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Daytrip from Tallinn to Pärnu

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By Noora Karppi  •  27.07.2018

Pärnu is called the summer capital of Estonia. It has a 2km-long beach with golden sand, inviting visitors to enjoy the hot summer days by the sea. Pärnu is located on the southwest coast of Estonia, just 129 kilometres from Tallinn. 

The bishop of Ösel-Wiek established Pärnu on the bank of Sauga River in 1251. It was soon vandalised by rivals and the centre of the bishopric moved to Haapsalu. The residents of Pärnu relocated over to the other side of the river and established a new town – that grew to be the Pärnu we know today. The new Pärnu got town rights in 1318 and later became a member of the Hanseatic League and administrative centre of Pärnumaa county.

The opening of the first bathing facility in 1838 started the development of making Pärnu into a top health resort. Spas and beautiful beach, alongside with lovely architecture and cultural events, tempt not only foreign visitors but also fellow Estonians to visit Pärnu in the summertime.

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Getting to Pärnu

Pärnu is easy to reach from Tallinn. By bus, the trip takes usually less than two hours and by train 2,5 hours. Please note that the train operates between Tallinn and Pärnu until the end of 2018.

By bus
Seven different bus companies take passengers from Tallinn to Pärnu. The first one departs at 7 in the morning and the last one at 22:30. Every hour, two or three buses departure to Pärnu from Tallinn Central Bus Station (Tallinna Bussijaam, Lastekodu 46). Pärnu Bus Station (Pärnu Bussijaam, Pikk 13) is located right in the centre of the city.

Almost all of the buses offer free WiFi, some have taken it up a notch with free drinks and entertainment units (movies, music, games are available at your personal entertainment system in the bus). Information about the amenities is available online.

Tickets are available from the bus station, from the driver and online. If you wish to take the bus at a popular time (weekends, national holidays), please buy your ticket in advance.

Domestic bus lines, fares and timetables can be found here.

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By train
Until the end of 2018, you can also take the modern and comfortable train from Tallinn to Pärnu. Trains are equipped with free WiFi and leave from Tallinn Railway Station (Balti Jaam, Toompuiestee 37).  There are two to three departures every day from Tallinn to Pärnu.

Pärnu Railway Station (Pärnu raudteejaam, Vaksali 6) is located four kilometres outside the city centre. Head to Pae bus stop on the other side of the K-Rauta building. Buses 16, 17 and 25 will take you from there to the centre of Pärnu in 20 minutes. Another option is to take bus 14 or 40 from Papiniidu bus stop. You can buy a ticket from the driver. More information.

Train tickets can be bought online, from the railway stations or from the conductor.

Domestic train routes, fares and timetables can be found here.

Must see sights in Pärnu

A good way to get to know the city is on foot or by bike. You can rent a bike from a hotel or from the beach park.

From June until the end of August, there are weekly free guided walking tours in English, Estonian, Finnish and Russian. The tours starts from Pärnu Visitor Centre. See Visit Pärnu’s website for more information.

Pärnu beach in all its glory 
Pärnu beach (approximately 20 minutes on foot from the centre of Pärnu) is an all-time favourite among locals and visitors and especially families with children. The water is shallow and warm, and the beach has many attractions for children. The beach boasts with interesting sights for you to explore. If you prefer you can also just take a nap on the sunny beach.

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The white building, with a mushroom-shaped balcony on the beach, is Pärnu Beach House. The interesting beach house was built in 1938 and was ultra-modern at the time. Step inside for a cup of coffee and explore the curious building and its details.

Along the beach, starting from the beach house runs a promenade with magnificent views. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic stroll. If you want to get a look further from the beach, head to the jetty on the west end of the beach. Take care while on the jetty, as the stones might be slippery.

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Close to the jetty lies a stretch of beach, called the Ladies’ Beach, a nudist beach for women. The area is marked with signs and information boards. On the other end of the beach is the Pärnu coastal meadow hiking trail. The 600m-long hiking trail is right by the beach and introduces the unique ecosystem of the area. You can also spot cattle of city cows here.

