Estonia

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Estonia is a Baltic state in northeastern Europe. It has land borders with Latvia and Russia. Estonia has a coastline on the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, so it also has maritime frontiers with Finland and Sweden. A growing number of foreign visitors have been travelling to Estonia in recent years. According to Statistics Estonia, 1.3 million foreigners visited Estonia in 2000, and that number climbed 38 percent to 1.8 million foreigners in 2005.

Population: 1,266,375 people
Area: 45,228 km2
Highest point: 318 m
Coastline: 3,794 km
Life expectancy: 73.82 years
GDP per capita: $22,100
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  • Metropolis over 100 hotels
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  • Small city 5-20 hotels
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Points of Interest

  • Beach Beach
  • Business object Business object
  • Casino Casino
  • Civic property Civic property
  • Education Education
  • Entertainment Entertainment
  • Golf course Golf course
  • Green space Green space
  • Harbor Harbor
  • Historic site Historic site
  • Interesting place Interesting place
  • Medical Medical
  • Monument Monument
  • Museum Museum
  • Shopping Shopping
  • Skiing Skiing
  • Sports facility Sports facility
  • Theater Theater
  • Winery Winery

About Estonia

History

After seven centuries of German, Danish, Swedish, Polish and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940, it re-gained independence in 1991 through its "Singing Revolution", a non-violent movement that overthrew an initially violent occupation. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia moved to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. It is now one of the more prosperous former Communist states, enjoying a high-tech environment, an open and liberal economy and a transparent government system. On the other hand, it is faced with a fairly low (but growing) GDP per capita (in a European Union context), as well as a very low birth rate, which is creating a population decline. From 1991 to 2007 the country saw rapid economic expansion, leading it to be among one of the wealthiest and the most developed of the former Soviet Republics. However, its economy was badly damaged during the ongoing global recession, although more recently, it has been recovering quickly. In 2011, the euro was adopted as the official currency.

Since accession to the European Union (EU) in 2004, Estonia is becoming one of the most popular destinations in north-eastern Europe with (EU highest) 30% growth in the number of visitors in 2004, according to Eurostat.

Activities

Tickets for events can be bought online via Piletilevi.ee or the lately established Ticketpro.ee.

There's quite a good list of various events in Estonia at Visitestonia.com.

Film festivals

  • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF). November/December. The festival combines a feature film festival with the sub-festivals of animated films, student films and children/youth films.

Music festivals

  • Tallinn Music Week, Tallinn. Spring. Showcase festival, aiming to stage the best and most outstanding Estonian talent on two nights in Tallinn's most vibrant live venues, as well as a networking event for the music industry professionals.
  • Tallinn International Festival Jazzkaar. April. In addition to Tallinn jazz concerts also take place in Tartu and Pärnu.
  •    Tallinn Old Town Days, Tallinn. May/June. free.
  •    The Estonian Song Celebration (In Estonian: Laulupidu), Tallinn. First held in 1869, takes place every five years. In 2009, 35,000 choral singers gathered to perform for an audience of 90,000 people. It is recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
  •    Rabarock, Järvakandi. A 2 day Music festival in Mid-June since 2005.
  •    Õllesummer Festival, Tallinn. July. Approx 70,000 people attend the festival each year over the course of 4 days.
  •    Viljandi Folk Music Festival, Viljandi. July. Annual folk music festival in a small but picturesque town of Viljandi. Each year the festival draws over 20,000 visitors.
  • Saaremaa Opera Days, Saaremaa. July.
  • Leigo Lake Music Festival, near Otepää. August. Open-air concerts are held in completely natural venues on the hilly landscapes of the Otepää highland. The musicians' stage is on an island in the lake, surrounded by thousands of listeners on the sloping shore.
  •    Birgitta Festival, Tallinn. August. Music and theatre festival, held at the ruins of the historical Pirita (St. Bridget's) convent.

Sport events

  •    Simpel Session, Tallinn. Summer/Winter. International skateboarding and BMX event.

Self-guided tours

Self-guided tours are a good way to discover Estonia by yourself. For more information please visit the self-guided tours and interactive maps sections on the official tourism website.

Food

Estonian food draws heavily from German and Scandinavian cuisine. The closest thing to a national dish is verivorst, black pudding, served with mulgikapsad, which is basically sauerkraut stew.

