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.
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 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.