Tartu is the second largest city in Estonia and a famous university town with a fascinating bohemian style atmosphere and academic aura of spirituality that offers vibrant cultural life for all tastes. Contrary to the rational and business-like Tallinn, Tartu has always been characterised by its intellectuality and certain academic peace. During the Estonian national awakening period, Tartu was known as the Athens of the Emajõgi ("Mother River").

The Old Town is the heart of Tartu and once hold a medieval city. Most of the buildings you see now date from the 18th and 19th century, creating a uniform neoclassical aspect to the city centre.

One of Tartu's favourite landmarks is the bench of the two Wilde's - the Irish writer Oscar Wilde and the Estonia writer Eduard Vilde. The two actually never met. The buiding behind the two authors used to be a printing shop founded by yet another Wilde - Peter Ernst Wilde. An exact copy of the statue sits on a popular pedastian area in downtown Galway, Ireland, a gift from Estonia in 2004.

Many cultural events like theatre performances, concerts, festivals, conferences take place all year round. Tartu is an incubator of creative and scientific culture: with high quality promenade concerts, the Emajõgi River Summer theatre, the Hanseatic Days and various music events, more than 20 art museums.

Tartu is suitable for everybody - families, intellectuals, backpackers, romantic couples, people interested in culture and art- you name it.  The inhabitants of Tartu describe their own town as mild, sensitive, warm, friendly and youthful - the mentality of the inhabitants of this charming town. It does not leave anyone indifferent.

Tartu University

Swedish king Gustavus Second Adolphus founded the country’s first university in Tartu in 1632, so the University of Tartu is 4 years older than the University of Harvard.

Many of Estonian most outstanding scientists and cultural figures have studied in the Tartu University - the cradle of Estonian culture, science and higher education. Just to name some internationally most renowned are Baltic German biologist Karl Ernst von Baer and Russian-Jewish semiotician and culturologist Juri Lotman

The main building of the Tartu University is one of the finest examples of Classical architecture in Estonia. Thanks to the particular respect of the Estonian society towards education in general and the university as a source of education, this building has turned to something more than just a building, it has received a national symbolic status.

The university's rooms also house the oldest art museum in Estonia, which displays a collection of classical sculptures as well as a creepy mummy from the 2nd millennium BC. Another interesting site is the Student Lock-up room, used for incarcerating students for minor offences - returning your library book too late or being caught smoking or breaking a window resulted in 2 days in this punishment room while duelling or fighting led to a 3-week stay in this small chamber. 

Tartu University

Toome Hill

The historic heart of Tartu is Toomemägi (Toome Hill). Tartu’s original settlement was established here 600 AD. The ancient stronghold, which rises 30 meters above the surrounding terrain features today the impressive remains of the 13th century three-nave basilica.

At the beginning of the 19th century the university library was built into the surviving choir of the magnificent Gothic brick structure. Today it is used as the University History Museum.

As all of Tartu, also Toome hill features many monuments to the best and the brightest of the university, including Kristjan Jaak Peterson, a poet and philosopher, Willem Reiman, a national activist, Karl Ernst von Baer, the founder of modern embryology.

Toome Hill

Old Observatory

The university’s original observatory was founded in 1810 and its most famous director F.G.W. Struve installed here the most powerful telescope of the world.

From this observatory, Struve created a catalogue of binary stars, called the Geodetic Arc - a string of survey triangulations stretching 2820 km from Norway to the Black Sea in order to determinate the exact shape and size of the Earth. Today it is considered the first accurate measurement of the meridian and listed on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list.

Old Observatory

Angel's & Devil's Bridge

There are 2 footbridges on Toomemäe connecting its slopes- the Angel’s Bridge (Inglisild) and the Devil’s Bridge (Kuradisild).

The Angel’s Bridge was completed in 1838 and bears the bar-relief portrait of the then rector of the university George Friedrich Parrot and the Latin text, Otium reficit vires- Rest Restores Strength. The name actually originates from the phrase “inglise sild” (English bridge), very similar to “ingli sild” (Angel’s bridge”) as the Toome hill park was designed in the English style.

The Devil's Bridge, however, got its name from the supervisor of the construction – Professor Mannteuffel whose name in German translates to “man-devil.”

Town Hall Square

The Town Hall Square is the heart of Tartu. Since the 13th century, it has served as a marketplace, a gathering place and more recently, a massive outdoor café

The 18th century Town Hall houses the city government. There is a symbolic Kissing Students fountain in the front of the Town Hall, considered the symbol of the town.

The whole square is lined with stylish Early Classical buildings, including Tartu’s own tower of Pisa - a slanting house that once belonged to the famous field marshal Barclay de Tolly, governor-general of Finland and commander-in-chief of the Russian army in the Napoleonic wars. When it was built in the 1790s, part of its foundation was set on the old city wall and part on the wooden piles. Now it is secured by the Polish engineers and if you dare, you can peak inside of the house by visiting the Tartu Art Museum.