Many types of food are close to Russian and have their equivalents almost exclusively in the former USSR, such as hapukoor, smetana in Russian, a sour 20%-fat milk dressing for salads, especially "kartulisalat" or "potato salad".

As Estonia used to be a food mass-production powerhouse in the times of the USSR, some of its foods, unknown to Westerners, are still well-recognized in the lands of the CIS. This is also true the other way around; in Estonian grocery stores products from countries of the former Soviet Union like Georgian mineral water are widely available.

Among other everyday food, some game products are offered in food stores in Estonia, mostly wild boar, elk sausages and deer grill. Some restaurants also offer bear meat.

For those with a sweet tooth, the national chocolate manufacturer is "Kalev", with many specialist stores around the country as well as supermarkets retailing the product.

The more adventurous may want to try "kohuke", a flavoured milk-curd sweet covered with chocolate and available at every supermarket.

Drinks

Like their neighbours the Finns and the Russians, the Estonians know their alcohol. Favorite tipples include the local beer Saku or A. Le Coq, the local vodka Viru Valge (Vironian White) and the surprisingly smooth and tasty rum-like herbal liquor Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn), famous in the countries of former USSR.

A local soft drink is "Kali" (the Estonian equivalent of "kvass"), made from fermented brown bread. It can be described as an acquired taste.

Many locals also swear by "keefir", a fermented milk concoction.

Shopping

Currency

Estonia uses the euro (€, EUR) as its money. It is one of 24 European countries that use this common European currency: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (which are all eurozone countries of the European Union or EU) together with the six non-EU members Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican that also solely use euros but have no say in eurozone affairs. These 24 countries together have a population of more than 330 million.

One euro is divided into 100 cents. Except for Kosovo and Montenegro, all issue their own coins with a distinctive, national face. However, all the coins' obverse looks the same, as do all bills or banknotes and all are legal tender in all 24 countries.

The Estonian kroon (EEK) ceased to be legal tender on 15 Jan 2011, but any kroons you have left over can be changed into euro at the Bank of Estonia at a fixed rate of 15.6466 kroon to €1.

ATMs and currency exchange offices (valuutavahetus) are widely available. You will get the best rates by exchanging only after arrival in Estonia. Avoid changing money in the airport or port as the rates are lower.

Costs

Estonia is generally cheaper than Western Europe, but it is no longer the bargain basement it used to be in 1990s; and in touristy areas (say Tallinn's Old Town), prices may be at Scandinavian levels.

In July 2012 bottle of local beer (0.5L) costs around €1 in shops and €25-3.5 in a modest pub.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Estonia on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Estonia

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Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, lies on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, only 70 km (43 mi) south of Helsinki. At the historical and medieval heart of the city is the hill of Toompea, covered in cobbled streets and filled with medieval houses and alleyways. The lower town spreads out from the foot ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • St. Catherine\'s Passage
  • Tallinn Town Hall
  • Town Hall Square
  • Great Coastal Gate
  • St. Olav\'s Church
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Pärnu is a resort seaside city (and Estonia's summer capital) with a small harbour in south-western Estonia.

Interesting places:

  • Catherine Church
  • Parnu Beach
  • Chaplin Centre
  • Parnu Museum
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Vihula is a village in Lahemaa National Park in Estonia.

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Tartu is the second largest city in Estonia with a population of 100,000. It is a Hanseatic city and a university town. It is the oldest city in Estonia, dating back to 1030.

Interesting places:

  • University of Tartu
  • Tartu Town Hall
  • Inglisild
  • St. John\'s Church (Jaani Kirik)
  • Tartu Cathedral (Toomkirk)
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Narva is Estonia's eastern-most city, with about 70,000 inhabitants.

Interesting places:

  • Hermann Castle
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Haapsalu is a major seaside resort town on the west coast of Estonia, approximately 100 km south-west of Tallinn. Haapsalu was chartered in 1279 and is well known for its historic and maritime ambience, warm sea water, curative mud baths and friendly residents. It's a wonderful little town with narrow streets ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Haapsalu Castle
  • Ungru Manor
  • Kuursaal
  • Laanemaa Museum
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Viljandi is an ancient hilly city in the South of Estonia. Evidence of civilization around Viljandi dates back to 500 B.C.. The first written record of a "Viljandi stronghold" was in 1154 in the commentaries to al-Idrisi's world atlas "Geography." Hanseatic merchants settled in Viljandi in the 14th century. ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Viljandi Castle
  • Lake Viljandi
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Muhu is the third largest island in Estonia, although it is fairly small at 198 square kilometres. It's located between the mainland and Saaremaa Island.

