10 fun things to do in Tartu, Estonia

Starting off the Estonian leg of my Baltics road trip back in May is wonderful Tartu. Tartu is Estonia’s second city, famous for its neoclassical University. It’s not a particularly tourist focussed destination, and that is exactly why I absolutely loved it. It felt like part of the real Estonia, and we had a super laid back 2 days in the city as a stop off on our 2 week Baltic road trip itinerary. Tartu also makes a great day trip from Estonia’s capital Tallinn, as the train journey is only 2hrs direct between the two cities. Here are 10 great things to do whilst visiting.


1. Upside Down House

The upside down house is one of the weirdest places I’ve been in but makes for a fun way to spend half an hour! Everything is upside down and by the end of it your mind is playing tricks on you as to what’s real or not!

At the Upside Down House

2. Estonian National Museum

This museum is INCREDIBLE. It’s absolutely huge and so high tech that it blew me away. Estonia is known for being very technologically advanced and this museum proved it – each ‘board’ was actually an ipad (or equivalent), which you held your ticket up to and the language programmed to your ticket came up. It means wherever you’re from you can read the exhibits in your local language. Amazing.

The museum itself charts the history of being Estonian – from the stone age through to the present day, including periods of German rule, Swedish Rule, being part of the USSR, gaining independence and today’s tech revolution. There are also galleries on how the national identity was formed, what makes it up, and what it means today to be Estonian – plus galleries on culture around song, dress and religion. It was fascinating and we easily spent 3 hours here.

3. Town Hall Square

The main hub of the city, the Town Hall Square area is beautiful and lined with nice restaurants and shops. It’s also home to the Kissing Students fountain, a famous sculpture which has become a symbol of the city.

Town Hall

4. Tartu Cathedral Ruins

Tartu Cathedral was built in the 1200s, but in the 1500s the reformation hit Tartu and the cathedral began to decline. Then during the Livonian Wars the Russians ransacked the site, meaning the cathedral fell to ruins. Today you can see what’s left – I personally thought they were quite beautiful.

5. Estonian Sports & Olympics Museum

Another wonderful museum is the Estonian sports and Olympics museum. This is a must for anyone interested in sport as it’s full of interactive fun. I also absolutely adore the Olympics, and in Sydney 2000 Erki Nool (Estonian) competed against my favourite Team GB athlete, Dean Macey – and won a gold medal, so it was nice to relive those memories.

6. Pussirohukelder Gunpowder Cellar

This amazing bar is a must for at least a drink when visiting Tartu. It’s situated in an 18th-century gunpowder cellar constructed in 1768 by order of Catherine II of Russia on the site of an earlier fort. The building served as a gunpowder cellar until 1809 when it was converted to a beer storage room. It’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest pub ceiling in the world!

Incredible Cellar

7. Tartu University

Tartu is famous for its University, the oldest in Estonia and established in 1632. The buildings its housed in today are quite beautiful, and you can also do tours although we didn’t have time during our visit.

Outside the University

8. St John’s Church

Built in the 1300s, this church is Lutheran and one of the symbols of Tartu. In 1775, the great fire of Tartu broke out (actually in the building where the Sports & Olympic museum is now located) near the church but miraculously it survived while the vast majority of the city burned.

St John’s Church

9. AHHAA Science Centre

Now, full disclosure. Because I spent so long in the Sports & Olympic Museum we didn’t actually visit this museum, but it’s often listed as the number one thing to do in Tartu so I can’t miss it off – though it’s the only thing on the list I haven’t done! This museum is fully interactive and amazing for kids and big kids alike.

10. Parks and Botanic Gardens

Tartu is full of nice parks and gardens. There is the official Botanic Gardens, and then also some good parks to sit and enjoy the sunshine in. We spent an hour flanning in the Botanic Gardens and they are free to visit.

Enjoying the Botanic Gardens
A gorgeous tree in the park


We absolutely loved our time in Tartu, and hope you enjoyed the virtual visit too! The Baltics are a really amazing area of Europe which I’d love to return to to explore more of. Stay safe and happy travelling!

31 Comments

  1. The upside down house looks great fun, if a little strange! Love the system for reading in your own language at the museum- no more faffing with google translate or enduring dodgy audio-guides!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing post! I had never heard of Tartu but you surely make it sound very appealing! The museums seem great and that thing with the ipad and ticket – just wow! I was already very pleasantly surprised at how β€œadvanced” the museums were in the UK when I visited the Liverpool area, but this seems like a completely different experience!
    I love the cathedral ruins too, something about them seems very romantic! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! There are plenty of interesting things to do in this city. The upside down house would be a fun experience. I really like the idea of the museum with multi lingual informative signs. And the gunpowder pub would be a blast.πŸ˜„

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So much fun! I’m glad you were able to stand on the floor once more, after the upside down house πŸ˜‚ The Tartu Cathedral Ruins look wonderful, and the Pussirohukelder Gunpowder Cellar seems to have a nice atmosphere. Also, the vintage architecture of St John’s Church – did you say 1300’s?! – is stunning! Thanks for sharing, Hannah ~ have a great weekend πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my, that upside down house had me confused for a while πŸ˜„. I’m always happy when you take me on a stroll through some ruins … and I was not dissapointed with the Cathedral Ruins. And how great to end your post with some colour!

    Liked by 1 person

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