Today it is impossible to think that Estonia was once a part of the USSR. Because now, Estonia is one of the most developed nations in the world. In addition it is the most advanced digital society. The tiny nation is packed with a unique blend of culture, history and natural beauty that makes Estonia a must visit country.
Initially we thought that due to Estonia’s small size we would be able to visit all the top things to see and do in a week or so. Yet, we really needed a 3 week itinerary to experience amazing Estonia to it’s fullest.
As a result we landed in Talinn and decided to travel through Estonia in a counter clockwise direction. Here is our 3 amazing weeks in Estonia as an itinerary and top things to see and do.
If you are in a rush, then you may be able to pack everything that Talinn has to offer into just 2 days. However, for us this would have been difficult as we spent 3 days just in the Old Town!
Subsequently we spent our days walking and exploring. In summary it was very easy to spend 4 days in Talinn as part of our 3 weeks itinerary in Estonia.
Pro-Tip: Vegan Restaurant V is a very elegant and delicious place to eat in Talinn. This place books up quickly so a reservation is recommended.
Vanalinn- Talinn's Old Town
The origins of Tallinn date back to the 13th century, when a castle was built there by the crusading knights of the Teutonic Order. However, Vanalinn (Talinn’s Old Town) is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There are so many museums and areas to visit here!
Pro-Tip: If you are going to visit a number of museums and sights and use public transportation you may want to consider getting a Talinn Card.
Telliskivi Creative City
The Telliskivi Creative City is located in the former industrial complex of Tallinn, which houses galleries, small shops, various creative companies, start-ups, and restaurants. Obviously a place like this has an amazing vibe and tons of things to see and do! And of course the Street Art is well worth the visit.
Balti Jaama Turg
If you love the smell of fresh fruits and vegetables and amazing food being prepared this market is for you! Balti Jaama Turg is inside of a renovated market hall and has 3 levels with fresh food, clothing & antiques vendors, plus hip eateries.
Pro-Tip: Our favorite vegan cafe here is called Veg B-12 Cafe. Wonderful fresh soups and other items.
No visit to the Baltics is complete without going to one of the KGB museums. However, out of the ones that we visited this was our favorite one. Why? Well this museum is set in the Hotel Viru (where the actual spying was taking place) and the tour guides are so personable and funny. And the view of the city from the top (the spying took place on the top 2 floors of the hotel) is quite good.
Alexander Nevski Cathedral
The Aleksander Nevski Cathedral is a 19th-century Orthodox church. It was built between 1894 and 1900. When Estonia gained its independence after the First World War, the Estonian authorities wanted to demolish this cathedral as it was a symbol and reminder of a period of Russian occupation. However, there were quite a few Russian Orthodox people fleeing from the Bolshevik Revolution, living as refugees in the city. They stopped the church from being demolished.
Talinn has so much beautiful street art! Some of it is in the Telliskivi Creative City. However there is a lot more throughout the bigger city. Searching for interesting street art is definitely one of our favorite things to do in a new city!
Iglupark are fun huts located on the Gulf of Finland in Talinn. You can rent them as your accommodation. Or rent one with a sauna for a few hours. We saw people dipping into the cold water of the Gulf and then jumping into the sauna.
Saaremaa Island - 2 Days
Estonia has over 2000 islands! Saaremaa is it’s biggest one. Getting here is quite easy using Estonia’s ferry system. There is so much stunning nature on all of these islands.
We spent 2 days of our 3 weeks Estonia Itinerary in Sorve, which is the most southern point of Saaremaa Island. Our AirBnB was beside a lighthouse and the views were extraordinary. In addition, the mushroom picking was also amazing.
Pärnu - 4 Days
Pärnu is a resort city in southwestern Estonia, overlooking Pärnu Bay. Pärnu River flows through the middle of the city. It has pretty walking trails on both sides of the river. Pärnu Beach’s shallow water and promenade are the top attractions. However the city’s 19th-century timber villas give it a lot of charm. Behind the beach, Pärnu Beach Park has fountains, trails and neoclassical spa buildings.
It would have been possible to just spend 2 days here, but after 4 (out of our 3 week Itinerary in Estonia) we wanted to stay more! So, we recommend at least 3 days here. Our accommodation was a lovely apartment at an Airbnb overlooking Pärnu Bay
Pärnu - Mushroom Hunting
My parents took me mushroom hunting when I was a little girl. I think I was 4 or 5 years old and I remember those times with great fondness. The quiet of the forest and the softness of the pillowy moss, while foraging for the most delicious food! The verdant forests just outside of Pärnu are all that! So, I highly recommend finding a guide. Unfortunately Sergey (our guide) is no longer listed through TripAdvisor. However, this is a pretty good guide for foraging in Estonia overall.
