A guide to Estonia's summertime capital

Source: Visit Pärnu

A guide to Estonia's summertime capital

Summertime in Pärnu is a pure pleasure: water sports; a long, sandy beach; top-notch restaurants; waterfront bars and cafes; and last but not least, tons of spa facilities for rest and relaxation. Spend a whole week or stop by for the weekend — this popular seaside resort town has everything you need to make the most of your summer holidays.

New restaurants and bars have sprung up like mushrooms in the post-pandemic period. Yet Pärnu still has the traditional spa resort vibe that made it famous in the first place. Pärnu's venerable history goes back even further than the wellness spas; it was one of the four Estonian towns that were once part of the medieval Hanseatic trading route.

Pärnu's number one attraction

Spacious and sandy, there's room for everyone!

Photo by: Reimo Ruubel

How to relax

Pärnu is a veritable spa paradise with a record number of spas per capita. Its spa history goes back more than 175 years with the opening of the first bathing facilities in 1838. Local hotels today have continued this tradition, offering a spa experience with a flair of the past combined with modern comfort. Eight large and a number of smaller hotels feature wellness treatments, steam baths, and special sauna offers. Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting the right package to pamper themselves. Plus there's plenty for even the youngest members of the family, as several hotels have family pools with fun kids pools and activities.

How to stay active

Of course, in the summer months, the main attraction of Pärnu is the large beach. It's a fifteen-minute walk from the city center, making most accommodation options within an easy stroll of the beach. Young and old alike can enjoy the sunshine by sunbathing, swimming, or paddling around on a SUP board. The picturesque promenade makes for a relaxing evening stroll, and when you need a break, put up your feet at one of the nearby cafes.

Pärnu's coastal boardwalk

If you're lucky, you just might see the beach cows!

Photo by: Eiliki Pukk

Thanks to its many parks and hiking trails, Pärnu is considered one of the greenest cities in Estonia. Long walks in the city and bike tours through the surrounding countryside allow visitors to disconnect and immerse themselves in nature. Even on the beach, a boardwalk meanders through a protected coastal meadow, ending with a climb up a wooden observation tower for a birds-eye view of the Baltic.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find a plethora of sporting opportunities: surfing, sailing, swimming, and beach volleyball. However, the activities are not limited to the beach: cyclists, golfers, paintball, and disc golf players can also find ways to let off steam.

The historic Villa Ammende

Enjoy a fancy afternoon tea or a gourmet dinner.

Photo by: Villa Ammende

Where to eat

Pärnu is full of cozy cafes and classy restaurants. Choose from elegant meals in old mansions or have a quick meal at a breezy beach cafe. Ambitious Estonian chefs open up new establishments every season, giving visitors a reason to come back year after year. Pärnu's restaurants — like many around Estonia — attach great importance to fresh, regional ingredients, focusing on sourcing food from nearby farms, when possible.

Summer sunset-seekers will love the ambiance: many of the restaurants, bars, and cafes have terraces looking out over the sea. Whether for lunch, dinner, snacks, or sundowners, visitors can take in a magnificent view.

What to do

There is always something going on in Pärnu. The summertime events calendar is packed, of course, but there's usually something going on throughout the year. 

During Grillfest, for example, more than 300 restaurateurs hailing from all over Estonia flock to the city to offer guests delicious grilled dishes. During the Hanseatic Days, the town turns into a medieval trades fair, and local and international craftsmen show off their work and wares.

August Insomnia is a major arts festival attracting a lot of local interest. August is also the month for electronic music as fans come for the Sonic Boom Festival. Temporary art exhibitions and gallery openings are also organized in various spaces during the summer months.

But there is still a lot going on here well into autumn, including October's traditional beach race and restaurant week in November.

How to get there

Pärnu is a two hour drive from Tallinn. If you'd rather go by bus, there are frequent connections from Tallinn's central bus station. Visitors coming from Helsinki can also enjoy direct seasonal flights, making it a convenient way to add some beach time to your Scandinavian holiday.

Last updated : 19.05.2023

In category: West Estonia, Activities & Adventure, Health & Wellness