Kuressaare is a well-known resort town in Northern Europe since 19 th century. This pleasantly sleepy town breathes to its own rhythm. In Kuressaare you feel like being in a different era, far from daily hustle and bustle. It is a great place to reinvigorate your body and soul. Visitors can relax and explore local culture, admire art in different galleries, walk in the historical episcopal castle or ride a bike around the town. Surely, it will make you fall in love with it. We visited the town just after this Covid 19 pandemic. We stayed there one week and explored the whole island of Saaremaa. If you want to explore only Kuressaare a weekend is enough. This visit worked as medicine for us, made us feel relaxed. Here are 10 things to do in Kuressaare, Saaremaa from my choice which will surely help you to explore the town.
This western most town in Estonia is located on the southern coast of Saaremaa island, facing the Gulf of Riga of the Baltic Sea.
The first documentation of Kuressaare episcopal (bishop’s) castle was found in Latin texts written in 1381. Over time, the town developed and flourished around the fortress. The town’s name was first mentioned in 1424. Merchants in mainland cities and other people who fled from the Livonian War to Kuressaare played a leading role in development of the town. It became official in 1918 after Estonia declared its independence from Bolshevist Russia. The town was simultaneously known as Arensburg and Kuressaarelinn.Llinn, which means town was removed later and the name shortened to Kuressaare. Though under the Soviet rule, the town was renamed Kingissepa in 1952, the name Kuressaare was restored in 1990.
A short video on Kuressaare:
Things to do in Kuressaare:
1. Walk through the town
Kuressaare is really cute picturesque town, decorated with flower. Stroll through Old town, exploring its charm, beauty and 14th century old buildings. Start your walk from Kesklinn bus stop to town square along Talinna street then walk along Lossi street from town square to Kuressaare Castle.
Right after the starting point you will find Kuressaare Laurentius (St. Laurence) Church on your right side. The Church has one-naved classicistic Kuressaare type building, established in 17th century. It is an important dominance of Kuressaare. After the Church you will find two buildings dating from the period of Swedish rule – the Town Hall and the Public Weighhouse.
The Town Hall, built in 1670, is an important building in Kuressaare. On the first floor there are town hall gallery and tourist information office. On the second floor it houses Kuressaare City Council. The ceiling of the second floor has the biggest ceiling painting of Estonia. An eye-catching former fire station is located just beside the Town Hall. It is now transformed to a cosy pub- Pritsumaja Grill & Bar.
The Weighhouse which was built in 1666, is located at the central square, just opposite to the Town Hall. This is the only building of that type having survived in Estonia. Now-a-days there is a bar Vaekoja in the Weighhouse.
The town square is one of the most happening and lively area of the town. Just sit and enjoy the environment with dancing fountain.
If you walk along the main street from the square towards castle you will find Amandus Adamson sculptor which is situated in the triangular square at the corner of Lossi and Kauba streets.
Next you will find the orthodox St. Nicholas church, another one of the oldest building of Saaremaa.
You can visit Thule Home Museum of Alternative History. Its about 200m from the town square. There are sculptures of mythic creatures from mostly northern folklore. The exhibitions and shows of the museum tell about the role of the island in world history. It is recommended for families with kid.
2. Explore the castle
The most popular tourist attractions in Kuressaare is the Episcopal (bishop’s) Castle. This one has survived best among medieval castles in the Baltic countries. This fortified castle was built of chiselled dolomite stone blocks in the late 14th century and surrounded by moat.
There are two towers in the Castle – The Watch Tower and the Defense Tower. The watch tower is the oldest and the best preserved part of the castle. The defense tower has suffered most and has been rebuilt considerably. It preserved Neogothic paintings on the plastered walls, a fireplace made of glazed tiles and dolomite, a staircase and a gallery made of oak tree.
3. Visit Saaremaa Museum
Saaremaa museum, situated in the castle was founded in 1865. It is one of the oldest and biggest museums in Estonia. It holds large permanent exhibitions-
- The nature of Saaremaa (in three halls)
- The early history of the island (in three halls) and
- Contemporary History of island (in seven halls).
In summer you can look at historic ashlers in the cellar and buy pieces of Estonian art and handicraft or enjoy the concerts of “Castle Summer Music”. The episcopal castle also hosts numerous temporary exhibitions, concerts, plays, stylized bishop’s dinners and other events.
