Gorgeous Haapsalu – a little diva on the west coast

It has always been a great blessing for Haapsalu, situated on the west coast of Estonia, to be so close to water. Haapsalu, like Pärnu, is one of the prestigious resorts in the country. In summer, the climate is mild and friendly and the water in the Bay of Haapsalu is also warm.


Burg Hapsal 1889
A painting of Castle Hapsal in 1889 (source: Wikipedia)

Haapsalu, which has around 12.000 inhabitants, was founded at the end of the 13th century (1279). Haapsalu had been the bishop’s see in former times and the cathedral, which has been restore to some extent, is still proof of Haapsalu’s former superiority.


The cathedral, built between 1265 and 1270, looks very mighty – it is famous for being the largest single-knave cathedral in the whole North Europe. The fortification walls and ruins of the Episcopal castle give the final touch to the medieval character of the Old Town.


Kurhaus resort
19th century kurhaus - a meeting place for resort visitors.

There are mud bath and treatment facilities in Haapsalu, all built in the magnificent style of the early 19th century. No wonder that even the Romanov family, the famous dynasty of the Russian Tsar, used to travel from St. Petersburg to Haapsalu to recover from the difficult task of ruling a country.


Much younger than these buildings are the numerous art nouveau villas built near the water front. This place was very popular with international celebrities of those days.


Haapsalu Wasser, Meer Blick
A city, close to the water.

Haapsalu used to be called “the Nordic Venice” in the past because of the numerous rivers and streams that had an influence on town’s image. Nowadays, many of these rivers have run dry and thus the comparison to Venice is no longer appropriate. However, Haapsalu still has its own charm.


The many cultural events in Haapsalu contribute to the town’s excellent reputation. Besides periodical outdoor concerts that take place in the castle ruins, there are numerous museums and galleries in Haapsalu, which attract more and more visitors every year.


Haapsalu castle within the walls.

One of the most popular museums is the Läänemaa Museum in the former Town Hall, which documents the historic and contemporary highlights of the district in a very vivid manner.


Another popular place is the Estonian Railway Museum. This museum is very famous even in other parts of the country; it is a true gem. The train station that was built in 1907 especially for the Romanov family is a part of the museum.


The magnificent railway building is said to be one of the most beautiful of its kind. Furthermore, the roofed platform of 216 metres was the longest in North Europe at that time. Haapsalu, being one of the most popular tourist regions in Estonia, definitely profits from its guests. It surely has a sunny future ahead.



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