Located partway between Tartu and Pärnu, Viljandi is a lakeside town in southern Estonia. It was once a member of the Hanseatic League and was the birthplace of “Sakala”, a political Estonian newspaper established by prominent nationalist figure, Carl Robert Jakobson.
Things to do in Viljandi
Learn about the people, events and industries that have shaped the town at the Viljandi Museum, which occupies a former pharmacy adjacent to the Old Water Tower. Set across two floors, it showcases archaeological findings from the region and a model of the 13th-century Viljandi Order Castle, as well as folk costumes and a recreated threshing room.
One of Viljandi’s most impressive architectural landmarks is St. John’s Church, which was constructed in the 17th century on the ruins of a Franciscan abbey. It was destroyed several times before being turned into a warehouse following World War II and is now used as a concert venue. The interior features an Aivar Oja-designed communion table and stained-glass windows by Renee Aua, as well as wall carpets by local textile artist Anu Raud.
Stretching along the southern edge of town is Lake Viljandi, which is associated with a local legend about a daydreaming boatman. Follow the hiking trail that hugs its shores and leads to an observation platform offering magnificent views across the town. Lake Viljandi is well-stocked with bream, perch and pike and provides a backdrop for cross-country runners during the annual Grand Race.
Getting around Viljandi
Viljandi is around one hour’s drive from Tartu and two hours from Tallinn. Tallinn Airport is just under two hours away and has flights to destinations across Europe. Regular trains connect to the Viljandi railway station and buses travel throughout the town. The centre of Viljandi is small enough to explore on foot.