Things to do in Tartu
If you want to explore Tartu by yourself or with your friends or family, here are some suggestions:
The Widget Factory (Aparaaditehas) is an old factory complex that during the Soviet times was used for manufacturing refrigeration equipment, secret submarine parts and in order to mislead the public, also non-functioning umbrellas and zippers. By today the Widget Factory has become one of the coolest and creative meeting places in Tartu. It brings together creative entrepreneurs, artist and designer studios, commerce and entertainment. It hosts three restaurants and two cafeterias, it is the home for Müürilille flea market, a Printing Museum, and provides rooms for numerous small and exciting designer shops.
The aim of Science Centre AHHAA is to introduce science to everyone and encourage studying through the joy of discovery. Their mission is to shape the knowledge-based mindset through Aha-experiences. More than 3 million people of different ages have visited AHHAA’s exhibitions and other science events. In addition to trying out numerous ´hands-on´ exhibits on our various exhibitions, visitors of AHHAA can also take part in workshops, enjoy planetarium and science theatre shows.
AHHAA is an active partner in different international projects, such as PLACES, a cooperation between 69 cities and towns from all over Europe that lasted from 2011-2014. AHHAA’s work throughout the project earned Tartu the title of “European City of Scientific Culture”.
Open: Sun-Thu 10 a.m. – 19 p.m.; Fri-Sat 10 a.m. – 20 p.m.
The University of Tartu’s Botanical Gardens, one of the oldest of the 2400 botanical gardens in the world, were designed by such world-famous botanists as Professor Ledebour, Professor Bunge and others. The gardens’ 6500 species of plants from all climate zones of the world make it the most species-dense area in Estonia. The gardens’ palm house is the largest and richest in species among its sister establishments in the Baltic countries. Children can be very interested in plants, but there is no doubt that the turtles, fish and stick insects at the Tartu Botanical Garden will excite them even more. There is also a playground for kids.
Open: Gardens: Mon-Sun 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Visitor centre and greenhouses: Mon-Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
University of Tartu Natural History Museum
University of Tartu Natural History Museum affiliates zoological, geological, botanical and mycological collections. They collect and preserve specimens of plant, fungus and animal kingdom, also minerals, rocks and fossils, develop public online databases based on research and citizen science. Exhibition is in Estonian and in English. For example, visitors can learn more and see rocks and minerals from inside the Earth and from outer space; the most exquisite songs of Estonian birds and frogs; a 7-metre skeleton of a dwarf whale; a rare rat king and much more.
Open: Tue-Sun 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Located in an old wooden building in the heart of Tartu’s Old Town, the Toy Museum transports its adult visitors back to their most joyous childhood days and offers children plenty to see and do.
The permanent exhibit displays toys that children in Estonia have played with throughout the ages. The display also includes artist-made dolls, souvenir dolls from around the globe and traditional Finno-Ugric toys. The museum has play and workshop rooms, and the exhibit rooms offer plenty to keep one busy. For example, in a part of the museum, the Theatre House, visitors can see the puppets made for theatre and cinema in Estonia in the last 50 years and traditional theatre puppets from all over the world, watch animated Estonian movies, play board games, try simple optical tricks and colour in film-themed pictures.
Open: Wed-Sun 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Play room open Wed – Sun 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The museum is located on Toome Hill and nearby it including several 19th century university buildings. The permanent exhibition of the University of Tartu Museum introduces the history of the university and its academic heritage as well as the history of the medieval Cathedral as a sacral building and later as a house of wisdom. You can visit the Crazy Scientist’s Office, an engaging activity room that welcomes both children and adults to discover and become friends with science and research.
For the first time ever, the attic of the Cathedral is accessible to the public. It will serve as a base for “Children and War. 1941-1944” – a joint exhibition by the Estonian History Museum and Tartu Toy Museum. Through childhood memories, this exhibition opens up the lives of five children during the World War II.
Open: Wed-Sun 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The building in which the museum is currently located was used in the 1940s and 1950s by the NKVD/KGB. The basement level, once used as an interigation prison for political prisoners, is open to visitors. Part of the cells, the lock-ups and the corridor have been restored to their original condition. Other former cells house an exhibition on WWII, the post-war fight for Estonia’s independence, the crimes of the communist regime and the realities of life in an interigation prison.
Open: Tue-Sun 11-17
A large part of the museum’s collection consists of an archaeological anthology on the distant past of Tartu and a photographic collection reflecting the city’s spatial development. As of 2015, the entire collection – including its archive and object collections – consists of some 158,000 items.
Visitors can learn about the diverse history of Tartu from our permanent exhibition “Dorpat. Yuryev. Tartu.” The history of Tartu dates back to the ancient stronghold of Tarbatu. Visitors can find out about the medieval town of Dorpat, the havoc wreaked during the Livonian War, intellectual life under Polish and Swedish rule, locally handcrafted items from the 18th century and the many events linked to the Tartu Peace Treaty. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum has a number of temporary exhibitions as well.
Open: Wed-Sun 11-18
The 19th century Tartu citizen’s home museum
The 19 th Century Tartu Citizen’s Home Museum is located in the old part of Tartu, in a unique neighbourhood where the buildings are among the oldest in the city. The wooden dwelling, completed in the 1740s, is one of the oldest to have survived in Tartu. Visitors find themselves in the home of a middle-class citizen in the 1830s.
Open: Wed-Sat 11-17; Sun 11-15
University of Tartu Old Observatory
Nowadays, the Old Observatory is a modern museum on Toome Hill. Historically, the Observatory was the gem of Estonian science and one of the most important centres of astronomy in the world. It hosts a rich permanent exhibition on astronomy and the history of astronomy, e.g. it is possible to discover the world’s largest telescope of its time – the Fraunhofer Refractor; count the falling meteorites within a minute and learn to know the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere. The balcony of the Old Observatory also offers a wonderful view of Tartu.
Open: Tue-Sat 11-17
The Aura Water Centre offers a wide range of activities that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. You can have a good time with your family by relaxing in the SPA or doing sports in the swimming pool, water park, health club and saunas.
Open: Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 22 p.m. , Sat-Sun 9 a.m. – 22 p.m.
Lõunakeskus is the biggest shopping centre in South Estonia. Lõunakeskus is a valued recreational destination for the whole family. It hosts a year-round ice rink, AHHAA 4D adventure cinema, sports club, adventure park and other fun activities. Lõunakeskus also has a wide selection of cozy restaurants so that no one has to go home hungry. All restaurants provide free WiFi.
Open: Mon-Sun 10 a.m. – 21 p.m. , Ice rink: Mon-Sun 10-21