I`m just about to visit Estonia for the first time with my family. Although I’ve been to Estonia before, I`ve never been there with my family, and we`re so excited.
Before we head to a new country, we always carry out as much research as we possibly can so that we can familiarize ourselves with the place and find ways to maximize our time there.
What is Estonia famous for? Estonia is a country between the Gulf of Finland and the baltic sea. The country features a captivating mixture of Russian, Slavic, and Scandinavian, and all together create a unique local culture. Estonia might be a small coastal country, but it has a lot of heart. The nation boasts scenic coastlines, medieval cities, as well as fascinating history. In addition to all that, Estonia is pretty affordable for travelers.
In this blog post, I share a list of the things that Estonia is most famous for and some of the must-visit attractions.
Korvemaa Nature Reserve
Korvemaa nature reserve is a well-known holiday destination if you`re looking for a unique landscape and spectacular unspoiled nature. The reserve located 50 km from the country’s capital city, Tallinn. Covered by forests, marshes, and lakes, this park is heaven for nature enthusiasts.
The park has well-maintained wooden-trails stretching through steep hills, sandy rods, and mysterious bogs. It is especially popular during winter and features an extensive network of excellent cross country ski trails with various lengths.
Korvemaa is also home to numerous rare and protected species of wild animals and birds attracting nature lovers and photographers during the autumn season.
Matsalu National Park
Matsalu national park covers over 400km2 of unique landscapes and coasts that you can explore on foot, by boat, and by bicycle. It is a rural and laid back location, where you can find hiking trails for both novice and experienced hikers, as well as a couple of guesthouses excellent for relaxing as you enjoy nature.
The park prides itself as one of Europe’s best bird watching locations. It is a nature park and reserve that was built to protect a large number of nesting, migrating, and molting birds. It is home to numerous endangered species like the white-tailed eagle.
The Matsalu national park is particularly reputable because it sits in the vital section of the East Atlantic flyway.
NOTE: Each spring, over two million waterfowl pass through this area.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The vast and richly-furnished Russian orthodox church, decorated in a mixed historicist style, was built on Toompea hill in 1900 when the nation was part of the czarist empire.
It has unique, black onion domes that can easily be spotted towering above Tallinn.
You can find the capital city`s most robust ensemble of church bells weighing 15 tons in the church towers. The interior of the church is worth a visit. It is decorated with icons and mosaics.
Soomaa National Park
Initially, a peat bog that resulted from a glacier melt from over 5,000 years ago, the Soomaa national park, is a fascinating destination you must visit during your trip to Estonia.
Most people know Soomaa particularly for its great flood, better known as the fifth season when the water from heavy rains or melted snow floods all the lower yards, roads, and even forests.
If you visit Soomaa national park, you can engage in regular snowshoe and cone hikes, which give you spectacular animal viewing tours. You can spot elk, deer, beavers, deer, golden eagles, and more as you paddle.
Initially, a danish stronghold of the 16th century, the castle in Rakvere will offer a lot of excitement for your entire family.
The castle is a kind of medieval theme park, and costumed staff and visitors wander the grounds. Here, both young and old tourists can spend an exciting day as they dress up as warriors and knights.
Rakvere castle gives you the chance to see an alchemist`s workshop, see knights polish their armor, and tour the ancient wine cellar.
BONUS: There is also a torture chamber, an old brothel, hell and death room, and a barbershop. Visiting this castle is an unforgettable experience to bring history to life.
Lahemaa National Park
This is one of the must-visit national parks in Estonia. Since it’s just an hour’s drive from the capital, it`s the perfect day trip.
The park is famed for its diversity. It is home to distinctive and legendary fishing villages, pristine natural landscapes, and the most spectacular manors in the country.
Laheema national park is ideal for nature watching and hiking trips. Here you`ll find sandy and stony seashores, rivers that cut into limestone cliffs, pine and cliff forests, picturesque bogs, and erratic rocks left over from the last ice age. It acts as an authentic taster of cultural and natural landscapes in Estonia.
Estonian History Museum
Though the museum was not named so until 1989, its origin dates back to 1802. The museum has grown exponentially over the years, and visitors can now find numerous exhibits that exhibit the country`s history visually.
Here, you`ll find displays like historically dressed mannequins, a collection of army weapons and uniforms, and recreations of domestic interiors.