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Pärnu Beach Park 
Pärnu Beach Park was established in 1882. It’s nature protection zone with many interesting pathways to stroll and relax. The park is an ideal place to enjoy a picnic. Today, the park is divided into different sections. There’s a special boulevard of sculptures where you get to explore the art made by international sculptors.

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Pärnu RannahotellPärnu Kuursaal (Resort Hall) and neoclassical Mud Baths are among the top sights in the park. The famous Rannahotell, has been standing on the beach since 1937. It was one of the most luxurious spa hotels in north-Europe. Rannahotell represents Estonian Functionalism at its best and is one of the landmarks of Pärnu beach. You can stop by and enjoy a cup of coffee here.

Kuursaal has been a centre of cultural life in Pärnu since its opening in the 1880s. Today it hosts a restaurant and one of the biggest pubs in Estonia. On weekends, you can catch popular Estonian artists, DJ’s or international musicians performing here.

Pärnu Mud Baths are one of the most iconic buildings in Pärnu. It was built in the 1920s at the same spot where the first original bath facility of Pärnu used to be. Today a lovely boutique spa operates in the Mud Baths building.

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In the park, you’ll find a statue of Raimond Valgre. He was a famous Estonian composer and musician, whose music has been loved by Estonians through decades. The fans of Eurovision Song Contest heard his music during the interval act of ESC 2002 in Tallinn. The statue sits between Pärnu Kuursaal and Mud Baths.

On the other side of the park is Villa Ammende. Beautiful Art Nouveau building and its garden serve as a luxurious hotel and restaurant. Villa Ammende offers traditional English afternoon tea each Wednesday at 17:00 (reservations must be made at least 48h prior). During summer months, romantic concerts are held in the garden. Every summer a concert “Kummardus Valgrele” (a Bow to Valgre), dedicated to Raimond Valgre and his music, takes place in Villa Ammende.

Picturesque old architecture
In the centre of Pärnu, you’ll see plenty of beautiful and interesting architecture. Start exploring the centre from Rüütli street and continue crisscrossing to the side-streets.

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Head to Hospidali and Pühavaimu streets to spot the oldest houses of Pärnu. Seegi maja (the Almshouse), on Hospidali street, was built in 1658 and is the oldest building still standing in Pärnu. Between Hospidali and Hommiku streets is the Red Tower, built in the 15th century. The Red Tower was a prison, and part of a medieval fortress surrounding Pärnu, which was a member of the Hanseatic League at the time. The tower is open for visitors.

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Heno and Steiner houses on Pühavaimu street form an interesting complex. The two separate old houses, built in the 17th century, were joint together in the 19th century, making it one-of-a-kind unit.

Close by the Heno and Steiner houses, on street called Uus, you’ll find Mary Magdalene Guild with artisans’ studios and shops. It’s the perfect spot to get yourself a unique hand-made souvenir from Pärnu.

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On the next corner, of Uus and Nikolai street, pay a visit to Pärnu Citizen’s House. It’s one of the oldest wooden houses in Pärnu. On the opposite corner of the crossing, is Pärnu Town Hall, built in 1911, though looking much older because of its Art Nouveau and Neo-Baroque architecture.

Interesting religious buildings in the centre of Pärnu are dedicated to the Russian empresses Elizabeth and Catherine II. The majestic Lutheran St. Elizabeth’s Church (1750) is further down Nikolai street and Orthodox St. Catherine’s Church (1768) stands opposite the Endla Theatre house. Both churches are beautiful and rich in detail.

Vallikäär and Tallinn Gate
At the end of Rüütli street lies the Vallikäär Park. Just at the end of the street look for a sculpture of a man sitting on a bench – he is Olev Siinmaa, the city architect between the world wars. He brought Functionalism into Pärnu and Estonian architecture.

