JOIN ME IN AN INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN MUST FROM TARTU, ESTONIA!
Susan Must is an Estonian based portrait and wedding photographer who loves adventures and to capture sincere moments and beauty of life. She fell in love with photography in her early years, as she took pictures of the people and the events surrounding her.
Tartu is a riverside town that is home for almost 100,000 residents. It is the second largest city of Estonia after Tallinn. Located only around 200 km away from cities like Helsinki in Finland, Riga in Latvia and St. Petersburg in Russia, Tartu is an easy to reach destination. Safe environment, a lot of urban greenery, easy transit, high quality of life are the few good things I can tell you about my lovely hometown.
Tartu is a student city which is considered the academic center of Estonia and called “the city of good thoughts”. The University of Tartu is the oldest in Estonia and also one of the highest ranked university in the Baltics.
The Tartu Town Hall Square is located in the very heart of the city. It has a fountain called Kissing Students and a National Geographic window which signifies Tartu as a beautiful Estonian city worth visiting. The AAHHAA Science Centre in Tartu has many fun science activities which you can take part in.
When is the best time to visit Tartu?
Fortunately Estonia has four seasons and every one of them is magical.
Tartu is the most active during autumn and summer, it`s a good time to enjoy a nice evening drink at one of riverside bars or have a picnic one of many parks. Summer is also the time of events including sport activities, music concerts, movie festivals, educational programs etc. Check below a comprehensive list of all the events held in Tartu over the year.
Discover the city during spring time when everything is blooming. In Spring you can visit the annual traditional spring fair, where you will find numerous Estonian handicrafts, decorative plants, gardening stuff and also local food. It’s a fun event where
Or visit us during winter period. It is not for everyone because the temperature can drop to-25 degrees or more but therefore creates a magical winter wonderland. Winter is also the time when the Tartu Jazz and rhythm music festival “IDeeJazz” and Tartu Winter Music Festival takes place.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Tartu?
The very best and common way to explore the city and get from point A to B is using a bicycle. There are plenty of opportunities. The newest system is Bike sharing. There are approx. 70 bike share stations around the city. 500 of them are electronic and 250 regular. You just need to purchase a season ticket ( one day, week etc)
Tartu is a very compact city and the must see places are close to each other and reachable on foot. When you`re absolutely not in a walking mood then just download the Bolt app on your phone. It`s an affordable and easy to use taxi app.
Coming From Tallinn :
If coming to Tartu from Tallinn you can take a bus service called Lux Express directly from Tallinn airport. You will find several buses from the city too. Total journey would be a little more than two hours an will cost you anything between 10 to 15 euros. You can also take a train from Tallinn which will cost you almost same as the bus but you would reach within two hours.
What are the top three must visit places in Tartu?
I personally advise you to take a walk along riverside banks of Emajõgi (Mother River in English). The banks are being constantly fixed up and offer beautiful sights. Within walking distance you will see the very most of Tartu, the former Stone bridge that was destroyed during World War II that is now Kaarsild. One of the places in Tartu where you can still feel the pre WWII vibes is Supilinn or Soup Town. The place is lined with wooden houses and streets named after ingredients of soup like peas an potatoes.
While crossing the arched shaped bridge you will get to, Town Hall and see the famous Kissing Students statue, Tartu University ( established in 1632). The historical buildings of the university are included in the European Heritage Label list as “embodiment of the ideas of a university in the Age of Enlightenment. It was erected by King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden in 1632.
The opposite place for historical old town you could go and see is Aparaaditehas (The Widget Factory). A former factory complex is now a rapidly developing area that bring together entrepreneurs, designer studios and a nice meeting place with many different places to eat.
Estonian National Museum : Estonian history from Stone Age to this very day in a very modern 6,000 square meters facility. Just wow! It has it`s own cinema, restaurant, library, exhibition and art gallery space.
You can also visit Supilinn (Soup Town in English) in the north-west of Tartu on the right bank of Emajõgi River. There are around 500 hundred colored wooden houses in this historical district which gives the place its own beauty and character.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Tartu?
Go and discover Taevaskoja in southern Estonia. A beautiful place every Estonian has visited at least once in their lives. It is worth a visit regardless the season. It’s located in the Põlva County by the river Ahja which is popular for camping, kayaking and canoeing in whole of Estonia. If hiking is on your mind you can even consider halting there overnight at the Taevaskoja Holiday Center. At Taevaskoda on the river the Devonian sandstone cliffs rise to a height of 24 metres above the river. Reaching there is easy if you have a car or you can just take a train to and from Tartu. Trains run multiple times a day and journey takes a little more than an hour.
Tartu is also just two hours away from the capital city Tallinn.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Tartu?
Tartu is a university city, so the most waited event is Tartu Student Days. It is a keeper of student`s spirit by offering different activities that brings together international and national students who are studying in Estonia. The event takes place twice a year in Tartu once during – Tartu Spring Days (April) and the other during Tartu Autumn Days (October).
What is the most loved local food of Tartu? Is it a vegetarian friendly city?