One of the most significant exhibitions in this museum is an original hut that was used by the forest brothers, partisans who conducted the guerilla war during the soviet union. The exhibition also showcases Estonian history through rooms with different topics. For example, there is a gun room that talks about wars.
The Jägala Waterfall is the widest and highest natural waterfall in Estonia. It is more than 50 meters wide and around eight meters high. The waterfall is a unique sight to see both in winter and summer.
During the summer, the Jägala Waterfall flows into the lush greenery around it. If your visit is during the winter season, you`ll find the large waterfall frozen solid and filled with huge, glistering icicles.
One of the fascinating aspects of the Jägala Waterfall during winter is that the large frozen icicles and frozen water from the waterfall create a peculiar tunnel of ice that is quite stunning to see.
Designed in Petrine baroque style, Kadrriorg Palace was built from 1718 to 1725 by a Russian ruler known as peter the great in honor of his wife.
The palace houses the Kadriorg art museum, which displays the Estonian art museum’s collection of foreign art – Russian and western European art from the 16th to the 20th century.
NOTE: If you visit the palace whose name translates to ‘Catherine’s valley,’ you`ll be able to see numerous foreign art ranging from graphics and paintings to applied arts and sculptures.
It also houses several events throughout the year, such as art studios, concerts, and excursions.
This unusual name belongs to the area of a unique cape. If you`re headed there, you`ll know you`re close if you have a view of the statue of Leigri, an idol of Hiiu County. Saaretirp is a narrow peninsula jutting two-kilometers into the baltic sea on Hiiumaa, Estonia’s second-largest island. It runs from north-east to south-west.
The esker`s higher parts are rich in vegetation but become a beach filled with pebbles. Unique shrubs and trees grow here, including buckthorn, alder buckthorn, and snowball tree, honeysuckle.
TIP: There is a lot of sea kale on its shore that makes the beach a fantastic sight during the flowering period.
Patarei Sea Fortress
Patarei fortress, situated in the capital, part of European architectural heritage, was built in the 19th century.
It is a classical defensive structure that has maintained its stylistic purity across the years. It is a memorial of fascism and communism and is a meaningful symbol of resistance, as well.
Kumu stands for Kunstimuuseum, which is one of the largest art museums in northern Europe, having been established in 2006.
The museum houses permanent exhibitions of Estonian art dating from the 18th century onwards. It also displays temporary exhibitors with Estonian and foreign contemporary art.
Here, you`ll find more unique works of art representing Estonia`s occupations period. There are many performances, events, and lectures scheduled at the museum throughout the year.
A trip to the Narva Museum is an incredible adventure for the entire family as it enables them to go back in time and see how Estonians lived in the past.
The museum comprises various aspects such as the northern courtyard, an art gallery, and Narva stronghold. These are not just architectural monuments, as the gallery and castle also have exhibition halls.
The exhibition of Narva castle tells the history of Narva from the thirteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth century.
NOTE: There`re a couple of handicraft workshops inside the museum where you can watch and also learn the skill applied in medieval times.
When you visit Estonia, don’t miss out on the country`s tasty cuisines. Their food stems from pure nature and ancient traditions. The cuisine is attractive and unique due to the Estonian’s appreciation for pure local food is well-known.
The common feature is that the food must be tasty, fresh, produced locally, and made from local ingredients. The country`s most traditional products include milk, meat, rye bread, fish, vegetable, and various forest goods.
There are numerous distinctive eateries littered across the county that offer unique and inherent dishes to Estonia`s cuisine, so make sure you check them out.
Estonia Open-Air Museum
This sprawling architectural and ethnographic complex features 80 Estonian buildings, taken from across the country, and resurrected in sections representing the different regions of Estonia.
Just a 15-minute drive from the capital, you`ll find the Estonia open-air museum, which is a beautiful place that showcases Estonia`s rural architecture and way of life.
It has 14 farms that offer an overview of how rural families lived in the 18th to 20th centuries.
Just like in a poor village, you`ll find an inn, mills, a shop, a church, and fishing sheds by the sea here.
NOTE: At the museum, you can ride horses, try traditional dishes at the inn, and buy handicrafts.
The museum can be accessed all year-round, offering events and lovely workshops, entertainment, and other unique items.
