Pärnu – chronology of the city’s history

Old-Pernau (Vana-Pärnu), which used to be the name of Pärnu, was founded around 1250 with the inauguration of the cathedral situated by the River Pärnu. From 1346 onwards, the city developed to a flourishing member of the Hanseatic League. Especially corn trade was handled in the sea port that profited of its good climate.


Tallinner Tor in Pärnu
Tallinn Gate: Part of the old fortress in Pärnu – today a popular walking areal.

During the Livonian War (1558 – 1583) Pärnu was occupied by Sweden in 1562. This led to the development of new and profitable trade relations with the northern parts of Germany.


When Tartu University was closed because of constant political difficulties, Pärnu became the domicile of the university. Today, there is a branch of Tartu University in Pärnu, called Pärnu College.


In 1710, the city was taken over by tsarist troops. At the same time the shrinking population was heavily threatened by the plague. Thus, the situation could not get any worse in the future. Eventually the situation changed for the better.


Kurhaus Pärnu
Still in use: The historic spa hotel in Pärnu.

In 1838, the first public sanatorium was opened in Pärnu. This led to a considerable rise in cultural activities and tourism. Apparently, people had learned to profit from the region’s climatic conditions. From now on, large parts of the medieval fortress were torn down for it was not considered attractive for visitors.


Lydia Koidula
Lydia Koidula (1843 – 1886). Poetess and a freedom fighter.

Two events prove the very special zeitgeist of the city. Firstly, “Pärnu Postimees” (the first newspaper in the Estonian language) was founded there in 1857. And secondly, the first independent Republic of Estonia was declared on the balcony of the Theatre Endla (now destroyed) in 1918.


The next important milestone was the era of being a Soviet health resort and spa for privileged people, lasting for almost 50 years. Today, only about one and a half decades later, Pärnu is one of the most popular resorts in the Baltic countries.



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