For those wanting to get off the beaten path in Estonia or simply looking for an alternative beach holiday destination, consider making your way to the lovely city of Parnu in the south of Estonia. As one of the premier seaside destinations in the country, there are a number of things to do in Parnu that make it worthwhile to visit in its own right, along with boasting a beautiful white sand beach that is perfect for whiling away a lazy day.
Though sunshine and sand may not be the first things that come to mind when thinking of Estonia, the endless hours of daylight in the summer make this Baltic country an extremely attractive seaside holiday destination.
And if you can’t make it to one of the many islands (such as Saaremaa) or to a smaller town like Haapsalu, then Parnu can be a great choice for those wanting to see another side of this lovely nation.
So if you’re wondering if you should visit this charming coastal city and looking for things to do in Parnu, this guide should help you plan the perfect trip!
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Getting To & Around Parnu
Parnu is located on the southern coast of Estonia on the Gulf of Riga and, geographically, it is located about equidistant between Tallinn and the Latvian capital of Riga. Because of this, Parnu makes for a very logical stop if you’re travelling between the two cities.
One of the best ways to get around the Baltics is by car, and you can reach Parnu from Tallinn in about two hours and from Riga to Parnu in about 2.5 hours while driving. There are also plenty of buses from both cities that have around the same journey time.
Once you’re in Parnu, it’s relatively easy to get around the city centre and the beach area on foot. The city is flat (like most of Estonia) and there are plenty of walking paths and wide sidewalks. If you only plan to spend your time in Parnu itself and don’t care to explore the surrounding area or head out to Soomaa National Park, then having your own car won’t be necessary.
However, if you want increased flexibility, want to explore some of the surrounding area or simply don’t want to be beholden to bus timetables, then having a car can be a great idea in Parnu.
If you do want to hire a car, consider looking at RentalCars.com in order to compare prices across a number of different companies.
Best Things To Do In Parnu
Though it’s perfectly acceptable to spend your time in this Estonian city simply soaking up the sun and enjoying the beautiful beach, there are a number of things to do in Parnu to keep you occupied should you also want to explore.
Lounge on Parnu Beach
Obviously, the main draw of this city is its expansive stretch of white sand and spending time at the beach is absolutely one of the best things to do in Parnu.
Though the Baltics are not a region that may typically spring to mind when picturing a beach holiday destination, these are some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and locals have been flocking here for ages.
Parnu beach stretches for nearly two kilometres and boasts incredibly fine white sand. The water is quite shallow, so you do have to wade out for several hundred metres before you would be fully submerged, however, the shallow waters do make it a great place for children to play and splash around.
There are lifeguards on duty at the beach from 1 June to 31 August each year and there is also an opportunity to hire sun lounges should you like.
The beach is also located only about a fifteen-minute walk from the city centre, so you are never too far from the coast no matter where you base yourself in this city.
Wander out to the Parnu Muul
Another attraction in Parnu that draws visitors is the Parnu Muul.
Referred to in English as the Mole of Parnu, this is a breakwater that lies at the entrance of the harbour and juts out from the mainland for over 2 kilometres. The muul was built in the middle of the 19th Century and has been there ever since.
If you want to visit the muul, there is a boardwalk that will lead you from the park to the entrance of the muul, however, at the time when we visited in July of 2022, a good portion of the boardwalk was under construction.
It’s worth noting that the breakwater itself is very rocky, slippery and not particularly safe to walk out on. That being said, there is a local legend that says couples in love must walk hand-in-hand to the end of the muul to solidify their love.
Stroll through Parnu Rannapark
Aside from the beach, one of the most tranquil places to visit in Parnu is undoubtedly its lovely seaside park, known as the Parnu Rannapark.
This expansive green space is located just before you reach the beach and it is the perfect place to catch a bit of shade, get away from the sand and just to relax and stroll through.
There is plenty of grass, lots of leafy green trees and a number of benches where you can sit and watch the world go by. The park also has a number of pathways, so it’s the perfect place for a little bit of a stroll if you’re a bit sick of the beach!
Admire the Mud Baths
Located close to the beach, the Parnu Mud Baths are something to be admired when visiting this coastal Estonian city. This gorgeous neoclassical building is an important symbol of the city of Parnu and exemplifies its importance as a spa destination.
The current building was constructed in 1926 as a replacement for a bathhouse that had burnt down in the First World War. During the Soviet era, it was opened as a sanitorium for working people.
After Estonia’s independence, the building became abandoned and defunct until 2014, when a swish boutique hotel and spa opened up inside.
There is a lot of history to this building and it is really striking. Visiting the mud baths is definitely one of the best things to do in Parnu.
Explore the Pedestrianised Centre
Wandering away from the beach lies Parnu’s centre – a beautiful collection of pedestrianised streets, charming wooden homes and plenty of restaurants, cafés and bars. The centre of Parnu is perfect to explore and there is lots to see and experience here.
It’s also a wonderful place to do a little bit of souvenir shopping, stop somewhere for a quick drink (which is likely going to be a bit less expensive than closer to the beach) or do dine in one of the city’s excellent restaurants (more on that later).
This is the most lively area of Parnu and, though it lies about fifteen minutes walking from the beach, it shouldn’t be ignored on your trip!
Visit the Red Tower
If you’re interested in some of the medieval history of Parnu, then you cannot miss a visit to the Red Tower, which is conveniently located in the city centre.