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Kuressaare is the capital of Saaremaa, the largest of Estonia's islands.

Interesting places:

  • Kuresaare Castle
  • Kuressaare Town Park
  • Trahter Veski
  • Saare Golf Course
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Otepää is a small town set in the hills of south Estonia. It's located approximately 50km north from Tartu. It is the most well-known winter sports centre in the Baltics and the Winter Capital of Estonia. Otepää got its name, which in Estonian means "bear's head" after the shape of the castle hill - which ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Puhajarv
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Narva-Jõesuu is a small town in East Estonia. It's situated about 15km north from Narva. At the beginning of the 19th century the town became a popular summer holiday destination for wealthy visitors from St Petersburg.

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Rakvere is Estonia’s fifth largest city and situated in northern, 20 km south of the Gulf of Finland and approximately 100km east of Tallinn, Estonia. Its earliest signs of human settlement date back to the 3rd-5th century. Rakvere is an attractive and rapidly developing town with quite an interesting ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Rakvere Castle
  • Tarvas Statue
  • Rakvere Citizen\'s Home Museum
  • Rakvere Municipal Stadium
  • Rakvere\'s Central Square
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Points of Interest in Estonia

Medieval history and manors

The Old Town of Tallinn is the most intact and best protected medieval city in Europe, and is Estonia's première attraction. Its unique value is its well-preserved (intact) medieval milieu and structure, which has been lost in most of the capitals of northern Europe. Since 1997, the Old Town has been on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Living under the rule of Scandinavian kings, Russian empire and Teutonic Knights has left Estonia with unique and rich blend of historic landmarks. Over one thousand manors were built across Estonia from the 13th century onwards. Some of the manors have perished or fallen into ruins but a lot have been reconstructed and are favourite attractions with tourists. There are about 200 manor houses under state protection as architectural monuments and 100 in active use.

Islands and coastline

Estonia has over 1,500 islands. The nature is essentially untouched and offers quite a different beach experience with their remoter rustic feel. Most of the public beaches are sandy and the average water temperature is 18°C in summer. Inland waters and some shallow bays' waters are even warmer.

The largest island is Saaremaa with an intact and well-restored medieval castle in its only city, Kuressaare. Stone fences, thatched roofs, working windmills and home-made beer are all distinctive to Saaremaa. Hiiumaa, on the other hand, is well known for its lighthouses, unspoilt nature, the Hill of Crosses and the sense of humour of its inhabitants. Both islands have an airport and so can be quickly reached from Tallinn.

Other important islands include Kihnu, Ruhnu (with its "singing sand" beach), Muhu and Vormsi, each with its own unique characteristics. Most of the other tiny Estonian islands don't carry much cultural significance, but can be appealing for bird watching, canoeing, sailing or fishing etc.

In July and August, Pärnu, Estonia's summer capital, is the main attraction. The coastline itself has loads of untouched beaches and a tour from Narva-Jõesuu (in the east) towards Tallinn is great for exploring the coastline. Some of the well known places include Toila, Võsu, Käsmu and Kaberneeme.

St. Catherine\'s Passage - Tallinn

University of Tartu - Tartu

Kuresaare Castle - Kuressaare

Hermann Castle - Narva

Catherine Church - Parnu

Viljandi Castle - Viljandi

Puhajarv - Otepaa

Matsalu National Park - Lihula

Karula National Park - Karula

Tallinn Town Hall - Tallinn

Town Hall Square - Tallinn

Great Coastal Gate - Tallinn

St. Olav\'s Church - Tallinn

Viru Gate - Tallinn

Toompea Castle - Tallinn

Kiek in de Kok and Bastion Passages Museum - Tallinn

St. Nicholas\' Church - Tallinn

Toompark - Tallinn

House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads - Tallinn

Dominican Monastery - Tallinn

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