Mentioned for the first time in 1030, Tartu is the centre of South Estonia and the country’s second-largest town. Its pride is the University of Tartu, founded in 1632, whose academic staff has among other outstanding scholars included Karl Ernst von Baer, a pioneer of the theory of evolution and modern embryology, and Juri Lotman, the founder of structural semiotics. Tartu is also the birthplace of Estonian national literature and journalism, and it hosted the first national song festival in 1869.
The town’s most notable buildings are the main University building, St. John’s Church (1323), famous for its unique terracotta statues, and the Town Hall, which dates back to the 18th century.
Old Town, Tartu, Estonia
When you take a walk in the distinctly classical old town don’t miss the famous statue of kissing students in front of the Town Hall or Tartu’s “Tower of Pisa”, the leaning building of the art museum by the Town Hall Square. Toomemägi, one of Tartu’s main landmarks, is an English-style park located on the site of the former Estonian stronghold. Toomemägi is known for its two bridges, the Devil’s Bridge and the Angel’s Bridge, the Observatory, and the ruins of Dome Church, which was the largest cathedral in Livonia when it was completed in the 15th century. At the foot of the hill you will find Wilde Pub with a cosy bookstore and the bronze figures of two prominent writers: Estonian Eduard Vilde and British-Irish Oscar Wilde.
Townhall in Tartu
The dominant element in Tartu is the Emajõgi River which divides the town into two parts and which used to be an important trade route in the past centuries. Within a walking distance from the city centre is Supilinn (Soup town), a picturesque and rather worn-out district of wooden houses, with streets named after vegetables. Other districts worth seeing are Karlova, Tammelinn and Tähtvere.
Tartu Cathedral Ruin
(Sources: EAS, MarvaoGuide.com)