Beach and promenade
Pärnu beach is the reason that the city is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every summer. It is the biggest and most beautiful beach in Estonia. In 2018, Lonely Planet included Pärnu in its list of top ten lesser-known beach cities in the world. With its warm and shallow water and sandy beach, Pärnu is particularly well-suited for families with children to enjoy their holidays. As you walk further, you will reach deeper and more cooling waters. Thanks to the good conditions, Pärnu beach has been named one of Scandinavian tourist paradises. A beautiful promenade winds along the beach, where it is nice to walk and enjoy the sea breeze both in the summer and in the middle of the winter.
Spas are one of the most beloved components of having one’s holidays in Pärnu. If you like to relax and pamper yourself with the best treatments, you will definitely find a spa to your liking in Pärnu. In total, there are nine spas to choose from in Pärnu, both well-being and medical spas. Pärnu is home to the largest water park in Estonia, popular with both tourists and locals. In 2019, Pärnu was voted the best well-being and health tourism destination in Estonia. Read more about the spas in Pärnu here.
The mud baths built in 1838 gave rise to the beginning of Pärnu as a resort city. The excellent location, shallow sandy beach, fresh air, green parks and active urban life together with the treatment and relaxation services have helped form Pärnu, over the decades, into what it is today. The renovated building of the mud baths houses a boutique spa. In front of the mud baths, there is a nice fountain with beautiful flowers and benches, where it is nice to rest your legs in the summer.
Rannahotel Hotel and Beach House
The Rannahotell Hotel and Pärnu Beach House were designed by the former city architect of Pärnu, Olev Siinmaa. After its opening in 1937, the Rannahotell was the fanciest hotel in Scandinavia and has not lost its charm to date, continuing to be one of the symbols of the resort city. Similar in its appearance to the Rannahotell, the Beach House was completed a year later for the 100th anniversary of the resort city. The Beach House is famous for its mushroom-shaped balcony. Today, there is a nightclub in the premises of the house.
The oldest surviving structure in Pärnu Old Town is the Red Tower, which dates back to the 15th century. The heart of the Old Town is Rüütli Street, which is a pedestrian street that takes about five minutes to walk through. On Rüütli Street and its surroundings, you will find several interesting buildings, small shops, restaurants and cafes to enjoy. At one end of the pedestrian street, there is the Independence Square, where the Estonian Declaration of Independence was read out in 1918. At the other end, there is the Children’s Park, with a carousel for children, a fountain murmuring in the summer, and light sculptures decorating the park in the winter.
There are three churches in Pärnu, and they are definitely worth visiting. However, it must be kept in mind that access is not always guaranteed. The St. Elizabeth’s Church is open the most frequently, with various concerts held, as well as the international organ festival every summer. It is a Lutheran church. The Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr and the Pärnu Transformation of Our Lord Church are Orthodox churches. All three churches are located in the heart of the city just a walk away from each other.
Vallikäär (Moat) and Tallinn Gate
Every year, Pärnu Vallikäär hosts the largest events, concerts and festivals of the city, bringing together tens of thousands of people. Food enthusiasts meet up every summer at the biggest food culture festival in Estonia, the Grillfest. Also, Vallikäär hosts the annual Hanseatic Days, which are dedicated to medieval and heritage culture topics. Vallikäär is a nice place to take a walk around every time of year. Lovely linden alleys, a fountain shining in the sun, and arch bridges make the place particularly romantic. Walking from the city centre towards Vallikäär, you will probably walk through the majestic Tallinn Gate dating back to the 17th century. This is the only surviving walled gate in the Baltic States.
The letters of PÄRNU
In 2022, a new and cool symbol of Pärnu was put up on the Vallikäär meadow. A heart and the letters PÄRNU – I love Pärnu – have been placed so that you can capture as much of the authentic Pärnu emotion on your photo as possible: the yachts, small water body and slope of Vallikäär, the Tallinn Gate, a fountain, and a church tower at the background. The letters are fun to visit in different seasons, both at daytime and in the evening, to see how the silhouette of the city keeps changing in the rhythm of the night and day, and with the changing of the seasons. The letters are one and a half metres high and the land sign is a total of 11 metres wide.
Constructed once to deepen the port and boost trade, the mole of Pärnu is one of the city’s most popular sights. It is approximately 1.5 kilometres long. The half-kilometre-long light road built on piling ends at a sandy beach near the lighthouse. You can go further on from there along the stones. According to an old legend, lovers should walk to the end of the mole and seal their love with a kiss there to enjoy eternal love. Read more about the mole of Pärnu here.
Villa Ammende with its spacious outdoor area is a true gem and one of the most unique hotels in Pärnu today. The house was built in 1905 and is one of the best renovated Art Nouveau style hotels in Europe. In interior design, the furniture true to the era has been combined with modern amenities. In addition to the hotel, the house accommodates a top-level restaurant, and cosy concerts and other events are organised in the garden.
