Tartu OverviewTartu is a university town that is also the second largest city in Estonia. It has a population of about 100,000 and dates back to 1030, making it the oldest city in the country. The Emajogi River passes through town and it has a lovely old town that's pleasant to explore. The city is a great place to see day to day life in Estonia. It is a very real town with people going about their daily lives. If you find yourself here when the weather is nice, you'll be greeted by crowds of happy locals out enjoying the weather. They make full use of the warm, sunny weather with festivals, events, and concerts during the summer. This is easily the most fun and eventful time to visit the city.
The climate in Tartu is temperate humid continental. It is more mild than you might expect at the high latitude, but winters are still quite cold. It's proximity to the Baltic Sea keeps the temperatures warmer and there are occasionally hot days during the summer, although it is usually cool or pleasantly warm.
SightsThere are some nice buildings around Tartu, particularly in the old town area. Some interesting churches in town include St. John's Church, St. Paul's Church, and St. Alexander`s Orthodox Church among others. Make sure you swing by the Town Hall Square where you'll see the famous statue of two students kissing. The KGB Museum is a moving and well done museum that is definitely worth a visit if you have any interest in the history of the area. There's also a nice botanical garden that is worth a visit if only so you can enjoy some people watching.
NeighborhoodsTartu can be divided into seventeen distinct neighborhoods. Annelinn is the largest and it is located on the left bank of the river. It houses over a quarter of the city's population and is predominantly Soviet style apartment buildings. The Old Town is where you will likely spend most of your time as a tourist. This is where you'll find the highest concentration of attractions and the most interesting architecture.
ActivitiesThere's a nice trail that runs alongside the river making for an enjoyable walk. On a nice day you'll find people fishing here, or just soaking up some of the cherished sunlight.
Popular festivals in town include Hanseatic Days, which is held during late July. This is a medieval festival that has many fairs, festivities, exhibitions, concerts, dances, shopping booths, and more. It is generally a free event. The Stencibility Street Art Festival is also popular and is held every year at the end of April.
Food and DiningAs a university town, there are many budget food options available to visitors. Near the center of town you can find many cheap restaurants that cater to students and offer anything from pizza to Indian food. Most budget eateries cater to students and the food can vary in quality, but the price is good and the diversity of options is excellent. Restaurants are diverse but pizza, pubs, and Asian options are probably the most prevalent.
In general, food in the area is much cheaper than you would find elsewhere in Europe. There are a variety of local restaurants that serve more traditional dishes at a reasonable price, and unless you're on a very tight budget, it's worth trying some local food while you're in town.
There are plenty of cafes, pubs, and clubs around town as well. Drinks are cheap and many of the places are popular with students, so you can expect a young and energetic atmosphere. This is a great way to experience the atmosphere and culture of Tartu.
There is also no shortage of hostels in the area so you should have no problems finding affordable accommodation. Many hostels are actually housed in dorms of the university so you get an interesting feel for the city and its student life.
TransportationMost tourists spend the majority of their time in the city's Old Town, which is very walkable. If you want to travel further outside of the area, there are 19 city bus routes around town. These buses are colored red and white and are easily distinguishable. There is also a sponsored bus line, 69, that is free and does not have the obvious red and white coloring. This line connects the bus station to the Lounakeskus shopping center near the edge of town. You can catch lines 7 or 20 in the city centre and take them to the Tartu Railway Station. Line 8 takes you from Lounakeskus to a popular beach area known as Anne Kanal. And lines 2, 3, 3A, 5, 9 and 14 connect the city centre to the Central Market and the Bus Station.
You can catch a taxi at any of the many taxi stands around central Tartu. Taxis are usually reasonably priced and efficient.