In Estonia, which leads the world in billion-dollar tech start-ups known as “unicorns,” you’ll find more than just a thriving tech scene. With its population of 1.3 million, Estonia is a compact nation filled with natural wonders, isolated havens, and UNESCO-protected cultural treasures. Here’s a guide to the 10 must-see attractions.
- Explore the Haunted Tallinn’s Old Town
Embark on guided strolls through Tallinn’s remarkably preserved Old Town to discover its Gothic design and Hanseatic history dating back to medieval times. Beware, though, of the troubled ghosts rumored to linger in this UNESCO World Heritage site. Tours focused on ghosts and legends offer a profound look into Estonia’s tumultuous history.
- Experience Ancient Estonian Cuisine at Olde Hansa
Ever wonder how dining with a prosperous Hanseatic merchant might have felt? Olde Hansa in Tallinn serves meals prepared from centuries-old recipes in a medieval-themed environment, enhanced by wandering minstrels performing 15th-century music.
- Taste a Craft Beer at Põhjala Brewery
Take part in Estonia’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Sample unique flavors like grapefruit-infused or gently roasted caramel IPAs at Põhjala Brewery, the pioneering microbrewery in Tallinn’s historical Noblessner area. Later, explore Telliskivi Creative City’s artistic venues, including the renowned Fotografiska Tallinn.
- Experience Olympic Sailing History
Though Estonia has never hosted the Olympics, the 1980 Moscow Games’ sailing events occurred in the Gulf of Finland, near Tallinn. Relive this Olympic chapter at Tallinn Olympic Sailing Center in Pirita, or take a scenic boat trip around Tallinn Bay.
- Dive into Estonia’s Vibrant Art Scene
With over 40 art museums, Estonia stands strong in the art world. Explore Tallinn Design House for exclusive Estonian souvenirs, then head to the cutting-edge PoCo Pop & Contemporary Art Museum to see works by famed artists like Basquiat and Warhol.
- Discover Tartu, the European Capital of Culture
Journey to Tartu, south of Tallinn, to experience the 2024 European Capital of Culture. Explore the historical and cultural heritage of Estonia’s second-largest city through engaging events and adventures on traditional vessels on the Emajõgi River.
- Stargaze at Tartu Observatory’s Stellarium
Explore Tartu Observatory’s Stellarium, Estonia’s biggest astronomical observatory, to understand why Estonia is emerging in the European space industry. Discover projects like ESTCube, Estonia’s student satellite initiative.
- Journey Through Estonian History at the National Museum
At the Estonian National Museum (ERM), immerse yourself in Estonia’s captivating past. Explore exhibits like “Echo of the Urals,” which sheds light on the traditions of the Finno-Ugric people, and even take a traditional needlecraft class.
- Hike Across Estonia’s Forested Trails
Estonia’s extensive walking trails make it feasible to hike across the country. If you’re adventurous, consider the 500-mile Peraküla-Aegviidu-Ähijärve route, best enjoyed from July to October. Guided treks and foraging opportunities are available.
- Witness Rare Birds in Matsalu National Park
Matsalu National Park, located in western Estonia, is a key resting area for waterfowl between the Arctic and Western Europe. Bird enthusiasts can observe migratory and nesting birds, including the rare capercaillie, during spring and autumn seasons.
(For additional insights on Estonian experiences, consult our Explorer’s Guide.)
Written by Erkki Peetsalu, an established writer and editor for the Estonian edition of National Geographic Magazine.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Estonia
What are the top attractions to visit in Estonia?
Estonia offers a variety of attractions including exploring haunted Tallinn’s Old Town, dining at medieval-themed restaurant Olde Hansa, tasting craft beer at Põhjala Brewery, experiencing Olympic sailing history, diving into Estonia’s vibrant art scene, discovering Tartu as the European Capital of Culture, stargazing at Tartu Observatory’s Stellarium, journeying through history at the Estonian National Museum, hiking across Estonia’s forested trails, and witnessing rare birds in Matsalu National Park.
What is Estonia famous for in the tech industry?
Estonia is renowned for having more tech start-ups, known as “unicorns,” with billion-dollar valuations than anywhere else in the world.
Can I hike across Estonia? What are some popular trails?
Yes, you can hike across Estonia on dozens of walking trails. One of the popular hiking routes is the 500-mile Peraküla-Aegviidu-Ähijärve trail, extending from Peraküla in the north to Ähijärve in the south.
What dining experiences can I have in Estonia that reflect its history?
You can dine at Olde Hansa in Tallinn, where dishes are prepared from 700-year-old recipes in a medieval-style dining room, reflecting Tallinn’s past.
Where can I observe rare birds in Estonia?
Matsalu National Park in western Estonia is one of Europe’s most significant waterfowl resting areas, and a key place to observe migratory and nesting birds, including rare species.
What opportunities are there to explore Estonian art and culture?
With over 40 art museums, Estonia is a powerhouse in the art world. Places like the Tallinn Design House and PoCo Pop & Contemporary Art Museum showcase Estonian art and culture. The city of Tartu is also highlighted as the European Capital of Culture in 2024.
Can I experience Estonia’s involvement in the space industry?
Yes, you can take a tour of Tartu Observatory’s Stellarium, the largest astronomical observatory in Estonia, to learn about the nation’s student satellite project ESTCube and its role in the European space industry.