A Visitor’s Guide To Estonia
The small country of Estonia is one that has really been finding its feet since the collapse of communism in 1991, and despite having been ruled by Denmark, Russia and finally the Soviet Union during its history, it has still retained a strong cultural identity and heritage. Being so close to its neighbor Finland, Estonia shares many traits and much of its history with the Finnish, including the emphasis on education which has led to the country being one of the best in the world for adult literacy. One interesting aspect of life in Estonia is that the population is actually reducing, and this has allowed its forests to grow in size, while other forests around the world are almost always reducing in size because of human influence.
The US State Department does note that Estonia is generally a very safe place to visit, with public demonstrations generally peaceful, and a very low risk of terrorism. However, they do mention a minor bylaw that has caught out some visitors in the past, which is that all pedestrians walking at night have to wear reflectors, with a possible fine from fifty dollars upwards.
Top Attractions To Enjoy In Estonia
Tallinn’s Old Town – The historic center of Tallinn is widely considered to be one of the most attractive and interesting places in Europe to visit, with the medieval city walls, beautiful churches and a lovely town square.
Kuressaare Castle – This Gothic castle dates from the late fourteenth century and is one of the most impressive medieval fortifications in the country with a stunning location, and was built by the Teutonic Knights as a base from which to bring Christianity to the people of the region.
Lahemaa National Park – Located in the north of the country this park preserves some of the most important wetlands in the country, and offers visitors some superb hiking trails and beautiful historic manor houses to visit.
Rakvere Castle – This beautiful hilltop castle is still a stunning building occupying a prominent location, and has been an important place in Estonian history since it was built in the fourteenth century.
Matsalu National Park – Located on the west coast of mainland Estonia, this national park is noted for the remarkable diversity of bird life in the park, and is also home to the annual Matsalu International Nature Film Festival which brings together some of the best nature films in the world.
Tartu – The second largest city in Estonia is known for its vibrant night life that comes with being an university town, and also has an eighteenth century church and town hall along with several more historic buildings.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – Built at the end of the nineteenth century, this beautiful cathedral has three large black domes with mainly white walls, and a stunning ornate interior that is an excellent example of Russian Revival style architecture.
Parnu – This lovely seaside town is one of the most popular destinations in Estonia, and is known for its beautiful beach, as well as being a popular health destination because of its healing mud baths
Viljandi Folk Festival – This popular event has been held in the small village of Viljandi over the last decade, and draws folk bands from across Europe to perform, with audiences of over 25,000 people attending the festival every year.
Haapsalu – This attractive coastal town lies on the west coast of Estonia, and boasts a beautiful castle with a large single nave cathedral, along with a pleasant beach and a selection of spas and treatment facilities.
Where To Stay In Estonia
Nordic Forum Hotel – This luxurious hotel is one of the most pleasant in Tallinn, with an attractive modern exterior and spacious attractive rooms with access to an indoor swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi
Olevi Residence – Decorated in a traditional Estonian style, this attractive hotel offers competitively priced rooms that are still comfortable and spacious, and offering the boutique hotel experience in a great location near the city center.
Ammende Villa Hotel And Restaurant – Set in a beautiful garden area, this hotel offers visitors attractive and stylish rooms with pleasant bathrooms, while having access to a nearby golf course and being just a short walk from the sea.
Hotel Parnu – This pleasant hotel offers visitors comfortable accommodation while being within easy reach of the town center, and provides guests with a well equipped fitness center and a sauna.
Dorpat SPA And Conference Hotel – Located just a short distance from the city center, this pleasant hotel offers visitors facilities including a spa and rooms with televisions and classy bathrooms.
Hotell Kantri – Situated within an attractive building, this hotel is an ideal choice for those visiting Tartu on a budget, providing guests with modern but affordable rooms and easy access to the town center.
Nuustaku Guesthouse – Located in a beautiful setting near a wooded hillside, this attractive cabin offers cozy and welcoming accommodation both in the summer and during the winter, with a lovely sauna to take the edge off the cold winter nights.
Hotel Villa Mullerbeck – This superb hotel is set in an area of beautiful countryside with access to a picturesque lake, and has a communal area boasting stunning scenery from the large windows, along with comfortable rooms with large baths and a lovely sauna area.
Estonia is a country that has experienced several different international influences over the years, and the country’s cuisine has also adopted several of these influences, including Finnish, Russian and Scandinavian. The staples in the country that most people will eat on a regular basis are rye bread and pork, and preservation is one of the most important features in Estonian cooking, meaning that Brawn is a common dish in Estonian cuisine. Another popular meal that many visitors will try along with the locals is black pudding and sauerkraut, which is another of the imported ingredients that was brought into the country during the period of the Soviet Union.
Currency And Visa
Estonia is one of the European countries that has adopted the Euro, meaning that visitors will be able to use the same currency in Estonia as they do in the majority of other countries in mainland Europe. Currently, visitors from the United States will usually exchange around 1.37 US Dollars per Euro. Visitors from the United States do not need to arrange a visa in advance, as Estonia is a part of the Schengen Agreement, meaning that those staying in the included countries can stay for up to ninety days without a visa.