Tartu (formerly known as Dorpat or Yuryev) is the second largest city in Estonia with a population of 100,000. It is a Hanseatic city and a university town. It is the oldest city in Estonia, dating back to 1030.


Tartu Town Hall, where the Tourist Information Centre is located.

Tartu is 185 km south-east of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The Emajõgi River, which connects the two largest lakes of Estonia, flows for 10 km within the city limits.


Since Tartu is a student town, English is widely understood. As usual, the older people are more likely to only speak Estonian and Russian; however most can understand English if you speak clearly.

Get in

By plane

Tartu Airport (IATA: TAY) is located 10 km south of the city center. As of October 2015, Tartu is served daily by a single Finnair/Flybe flight from Helsinki. The airport is, therefore, little more than an embarkation/disembarkation point. If you want to rent a car, book in advance. Don't expect any food at the airport. An Airport Shuttle provides door-to-door service from the airport at €5. They can also pick you up before departure (+372 505 4342 order)

Alternatively, you can fly to Tallinn, which is only 180 km away with buses to Tartu running directly from the airport. Riga (250 km from Tartu) may be an option as well - buses from the Riga Bus Station to Tartu are operated by Lux Express.

By bus

Buses arrive at the small bus station at Turu 2, which is across the street from the Kaubamaja department store, 5-10 min walk from the central square of Tartu. The tiny building hosts a ticket office, luggage room, decent cafeteria, and R-kiosk. If you need more, head to the nearby shopping mall. When arriving from Tallinn, you can also get off the bus at one of the stops in the city center.

Bus schedules and fares within Estonia can be accessed here and via the Peatus route planner.

Buses from Tallinn depart several times an hour between 5AM and midnight, and stop at the Tallinn airport. The journey takes 2.5 to 3 hours and costs €8-10, before a discount available with an ISIC card. Some buses have free wireless internet and free drinks available. Note that Friday afternoon departures from Tartu to Tallinn (and Sunday night Tallinn-to-Tartu) are usually crowded during the school year as lots of students go home for the weekend.

Regular buses also run between Tartu and Narva (3 hr), Viljandi (1 hr), Pärnu (2.5 hr), and Kuressaare (6 hr).

Tartu is a stop of international buses running between Saint Petersburg (8 hr) and Riga (4 hr). These buses typically run overnight, which makes their schedule from Tartu somewhat inconvenient. Another international route is from Tartu to Pskov in Russia (4 hr, note that websites and timetables use the Estonian name Pihkva).

By train

Tartu's train station is located only 1 km from the city center (end of J. Kuperjanovi street), but it is not in the city center, and it is not well signposted either. The easiest way to find the train station is to follow Riia street uphill until you see the railway, and turn right along the tracks. The station building amply adorned with wooden carvings is a nice example of Estonian architecture. Inside, you won't find more than a kiosk (not even an R-kiosk!) and a ticket machine.

Elron operates several daily trains between Tartu and Tallinn via Tapa. The journey takes 2 hr (express train) to 2.5 hr (regular train) and costs €11 for 2nd class and €14 for 1st class on an express train, or €10 for 2nd class and €12 for 1st class on a regular train. There is free Wi-Fi and tables with electric outlets on trains. 1st class passengers get more comfortable seats and may book a specific seat online.

Trains also run between Tartu and Valga on the Latvian border, with one daily connection further to Riga (5 hr). Railway tracks likewise go in the direction of Russia, but you can only reach the small station of Koidula on the Russian border. This station is less than 1 km from the 24/7 checkpoint, which is open for pedestrians. Once you are on the Russian side, catch a taxi or simply walk to the bus station of Pechory (2 km from the border), and continue to Pskov by bus.

By car

An excellent day trip is to drive from Tallinn to Tartu. Outside of Tallinn, it is a two-lane paved road with some construction ongoing to upgrade it. It takes two to two and a half hours. There are few sights of interest along the way. The terrain is flat and most of the road is bracketed by a birch trees and a few pines. Sam's Grill (about 1/2 way between Tallinn and Tartu) or a bit fancier Põhjaka Mõis are recommended as a place to stop. There is a gas station (Statoil) some kms away.

By boat

Tartu Sadam AS operates ferry services between Tartu and Lake Peipus and Lake Lämmijärv.

Get around

Tartu's Old Town is navigable by foot, but if you want to go out of Old Town, there's public transportation.

AS Sebe operates a network of 19 intracity bus lines and 2 night bus lines around Tartu. Single tickets cost €0.75 from a newsstand or €1 from the driver. 10 single tickets from a newsstand cost €8. A ticket for 1 day costs €2, 1-hour ticket costs €1. 10-day ticket costs €8. On lines 6A, 31, 32 and 33, which are being operated by Automen, the ticket costs €1.

Since 2011, all public transport buses are colored red with white curvy decorations.

Important lines are:

Bus line 69 is free, and runs between the bus station and the Lõunakeskus shopping center on the edge of town. As this is a sponsored line, its buses do not have the red-and-white color scheme of regular municipal buses.


Town Hall in Tartu


Parks and squares

Statue of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde in Tartu


Ruins of Tartu Cathedral

Other buildings



Modern architecture

During the last decade, Tartu has seen several interesting pieces of modern architecture being built. They are well worth a visit and give an insight of how people in modern Tartu think and live, in addition to traditionally history-driven image of the city. Some of them are right in the city-centre. See the yellow markers on the official [Tartu Modern Architecture map http://www.tartu.ee/nyydisarhitektuur]. The map is in Estonian only, but selected images speak louder than words.




Main building of the University of Tartu






Pirogov Park - small park where consuming light (<6%) alcohol is allowed between 15 March and 15 October. It's the only public place in the city where drinking is legal so in the evenings it's full of students and homeless.



In a typical pub, a 0.5L beer usually costs €2. Almost all popular beers are near or more than 5% alcohol content.





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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.