Discover Estonia's culture and history by exploring its cities, starting in the capital of Tallinn with a guided tour of its medieval core and sprawling Kadriorg Park with Russian-inspired architecture. Head inland and explore the bohemian university city of Tartu, home of the renowned Estonian National Museum. End your trip on the shores of Lake Peipus learning about the Russian Orthodox Old Believers community, then relax on the sandy beaches of Pärnu on Estonia's west coast.

Highlights

  • Tour the ancient medieval core of Tallinn and its grand Kadriorg Park
  • Discover the university and bohemian streets of Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city
  • Explore Lake Peipus and the Old Believers community in the town of Varnja
  • Relax along Pärnu Beach and explore the city's 19th-century timber villas
  • Learn all about Estonian history and folk art at the Estonian National Museum

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tallinn - Explore the city with a walking tour Tallinn
Day 2 Visit Estonia's largest waterfall, Jägala Waterfall Tallinn
Day 3 Transfer to Tartu and enjoy a walking tour Tartu
Day 4 Tour the renowned Estonia National Museum in Tartu Tartu
Day 5 Visit Lake Peipus and the Old Believers community of Varnja Tartu
Day 6 Relax on the long, sandy Pärnu Beach Pärnu
Day 7 Visit the Estonian Maritime Museum - Depart Tallinn  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tallinn - Explore the city with a walking tour

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Welcome to Estonia! Upon arriving at the airport in Tallinn, you'll transfer to your hotel and settle into your accommodation. Afterward, you'll head out to explore this lively capital city on a group walking tour.

Tallinn is a charming blend of medieval tranquillity and modern urban life. The walking tour will take you into the Old Town where you'll visit famous sites like Toompea Castle, Dome Church, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Old Town Hall and Great Guild Hall. Afterward, you'll visit the sprawling Kadriorg Park, which is also known as Catherine Park. A short tram ride takes you to this park, which is the site of an impressive baroque palace built for Catherine I of Russia. Enjoy viewing art ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries, then head outside to stroll through Kadriorg Park with its manicured lawns, Dutch-style canals, French-inspired, asymmetrical pathways, and a Russian garden. Within the park, you'll find the Presidential Palace and KUMU, an excellent art museum featuring works by both Estonians and international artists.

In the late afternoon, you'll continue to Tallinn's tallest building, the 1,000-foot (314-m) TV tower. The tower was built in 1980 and tells the stories of Soviet intervention in Estonia.

The rest of the day is yours to continue exploring the city at your leisure. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Estonian meal at the oldest-operating eatery in Tallinn, the Maiasmokk Cafe. Here, you'll also find a marzipan museum where a local artist decorates marzipan figures.

Day 2: Visit Estonia's largest waterfall, Jägala Waterfall

Jägala Waterfall
Jägala Waterfall

Enjoy a morning bus ride to nearby County Harju where you'll find the biggest waterfall in Estonia, Jägala Waterfall. Set near the northern coast of Estonia, the waterfall is formed along the Jägala River where you can partake in optional activities, such as hiking, fishing, or rafting. In the cold, winter months, the river and nearby waterfalls can freeze, creating a unique sight.

On the way back to Tallinn, you'll stop to visit an old Viking stronghold at the Jägala-Joa Hydropower Plant. You'll learn about how trout are affecting the station's energy production.

The evening is yours to enjoy in Tallinn.

Day 3: Transfer to Tartu and enjoy a walking tour

Tartu Town Hall
Tartu Town Hall

A 2-hour train will take you to Estonia's second-largest city, Tartu. Upon arrival, you'll enjoy Tartu's young, bohemian atmosphere, as it's known as the city of students, intellectuals, and artists. A guided tour will take you through its vibrant streets, starting in Town Hall Square with a visit to the statue of Kissing Students. Nearby you'll find St. John's Church with its many terracotta sculptures, plus Tartu University, which was founded in 1632.

After your tours, grab lunch at one of the city's trendy cafes near the university. You'll have some free time to continue exploring the city on your own. Check out the red-brick relics of the Tartu Dome Church, then stroll along the paths of the city's riverside Ülejõe Park

In the late afternoon, you'll settle into your accommodation and have time to relax before heading back into the city for dinner.

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Day 4: Tour the renowned Estonia National Museum in Tartu

Exhibits in the Estonian National Museum
Exhibits in the Estonian National Museum

Today you'll learn about Estonia's history, folk art, and ethnography with a tour of the Estonian National Museum in Tartu. Founded in 1909, the museum centers around the heritage of folklorist Jakob Hurt and preserves the history, life, and traditions of Estonia and its populations, including the Finno-Ugric community and religious minorities. The museum is an important generator and developer of cultural dialogue, linking the past and the future. Enjoy perusing historic relics in religion, fashion, homelife, and economics, as well as holiday celebrations and rural peasant life.

After the tour, you'll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to spend at your leisure in the city of Tartu. If you're interested in visiting more museums, check out the KGB Cells Museum or the Estonian Literary Museum. You can also relax along the riverfront and swim at the public beach.

Day 5: Visit Lake Peipus and the Old Believers community of Varnja

Sandy Shores of Lake Peipus
Sandy Shores of Lake Peipus

In the morning, you'll catch the bus through the beautiful countryside to the village of Varnja, on the shores of Lake Peipus. Not only is this the fifth-largest lake in Europe but it's also the largest trans-boundary lake on the continent, as it straddles the border with Russia. The Estonian side is home to religious refugees who opposed the official teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church, creating one of the largest populations of traditional Russian Orthodox Old Believers in Europe. They settled in Estonia in the 17th century.

You'll get a better sense of this culture with a visit to the Museum of Living History. On display, you'll find traditional clothes, household items, handicrafts, tools, photos and other items associated with the Old Believers from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. These exhibits examine the life of the three main villages in the Peipus area.

Before returning to Tartu, you'll enjoy a leisurely afternoon at the lake, relaxing on the shore and swimming in its refreshing waters.

Day 6: Relax on the long, sandy Pärnu Beach

Half-Timbered Buildings of Pärnu
Half-Timbered Buildings of Pärnu

Today's bus ride will take you from the shores of Lake Peipus to Estonia's west coast and fourth-largest city, Pärnu. This is a popular summertime retreat for Estonians, with its long, sandy beach and resort-like accommodations.

Upon arrival, you'll settle into your hotel and start your exploration of Pärnu's downtown, which is known for its 19th-century timber villas. The city has an eclectic mix of old and new architecture, as well as beautiful parks filled with trees, walking paths, and fountains. But the highlight of the city is, of course, Pärnu Beach, where you can relax for the remainder of the day. When you're ready for dinner, grab a seat at one of the beachfront restaurants and enjoy the sun setting into the water.

Day 7: Visit the Estonian Maritime Museum - Depart Tallinn

Maritime museum
Maritime museum

As you return to Tallinn in the morning, you'll head to the seaplane hangar at the Estonian Maritime Museum. This 100-year-old hangar was built for the Tsar's navy in 1916 and restored to display WWI-era planes, as well as boats and submarines from throughout the 20th century, all set amid dramatic lighting.

Then take a stroll through the Telliskivi Creative City, where you can have lunch and do some last-minute souvenir shopping. This edgy, industrial complex is the city's bohemian hub and plays host to art exhibits, flea markets, vintage boutiques, and trendy cafes.

When you're ready, head to the airport or train station to start your journey home, or to continue onto your next destination.