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Travel Guide: Tartu, Estonia: Nightlife and history in a weekend

30th Jan 2012 11:39am | By Editor

This is Tartu, Estonia in a weekend. You have 48 hours to explore the nightlife, get your head around the history and pop into the (impressive) science museum. Go! WORDS: CLARE VOOGHT

Day One

09:00  Find your bearings in Estonia’s second city. Start off in Town Hall Square and see the famous Kissing Students fountain (above). Nearly half of Tartu’s population is made up of students, so the best time to visit is definitely term-time, when there’s more of a buzz to the place. Since it was installed in 1998, Tartu locals have adopted the statue as a local symbol. Behind it is the majestic pink classic-meets-Baroque and Rococo Town Hall and on balmy summer nights, musicals and plays are performed outside it. Turn around and head towards the river for a walk along its banks, then turn right and up Toome Hill (central Tartu is built on and around a steep incline) to find the city’s Wilde and Vilde statue, a memorial to Oscar Wilde and Estonian writer Eduard Vilde.

10:30
  Now work those calves and head further up the hill to the massive red-brick Cathedral Ruins – the cathedral was destroyed by Christain invaders in the 13th Century. If navigating your way around the town by map seems like far too much hassle, take a guided tour around the town, ruins and university – led by an enthusiastic lady in authentic medieval dress – and you’ll hear all about Tartu’s history, too. See beneficium.ee for more information and to book.

13:30  Stay at the top of the hill for some more light history over schnitzel and ice cream at Rotund (address:Toomemäaii, next to Cathedral Ruins). The octagonal cafe started life in the 19th century as a lemonade stand (and has old sketches on the walls to prove it).

14:30  Now stomp back down to the main square and to Tartu’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa – the Leaning House – made so because it was cleverly built on both the old city wall and wooden piles. The latter sank over time, giving it a wonky lean. Inside, it happens to be an art gallery (tartmus.ee), which houses modern paintings, sculptures and graphic art. Entry costs £2.50.

16:00  Estonians love their beer, and where better to sample some, than an Estonian beer museum. A. Le Coq Beer Museum (alecoq.ee) shows where the national drink is made, churning out 40 million litres a year. Admission is only £1.30 and, of course, you get to try the beer, too.



19:00  Once a little sozzled, your mind will again be on food. So head to the Pussirohukelder (pyss.ee), an old gunpowder cellar that earned itself a Guinness World Record as the highest pub in the world. There’s Estonian and nternational food on the menu, and you can get a good-sized meal for about £8. Stick around with a few pints until the music is cranked up and things get exciting.

01:00  Crash out at the new and eco-conscious Hostel Looming (loominghostel.ee) – rooms are bright and clean and more than 99 per cent of the decor has been recycled. You’ll find free WIFI, hammocks and it’ll dent your wallet by no more than a bargainous £15.

Day Two

09:00  For a cheap and decent breakfast buffet, which is available from 8am-11am on weekdays for a mere £2.90, head to Cafe Vilde (vilde.ee). The cafe, named after the Estonian writer, is also known for its cakes.

10:00  A science museum might not sound that exciting, but given a chance, Ahhaa Science Centre (ahhaa.ee/en) will blow your mind. For about a tenner, see chicks hatching; go in a gravity-defying room that makes you feel drunk and seasick at the same time; take quick-fire action pictures of yourself as a helium balloon pops in your face; then ride a unicycle across the ceiling (yes, the ceiling).


The Ahhaa Science Centre, Tartu

13:30  Refuel with a Caesar salad or a quiche for about £6 at Kapriis (kapriis.ee), and something from their long cocktail list – you might need it for the afternoon’s activity.

15:00  Get to know the city even better with some Dutch courage and a Photo Hunt (360.ee). You’ll be given a images of spots around the town, and to prove you’ve found them, you’ll also get a camera and instructions for what poses you all need to take up in each location, like “feet off the ground”, and “Red Light District”. Compete to see who can cover the most places in two-and-a-half hours and, most importantly, who comes up with the most imaginative pictures. Costs £24 per person in a group of 10.

18:00  Finish in Moka restaurant (moka.ee) to look back on your photographic gems. Then tuck into some reasonably priced (about £13 for a main course) new-meets-traditional Estonian food, making sure to try dessert – there are a zillion cakes to choose from, plus some smoking molecular gastronomy to rival Heston Blumenthal’s efforts.

21:30  Enjoy £1.30 pints before happy hour ends at 10pm at Pool Kuus & Arriba (address: Rüühi 1, 51007). Afterwards, go to Mafia-themed bar Ristiisa (ristiisapubi.ee), which means Godfather.


Estonian Air offers flights from London Gatwick to Tartu from £141 return  estonian-air.com
For more information see: visitestonia.com or  visittartu.com


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