Union. Visiting the park will give you the best overview of Estonian nature and the coastal way of life. The park was established to preserve beautiful nature including coastal areas, bays, bogs, pine forests, rivers and different species as mammals such as lynxes, bears, moose, beavers and many others. The Lahemaa National Park covers over 700 square kilometers, thus it is very difficult to see the park using only public transport.
Explore the Käsmu Captains’ Village
Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Have a Hike at the Viru Bog
Photo credit: Jüri T
The Viru bog is lovely! A 3,5km hiking track through the bog will give you a chance to learn about the plants and animals that have made this raised bog their home. There is a view-platform in the center of the track.
Tallinn Traveller Tours can also take you to a day trip the the Lahemaa National Park!
2) North-Western Coast and Paldiski area
Photo credit: Andrei Samkov
For the urban explorers and fans of desolate dilapidation the coastal areas of Estonia are full of wonderfully abandoned structures from military bunkers to prisons and medieval monasteries. Heading west of Tallinn will give you a chance to discover a bunch of abandoned things as well as beautiful nature including the predominant limestone cliffs on the seaside and the Keila-Joa waterfall and manor building.
Find the Rummu Quarry for a Post-apocolyptic Feel
Photo credit: jannok
Rummu Quarry situated right next to a closed prison is out of this world! The limestone quarry got flooded after mining stopped and the pump was switched off. This quarry with its crisp clear light blue water has been a popular beach for the last few years. Daredevils can also climb the building which got flooded and is now in the middle of the lake and jump down from it.
Discover the Medieval Padise Abbey
Photo credit: Guillaume Speurt
Padise Abbey is an interesting medieval monastery close to Tallinn. The monastery was very influential in the 15th century when it owned extensive estates both in Estonia as well as Finland, however it began losing its popularity as a spiritual center with the rise of the Reformation in the start of the 16th century.
You can explore different nature sites and strange abandoned things on our Coastal Cliffs and Soviet Paldiski Day Trip!
3) The Resort Town of Haapsalu
Haapsalu is a quiet resort town is only a 1.5 hour ride from Tallinn. It has gone from being a port town and the former seat of the bishop to a holiday residence of the Czarist Russian elite and now to a quiet seaside town with plenty of attractions. Right in the city center you can find a medieval bishop’s castle founded in the 13th century. The town consists of adorable two-floored wooden houses by the seaside.
The Railway Museum Takes You Back in Time
Photo credit: Alastair Rae
The Haapsalu railway station is considered to be the most beautiful train station of Estonia. It was finished in 1907 and it has a uniquely long platform entirely covered up with a roof. The station is currently not working as a train station but as a bus station, the only connection between Haapsalu and Tallinn is by bus. Inside the building, you can also find the Estonian train museum. In the back of the station, there are a lot of different wagons from different eras.
Ungru Manor’s Ruins Are Waiting by the Highway
The Ungru manor is now in ruins and nobody ever lived there. This manor building was built in the end of the 19th century and it copies the style of the Merseburg castle in Germany. During the 20th century, about one third of the manor was torn apart to build a nearby military airfield. The manor ruins just stand by the highway and await wandering visitors.
Our Day Trip to Western Coast and Haapsalu will cover the mentioned sights and many others!
4) East Estonia and the Border town of Narva
Photo credit: Tony Bowden
Narva stands at the border of Estonia and Russia. The town is very different from the other bigger towns such as Tallinn and Tartu, over here the two cultures mix into a weird and unique post-Soviet atmosphere. Most of the town of Narva was bombed in the Second World War and was later built up in the ugly block-apartment style prominent all over the Soviet Union at the time. Besides Narva, Kohtla-Järve mining town and Sillamäe town are also worth a look for those interested in Stalinist architecture.
The Castle on the Border
The Narva-Ivangorod border is divided by a river and a castle. There are long lines of people waiting to cross the border next to the medieval structure. Also, inside the castle you can also find a statue of Lenin.
Discover the Ghost Town of Viivikonna
Viivikonna is an abandoned town which has suffered a sad faith – a mining town of a few thousand people has withered to about 90 residents. Citizens get by by being inventive with their electricity and water sources. This is a fascinating sight for the ones who enjoy abandoned strangeness.
You can see all of the mentioned places as well as many others on our Narva & the Eastern Bloc Day Trip!
5) The Summer Capital of Pärnu
Photo credit: Like a Local
Pärnu is about two hours away from Tallinn. Throughout summers Pärnu attracts people from all over the country to enjoy the pristine soft sand beaches and countless ice-cream vendors. Pärnu has been known as a summer capital for a long time and that is what you do here – enjoy the beach, rest and party. During peak summer season, the number of visitors is huge, so you should definitely think in advance about transport and other logistics.
Must see: The beach promenade
Photo credit: Asbjørn Floden
The beach promenade lasts for over 1,5 kilometers and is accompanied by fountains, spas, playgrounds, boat rentals and so on. A beach vacation is why people come here!
The Doughnut Bar In the city center at Pühavaimu 15 has been making amazing pastries for more than half a century. You can recognize this place from very far away because of the sudden smell of delicious pastry. Get some doughnuts, pastry or anything really, it is all lovely!
Steffani Pizza – some people come to Pärnu just for the pizza. The place is very famous all over Estonia which results in gigantic waiting times during peak season but the gigantic pizzas for reasonable prices make everything okay. They also have pastas, burritos, tortillas and salads on the menu, so you can have a great meal even if you are not a fan of pizza.
You can get to Pärnu with a bus from Tallinn Bus Station.
6) The Student Capital of Tartu
Photo credit: cremona daniel
Tartu is a two and a half hour bus ride from Tallinn and it is known as the student capital of Estonia. The best time to visit is in spring and autumn when there are a lot of different student events happening over the city. Tartu has the oldest university of Estonia, the main building is a little over 200 years old, but the University of Tartu opened up in 1632 already. Another interesting thing to see in Tartu is the KGB-museum which gives a good overview of this gruesome and horrific recent past of Estonia and it is the only one of this kind of a museum in the country. The old town of Tartu is a smaller than Tallinn’s but it still looks splendid. Besides this unique museum, the city has a lot of different odd and not so odd museums to visit: Tartu Art Museum, a Toy Museum, the Botanical Garden, the Estonian Sports Museum, a lock-up for the misbehaving students of the university was also turned into a small museum and besides this there are also numerous small galleries.
Science Center AHHAA is a Must See!
Photo credit: Merle ja Joonas
Science Center AHHAA is the biggest science center of Estonia and you can spend hours on end here! All sorts of activities make the center interesting for kids, teens and adults alike. Be prepared to answer a lot of “Why…?” questions to your kids about different processes.
Buses to Tartu leave very often from the main bus station of Tallinn.
Are there any other places in Estonia you find interesting and close enough to visit in just one day? Let us know in the comments!
For more places to visit besides Tallinn: