Where to Stay in Tartu [Best Places to Stay for 2024]

Ah the fairy-like kingdom of Estonia… Dripping with 17th century architecture, the city of Tartu looks like a geographical pinpoint of terracotta dots.

Cityscape of Tartu at night. The historical city center and the Emajogi river in the night, Tartu city, Estonia

The city draws on Parisian influence, with canals similar to that of London etching their way through the city like wrinkles on the hands of the elderly. Which is quite apt given Tartu’s historical allure.

To experience the red brick city like a tourist, with family, on a budget, like a local and like a foodie, this is where to stay in Tartu, respectively.

Below are 4 of the best neighbourhoods in Tartu to help you make the right decision when trying to work out best areas to stay in Tartu for you. We have tried to make the guide as easy to follow as possible.

We have also included some things to do or places to visit as well as some eatery suggestions of either our favourite places or some funky places to eat at within the areas in Tartu so you can use this as a go to guide.

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Tartu City Centre – Where to stay in Tartu for tourists

Nestled along the banks of the Emajõgi River, Tartu is the second-largest city in Estonia and is known as the intellectual and cultural capital of the country, making it one of the best places to stay in Tartu.

The history of Tartu dates back over a thousand years. It was first mentioned in written records in 1030 and became a prosperous trading hub during the medieval period.

Tartu University, founded in 1632, played a significant role in the city’s development and became one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe.

If you’re a literature major, you’re probably screaming inside right now. Imagine studying amongst its light academia perfection.

Why Stay in Tartu City Centre?

Tartu City Centre is home to numerous attractions and landmarks, including the Old Town, Town Hall, University of Tartu, and the Estonian National Museum.

By staying in the city center, you’ll have easy access to these cultural and historical sites, allowing you to explore them at your leisure. Who doesn’t love convenience?

The City Centre is home to Tartu’s Old Town, with its well-preserved medieval buildings and cobblestone streets. By staying in this area, you can experience the city’s history and authentic atmosphere.

Tartu City Centre is well-connected to public transportation networks, making it easy to explore other parts of the city. Bus and tram lines pass through the area, allowing you to venture beyond the immediate city center if desired.

Things to do in Tartu City Centre 

  • Start your exploration by wandering through Tartu’s charming Old Town. Discover its medieval architecture, narrow streets, and historic buildings. Visit the Town Hall Square, admire the Gothic-style St. John’s Church, and explore the quaint shops and cafes along the way. It’s a relaxing start to your vacation that will always go down well after traveling.
  • Pay a visit to the prestigious University of Tartu, one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. Explore the university’s main building, known for its grandeur and classical architecture. Don’t miss the historic university library, which houses a vast collection of books and manuscripts. Even if you’re not an avid reader, it’s a mesmerizing place to visit.
  • Offering much more than “fairy cake”, Estonian cuisine is a must try in Tartu City Centre. Sample traditional dishes like mulgikapsad (sauerkraut and pork stew), verivorst (blood sausage), or kama (a popular Estonian dessert). The area offers a variety of dining options to suit different tastes and budgets.
  • Take a walk along the banks of the Emajõgi River, which flows through Tartu. Enjoy the picturesque views, relax in one of the riverside parks, or consider taking a boat ride to experience the city from a different perspective.

Best places to stay in Tartu City Centre

Cheapest Backpacking Hostels in Tartu City Centre

Budget accommodation in Tartu City Centre

Mid range accommodation in Tartu City Centre

Family Friendly accommodation in Tartu City Centre

Affordable Luxury accommodation in Tartu City Centre

Tartu Town Hall is the seat of the city government of Tartu, Estonia. It is located on Town hall square, in the city centre.

Supilinn – Where to stay in Tartu with family

Supilinn, meaning “Soup Town” in Estonian, is a charming and peaceful neighborhood known for its wooden houses and community spirit. It is located close to the city center and provides a cozy and family-friendly atmosphere.

This area is particularly suitable if you prefer a quieter environment while still having easy access to the main attractions.

Why Stay in Supillin?

Despite its quiet atmosphere, Supilinn is located within walking distance of Tartu’s city center. This allows for easy access to the main attractions, shops, and restaurants while providing a more serene place to stay.

You can enjoy the best of both worlds by staying in a peaceful neighborhood while still being close to the tourist attractions. Which also means… No kids waking up during the night.

Supilinn has a strong sense of community, and its residents are known for their friendly and welcoming nature. Staying in this neighborhood provides an opportunity to experience the local culture and interact with the community.

You may even come across community events, neighborhood gatherings, or festivals that offer a glimpse into the warm and close-knit community of Supilinn.

Things to do in Supillin

  • Spend quality time with the fam at Supilinn Park, a green space located in the heart of the neighborhood. The park features playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking paths, providing ample opportunities for children to play, run around, and enjoy the outdoors. It’s a perfect spot for a family picnic or a stroll.
  • Visit the Supilinn Creative House, a community center that hosts various cultural events, workshops, and exhibitions. Check their schedule for family-oriented activities, such as arts and crafts workshops, storytelling sessions, or theater performances. It’s an excellent opportunity for children to get creative and immerse themselves in the local artistic community.
  • Located on Toomemägi (Toome Hill), just a short distance from Supilinn, Tartu Cathedral is an impressive historic landmark. The cathedral, also known as Tartu Dome Church, offers a glimpse into the city’s history and architectural heritage. You can climb to the top of the cathedral tower for panoramic views of Tartu or explore the nearby park, which provides a peaceful setting for a family walk.
  • Make your way slowly and mindfully through the charming streets of Supilinn, admiring the unique wooden houses and vibrant gardens. Encourage your children to spot different architectural details or play games like “I spy.” It’s a pleasant way to appreciate the neighborhood’s character and spend quality time together as a family.

