Situated in Northern Europe on the Baltic Sea, Estonia has an old world charm that is often overlooked by people traveling through Europe. However, those who do chose to visit Estonia are welcomed by fairy-tale like Medieval cities, beautiful beaches, and forests teeming with wildlife. Visiting Estonia is unique in that it is at the same time a trip back into Medieval history as well as a look forward into the international tech scene of tomorrow. Let’s take a look at what’s it’s like to visit Estonia with kids!
Getting to Know Estonia
Estonia is located in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic sea. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland (and Finland across the gulf) and on the west by the Baltic sea (across from Sweden). Estonia sits just north of Latvia and to the west of Russia. It’s unique location means Estonia often finds itself to be considered a Baltic state, though Estonians tend to identify more with the Nordic cultures of Finland and Sweden. Estonia is made up of it’s mainland plus 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea- in total, it encompasses 17,462 square miles.
Estonia has a rich history, with the capitol city of Tallinn being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inhabited since 9,000 BC, Estonia- particularly Tallinn- transports you back into Medieval times. The walled Old Town section of Tallinn is rich in history and ancient architecture with a fairy-tale like charm!
Estonia has four distinct seasons. Peak tourist season lasts from June to August when temperatures are warmer and people flock to the beaches on the Baltic Sea. April through May and early autumn are also beautiful times to visit. Winters in Estonia can be bitterly cold, but if you’re looking to ski or explore charming Christmas markets- then don’t count Estonia out in the winter months!
Estonian is the official language. It is most closely related to Finnish. The next most common language spoken is Russian, though there are a total of 109 languages spoken in this small country- a testament to it’s multiculturalism and high levels of education throughout the country. In the capitol city of Tallinn, many people do speak conversational English- though you’re less likely to find English speakers once you leave Tallinn.
There are numerous options for transportation in Estonia. There is a train network, with trains connecting the capitol of Tallinn to the cities of Tartu and Narva. International trains also connect to St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia. While the train system is reliable, the buses in Estonia are the more popular mode of public transportation. An intricate network of bus routes will connect you to all the popular locations to visit in Estonia. Renting a car is also a popular option, especially if you want to get out in to the forested areas.
The cuisine in Estonia is a mix of Scandinavian, German and Russian influences. You’ll find lots of pork, potatoes, blood sausage, stews and roasts. Brown bread (or rye bread) is an incredibly popular food in Estonia and travelers just rave about it! Soups are also very popular. In Tallinn, you’ll find a wide variety of international foods as well. A lesser known fact about Estonian cuisine it’s the country’s popular craft beer scene! Be sure to check out local breweries for their popular craft beers.
The currency in Estonia is the Euro- so this will be familiar to those who have visited other destinations in Europe. Estonia is generally considered a very affordable country to visit- with reasonable prices for lodging, food, and attractions.
Things To Do In Estonia With Kids
- Explore Old Town Tallinn– Tallinn is Estonia’s capitol city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking Old Town allows kids to explore the towers and ancient fortifications of the medieval city. You can even climb the old stone steps of some of towers!
- Visit the Tallinn Zoo- The Tallinn Zoo specializes in animals that live in Nordic regions as well as animals that live in the colder climates of Europe and Asia. The zoo is best known for it’s Amur leopards, a critically endangered large cat that is the focus of the biggest breeding and conservation program at the Tallinn Zoo.
- Find a festival in Tallinn’s Town Hall Square- The Town Hall Square is home to numerous summer festivals as well as world renowned Christmas markets in the winter.
- Tour Tallinn’s KGB Museum- Located on the top floors of the Hotel Viru, the KGB Museum is an exact preservation of an old spy station where the KGB set up a listening post to spy on what Western European visitors might be talking about. The KGB left their spy post in Hotel Viru rather abruptly when Estonia declared independence- leaving behind all of their things. These things are now on display in the very rooms they were left in!
- Discover something new at the AHHAA Science Center in Tartu- The AHHAA Science Center is the largest science center in the region, with numerous interactive displays cover all branches of science.
- Visit the Tartu Toy Museum- The museum is home to an extensive collection of dolls and toys from the Baltic region, including a special exhibit on traditional hand carved toys from Estonia and Finland. There’s an interactive playroom for younger children to enjoy as well.
- Enjoy the Kivioli Adventure Center- No matter the time of year, the Kivioli Adventure Center has thrills for the whole family! In the winter, you can ski and snowboard here and in the summer, you can ride Estonia’s longest zip line!
- Relax on the Parnu Beach Promenade– Parnu Beach is one of Estonia’s most popular beaches. The promenade features numerous fountains, parks and cafes. Let the kids play in the sand while you relax before grabbing lunch!
- Learn about sled dogs Sled Dog Training Center– Visitors can meet all the dogs while learning about all the equipment needed for long distance sled-dog racing. You can even go for a sled ride any time of the year thanks to carts with wheels that the dogs happily pull in the warmer months.