Sand dunes in Pärnu

Pärnu is a resort seaside city (and Estonia's summer capital) with a small harbour in south-western Estonia.


The city is known for its spas, shallow white sandy beach and beautiful parks. It is also a popular place for conferences, theatre performances and concerts. In 1838 the first spa was opened and nowadays Pärnu is a health resort of international stature.

During the Great Northern War, the University of Tartu was relocated to Pärnu from 1699-1710. Tartu University still has a branch campus there today.

Since 1996 Pärnu has been known as Estonia's Summer Capital. Beach life, dozens of festivals, night clubs, big party crowds, concerts and funfairs - Pärnu has it all.

Pärnu is an ancient Hanseatic town where a medieval festival and an arts and crafts fair are held every summer.

Get in

By car

Tallinn highway crossing the Pärnu river just north of the city center

Pärnu has road connections to Tallinn (128 km), Haapsalu (108 km), Tartu (174 km), as well as to Riga in Latvia (184 km). The major artery of the Baltic states, Via Baltica, passes near Pärnu.

By bus

Buses arrive at the small bus station (bussijaam) on the border of the old town. This bus station feels like a big bus stop because the terminal building is somewhat hidden on the opposite side of the street. Note a fast-food kiosk nearby. It opens early in the morning and caters to morning travelers while the whole city is still sleeping.

Buses from Tallinn depart every hour and reach Pärnu in about two hours. You can also travel from Viljandi (1 h) and Tartu (2.5-3 h), Kuressaare (3 h), and Valga (2.5 h). There is one daily bus from Saint Petersburg in Russia with a stop in Narva (5 h). Check the schedules at here.

Pärnu is a major stop in the middle of the TallinnRiga route. Buses run every 1-2 hours and connect you to the Latvian capital in 2.5 h. Pärnu can be an excellent stopover on your away between the Baltic capitals.

By train

Pärnu has a train connection to Tallinn. Trains depart from Tallinn and from Pärnu twice a day. The journey takes about 3 hours, check the Edelaraudtee website for the current schedule. The station building has been razed down recently, so the train drops you at some strange place 3 km south of the city center (reachable by city bus, though). In contrast to Tartu, train connections to Pärnu are underdeveloped and remain inferior to the abundant bus options.

By plane

Pärnu airport (IATA: EPU) is 4 km north-west of the city. It has some regular flights, but you are more likely to use this airport for continuing your journey from Pärnu rather than for traveling to the city. Luftverkehr Friesland-Harle operates flights to the islands of Ruhnu (regular) and Kihnu (on request only). The Ruhnu flight continues to Kuressaare and costs about €25 for each flight segment.

Expect absolutely no service at the airport. You will have to call taxi or arrange some other private transportation to the city. City bus #23 runs to the airport twice a day, but its schedule is adjusted to the airport staff, not to sporadic travelers.

By boat

Pärnu has a large port, which is mostly used for cargo traffic. Ferries to the island of Kihnu depart from the Munalaid dock located 35 km west of Pärnu. However, a small passenger harbor exists at Kalda 2(right at the city center) and may serve occasional weekend ferries to Kihnu and Ruhnu.

If you are arriving by sail boat (keelyacht), you can dock at the Pärnu Yacht Club. To stay with motorboat you can use Talvesadam on Pärnu moat (Pärnu vallikraav). Pärnu moat on Google map

Get around

Pärnu downtown, Rüütli street

By bus

The bus network covers the whole city, including the suburbs. There are 26 routes and their schedules can be found at Pärnu ATP-s website.

By foot

Pärnu's old town is pretty small and navigable by foot and it's full of small boutiques. Lots of them are on Rüütli street.


Timber framed house in the old town


The beach

Pärnu has a long beach that opens to the south and has lovely, almost white sand. It is a major Baltic seaside resort.

Completed in 2006, the attractive Beach Promenade has the feeling of a real resort and makes the Summer Capital's beaches inviting even in bad weather! Well thought-out lighting keeps the beach active even when the sun goes down, and the playing colours of the fountains are a sight in themselves in the dark of night.

It may rain in summer, and when it does many Estonian holiday makers go indoors to the Vee Park, which is an indoor water park at the largest beachside hotel. As water parks go, this one is fantastic, and insures that your few days at the beach won't be wasted because of inclement weather. There are lot of interesting historical buildings in the city center. You may ask for a special brochure and discover all of them by your own.

Outdoor activities


In winter time, consider one of the many spa hotels:



Just south of downtown is a modern art museum and art school. Exhibits change frequently, and are often edgy and provocative.


Pärnu College of Tartu University.





Pärnu has several clubs and lounges, most of them located in the center near Rüütli street. There are also many cozy terraces and pubs around the numerous parks in the summer time.




Go next

If you dare leave urban pleasures behind, there is great countryside to explore. Many cultural and sports events offer entertainment all year round. The enthralling nature of Pärnu County, which offering ample, quality opportunities for active holidays, supplements the greenery of city parks and boulevards. Walks in the forest, kayak trips on rivers and the sea, riding, fishing, hunting trips, adventurous bog or canoe trips to Soomaa National Park and elsewhere in the county offer great escapes. In winter, you can partake in skiing, snowshoe and kick sledge trips, or a sledge safari and enjoy a sauna steam.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, November 29, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.