I have the feeling that a classical burger with sweet potato fries is still very loved among people of Tartu. Go visit Trikster Tihane they serve the best sweet potatoes. Also when you`re already in Aparaaditehas, go visit Muhu bakery, you will get fresh and warm bread. I can`t think of anything more estonian than black bread.
Tartu also hosts a street food Festival and Festival TaDaa! in June and Tartu Food and Wine Festival in August. If you are there that time, experience the Estonian food at its best.
Almost every food place had also a vegetarian friendly menu. For sweet toothed persons Kalevi chocolate shop is a must!
Where to head for shopping in Tartu?
Tartu has a lot of second hand stores but Võru Varblane is my favorite. It has interesting findings and changes it`s products every season. They also sell local artists handcrafts there.
If you just love traditional shopping center shopping then head to Tartu Kaubamaja, Kvartal or Tasku. They are only couple minute walk from each other.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Tartu?
Kalev chocolate shop. You can`t miss Estonian sweets and it`s a perfect gift from Estonia.
Give a chance for local alcoholic drink called “Vana Tallinn”. Vana Tallinn is a dark brown and rum-based liqueur produced by an Estonian company. It is sweet with a hint of Jamaican rum, flavoured by various natural spices, including citrus oil, cinnamon and vanilla. You will love it or hate it.
Tartu Disainimaja ( House of Estonian Design), when in search for something original. All the products are made from the local artists and designers.
Which are the best streets of Tartu worthy of taking a stroll on?
My personal favorite is Karlova district. 15 minute walk from city center.
Walk along Tähe st. and you will see Villa Margherita, where you can have some lunch or dinner.
Don`t miss a family driven café “Anna Edasi” where you can enjoy homemade food and delicious cakes and pies. The interior itself is also cozy and all the music is played from their personal vinyl collection.
On the other side of the road you`ll see Tassikoogid, it is a good Instagram photo spot and they are known for their wide variety of cupcakes.
When in search for good atmosphere then Barlova is the right choice. It feels like walking into someone`s cozy home and the bar staffs easygoing and fun attitude affirms that. Barlova, also called as the heart of Karlova is worthy it`s nickname by inviting a wide variety musicians to keep up the mood and lively atmosphere.
PS! Barlova provides different crafts beers and good coffee. Italians sure know their stuff.
By the way, last year a new restaurant called “Jakobi Jalats” opened up. A former shoe repair store now offers an enjoyable stay and good food. It is located right next to Barlova.
A hundred meters beyond you get warm morning porridge from “Karlova Kohv”
You can also see how they roast their own coffee and buy it as a souvenir.
PS! On your way to Karlova Kohv drop by at Kunstipood, it`s a ceramic store and art gallery. You won`t miss it. It has a huge blue sign on it.
My second favorite is Vallikraavi street where you can reach easily to Kassitoome by going to Karl Ernst von Baeri street and then up to Oru st. Close by you will find a hidden gem, another lovely café called Mandel.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Tartu?
Plasku rooftop terrace : You get access every full hour from Monday-Sunday. It is open from 12-18 o` clock. You can purchase the ticket from Tasku shopping center info desk for 2 Euros.
Jaani (St. John`s) church : Alongwith a view to marvel at St. John’s church also has thousands of terracotta structures all of which are seven hundred years old. They figurines were only recently found in 1950. Rooftop entrance fee 1-1.60 €
The Towers of Tartu Cathedral : The best time to visit is in early spring when the trees won`t hide the view. Open between 1.05 -30.09. Entrance fee from 6 €
Would you suggest any shows in Tartu to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in your city?
Genialistide Kubi, the oldest culture club in Tartu that provides different types of events. From lectures, story nights to concerts. Tartu Art Museum is already an attraction because it`s skewed building. Also called Tartu`s Pisa tower. The Vanemuine is the only theatre in the Baltics that performs all genres: plays, operas, ballets, operettas and musicals. Festival of Visual Culture World FilmThe Wintry Tartu Folk Dance Day in December is the day when hundreds of Estonian folk dancers join hands on Town Hall Square.
Tartu is also filled with street art and you can find everything easily here. Stencibility is a street art festival in Tartu which unites artists and people who believe in free independent street art.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Tartu?
For a secure and affordable drive use Bolt. You can use the Wolt for ordering food when you want to stay indoors.
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Tartu?
As you can see I`ve suggested many food places. That`s because I think love comes through the stomach! Don`t leave Tartu before when you haven`t visited Tartu`s legendary café and restaurant from 1895, Werner.
Things to know :
Visa : A Schengen Visa is valid for entering Estonia. General required documents for Estonia Visa application can be found here.
Tap water : Drinking tap water is safe in Tartu. The taste however might vary in different parts of the town.
Electric Socket : In Estonia the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz.
Drones : Flying drones is legal in Estonia. For personal use, you can use a drone without having to notify anyone unless it is above 500 m from the ground and in restricted zones.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO TARTU OR WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SUSAN’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THEN BE SURE TO FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM
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To know more about Estonia, check our interview with a local of Tallinn.