Five Things First Time Travellers To Estonia Should Know
- Tipping in Estonia is voluntary. If you don't like the service, you aren't expected to leave a tip. However, if you feel the service was good, a 10% tip is more than enough.
- Don't buy bottled water in Estonia. The country has excellent tap water that originates from Lake Ulemiste. Instead, save money by topping up a reusable water bottle.
- Estonia has the second best public WiFi in the world. You won't struggle to get online if you need to check out your email or social media accounts. Most public places have free internet access as well as cafes and hotels.
- Don't use taxis that are unmarked. Not only are they illegal but they usually end up charging more than registered taxis. Make sure your driver has his licence displayed as well as a price list on the back window.
- The official currency is the Euro. Avoid exchanging your money at the airport and rather withdraw from an ATM. You'll get a better rate of exchange even with the service fee.
Best Time To Visit Estonia
The best time to visit Estonia is during its summer months. From June to August the days are long, and temperatures are warm. It's ideal conditions for sightseeing and taking part in the country's many outdoor festivals.
The biggest celebration is Midsummer's Eve. It's one of Estonia's oldest traditions and coincides with the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. If you find yourself in the country towards the end of June, it's an event not to be missed.
If you want to avoid the crowds of the summer months, plan your trip around Estonia's two shoulder seasons. From April to May and September to October, temperatures will still be warm, and you'll find better hotel rates and short queues outside the country's top attractions.
Winters in Estonia mean snow and plummeting temperatures. If you're planning your trip during November and February, make sure you pack thick layers to keep the chill at bay. You'll also be in time for Estonia's Christmas markets and the 600-year old tradition of raising a Christmas tree in the main square.
Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe's most complete walled cities. Inside you'll find beautiful buildings dating back to the 15th century that give Tallinn its fairytale charm.
Its highlights include the opulent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the 14th-century Town Hall and the lively shops flanking Viru Street.
A trip to Tallinn wouldn't be complete without a stop at the magnificent Kadriorg Palace.
Parnu is Estonia's top coastal destination. In the summer months, locals flock to relax on its gorgeous white sand dunes.
It's the largest resort town in the country and home to numerous spas, cocktail bars and historical bathhouses. If you're feeling adventurous, there's plenty to keep you entertained. Spend your afternoon kayaking down the Parnu river and exploring the nearby islets.
Tartu is one of Estonia's most visited destinations. It's the second largest city in the country and is known for being a historical and cultural hotspot.
Make sure you visit the ruins of Tartu Cathedral and spend a few hours strolling through the soup neighbourhood. Other notable sites are the University of Tartu and the fascinating Estonian National Museum.
Top Attractions in Estonia
Lahemaa National Park
Lahemaa National Park is one of Estonia's most popular natural attractions. Located only an hour away from Tallinn, it's the perfect day trip if you need to escape the city for a few hours.
It's considered one of Europe's most important conservation areas and is home to a rich diversity of animals. Keep an eye out for brown bears, lynxes, foxes and much more.
In the middle of the park is Sagadi Village. Here you can learn more about Estonia's history and the rich culture of the region. Lahemaa also features a 3.5 km boardwalk along Viru Bog, making it easy to explore the forest and marsh landscapes.
The small city of Viljandi is more than 2,600 years old. It's hidden deep in Estonia's southern forests and boasts impressive castle ruins.
But the main drawcard to Viljandi is its summer festival. Each year, the city hosts a world-renowned folk music event that attracts more than 20,000 visitors. It's held over three days and is the largest of its kind in the country.
It's the perfect destination for travellers that want to explore Estonia's ancient history as well as its folk music heritage.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral pays homage to Estonia's Russian past. Once part of the massive Czarist empire, the cathedral was named after a Russian prince.
Located on Toompea Hill in Tallinn, the richly decorated orthodox church was completed in 1900. Designed by famous St. Petersburg architect, Mikhail Preobrazhensky, the cathedral is an architectural masterpiece. Inside, you'll find beautiful mosaics and icons that are equally as impressive as the grand onion-shaped domes.
If you can, time your visit before one of the services. You'll get to hear the church's collection of eleven bells, including the largest in Tallinn, chime out across the city's rooftops.
Kadriorg Palace was built by Peter the Great for Catherine I. The baroque masterpiece took 18 years to complete and draws inspiration from Italian palaces of the time.
For years, it was used as the imperial summer residence of the Tsar until the Russian revolution in 1917.
Today, it's home to the Kadriorg Art Museum and features a collection from the 16th and 20th centuries. Visitors will also get to see the decadent Great Hall and the president's former office. The palace also boasts manicured gardens that deserve a visit before you make your way back to Tallinn.
Located in the Baltic Sea, Saaremaa is the largest Estonian island. It boasts an 8,000-year-old history and has been ruled by the Danes, Swedes, Germans and Russians.
It's one of Estonia's most popular holiday destinations and is full of ancient folklore, deserted beaches and spa retreats.
For history buffs, the island's capital city is home to a striking medieval castle. Explore its grounds which have now been turned into the Regional Museum of Saaremaa. If you want to explore the island's natural beauty, head to the Sorve Peninsula. It's renowned for its spectacular scenery, and the well-marked hiking routes.
Major International Airports in Estonia
- Tallinn Airport
- Tartu Airport