In the spirit of seeing more of a country than just its capital city, we picked up a car in Tallinn and made the two-hour drive to Tartu for a day trip. Estonia’s second city, significantly smaller than Tallinn, is a university town in the southeast of the country just 30 miles (48 km) from Russia’s border.
Tartu is a perfect day trip destination—it’s small and walkable, but there’s plenty to keep you busy for a visit. We parked just north of the center and walked a counterclockwise loop, strolling past Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral and St. John’s Church up to Supilinn, a residential neighborhood of wooden houses whose streets are named after soup ingredients.
Tartu’s main square (Raekoja plats) is as cutesy at they come, with cobblestone, decorative architecture in shades of pastel colors, and rows of restaurants with outdoor seating. (We grabbed lunch down a side street away from the main square at Krempel Kohvik.) And as if the tilted building housing the Tartu Art Museum isn’t charming and interesting enough, the collection inside is well worth a look too!
After a bite of cake at Café Werner, we hopped back into the car and made our way back to Tallinn. We can’t recommend Tallinn (and a side trip to Tartu) enough—it was a perfect four-day weekend city break that offered both a fairytale old town experience and an interesting modern view to a country quickly growing more prosperous and popular. Having enjoyed a visit to Latvia last year and now to Estonia this year, perhaps next year we’ll have to complete the Baltic trilogy with a visit to Lithuania!