Rutronik News

City of good ideas

  Newsletter Article

With a population of around 98,000, Tartu is the second-largest city in Estonia. The city was first mentioned in documents in 1030, when Grand Prince Yaroslov the Wise of Kiev destroyed a wooden fortress built by the inhabitants and had a fortress called Yuryev built in its place.

This first fortress is commemorated to this day by Toome Hill, where the first settlers built the fortifications. Toomemäe Park is located here today, with the Angel's Bridge and Devil's Bridge. Legend has it that wishes people make while crossing the Angel's Bridge for the first time come true.

The city's name is derived from the Old Estonian language, in which Tartu probably meant "Aurochs." Today, Tartu is primarily known for its university and is consequently seen as a typical student town.

Tartu became a Hanseatic city in the 13th century and represented the link between the Hanseatic cities and the Russian cities of Pskov and Novgorod. The city became part of the Russian Empire in 1721 and was renamed Yuryev in 1893 as part of the Russification process. However, the name didn't even catch on in Russia and the city reverted to its original name of Tartu following the independence of Estonia in 1918.

On account of its traditional university, which was founded in 1632 by the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus and remains Estonia's only classical university, the city calls itself the "City of Good Ideas." The university became an intermediary between Russian and German culture and a hub of East-West relations - at the same time, however, it also became a breeding ground for Estonian and Latvian nationalism. The national colors of Estonia can be traced back to the Estonian Students' Society.

The key role played by the university and its students is also evident in one of the city's most important landmarks. In the middle of Raekoja plats (or Town Hall Square) in the city center stands the "Kissing Students Fountain," which has been visited by newlyweds since 1948 and is thought to bring good luck. Concerts, markets, and festivals are also held in the square throughout the year, making it one of the city's main focal points. The Town Hall, which is located at one end of the square, is considered to be of architectural value and was redesigned and completed in 1789 by Rostock's master mason Johann Heinrich Bartholomäus Walther following the Great Fire of 1775, when almost the entire city center burned down.

Further evidence of the deep bond between the city and its students can be found in the Supilinn district, also known as "Soup Town." It is made up of old wooden houses and the streets are named after ingredients - which means that you can wander from Pea Street to Potato Street while admiring the houses built before the Second World War. The houses were originally built for poor students, but the old homes are gradually being replaced by modern apartment buildings.

The rich street art culture in Tartu is also inspired by students. From large murals on the sides of buildings and museums to small portraits in the windows of old buildings, there is plenty to discover. The most remarkable piece of street art is a contemporary portrayal of street life in the 19th century outside the university. Graffiti fans have even produced a street art map that shows the most interesting street art paintings.

Although Estonia is one of the countries with the lowest percentage of believers, there are still some architecturally impressive churches in Tartu, such as the Lutheran Saint John's Church in the city center. Besides being one of the city's oldest landmarks, its brickwork makes it a real eye-catcher. Even though the church was badly damaged in the Second World War, parts of the original structure from the 14th century have been preserved.

As you can see, the student town of Tartu has quite a lot to offer. We have put together a list of the places you should definitely check out in addition to those already mentioned.

Restaurant: Püssirohu Kelder (
The menu at the Püssirohu Kelder (Gunpowder Cellar) is as unique as the building itself. The dishes, such as solyanka served in a bread bowl, have a long tradition, as does the house beer, which is brewed on the premises. The restaurant is located at the foot of Toomemägi Hill behind Tartu Town Hall.

Restaurant: Meat Market (
The name says it all: Meat lovers will find every possible variation of their favorite main meal at Meat Market - from steaks and schnitzels to burgers made using meat from a wide range of animals, everything that sets the pulses of genuine meat eaters racing is here. There is also a wide selection of cocktails.

Restaurant: Werner (
Ever since it opened in 1895, the Restaurant and Café Werner has been a meeting place for writers, poets, actors, musicians, and artists. Besides stocking a wide selection of coffee and cake, the restaurant serves numerous main dishes, including home-made bread, fish fillet burgers, and various pasta creations.

Bar: Vein ja Wine (
Vein ja Wine is a mecca for wine connoisseurs. The wine store stocks an extensive selection of local white, rosé and red wines. The rustic setting - a combination of brick walls, exposed metal pipes, and retro furnishings - creates a uniquely cozy atmosphere.

Bar: Väike Kuuba (
A touch of Cuba in Tartu: Väike Kuuba is located right on the banks of the Emajõgi, which flows through the center of the city. Thanks to a comprehensive selection of drinks - including Cuba libre, of course - and numerous events, Väike Kuuba is the perfect place to relax with a cool drink in the summer after a hard day at work.

Hotel: vHotell (
The four-star vHotell is located in the heart of the city center. Besides a sauna, pool, and a shopping center on the lower ground floor, there are also various restaurants and cafés - all under one roof. The vHotell is also situated close to public transport links.

Hot spot: Tartuff Love Film Festival (
Every August, the city of Tartu is dedicated to all things associated with love: The "Tartuff" Outdoor Film Festival is one of Estonia's most popular summer festivals and has the biggest open-air movie theatre in the Baltic region. Numerous films from a wide range of genres are shown at "Tartuff" and they are all about the most important thing in the world: love.

Hot spot: Toomemägi Tartu (
As already mentioned above, Toome Hill, the site of Tartu's first fortress, is situated in Toomemägi Park. The vast grounds have attracted the locals for centuries and the park has existed in its current form since the 19th century. It is the ideal place to enjoy nature, relax, and let the mind wander.