Your quick guide to Estonian culture

Source: Visit Estonia

Your quick guide to Estonian culture

Estonia is more than endless forests, high-tech digital solutions, new-Nordic cuisine and medieval architecture. This Northern country is also a versatile and interesting culture destination, and home to Tartu, the European Capital of Culture in 2024. Thanks to its compact size, even a long weekend trip to Estonia gifts the traveller with many opportunities to attend festivals and exhibitions in different parts of the country. And still have time to enjoy everything in between.

Estonian culture at a glance

Estonia's cultural heritage is rich in folk song and dance, colourful handicrafts, wooden saunas and rustic food. However, it is music that has always played a highly important role in the cultural identity of Estonians. Estonia stands out from its neighbouring countries with its unconventional classical music and passionate love affair with singing.

Seto people singing

Photo by: Visit Estonia

The nation that sang its way to freedom

Estonians are often called the Singing Nation. After all, it makes sense: the national identity was born hand in hand with the recognition of the region's folk music when local songs got recorded and the first Song Celebrations organised in the 19th century. The meaning of a Singing Nation gained a new layer during the Singing Revolution of the 1980s when masses of people gathered at the Song Festival Ground in Tallinn to demand the restoration of national independence through singing patriotic songs. Without music, Estonia as we know it probably would not exist.

Choral music as a gateway to magic

As a country that has one of the largest known repertoires of folk songs in the world, Estonia is never short of festivals to choose from. Choral music is deeply intertwined with Estonian culture and history. The ultimate place to hear Estonian folk choirs is the Song and Dance Celebration. As a festival included in the list of UNESCO’s Masterpieces, it is the largest national festival in Estonia, drawing crowds of over 100,000 people. It’s held every five years with the next festival taking place in 2024. You can see how to enjoy choral music the #EstonianWay;

Classical music festivals that stand out

The classical music scene in Estonia is alive and thriving, with festivals and event series taking place all year round everywhere in Estonia, be they at concert or opera halls, open-air courtyards or even in wild nature. Every music lover should definitely check out the The Estonian Music Days festival, held since 1979. The festival has been one of the most important festivals focusing on the work of Estonian composers for 40 years. Concerts take place in Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa and in different places in Tallinn and Tartu.

Photo by: Kaupo Kikkas, Visit Estonia

The most highly anticipated festivals include:

  • Estonian Music Days - you can hear the latest creations of Estonian composers, the programme includes musicians of various genres and combines different art forms. The festival balances the domestic with the foreign and the programme includes more and more music that encompass different genres and styles.
  • Birgitta Festival - operas and ballets, oratorios and galas, acknowledged coryphaeus and crazy experiments, guest performances and self-productions, classical and modern music – Brigitta Festival brings all of these together.
  • Pärnu Music Festival – happening in July 2021, this week-long festival takes place in various locations throughout the famous seaside town.
  • Arvo Pärt Days – a festival celebrating the works of the most performed living composer whose journey to an international claim started from Estonia.
  • Saaremaa Opera Days – one of the most popular opera festivals in the Baltics that takes place every summer in the historical courtyard of Kuressaare castle.
  • Haapsalu Tchaikovsky Festival– now in its fifth year, the 4-day festival brings together ballet, classical music and theatre in the romantic atmosphere of the resort town.

Arvo Pärt centre

Photo by:  Tõnu Tunnel Visit Estonia

                      We hope you will find your personal melody to sing to in Estonia!

Last updated : 05.04.2023

In category: History & culture