Tartu smart city

Source: Mana Kaasik

Tartu smart city

In a situation where many cities are competing with each other in the realm of technology to become “smart”, Tartu has always set its focus towards people. A clean environment and maintaining green city living have been Tartu’s focus for decades. Tartu has always tried to make environmentally conscious decisions regarding its environment, industry, infrastructure and the health of its citizens.

Various public space projects, which support a sustainable healthy lifestyle, have been carried out in Tartu over the recent years in order to improve the urban living environment of all citizens, reduce the carbon footprint of road users and increase the connection between the locals and their surroundings (see also a virtual tour).

Photo by: Eva Maria Tartu

While creating the best city for its citizens to live in, Tartu is also creating the best city for its guests to stay in. Tartu's aim is to become better each day, while always remaining true to itself.

Tartu is European Capital of Culture in 2024

In summer 2019, Tartu was confirmed as the European Capital of Culture 2024The leading theme of Tartu 2024, the European Capital of Culture is “Arts of Survival” which is meant to express the power of the arts in affecting Europe’s future in three larger areas of life: environmentally friendly culture with a focus on real human communication, strong communities and essential skills for living and, indeed, survival in the coming years.

One of the remarkable projects among others in Tartu 2024 programme is Curated Biodiversity that  promotes Tartu's environment by raising biodiversity in parks and green spaces and providing more activities in them for different generations.  The project searches for a solution for Tartu's and other European cities' environmental problems. Nowadays urban nature is kept in an overtly groomed state, due to set old mentalities and legal regulations. As a result of simplified design schemes, optimised species selection and extensive mowing, our green areas are missing much needed diversity.

Maintaining and restoring biodiversity is an important aspect in humanity's survival strategy. It is especially important in cities, where it can lessen the effects of climate change, limit the loss of natural biodiversity and make the environment more enjoyable for both citizens and visitors.


Experience the Alternative Tartu

Tartu is full of friendly and vibrant people who care about their environment. A green holiday in Tartu means a great combination of cultural heritage, local architecture, visit to one of the many festivals and lots of nature in the heart of the city. 

Tartu Town Piano

Tartu town day 2020

Photo: Uku Peterson


Getting around

Tartu is rather compact in terms of urban space, which makes it a great place for walking and cycling. On your green holiday in Tartu it is easy to use environmentally friendly transport like Tartu Smart Bike Share or public biogas buses to explore the city. Tartu Smart Bike Share has 69 stations all over the city and 750 bicycles, of which around 500 are electric and city buses in Tartu are running on Estonian green gas. It is also possible to combine your travel with Smart Bike Share and biogas buses, as both ticketing systems use the same card.


Cultural heritage

Tartu is known as the cultural centre of Estonia. Many historically and culturally important landmarks and events have been, and continue to be, created and initiated in Tartu. For example, the first university – the University of Tartu – was founded here in 1632 (currently among the top 3% in the world), the national theatre was created in Tartu in 1870, the first song festival took place in Tartu (1869) and Tartu is also home to the Estonian National Museum – the very centre of national heritage.


Diverse architecture

Tartu is very diverse in terms of its architecture and the character of each of its city district, for example the historic and majestic old town, Annelinn that mainly consists of 5-and 9-storey Soviet-era apartment buildings, as well as the bohemian wooden districts Karlova and Supilinn (Soup Town). The last two are especially interesting to visit as the exciting history, eye-catching architecture and colourful street art of the neighbourhoods meet – it truly is a "little wooden city", known for its old wooden houses and a bit of an eccentric atmosphere.


Colourful street art

There are not very many cities in Europe where street art is created in cooperation with city authorities, however, in Tartu it is – the city is like a canvas where different stories can be told via street art. Many neighbourhoods boast various colourful and fantasy-filled street art works. Within the framework of the SmartEnCity project, the apartment buildings built in the 1960s were turned into energy-efficient and environmentally friendly apartment buildings – 'Smartovkas'. In addition to the renovation, the buildings were given a visually attractive appearance in order to create a unique art-based urban space in the centre of Tartu, making the living environment happier and livelier. During the 'Smartovkas and murals' discovery tour one can admire a variety of house-sized works of art, or murals.


Community festivals

Community festivals take place in various districts of the city, representing the life, developments and arts specific to that area and its inhabitants. In addition to the community festivals, the communal gardens and the old wooden districts of Supilinn (Soup Town) and Karlova, and the newer Aparaaditehas (the Widget Factory) area are excellent representations of the cultural heritage, architecture and artistic co-creation of Tartu, offering a specific alternative vibe and special milieu, which can only be enjoyed in Tartu.

Photo by: Manus Kuullamaa


Cultural hotspot

Many creative entrepreneurs, artists, designers, and the factory cat Johannes Gutenberg have found their home in an old factory building Aparaaditehas (the Widget Factory). Its industrial interiors and hipster vibes bring together design and art shops, a unique and cozy bookshop, cool restaurants, galleries and several event venues. For example, there is a community repair space called Paranduskelder (direct translation would be “Repair Basement”) that values recycling and environmentally friendly practices, offering workshops and trainings as well as organising events where people can repair any and every item they need, whether it is a suitcase or a computer mouse. The neighbouring building houses TYPA Printing and Paper Arts Centre, which received the Ilucidare prize for excellence in Heritage-led Innovation in November 2020. Here, you can see how paper is made, admire paper sculptures, historical printing presses, wooden and lead typefaces, as well as a variety of thematic and temporary exhibitions.

Last updated : 22.05.2022

In category: For the green traveler, South Estonia