Opening hours- Tue to sun 11-18 (last ticket 17.30)
Ticket: adult 8euro, Family 20euro (in 2020)
4. Visit Spa
Saaremaa is a paradise for spa lovers. It is often reffered as spaaremaa because of its wonderful Spas. Kuressaare is known as the world’s most spa-dense town. With one spa location for every ten inhabitants, it has the highest number of spas per capita in the world. The services include relaxing spa as well as medical spa. Even if you’re not staying in Spa hotels you can book any spa treatments or can buy a day ticket in most of the spa hotels.
Most famous Spa hotels in the town are :
The Grand Rose Spa Hotel – Its spa and sauna center is equipped with swimming pools, saunas, treatment rooms and a spa. There are 7 stylish design saunas, including Saaremaa Juniper, Kasesauna, aroma sauna and salt sauna.
The Spa Hotel Rüütli – Most rooms of this hotel have a magnificent view towards the neighbouring castle or the city park of Kuressaare. You can enjoy different kind of spa treatments, pool and sauna. Only spa booking is possible from reception.
Johan Spa Hotel is the newest SPA hotel in Kuressaare, which has won the hearts of many guests with its exceptional architecture, coziness, naturalness, friendly service and privacy.
Arensburg Spa hotel offers a hot tub, large jacuzzi, sanarium and Finnish steam sauna. Saunas are free for hotel guests.
5. Walk along the Waterfront and Kuressaare Beach
The Kuressaare beach is one of the warmest sandy beaches in Estonia. Low water level of the bay makes the beach perfect for families with small children. There are children’s playground, toilets and changing cabins beside the beach. The official beach season is from June-August.
Start a walk from the beach along the waterfront. It provides a wonderful view of the harbour.
On the other side of waterfront there is a famous sculpture- Sur Toll and Piret in front of the Spa Hotel Meri, near harbour. The sculpture depicts Suur Toll (the Great Toll), a mythical hero of the island Saaremaa, and his wife Piret, carrying a boat laden with fish on their shoulders.
6. Visit Lossipark - The City Park
Lossipark aka the city park was set up in 1861 on the open area around the castle. It is a nice place to visit with kids during summer. The nearby cafe offers necessary refreshments. The park has about 80 species of trees (grey walnut, silver poplar, common maple, big leaf common beech, etc.
The restored Resort Club (Kurhouse) and the bandstand were opened in 1988 inside the park. An interesting fact is that the park was originally a cemetery.
7. Dine at Saaremaa Veski or Windmill
Wanna dine inside a 19th-century windmill? Yes!! It is possible in Kuressaare. Saaremaa Veski is the oldest working restaurant in Kuressaare situated in a unique windmill. The ambience and relaxing atmosphere of the restaurant is really a big plus. The menu includes game meat, wild boar hotpot, smoked fish and legendary cheese balls. Both quality and quantity of food is very good. Don’t forget to try house beers as it has one of the best selections of local beers in Kuressaare! There are garden, a terrace, a balcony and a playhouse for children. You have option to dine at outdoor terrace.
The windmill was built in 1899 and used until the beginning of World War II. Initially it was known as the Trei windmill, after the name of its builder-owner. The restoration of the windmill began in 1972 and it was reopened as a coffeehouse in 1974. The 17m high (24m with wings) windmill is acknowledged an architectural monument of national importance.
8. Ride quadricycle/ tricycle /bicycle
Rent a cycle and explore the town. In summer you will find temporary stall of 2 – 4 seater tricycle/quadricycle for renting on western part of the castle – in front of Spa Hotel Rüütli. The location is marked as Kuressaare sadamasillad on google map
If you are a bike-enthusiast then Kuuresaare is a great place to ride as there are about 20 km of biking trails in and around the town. For bike rental check www.bivarix.ee . Many accommodation facilities rent bicycles onsite.
9. Taste fish at Ku Kuu restaurant in The Resort Club
Occupying the elegant 1889 Spa Hall in the Resort Club, Ku Kuu restaurant is Saaremaa’s loveliest dining room. Ku Kuu is short for Kuressaare Kuursaal which means a hall at a seaside resort. The restaurant is situated in the town park just beside the castle. Restaurant Ku-Kuu is known for its wide selection of the region’s best fresh fish and delicious cakes. Day’s catch is usually the best choice which is priced by weight.
10. Visit Kudjape cemetery
Kudjape cemetery, situated on the border of Kuressaare city, is 3 km from the town center. The cemetery was founded in 1780 with classicist style chapels . The old part of it is under heritage protection as architectural memory. The Cemetery itself is like a museum of sculpture and blacksmithing.
Among the numerous and often very artistic wrought iron crosses and fences, the work of local blacksmiths H. Lütchen, E. Jacobson, M. Taev and O. Sepa stands out.
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What a scenic and historic place! Thanks for sharing these tips and captivating photos.