Tartu Things to Do Tips by King_Golo Top 5 Page for this destination
Tartu Things to Do: 97 reviews and 187 photos
Birch trees near Emajogi river
Jänese Path is a fantastic walking path which leads out of Tartu alongside Emajogi. It starts at a parking area just next to the beach and takes you through the quiet and peaceful landscape to the railway bridge crossing the river. The whole path is approximately 5km long, but of course it's possible to just turn around at some point. There's not really much to see, but if you like nature and enjoy being on your own away from the hectic city (which Tartu is, if you consider it from outside...), this trail is a must!
See my travelogue for more impressions of the hike!
Directions: Outside Tartu and a little difficult to find. One way is to follow Emajogi up on the side of the town centre until you reach the beach. Another possibility is to go out Kreuzwaldi street (the one leading to Tallinn) and then take a right turn.
Dome Church Ruins
Toomemägi is home to a number of (smaller) sights - statues, lookout places, the park. The most interesting among all of them is the ruin of the Dome Church (Toomekirik). It was built 600 years ago, but soon after destroyed in a war. The site was abandoned and left as it were, until in the 19th century parts of the building were restored to house a part of Tartu's university. Today, these parts house the University History Museum. The ruins are very impressive and beautiful, but unfortunately the sight is always disturbed by construction work going on - after all, the harsh Tartu winters do their best in destroying more and more of the church. For a small fee you can ascend the tower platforms of Toome Kirik. From up there, you have a great view on the ruins themselves and on Tartu.
Statue of Estonian poet Kristian Jaak Peterson
Toomemägi, or Dome Hill in English, is the town's most prominent hill. To be found just behind the town hall, the hill covers a wide area of trees and several sights. I'd suggest walking around Toomemägi first and then checking out the sights, as this provides you with a general overview first. Toomemägi is best accessed from Lossi street just behind the town hall, but another option may be from Vallikraavi.
Directions: central Tartu
Jaani Kirik was built in the 14th century and is said to be one of the most outstanding architectural treasures of Northern Europe. It is decorated with roughly 1000 terracotta sculptures, most of them hardly discernible somewhere above your heads. There are plenty of different items - Jesus, John the Baptist (after whom the church is named), but also the devil and portraits of citizens.
Jaani Kirik squeezes between several houses of the old town and really looks massive in there. What it doesn't look, is impressive. I'm not a church historian or an architecture professional, but at first sight, most churches are more interesting than Jaani Kirik. The same is true for the terracotta figures. If you're not very much into this kind of stuff, you'll hardly be able to understand the fuzz about it...
Never mind, this is my opinion, and it's always best to check it out yourselves.
Address: Jaani tn, Lüübeki tn, Rüütli tn
Directions: old town, look out for the Gothic looking church tower and you won't miss it
A walk along Emajogi in winter
Emajogi river flows through Tartu and is a good place to go for a walk... Not on the river, of course, but in the parks and along the beaches surrounding the river! I'll describe two walks here. The first one starts at the Tartu bus station. From there on, you can go across the bridge and turn right immediately afterwards. Walk on on a little dyke until you reach the new Emajogi footbridge (built 3 years ago). According to a sign, it's some 240 m long and its tower reaches a height of 47 m or so. An interesting custom, which goes back to a Russian tradition, is to fix a keylock on the bridge which is supposed to be a sign of luck for a newly married couple. Cross the bridge and walk back to Tartu's centre. You pass through an open air market, where you can sometimes buy cheap clothes and the like.
The second walk is the more interesting one. It takes you up Emajogi river and can be varied as to which side of the river you actually walk. Start at the arched Emajogi bridge. The first meters lead you through the nice park on the opposite side of the centre. In summertime, this is a great place to play football or frisbee or just have a break... At the next bridge, you may pass the river to check out Tartu's botanical gardens. Going further up the river, you now face the hardest decision of the walk: On which side to continue? The town centre side continues with a very nice path which leads on for several kilometers until you're somewhere in the outskirts of Tartu. It's a quiet and tranquil footpath and especially likeable in spring or summer. The other side, however, leads to the beach, a wonderful place to watch the sunset in summertime and listen to the concert of thousands of frogs from the other riverside. It's also possible to swim there, although the water is not really warm at any time of the year... I don't know whether it is allowed, but the beach is a great place for bonfires or barbecues, too. Some of my fondest memories of Tartu are connected with these!
So, decide for yourselves...
Address: Emajogi riverside
The Kissing Students
It's only a fountain, but one of the most beautiful I know: The "Kissing Students", built in 1999, in front of Tartu's townhall. This fountain is the best meeting point in the town centre, and also a great place to hang out. Moreover, it is probably the picture taken most often: Every second tourist tries to imitate the behaviour of the statue in the middle of the fountain. Try it for yourself!
Address: Raekoja Plats
Directions: central Tartu
Tartu's Town Hall
Tartu is a small town, so basically all the sights are within walking distance of the center. Thus, I will describe some pleasant walks through the town in here. A good starting point for all of them is Raekoja Plats, the Town Hall Square.
It is also a great place to hang out: In summer, cafes place their tables outside and you can enjoy a coffee there and watch the passers-by. The fountain (Suudlevad Tudengid) is probably the best meeting place in Tartu.
Address: Raekoja Plats
Tartu's most curious building
The second house on the right side of Raekoja Plats is sort of a curiosity: It looks as though it was about to fall down! The reason for this is that the ground on one side is not really stable so that one side of the house sinks lower and lower. An interesting detail is that while all the windows are also askew, but the door is not! Definitely an interesting motive for a photograph.
Btw, in the house is an art gallery which displays paintings and sometimes also video art.
Address: Raekoja Plats 2
Directions: central Tartu
Old shop in Supilinn
Supilinn is an old part of Tartu with lots of old wooden houses. It has a very special character as it is not a place that most tourists see. Instead, it's more original Estonian... even rural in a way. The streets are dirt roads, i.e. muddy at the moment, dusty in summertime. The houses are slightly run-down, the dogs are running around unleashed. But walking through Supilinn, you'll discover all those things that seem so normal, but are interesting in a way: clothes drying outside, the trees grow uncontrolled, a cat enjoys some sunrays on a rooftop of a garage... There are plenty of interesting motives for photos. And Supilinn has a curious thing, too: The most colourful house of Tartu in Oa street 28...
Directions: Supilinn is the quarter next to Emajogi river. Walk up the riverbank on the side of the old town for about 15 minutes. At the big bridge (Kroonuaia st), Supilinn begins.
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