11 Best Cities in Estonia for Travelers

Are you planning a trip to Estonia or travel to the Baltic countries? If so you, you’ll want to choose which cities in Estonia you’d like to visit.

Top cities in Estonia for travelers offer a wealth of things to do, sights to see, and other attractions, such as:

  • Estonian castles
  • Manor houses
  • Historic centers
  • Beautiful nature
  • Beaches
  • Seasonal festivals
  • Soviet-era architecture and monuments

You’ll also find local cultural gems, cozy cafes and restaurants, museums that will help you become familiar with local history, and shops selling handmade souvenirs and gifts.

Let’s find out what the top cities in Estonia are for travelers.

Cities in Estonia: Tallinn at sunset
Photo 246364318 © Roksana Bashyrova | Dreamstime.com

1. Tallinn

Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and the northernmost of the three Baltic capitals.

Tallinn is an excellent mix of old and new. Its historic center, Old Town Tallinn, woos visitors with medieval streets and beautiful views. Meanwhile, its slew of neighborhoods—each with its own unique attitude—lets travelers explore farther afield.

For example, the Telliskivi area is bohemian and artistic and boasts street art galore. The Rotermann neighborhood incorporates new buildings seamlessly into a historic quarter and gives spaces to businesses, cafes, restaurants, and shops.

As the capital, Tallinn is also the cultural hub of the country. On any given day or evening, concerts, festivals, or exhibitions take place here. Check out the Tallinn Christmas market or visit during Easter in Estonia. Visiting Tallinn is, without a doubt, one of the top things to do in Estonia.

Street in Old Town Tallinn at night
Photo 240132060 © Ryhor Bruyeu | Dreamstime.com

2. Tartu

Tartu is Estonia’s university town. As cities in Estonia go, it’s also the second largest, even though it maintains a cozy and homey feel.

Tartu’s riverside promenade, wooden architecture, and the Estonian National Museum also make it worth visiting.

It’s easy to take the train from Tallinn to make Tartu a fun day trip. From the central square to the cathedral ruins to the park with its ancient trees, everything about Tartu makes you feel right at home.

Tartu, Estonia, Square - a top city in Estonia
Photo 229932565 / City © Arkadi Bojaršinov | Dreamstime.com

3. Narva

Narva is one of the most interesting cities in Estonia. It’s located in the northeastern part of Estonia, close to the Russian border. That means it has a large Russian-speaking population.

Narva is also home to Narva Castle, an Estonian Castle that faces off against Russia’s Ivangorod Fortress across the Narva River. Here, it seems as though medieval rivalry continues into the present.

Narva Castle seen from below
Photo 94000547 / Estonian © Arsty | Dreamstime.com

4. Parnu

Parnu is the country’s fourth-largest city and one of the top cities in Estonia for travelers. It’s a coastal town, which means if you love beaches—even chilly Baltic Sea beaches—Parnu will have your heart.

One of its famous sights is the statue of Johann Voldemar Jannsen, who was important to the Estonian independence movement.

In addition to its beach promenade, it’s known for its spas and has a lovely historic center perfect for exploration.

Statue of a man in Parnu, Estonia
Photo 194636620 © Ryhor Bruyeu | Dreamstime.com

5. Viljandi

Viljandi, located in the southern part of Estonia, is known as the best city in Estonia for festivals. The Viljandi Folk Music Festival is one of its biggest draws.

The Bonifatius Guild store offers a variety of handmade items by craftspeople, including examples of Baltic folk art.

People also visit this town for its wooden architecture and natural scenery, the focal point of which is the lake surrounded by forests.

Wooden house on a street in Viljandi, Estonia
Photo 195043578 / City © Regina Marcenkiene | Dreamstime.com

6. Rakvere

Many people visit Rakvere for its impressive castle ruins, which host festivals. Rakvere is also one city in Estonia focused on sustainability and green living—both tourists and residents in Rakvere benefit from energy efficiency and reduction of waste.

Near the castle, you’ll see the tarvas, or auroch, sculpture, which commemorates the 700th anniversary of the founding of this Estonian city.

The medieval church with its tall spire was built in the 17th century.

If you love nature, Rakvere is located near Lahemaa National Park, which is full of opportunities for hikers, bird watchers, or wildlife enthusiasts.

7. Sillamae

Sillamae may be one of the most unique cities in Estonia. Built in the 1960s around the local natural resources and industries surrounding them, the town has good examples of Stalinist architecture.

A wide boulevard leading to the sea is one of the most memorable sights in Sillamae.  

Wide boulevard to the sea in Sillamae, Estonia
Photo 232675694 © Kaido Rummel | Dreamstime.com

8. Kuressaare

Kuressaare is located on Saaremaa Island. Its best-known sight is probably its medieval fortress, which is now a museum. It has a lovely main square with historic architecture.

Kuressaare makes for an excellent hub for exploring the rest of Estonia’s biggest island, which includes churches, manor houses, and windmills.

Aerial view of Kuressaare, Estonia
Photo 133876778 / Estonian City © Dmitry Malov | Dreamstime.com

9. Haapsalu

Haapsalu is another one of the cities in Estonia known for its spas. A holiday destination now as it was in the past, Haapsalu is a welcoming and charming town by the sea.

Various museums, including a Communications Museum and a Shawl Museum—the latter dedicated to the delicate lace shawls made in the region for generations—allow visitors to understand more about the city and its inhabitants, both past and present.

Haapsalu is also home to a medieval castle.

Bay with boats in Haapsalu, Estonia
Photo 66790248 © Stebati17 | Dreamstime.com

10. Paide

One of the cities in Estonia known for its castle, Paide’s German name (Wittenstein) refers to the white stone used to build the fortress.

Part of the castle, with a reconstructed tower, can still be seen here today, alongside a medieval-era church.

White stone castle tower of Paide, Estonia
Photo 211781256 / City © Helinloik | Dreamstime.com

11. Otepaa

Otepaa is popular during the winter months and welcomes people who love winter sports. A winter sports museum is testament to that!

However, with its beaches around Lake Puhajarv, it also makes a nice summertime stop for travelers.

How to See the Top Cities in Estonia

One of the best ways to see the top cities in Estonia for travelers is via car on a road trip. The freedom allowed by driving makes creating an itinerary easy. Estonia is not a large country, so a week or 10 days is enough to take in your top options.

Alternatively, you can use public transportation. Bus services and trains run between main cities in Estonia, and booking can be done online.

You can plan a stay in one of these cities in Estonia or pass through on your way to other destinations.

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