The Best Things to See and Do in Pärnu, Estonia
Pärnu is a resort city in Estonia brimming with charm and attractions | © M Ramírez / Alamy Stock Photo
A resort city on Estonia’s Baltic Sea coast, Pärnu provides plenty of things to see and do for travellers. Paddle at sandy Pärnu Beach, get pampered at the Pärnu Mud Baths or head out to explore the city’s excellent parks and green spaces.
Pärnu may only be Estonia’s fourth-largest city, but it’s firmly established as the country’s summer capital, which is mainly due to the city’s beach, from which a stone jetty seems to stretch to the horizon. According to local legend, lovers who walk its length hand in hand before sharing a kiss will never part. Here’s our pick of Pärnu’s other top attractions, from Eastern Orthodox churches to treetop obstacle courses.
Explore the Pärnu Transformation of Our Lord Church
© Marc Venema / Alamy Stock Photo
Opposite the Pärnu Vanapark, the Pärnu Transformation of Our Lord Church was built between 1902 and 1904 for the city’s growing Eastern Orthodox population, which had become too big for the 18th-century Ekateriina’s Church. Constructed in the Old Russian style, a 38m (125ft) facade of sombre red brick rests on a granite base, while the interior has an altar displaying more than 20 icons and religious paintings.
Swim and sunbathe at Pärnu Beach
© arvelius / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Pärnu’s Blue Flag beach is one of Estonia’s premier summer resorts. Backing onto the Pärnu Rannapark, about a 20-minute walk from the city centre, the beach’s warm, shallow waters, minigolf courses, playgrounds and ice-cream vendors make it especially popular with families. There are also several surfing joints, rentable loungers and parasols, as well as plenty of beach bars on the promenade, ideal for snacks and cocktails after a day on the sand.
Visit the Pärnu Mud Baths
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This beachside neoclassical building was constructed between 1926 and 1927 to replace Pärnu’s original bathhouse from 1838, which burned down during World War I. Nowadays, the four-star Hedon Spa and Hotel occupies the structure, where you can enjoy indoor and outdoor pools, sauna sessions with sea-mud body wraps and a sun lamp capable of recreating the rays of Mauritius, Miami and Bali. Head to the on-site Restaurant Raimond for sea views and contemporary Nordic cuisine.
Delve into history at the Pärnu Museum
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The Pärnu Museum takes you on a journey through the city’s 11,000-year history with exhibits such as scale models, shipwrecks, armour, weaponry and an 8,000-year-old human-shaped sculpture thought to be the oldest of its kind ever excavated in Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea region. The history lesson continues in the cafe, where dishes associated with the various eras of Pärnu’s past are served alongside snacks, soft drinks, tea and coffee. Locally made handicrafts are on sale in the gift shop.
Eat at Supelsaksad Cafe
Restaurant, Cafe, Northern European, $$$
Courtesy of Supelsaksad Cafe
With mismatched lampshades, swirling wallpaper and bright blue furniture, Supelsaksad Cafe would not look out of place in a vintage doll’s house. This popular Pärnu spot serves home-made dishes such as beef carpaccio with black garlic aioli, pickled mushrooms and parmesan, a summery salad of octopus, salmon, prawns and sun-dried tomatoes or a duck fillet with oven-roasted vegetables. Make sure to leave room for its legendary napoleon cake or a slice of cheesecake.
Get active at Valgeranna Adventure Park
Courtesy of Valgeranna Adventure Park
Walk through treetops at the Valgeranna Adventure Park, where a series of obstacle courses wind among the forest canopy. These range in height from 1m (3ft) in the kids’ section to 12m (39ft) on Trail Six and require decent upper-body strength and up to three hours to complete. If you’re not scared enough by the heights and wobbling bridges, you can opt to plunge to the ground with a 10m (33ft) free-fall. Distract yourself from looking down with sweeping views of Valgeranna Beach.
Visit the Maarja-Magdaleena Gild
Art Gallery, School
© Maris Kurme / Alamy Stock Photo
Founded in 2007, the Maarja-Magdaleena Gild of artisans has its studios in a quaint wooden house opposite the Steiner Garden. Learn the artisans’ secrets by joining one of the weekly workshops, in which they teach skills such as weaving, pottery, doll making and painting. Their creations are available to buy in the on-site shop, where the shelves are lined with textiles, ceramics, cards, homewares, toys and decorative items.
Sip cocktails at the Romantic Bar
Bar, European, Pub Grub, Fast Food
Courtesy of Tervise Paradiis Spa Hotel / Expedia
Dominated by greys and dark blues, this sleek lounge occupies the eighth floor of the Tervise Paradiis Spa Hotel. With floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony overlooking the Baltic Sea, it’s one of the best venues in the city for a sunset cocktail or coffee and cake in the colder months. Lunch, dinner and snack menus are also available. The bar is a popular venue for conferences and parties, so check to see if it’s open to the public before making your way over.
These recommendations were updated on June 10, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.