Best places to stay in Supilinn

Budget accommodation in Supilinn

Mid range accommodation in Supilinn

Family Friendly accommodation in Supilinn

Pink tulips in public botanical garden in Tartu (Estonia).

Karlova – Where to stay in Tartu on a budget

Karlova is a residential district that covers a relatively small area in Tartu. It is bordered by the Emajõgi River to the East and the railway tracks to the West.

The neighborhood features a mix of colorful wooden houses, modern apartment buildings, and green spaces, creating a harmonious blend of old and new. Originally, it was a separate village outside the city walls of Tartu.

In the late 19th century, as the city expanded, Karlova became part of Tartu. The neighborhood saw significant development during the early 20th century when it became a popular residential area for the city’s growing middle class.

Why Stay in Karlova? 

Karlova offers a range of budget-friendly accommodation in Tartu, including guesthouses, hostels, and rental apartments. Compared to the city center or more touristy areas, prices in Karlova tend to be more budget-friendly, allowing you to save money on your accommodation expenses.

Although Karlova is slightly South of the city center, it is still within walking distance or a short public transportation ride away. This means you can easily access the main attractions, restaurants, and shops of Tartu while enjoying a quieter and more residential environment.

Karlova has its own local market where you can find fresh produce, local delicacies, and affordable food options. Shopping at local markets and smaller shops in the neighborhood can often be more budget-friendly compared to larger supermarkets or tourist-oriented areas.

Things to do in Karlova 

  • Karlova is known for its abundance of parks and green spaces. Take advantage of these outdoor areas for a budget-friendly day out. Karlova Park and Anne Park are both great options for picnics, walks, or simply enjoying the tranquil surroundings.
  • Common events in Tartu include Tartuff (Tartu Film Festival), Hanseatic Days, Tartu Food and Wine Festival, Tartu Christmas Market, and various cultural and music festivals. These events often take place annually and showcase the city’s vibrant community spirit. Remember to check the latest information about event schedules.
  • Located near Karlova, the Vanemuine Theatre is one of the oldest and most prestigious theaters in Estonia. Attend a live performance, such as a play, musical, or opera, and immerse yourself in the local arts and cultural scene. Check the theater’s schedule for upcoming shows during your visit. Who doesn’t love a local play?

Best places to stay in Karlova

Budget accommodation in Karlova

Mid range accommodation in Karlova

Family Friendly accommodation in Karlova

Affordable Luxury accommodation in Karlova

Christmas illumination on central square in Tartu, Estonia

Vaksali – Where to stay in Tartu like a local

Vaksali is an energetic and dynamic neighborhood characterized by a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial areas making it one of the best areas to stay in Tartu.

It is bounded by the Emajõgi River to the East and the railway tracks to the West.

The history of Vaksali dates back to the late 19th century when the Tartu-Viljandi railway line was established.

The neighborhood developed around the Vaksali train station, which served as a major transportation hub connecting Tartu to other cities in Estonia. The name “Vaksali” itself is derived from the Estonian word for “station.”

Why Stay in Vaksali? 

Vaksali is a neighborhood with a distinct character and charm. By staying in Vaksali, you can experience the authentic ambiance of Tartu and get a sense of everyday life in the city.

The mix of historical and modern architecture, local businesses, and community events contribute to the neighborhood’s unique appeal.

Vaksali offers a range of local dining options, from cozy cafes to restaurants serving traditional Estonian cuisine. You can enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee at local establishments frequented by residents.

Additionally, the neighborhood has various shops and stores where you can find everyday necessities, local products, and unique items.

In Vaksali, you can find a variety of accommodation options, including guesthouses, apartments, or even homestays with local residents. These choices allow you to experience the neighborhood and its hospitality firsthand, offering a more authentic and personalized stay.

Things to do in Vaksali 

  • Fancy some food for thought? Vaksali Market is a local market where you can find a variety of products, including fresh produce, baked goods, local delicacies, and handmade items. Explore the market, interact with local vendors, and discover the flavors and crafts of Tartu. The market is often held on specific days of the week, so check the schedule beforehand.
  • Keep an eye out for community events happening in Vaksali. The neighborhood often hosts festivals, markets, and cultural gatherings that provide a glimpse into the local community spirit. Participate in these events to interact with locals, learn about their traditions, and experience the vibrant atmosphere of Vaksali. It’s bound to be a vibe when you’re partying with the locals!

Best places to stay in Vaksali

Budget accommodation in Vaksali

Mid range accommodation in Vaksali

Family Friendly accommodation in Vaksali

Theatre with a beautiful architecture in Tartu Estonia

Top 5 favorites accommodation options for Tartu

❤️ Best Area first timersTartu City Centre
💸 Best Luxury HotelV Spa & Conference Hotel
👪 Best Hotel for For FamiliesTampere Maja
🏨 Best Mid-Range HotelArt Hotel Pallas by Tartuhotels
🛏️ Best Budget HotelDorpat Apartment
✨ Best HostelHostel Tartu

Added Extra: Areas to Avoid in Tartu

Annelinn is a large residential district located on the outskirts of Tartu. While it is home to many locals, it has experienced higher crime rates compared to other parts of the city. It’s recommended to avoid wandering in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas at night.

Ihaste is another residential area in Tartu. While it is generally safe during the day, it’s best to be cautious when walking alone at night, especially in less populated areas. As with any unfamiliar area, it’s advisable to stay on well-lit streets and use common sense if you do travel here.

You’ve explored the surface and dived into the depths of Tartu’s fairy kingdom. You’ve learnt about the secrets, tasted the sumptuous delights and embraced the sweet, cacophony of the community who gets to call this magical destination home. Hopefully you too, can return feeling as though you’ve visited a second home. 

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