The statue of Raimond Valgre, and Kuursaal
Raimond Valgre is one of Estonia’s best known composers and musicians of all time, whose lyrical songs like “A Little Story in the Music”, “Helmi” and “Saaremaa Waltz” are still held dear by many today. A musical monument in honour of Raimond Valgre has been erected in Pärnu next to the Kuursaal, which houses one of the biggest taverns in Estonia, offering both food and entertainment. This building, which is more than 100 years old, has seen its share of good and bad times.
There are many good cafés and restaurants in Pärnu that offer visitors memorable and unique taste experience. You can find something exciting in the Old Town, on Supeluse Street, as well as in the beach area. Several of Pärnu’s restaurants have talented chefs whose work has been mentioned in the White Guide. Each year in November, Pärnu hosts the Restaurant Week to showcase the local food culture. Read more about the restaurants and cafés in Pärnu here.
Theatre and concert house
Pärnu is home to the Endla Theatre, which is considered one of the best theatres in Estonia. Here, everyone will find a play to their liking, both those interested in dramas, as well as comedy fans. Endla Theatre also welcomes children, to get them drawn to the theatre from the early age already. Pärnu Concert House hosts many concerts of very different genres. For example, the Pärnu Music Festival, an international music festival dedicated to classical orchestra music, is held here in the summer. There are concerts held here every month, with both Estonian and international artists performing.
Pärnu art scene is colourful and varied, including photography, street art, graphics, light installations and cinematography, in addition to painting. Pärnu City Gallery organises art exhibitions and promotes the local art scene. The exhibitions at the City Gallery showcase different genres, from landscape painting to abstract art. Exhibitions are also organised in the Town Hall building, the Pärnu Gallery Artists’ House, the Central Library, Pärnu Concert House and the Endla Theatre. The Museum of New Art is Estonia’s first modern art museum, operating since 1992. The main collection of the museum features thousands of pieces of visual artwork from across the world. In addition to paintings, photos, films, graphics and sculptures are also showcased.
Mary Magdalene Guild
The Mary Magdalene Guild brings together a number of the best craftspeople in Pärnu. The Guild has been named after reputedly the oldest mediaeval artisans’ guild in Pärnu. The Mary Magdalene Guild is a great place to explore the everyday lives of craftspeople and to buy goods and take part in various workshops. In the summer time, Guild Days are celebrated across the city.
Pärnu riverbank area and Jaanson’s track
The Jaanson’s light traffic road runs along both banks of the Pärnu River from the City Centre bridge to the Papiniidu bridge. The track has been named after the rower Jüri Jaanson, who has won medals at several championships (including two Olympic silver medals). Every autumn, the Jüri Jaanson Two Bridges race and hike is held, attended by thousands of people. The track is popular among walkers, runners and cyclists every day. On the left side of the Jaanson’s track, there is the Segutorni quarter, where several new good bars and restaurants have been opened in the recent years, to spend time and enjoy views on the river. The August Insomnia festival has also moved to the riverside, which is also one of the venues of the Night Festival of Light.
The museums in Pärnu
Located in the city centre, Pärnu Museum is one of the most contemporary museums in the Baltic region. The exciting permanent exhibition “11,000 Years of History. Experiences from the Past” provides an overview of the ancient history of Pärnu, showcases the city as a mediaeval fortress and trade city, and shows its development into a resort. Temporary exhibitions introduce local history, interesting people, fashion, art and much more. On Jannsen Street, in a house where Johann Voldemar Jannsen and Lydia Koidula once used to live, there is the Koidula Museum, which provides an overview of the life and activities of the two important figures of Estonia. This house also used to accommodate the editorial board of the newspaper Perno Postimees.
There are three major shopping centres in Pärnu offering a wide range of products from clothing brands to cinema and food experience. The Port Artur, which is operating in two different buildings, and the Pärnu Centre, are located next to each other in the city centre. The largest shopping centre is located on Papiniidu Street, about 5 kilometres from the city centre. There are free buses running from the city centre to the shopping centre in the summer.
Renovated in 2016, the Beach Stadium next to the Beach Park was awarded the annual prize of the Union of Estonian Architects in the same year and voted Deed of the Year in Pärnu. It is the biggest stadium in Pärnu, where various sports competitions are held. The Estonian national football team has also played here.
The Rannaniidu hiking trail and urban cows
The picturesque Rannaniidu hiking trail is located on the left-side end of Pärnu beach. It is a 600-metre circular hiking trail built literally over the swampy coastal meadow. In the middle of the trail, there is an observation tower with a great view on Pärnu Bay and the coastal meadow area. The coastal meadows also serve as a pasture for the Pärnu urban cows, who have turned into a kind of a sight themselves. Namely, every spring, cows are brought to the coastal meadows to help maintain the landscape here. The urban cow project has won the main prize in the category of the protection and development of the cultural landscape in Europe.