Explore the Hanseatic city Tartu

Directly in front of Tartu town hall two young students embrace each other and kiss passionately. This statue in the form of a fountain has stood in town hall square since 1998 and quickly became a focal point of Tartu – the couple symbolize at the same time two important aspects of the town: one in five of the approximately 100.000 citizens studies at one of the 16 university faculties and a third of the population is under 30 years old.

The second largest city of Estonia is known as interlectual capital and the cradle of Estonian culture. King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden founded the first university in 1632. The first Estonian song festival was held here in 1869 and one year later the national theatre was founded. The national museum was opened in Tartu in 1909 – close by is the Student Union whose colours were the model for the blue-black-and-white national flag.

Around 600 A.D., Estonians establish a fort on today`s toome hill – Tarbatu. The conquest of this fortress by the Kiev prince Jaroslaw the Wise in the year 1030 was mentioned in Russian chronicles and is considered as the year of the foundation of the city of Tartu. After the entry to the Hanseatic League around 1280 the city develops to an important trading post along the commercial route to Novgorod. Over the following centuries Tartu falls under Polish, Swedish, German and Russian rule. At the end of the Nordic War in 1721 a longer, unimpaired phase of prosperity begins. The Russian Empress Katharina II. gives the order to rebuild the city in the second half of the 18th century. In 1802 the university is reopened. An observatory of world renown importance, the university clinics, the library and the botanical garden make Tartu at the beginning of the 19th century to an important centre of science of the Russian empire. Apart from the research German student life flourishes by the river Emajõgi and the city recives the nickname “Emajõgi-Athens“. Gradually Tartu becomes the centre of Esonian scientific and social life.

Tartu keeps changing and developing all the time. Today, there is a versatile culture, theatres, cafes, galleries and museums that provide a relaxed atmosphere in the narrow streets of the old town centre. In between the old houses stands the landmark of Tartu:  The gothic St. John’s Church with over 1,000 terracotta figures. The church was reopened in 2005 after a long period of restoration and just in time for the 25th Hanseatic Day celebrations in Tartu. Many festival and sport events are also held in Tartu. The Ski Marathon which belongs to the Worldloppet series is internationally known. Big festivals of theatre, literature, fine arts and music take place annually. Tartu is also famous  for science, as it can boast many scientific achievements and discoveries. World renowned scientists have lived and worked here. Currently in the field of research physicists, local chemists and molecular biologists are ranked at the top. When walking around in Tartu you see and feel its history but you also notice the modern offices and houses made of glass and steel – Tartu is a growing city. Its modern infrastructure and position in the centre of Estonia offer outstanding conditions for business, even more so now as Tartu airport began regular international flights in 2009 which makes it easier  for everyone to reach this amazing city.

Pictures of the Hanseatic City of Tartu


Tartu Linnavalitsus
50089 Tartu