Take a walk along the rampart and admire romantic views over the moat and the highest fountain in Estonia. By the end of the moat stands the Tallinn Gate (formerly known as Carl Gustav’s Gate). The gate used to mark the starting point of an old postal road. There’s a cosy summer café on the second floor of the gate.

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The roots of Estonian national awakening
Johann Voldemar Jannsen created Pärnu Postimees, the first newspaper in Estonian, in 1857. The newspaper did not only offer valuable information to local peasants but had a vital role in unifying Estonian people and culture. A sculpture of Jannsen greets people on Rüütli street. Touch the pages of the newspaper he is holding, and you will soon get some good news!

Jannsen had a daughter, Lydia Koidula, the most popular Estonian poetess of all time. She was one of the lead figures of the national awakening in Estonia. In the centre of Pärnu is a park named after Lydia Koidula, where you can find a monument dedicated to her. You can also visit Koidula’s memorial museum in a house she lived in the 19th century. The museum presents the lives and work of Koidula and Jannsen.

Birthplace of Estonian independence
Endla society, one of the first song and music cultural societies in Estonia, was a notable influencer of Estonian culture from the end of 19th century. The society got its own theatre, an impressive Art Nouveau building, in the centre of Pärnu in 1911. The building played an important role in the process of Estonia gaining its independence.

On February 23rd 1918, the Estonian Declaration of Independence was publicly read out for the first time from the balcony of the Endla Theatre. Sadly the magnificent theatre building was lost in a fire during the Second World War.

To commemorate the original Endla Theatre house and the declaration of Estonian independence, two monuments are standing on the corner of Rüütli and Aia streets.

Modern cradle of culture
The new Endla theatre was built in 1967, but to a new location, as the Soviet rule felt the original location was too much of a national symbol for Estonians. Today it is home to one of the most popular theatres in Estonia. The theatre gallery hosts several art exhibitions yearly.

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In the centre of Pärnu, you’ll see several contemporary public buildings and cultural centres, such as the Pärnu Central Library and Pärnu Concert Hall. Both buildings are masterpieces of modern architecture. The central library is located close to Endla Theatre and open for visitors. It won the annual architectural prize of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia in 2008.

Pärnu Concert Hall is impressive both inside and outside. In 2014, president Ilves hosted the Independence Day reception here. On the yard of the Concert Hall, you’ll find a statue of Gustav Fabergé. Fabergé was born in Pärnu in 1814. He later moved to St. Petersburg, where he founded the House of Fabergé, best known for the famous Fabergé eggs.

Pärnu Museum
Just next door to the Pärnu Concert Hall is the Pärnu Museum, with contemporary exhibitions that are fun and interesting for the whole family. Check out the main exhibition that takes you on a journey through 11 000 years of history – all the way from the Stone Age to the Soviet Union.

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Museum of New Art
When looking for surprises, new ideas and inspiration, steer for the Museum of New Art - home to exhibitions of modern art, the international exhibition of nudes “Man and Woman” and Pärnu Film Festival. This is the first museum of contemporary art in Estonia.

The Pärnu City Gallery also presents interesting art exhibitions. The gallery is located in the same building as the Town Hall.

Mini Zoo
If you are afraid of snakes, this is the place to overcome that fear. Mini Zoo has plenty of snakes, lizards and other animals in terrariums. The Mini Zoo is a great attraction for families with kids.

Eat and drink

Pärnu is home to many-many pretty and tasty cafés. You can find a cosy café from almost every corner.

Head to colourful and cute Supelsaksad café for a sweet experience. Supelsaksad is a popular café in an old wooden house, serving sweet cakes and delicious pastries, but also salads, pasta and risotto. For a good breakfast or light lunch, try one of the newest places in Pärnu, a café called Simple Day. The pop-up café is opened during the summer in the corner of Supeluse and Karusselli street. But be aware, you might leave here with more than just a happy stomach – all the furniture in the café is for sale.