This was a true highlight of our 3 weeks Estonia itinerary and I hope that you find time for some forest foraging!
Pärnu Bay has a very nice walking trail along it. There are some Airbnb apartments along there to stay in as well. In the summer it is a very popular place to swim. However the fall and spring are also a nice time to visit.
Viljandi is perfectly positioned between Parnu and Tartu. Therefore it makes for a good afternoon stop or an overnight visit. There are ruins of a castle in this pretty town along with a lot of interesting trails and nature walks. Our 3 weeks itinerary in Estonia would not be the same without stopping in this lovely town.
Tartu - 4 Days
Tartu is the second biggest city in Estonia and is a must on any itinerary in the country! Why? Because it is a university town filled with hope for the future and a lot of history and culture from the past. For us, the 4 days that we spent here were just not enough. Therefore, we recommend as much time as possible on your itinerary in Estonia. Here are some reasons why we fell in love with Tartu.
Pro Tip: Our favorite vegan eatery in Tartu is the Veg Machine. Good clean vegan food at decent prices.
The European Culture Capital for 2024
Tartu has been chosen as the European Culture Capital for 2024. Therefore the history, art and culture of this vibrant, bohemian and intellectual city speak for itself.
Neighborhoods of Tartu
There are many interesting neighborhoods to experience in Tartu. One of our favorites is Supilinn (Soup Town). Each one of the streets has a name of a soup ingredient in it.
This walking tour is a fun way to spend a few hours looking at the street art of this area
Raekoja Square and Old Town Tartu
Tartu Town Hall Square is the trapeze-shaped central square of Tartu, surrounded by classical buildings. In the 18th century, the square was the location of the most important market in the city – der Grosse Markt, or the Great Market. Since 1998, it has been adorned by the fountain known as the Kissing Students.
Every day, it’s 18 bells ring out from the tower of the Town Hall. Therefore this is a lovely area of Tartu to stroll and check out the many cafe’s and shops of the Old Town area.
We strolled through the old town of Tartu on most of our days here. It is a must on any itinerary in Estonia.
Street Art Tartu
Street Art in Tartu is such a powerful presence. Therefore you can see political and satirical drawings throughout the city. Here is a great walking tour to see as much of the significant Tartu Street Art as possible.
Narva - 2 days
Narva is a bit of a detour from the usual Estonia itinerary. However for me it was a very important stop. We stayed at an old Soviet era apartment through Airbnb. Many of the people here speak Russian and not Estonian. I wonder what they think today with Russia’s heinous invasion of Ukraine? Narva is just a bridge away from Russia.
The whole city feels like it is locked in 1970s USSR. Furthermore, Narva is only a 2.5 hour drive to St. Petersburg!
The most impressive thing to see in Narva as part of the itinerary in Estonia is the Hermann Castle. Today it is called the Narva Museum and it was founded in 1256 by the Danes.
However, the most impressive thing to see in Narva is the Ivangorod Fortress across the river (Russia). I felt a sense of pride standing on the Estonian side with the Estonian flag waving strongly and proudly in the wind.
Laheema National Park - 3 Days
Lahemaa National Park is situated just 40 minutes drive east of Talinn but it feels a world away. This verdant forest situated on Kolga Bay is magical and is a must on any Estonia itinerary!
We rented a house for 3 days in Loksa through Airbnb. Rob was pouting that 3 days in the boonies was a waste of time. However, his tune sure changed after we spent a few hours in this heavenly area. There are beaches here and the most amazing areas for hiking and mushroom hunting.
Our house had a wood burning sauna, a wood burning pizza oven and an indoor and outdoor fireplace. The price was incredibly reasonable at $55/night!
If you only have time for Talinn on your Estonia itinerary, I urge you to take the drive to the east to this area. It is amazing!
Wrap Up - Our Estonia Itinerary
Estonia is an incredibly progressive, thoughtful and historical country. We wish that our Estonia itinerary had a lot more than just 3 weeks. For a small country, Estonia has so much to offer!
Have you been to Estonia? Did your Estonia itinerary look similar to ours? Did you go hiking or mushroom hunting? We would love to hear from you about your experiences there or if you need help planning your first trip to magical Estonia – let us know.