Tallinn Town Hall
With a story dating back to the 13th century, Tallinn town hall is the oldest and only surviving Gothic town hall in northern Europe. The town hall plays a historical role of being the town’s representational building and is used for holding concerts and receptions.
The town hall is open to visitors in July and August, and you can visit anything from the basement to the attic. Inside, you can visit the council chamber, which features Estonia`s oldest woodcarvings, or the trade hall, whose visitor book trickles royal signatures.
There is a steeply sloped attic that has displays on the building and its restoration. The fancy gothic arches reflect the ideals and wealth of the former Hanseatic town.
The most thrilling maritime museum in Europe can be found in the seaplane harbor.
Around 200 authentic items are showcased at this historical seaplane hangar: a century-old icebreaker Suur toll, a submarine known as Lembit, remains of the oldest ship in Estonia, and much more.
Highlights include taking pictures while in navy uniform, globe-trotting in a submarine, simulators, an aquarium, a children`s section with drawing tools, a legit sailboat, throwing paper planes, and an outdoor playground.
Telliskivi Creative City
Telliskivi creative city is the creative city of Tallinn. It is the largest creative center in the country, comprising studios, offices of Ngos, and studios.
Not only that, but it is also Tallinn’s alternative entertainment and shopping precinct, with a bike shop, cafes, food trucks, graffiti walls, and bars selling craft beer.
You can relish in so much fun and relaxation at Telliskivi Creative City. There are over 600 cultural events held here annually, plus there is a flea market organized on each Saturday.
Nestled elegantly on the edge of its very own small coastal inlet on the Gulf of Riga, Parnu features one of Baltic`s best stretches of pearly-white sand.
It is the ultimate summer vacation destination backed by an all-new and indelibly lively beach promenade, where restaurants, babbling fountains, and a truly spectacular bike track.
With an area of over 800 km2, Parnu is the largest town in Estonia and is also among the top 100 towns in the world in terms of size. This medieval city has a romantic and easygoing flair to it.
Boasting the largest resort in the country, Parmu is also home to numerous spas from huge water parks to more intimate and historic bathhouses.
If you`re feeling adventurous, you can try yachting, water skiing, or paddle a kayak or canoe down the Parnu river to the open sea.
Nestled in southern Estonia, Otepaa is a popular winter holiday destination if you`re a snow lover. Skating skiing, snowboarding are some of the leisure activities you can engage in while at this winter resort boasting luxurious restaurants and spa hotels.
You can also have fun in the summer though hiking along the paths of Otepaa nature walk, as well as admiring lakes and rolling hills, winding village roads. Otepaa is famously known as a ski resort where you can enjoy downhill and cross country skiing, as well as snow tubing and snowboarding.
FUN FACT: While holidaying in Otepaa, you may come across Olympic medalists sliding by during a training session.
Estonia’s largest island is almost addictive. If you feel like spending your summer holiday away from the mainland, in entirely different scenery, then head over to Saaremaa Island.
Saaremaa Island is a wonderful landscape boasting breezy meadows, gorgeous coastal stretches, and sprawling spruce forests.
Thanks to its lime-rich soil and mild climate, Saaremaa Island has a very diverse flora and fauna. Nature lovers can explore sturdy trails at two excellent national parks within the island, as you view thousands of wild orchids and migratory birds.
Estonia`s second-largest island is well-known for its untouched nature, historic lighthouses, and makes for an excellent rural getaway year-round.
Equally loved by hikers, sailors, surfers, and holiday-makers, Hiiumaa Island is an awesome destination for people seeking peace and quiet. Some local sights include the much loved Kopu lighthouse, which is ranked among the oldest lighthouses in the world.
In its inland reaches, Hiiumaa Island features creaking mills and crooked timber farmhouses that meet dense beech forests.
Vastseliina Episcopal Castle
Vastseliina Episcopal Castle was completed in 1343 and is among the most robust fortifications in the country.
NOTE: The castle is also among the few places in Estonia worth discovering, according to National Geographic.
The castle was famous as a destination for pilgrims and the holy cross in its chapel during the middle ages.
Today, you can make a trip to the castle tower, light a candle at the sacred place, and relish in night concerts on the territory of the castle. You can also explore the three towers and walls that still stand.