While the capital city of Tallinn may be the most popular destination for visitors to Estonia, this compact Baltic country offers more than beautifully preserved medieval townscapes. A practical, sleek and distinctly Scandinavian or Nordic cool tinges much of the accommodation and, for locals at least, sauna facilities in whatever form are almost as essential as a bathroom or TV. Spa and wellness facilities also lend a more holistic bent to the Estonian travel experience.
In the old quarter of Tartu just below the hilltop observatory, Lydia Hotel has an austere-looking wing that almost wraps around the original 19th-century townhouse – something that will appeal to design types. Sober Baltic cool pervades the property, the sleek modern rooms bearing a muted palette of white, cream and beige brightened with subtly patterned carpets, wallpaper and headboards. Sporadic flourishes in public areas – potted plants in huge face-pots and lattice screens – lighten the mood, while the well-regarded Restaurant Hõlm revives traditional 1920s recipes.
Overlooking Freedom Square, the Palace is a landmark building in Tallinn. Designed by prominent Estonian architect Elmar Lohk in the 1930s, the prized blend of Art Deco and Chicago School architecture has spurred several renovations, the last of which upped its game and now appeals to a mainly business clientele. Room decor favours clean simple lines and Scandi-style furniture; the so-called “garret floor” rooms have skylight windows and all feature reproduction landscapes by Estonian artist Konrad Mägi.
Adopting the historic name for Kuressaare town on Saaremaa Island, the Arensburg appeals to the well-travelled wellness crowd. The converted 300-year-old manor house plus modern annex mixes old-world charm and uncluttered swanky rooms. An array of treatments utilise the famed island mud, juniper oil and organic hay, plus there are the usual saunas, jacuzzi and pool. Against such virtuous cleansing must be set the decadent cigar room.
Aimed at holidaying families, Rüütli has an enviable location opposite Kuressaare Castle and its splendid moat on Saaremaa Island. It’s a conspicuously unpretentious resort: straightforward practical rooms occupy a functional, almost motel-like, facade. For children, it’s probably more about thrashing about in the pools and zooming down a 52m (170ft) waterslide. The spa and treatments embrace an almost bewildering array of procedures, from multi-head showers to magnesium foot-baths, via serums, peeling, massages and mud.
The ESTONIA injects a bit of style into this long-favoured stretch of the Baltic coast at Pärnu and, though popular with families, is ideal for couples. Rooms and suites are distinguished more by size than style; all feature sensible uncluttered Scandi-like decor and have unlimited access to the adjoining SPA & SAUN complex. There’s a smorgasbord of therapeutics including nine saunas, an ultra-saline Dead Sea pool, herbal baths in two-person barrels, along with spa treatments ranging from hemp oil massage to magnesium and “home beer” baths. Be brave.
The office-block exterior hardly suggests an arty-hipster hangout, but here on the edge of Tartu old town, the newly renovated Art Hotel comes close. “Pallas” derives from an eponymous early 20th-century arts collective that formalised the first art school in Estonia. Consequently, each room features at least one artwork ranging from demure landscapes in polite frames to raw Bacon-Esque figures and bold wall-creeping frescoes resembling urban cartoon-graffiti. Whether you find it bonkers or banal probably depends on your room and mood.
For some unique options, discover our guide to the most stunning historic hotels in Estonia and book now on Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.