Tartu

Welcome to Tartu, the Athens of Emajõgi! This river city with rich cultural background, exquisite architecture and inspiring atmosphere has always been the Estonian science and culture capital.
From the menu bar on the right, please find information on Tartu’s history, museums and exciting leisure activities.

History

Tartu is the second largest city in Estonia and often considered to be the country’s cultural and intellectual capital. Tartu University is the oldest one in Estonia, established in 1632 by Gustav II Adolf. The city also houses the first national theatre, Vanemuine – opened in 1870.

The first mentions of „Yuryev“ (Yuri’s City in Russian) date back to 1030, when according to Nestor’s Chronicles, Yaroslav the Wise conquered the riverbanks of Emajõgi.

The conquest of the ancient castle of Tarbatu in 1224 marked the end of the Livonian Crusade in Estonia. Tartu became one of the wealthiest cities in Old Livonia, mainly depending on trades between Russia and Western Europe. The golden age was ended by the Livonian war, during which the city was occupied by russians, poles and swedes at different times, finally ending up under liege of Sweden.

During the Swedish times, Academia Gustaviana (University of Tartu) was established in 1632. Also, Forselius Seminar for teachers was opened.

Tartu was soon conquered by the Russians during the Great Northern War. The russians deported all of Tartu’s citizens in 1708 and burned the city down. Devastated by the war, Tartu was mainly built of wooden shacks plagued by constant fires. In 1775, two thirds of the city was destroyed. As Tartu was rebuilt, it got its signature Stone Bridge from Catherine II.

In the 19th century, Tartu became the intellectual and cultural center it is now. The University was reopened in 1802, the newspaper Postimees was published here (up to present day), many societies were established, many of them playing the key role in National Awakening.

World War II destroyed major parts of Tartu, including the historical Stone Bridge, Estonian National Museum, Vanemuine and others. The city was closed to foreigners during the Soviet era, due to the air base for bombers, located in Raadi Airport.

Since Estonia re-gained its independence in 1991, a lot of Tartu’s old town centre has been renovated, including St John’s Church. Tartu remains to be the cultural and intellectual capital of Estonia, boasting an inspired academic atmosphere, fabulous scenery and unique history.

Weather

Tartu is located in the temperate climate zone. The mild weather is influenced by the vicinity of the Baltic sea and Atlantic currents. Estonian weather is often unpredictable and with heavy temperature differences – going from over +30 in summer to below -30 in winter. The best time for visiting Tartu is in May or September, when the city is colourful, warm and buzzing with life.

Museums


University of Tartu History Museum

The history museum, located on the Dome Hill, introduces the history of science and Tartu University from the 17th century up to present day. From spring to autumn, the view platforms in the top of the Dome Cathedral can also be visited.

The History Museum is opened from Wednesday to Sunday from 11-17
Location: Lossi 25

Nature Museum of Tartu University

In the nature museum, visitors can find exhibits of all aspects of nature – from different minerals and fossiles in the geology department to the flora and fauna of the world.

The Nature Museum is opened from Wednesday to Sunday from 10-16
Location: Vanemuise tn 4

The Old Anatomicum Theatre

The Old Anatomicum, used by medicine students up to 1999, is one of the most macabre places in Tartu. In glass jars and showcases, the medicinal collection of Tartu University is available for all visitors to see.

The Old Anatomicum is opened from Tuesday to Saturday from 11-17
Location: Lossi 38

Brewery Museum

Experience the history and culture of Estonian beer at AleCoq Beer Museum. More than 2000 museals tell the story of beer from Ancient Egypt to the modern day.

Guided tours take place on Thursdays at 2PM and on Saturdays at 10AM, 12AM and 14PM
Location: AleCoq Beer Factory, Laulupeo Street

The Botanical Gardens of Tartu University

The botanical gardens are at the peak of their beauty during spring and summer, when all the flowers are in full bloom. For the winter season, glasshouses are open. When the weather is nice, indulge yourself in an intimate picnic in the serenity of the gardens.

The Botanical Gardens are opened every day from 7-19 (7-21), glasshouses from 10-17
Location: Lai 38

Tartu Toy Museum & Playroom

Travel through the history of toys in Tartu Toy Museum. For the youngest visitors, a playroom is also available. The Toy Museum also organizes different workshops and seminars of toy creation.

Tartu Toy Museum is opened from Wednesday to Sunday from 11-18
Location: Lutsu 8

Tartu Art Museum

The tilted house of the art museum already expresses the uniqueness of Tartu Art Museum. Visitors can peruse the classic exhibition of Tartuvian artists or acquaint themselves with the paintings of modern art students.

Tartu Art Museum is opened from Wed to Sat from 12-18, on Sundays from 11-18
Location: Raekoja plats 18

KGB Cells Museum

The museum is located in the historical headquarters of the Southern-Estonian department of the KGB. The museum exhibits the work environment of the KGB office, the crimes of communist occupation and the actual cells where political prisoners were held.

KGB Cells Museum is opened from Tuesday to Saturday from 11-16 o’clock

Location: Riia 15b

Estonian National Museum

ENM features a permanent exhibition „Estonia. Country, people, culture“ which presents many different aspects of Estonia. Until September, „A Taste of Europe“ welcomes visitors, curious about food culture in Europe.

ENM exhibition halls are opened from Tuesday to Saturday, from 11-18 o’clock
Location: J.Kuperjanovi tn 9