Top Historic Sights in Tartu, Estonia

Explore the historic highlights of Tartu

Tartu University

The University of Tartu was established by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1632, thus being one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. Over the centuries it has been closed down, moved to Tallinn and re-opened by Baltic Germans. After Estonia became independent in 1918, the University of Tartu has been an Estonian-language institution since 1919. The main building of Tartu University is one of the most outsta ...
Founded: 1632 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Uspensky Orthodox Church

Uspensky Church, which forms a uniform complex with a long priest house on the northern side, was built in 1783 and belongs to the early classical period. Uspensky Church is located in the same place as the St. Mary- Magdalena's Church of a Dominican monastery founded before 1300. The details of the building are typical of Russian early classicism. The interior of the church is relatively modest in terms of architecture. ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Tartu Cathedral

Tartu Cathedral (Estonian Tartu toomkirik) is one of the landmarks of the city of Tartu. The building is now an imposing ruin overlooking the lower town. In the small part of it that has been renovated is now located the museum of the University of Tartu, which the university also uses for major receptions. The hill on which the cathedral later stood (Toomemägi or "cathedral hill") was one of the largest strongholds of ...
Founded: 1250-1300 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

St John's Church

St. John's Church was probably built in the first third of the 14th century as a three-nave basilica. The church was damaged in the Russian- Livonian War in the 16th century; lightning has set its spire on fire several times. Some parts of the church were destroyed in the Great Nordic War in 1708. In the end of 19th century external walls of St. John's Church were cleaned of limewash, the original shape of the ch ...
Founded: 1300-1330 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Püssirohukelder

In 1763 Russian Empress Catherine II ordered to fortify Tartu again. It was decided to build a gunpowder magazine (Püssirohukelder) in the former city moat. The responsibility of the building was assigned to Field-Marshal General de Villebois. His engineers started to build magazine in 1768. The bricks are brought from the old Mary Church (about where the University Main Building is now) and the ruins of the bishop s ...
Founded: 1768-1778 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Angel's Bridge

The Angel’s Bridge, located on Toome hill, was built in the 19th century and spans Lossi Street. The writing on the bridge, “otium reficit vires“ (rest restores strength), invites one to use Toome hill as a place of rejuvenation. The bridge, designed by J.W. Krause, was built in 1814-1816 and replaced an earlier temporary bridge. The bridge was thoroughly renovated in 1913, at which time a bust-portrait ...
Founded: 1814-1816 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

The Church of Virgin Mary

A beautifully proportioned neo-Historical red- brick Roman Catholic church (architect Wilhelm Scilling) was completed in 1899 and consecrated as Sinless Virgin Mary's Secret of Faith Church. The main altar was placed in the church 1904. Altar painting "Virgin Mary with Jesus" was painted by Ernst Friedrich von Liphardt. In 1934, a new modern organ was installed. In 1935, a large crucifix carved of linden was placed a ...
Founded: 1899 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Tartu City Museum

The Tartu City Museum was established in 1955 for collecting, studying and displaying the objects connected with town history as well as other sources. The permanent exhibition “Dorpat. Yuryev. Tartu”, staged at the Tartu City Museum in 2001, is a museological interpretation of the history of Tartu. Also the exhibition of Tartu peace treaty of 1920 is updated to be a permanent. The museum building itself is a Classic ...
Founded: 1790 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

A. Le Coq Beer Museum

Tartu is the birthplace of Estonian beer industry and has been a beer town for nearly a thousand years. In order to perpetuate the history of industrial brewing, the Beer Museum was opened on July 1, 2003. The Beer Museum is located on the territory of A. Le Coq in a malt tower, built in 1898. The museum is located on six floors and the total number of exhibits amounts to approximately 2000. The exhibition explains brewin ...
Founded: 2003 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

St. Peter's Church

St.Peter's congregation of Tartu was established on 27 October 1869 and the St. Peter's Church was consecrated in 1884. This pseudogothic imposing building was built pursuant to a design by E. Schröder. The location was symbolic of the time of the Estonian awakening: in the proximity of the square where the first general Estonian song festival took place. The church was finally completed in 1903, when the fre ...
Founded: 1884 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

KGB Cells Museum

During the 47 years of Soviet occupation in Estonia approximately 122,000 people fell victims to different repressions from the security organs and more than 30,000 of them lost their life. The South Centre of Soviet security service NKVD and later KGB was located in Tartu, in the so-called gray house. The dungeon was located in the basement and cells have been restored to the original appearance as part of the museum's ...
Founded: 2001 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Raadi Cemetery

The Raadi cemetery is the oldest and largest burial ground in Tartu, dating back to 1773. Many prominent historical figures are buried there. It is also the largest Baltic German cemetery in Estonia after the destruction of Kopli cemetery in Tallinn. Until 1841, it was the only cemetery in the town. Between 1771 and 1772, Catherine the Great, Russian empress issued an edict which decreed that from that point on no-one wh ...
Founded: 1773 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

St. Alexander's Orthodox Church

A two-storey Orthodox church was built between 1914-1917. It is designed by the architect V. Lunski. Cupolas are inspired by the Old Russian church architecture. The church was reconsecrated in summer 2003. Reference: Visit Tartu
Founded: 1914-1917 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Kärkna Abbey Ruins

Kärkna Abbey, now ruined, was a former Cistercian monastery in Estonia. The monastery was founded before 1233 by the Bishop of Dorpat, Hermann von Buxhoeveden, and settled by monks from Pforta Abbey, of the filiation of Morimond. An early destruction by heathen inhabitants of the district is mentioned in 1234. After attacks by Russian forces from the principality of Vladim ...
Founded: early 1200s | Location: Tartu, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.