Part of the original medieval fortress of Parnu, this town was originally constructed to be a prison tower in the 15th Century and is the only defensive tower to have been preserved from the Hanseatic town of New-Parnu.
You can go inside the Red Tower and it is an affiliate of the Parnu Museum. Inside, you can tour the restored floors and also see a film in the panoramic cinema that outlines the history of the medieval old town of Parnu.
Relax in Munamae Park
Though we’ve already spent some time in the Parnu Rannapark (which is the largest park in central Parnu), it isn’t the only park to enjoy.
If you are in the city centre, are craving a bit of green space, and don’t want to walk the fifteen minutes to the seaside, then make sure to head to Munamae Park.
This is a small park in the city centre of Parnu, but it is nonetheless absolutely lovely. In the warmer months, there are beautiful flowers lining the walkways, plenty of shady benches to relax on and an inviting fountain to watch.
So if you are after some tranquillity, make sure to enjoy some time in Munamae Park.
Dine in Parnu’s Excellent Restaurants
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bad meal in the entire country of Estonia, and Parnu is no different. Filled with hip cafés and lovely restaurants, you are sure to find something great to eat in this city no matter what you’re after.
Whether you’re looking for some barbecued meats, Georgian cuisine, a trendy café or modern twists on traditional Estonian fare, you’re sure to find something that will entice your tastebuds in Parnu.
If you’re looking for an excellent place to try some inventive takes on Estonian food, make sure to head to Vehverments – a restaurant that has a number of unique items on its menu. They also have an extensive tap list with local beers and some crafty cocktails to enjoy!
For something else, we can also recommend having a meal at Kohvik Supelsaksad. They have a great menu and, of course, a decent tap list with plenty of Estonian craft beers on offer.
Walk in the Bogs of Soomaa National Park
If you’re spending more than a day in the city, one of the best things to do in Parnu is to visit nearby Soomaa National Park. Located about forty minutes driving inland from Parnu, Soomaa National Park is a world different from the sand and sunshine you’ll find at the coast.
There are a lot of trails and routes you can explore in Soomaa, however, we would highly recommend going on the Riisa trail. The trailhead is located about a forty-minute drive from the centre of Parnu. Similar to trails in Lahemaa National Park near Tallinn or in Kemeri National Park in Latvia, this trail is made up of a boardwalk over bog land.
Entry into the national park is free and there is a small car park at the beginning of the trail. The entire trail is a 5km loop that takes you over the bog – there are also plenty of benches and stop-off points to enjoy the views.
The first kilometre of the trail is also wheelchair accessible and parents with prams can also access it. There is also a viewing tower that is accessible to the first level (to get to the top, you will need to climb some stairs.
Take in the Church of Catharina & St Elizabeth’s Church
Some other points of interest in Parnu are the beautiful churches that make up the city’s skyline. Though Estonia is a very secular and largely agnostic nation, there are some historic places of worship that are interesting to visit in the city.
The first is the Eastern Orthodox Church of Catharina. Though this church is small, it has some characteristics of many orthodox churches that may be of interest to those where it isn’t a common denomination – such as beautiful onion domes and gorgeous Baroque-style architecture.
Another church of interest is St Elizabeth’s Church in the city centre. This Lutheran church’s spire dominates the skyline of Parnu and is known for its beautiful Neo-Gothic style.
Visit the Parnu Museum
Finally, if you’re interested in the history of Parnu or are simply looking for a good activity for a rainy day, then make sure to head to the Parnu Museum.
Located in the city centre, this museum will take you through over 11,000 years of history from Parnu country in a number of different exhibitions.
The Red Tower, mentioned earlier, is also a part of the Parnu Museum as is the Koidula Museum (home to a famous Estonian poet).
You can choose to simply visit the Parnu Museum, or it is possible to purchase a combined ticket that will grant you entry into all three places.
Where to Stay in Parnu
Parnu is a popular seaside destination in Estonia and, therefore, there are quite a lot of accommodation options to choose from in this charming city.
Whether you’re looking for an ultra-budget hostel, and comfortable apartment or a plush, luxury hotel, you’re sure to find something that suits you. If you’re wondering where to stay in Parnu, have a look at these suggestions:
Tulbi Guesthouse – If you’re looking for a centrally-located, cosy mid-range option in Parnu, then this guesthouse is a great choice for you. They have a handful of clean, comfortable and air-conditioned en-suite suite rooms and they serve breakfast daily from the next-door cave. Click here to see their availability
Boutique Hotel Rosenplänter – For those looking for somewhere a little bit fancy to stay in Parnu, then this boutique hotel should be a great option. Located in the city centre within easy walking distance to the beach, they have a range of lovely rooms available, chic decor and rooms have air conditioning. Click here to see their availability
Suur-Sepa Apartement – If you’d like to have your own space when visiting Parnu, then this apartment is a great option. It is centrally located within fifteen minutes walking from the beach, fully furnished with a comfortable double bed, couch and equipped kitchen and perfect for your stay in Estonia’s fourth-largest city! Click here to see their availability
Hostel Louna – For those who are travelling solo or on a tight budget, this hostel is a great option in Parnu. They offer both dorm beds and private rooms, have a great, central location, good common areas and an option to have breakfast. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Parnu hotels!
Though often overlooked by international visitors, there are lots of things to do in Parnu that make it a worthwhile destination in Estonia. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday or want to spend some time in Soomaa National Park, Parnu has something to offer everyone.
Are you wondering what to do in Parnu? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!