For delicious fish and seafood, we recommend café Kalamajakas in an old market building. Popular among locals, Kalamajakas serves food for your eyes, soul and tummy. They also have exceptional gin cocktails.

Café-restaurant Hea Maa is a hidden gem in Pärnu, but should be on every visitors’ trajectory – it is located in the same quarter with Pärnu visitor centre. The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and a cosy courtyard, not to mention amazing food. Another restaurant, but a bit closer to the sea, with delicious food and good service, is Villa Wesset. At Villa Wesset you can have a whole hearty menu or a cup of tea with a great view to the beach park.

The best restaurant in Pärnu (according to White Guide Nordic) is Rannahotell's Restaurant, located in the iconic hotel by the beautiful sands of Pärnu beach. Come here for a top-class fine dining experience. Herkki Ruubel, Chef de Cuisine, has worked together with world famous chefs such as Gordon Ramsay for example.

For quick (if you manage to get a table) and yummy Italian pizza, make your way towards Pizza Restaurant Steffani. People from Tallinn drive all the way to Pärnu just to have dinner in Steffani. The pizzas are legendary.

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Events not to miss

Pärnu is filled with life during long summer days and months. There’s something happening in Pärnu almost every day.

There are free music concerts taking place by the beach, parks and the courtyard of Pärnu Town Hall. The Pärnu Organ Festival organises concerts in the St. Elizabeth’s Church throughout the summer.

The biggest event of the whole year in Pärnu is the Weekend Festival Baltic, which brings international superstars to perform at Pärnu beach.

Pärnu Guild Days and Pärnu Hanseatic Days are dedicated to the Hanseatic era of Pärnu. Night of Ancient Bonfires charms everyone with its delicacy and romance.

March – Pärnu Spa Week
April – Pärnu Restaurant Week, Pärnu Day
May – Pärnu Plant Fair
June – Pärnu Film Festival, Grillfest, The beginning of summer festival ‘Tere Pärnu suvi’
July – SAX.FEST Pärnu International Saxophone Music Festival, IN Graphic Festival, Pärnu Blues Festival, Pärnu Harmonica Festival, Happy Children’s Festival, Pärnu Opera Days, Peace Run, Pärnu Hanseatic Days, Summer Cup
August – Pärnu Music Festival, Pärnu Guild Days, August Insomnia – Night of Pärnu Arts, Weekend Festival Baltic, Night of Ancient Bonfires
September – Jüri Jaanson Two Bridges Run, Plant Fair of Pärnu
October – Pärnu Café Week, Pärnu Beach Run, Festival of Accordion Music

For more information about the events in Pärnu check Visit Pärnu’s webpage.

Relax before heading back to Tallinn

Being a top-notch resort town, Pärnu has unlimited possibilities for relaxation.

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For luxurious spa experiences go to Hedon Spa & Hotel (operating in the iconic Mud Baths) or Estonia Resort Hotel & Spa. These serene spas have saunas, Jacuzzis and treatments offering total relaxation.

Tervise Paradiis is the largest water park in Estonia with a 4-meter diving platform, tube slides, torrential mountain rivers and waterfalls. Viiking Spa Hotel’s Water Center was renovated a few years ago. The new Water Center has a new, different and exciting interior with several saunas and pools.

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Pärnu has many yoga studios offering classes for locals and visitors. Aloha Surf Centre, at Pärnu Beach, organises SUP yoga sessions and paddle boarding on Pärnu Bay. You can rent all kind of equipment or take part in one of their classes.

Sail into the sunset on Pärnu River. The cruise on Pärnu River and Bay gives you a completely new perspective of the city. Pärnu Cruises take passengers on a 1,5 hour-long ride on scheduled trips from near the Pärnu Concert Hall (Lai 2). If you want to go on an exclusive sailing trip, check the website of Visit Pärnu for service providers and contacts.