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Top Literary Destinations in Estonia – Unique in Europe and the World

Since Estonians have one of the highest literary rates in the world, it is based on the nation’s history, past events, and determination to preserve the great literature and culture.

Estonian literature has evolved through decades, especially during the Soviet occupation in the 40s.

Estonian language or so-called elven language is only spoken by 1.1 million people worldwide, and 99% of these people are residents of Estonia.

The language is highly valued and all the literature, in Estonian or about the language, is highly protected and preserved in libraries and language institutions across the country.

What are the most unique and top literary destinations in Estonia? Here are the top 5 to visit, while you discover the medieval country on your vacation.

#1. The oldest library – The Nation’s Library of Tartu University

Where do they hold the deathmask of Aleksander Puškin, the first photographs on paper material by the William Henry Fox Talbot, Immanuel Kant’s heritage manuscripts, and Rembrandt’s graphical drawings?

Besides the other 2.9 million exhibition items, the mask and the drawings and manuscripts are preserved perfectly in the University’s library for future nations.

Literary destinations in Estonia

The library was established in the 17th century by the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf, who also was the sole responsible for the establishment of Tartu’s University. The official birthday of the Library has been pointed to 23rd June in 1802, making it the oldest library in Estonia.

The library houses the most unique books, manuscripts by famous Estonian writers and authors, poets, and politics. The first drafts and systematic drawings are kept in the secure vaults for safe retainment.

#2. The oldest bookstore – Vanalinna Rahva Raamat

The oldest bookstore in Estonia is located in Tallinn, Pärnu mnt 10. The store is considered as one of the best bookstores in the world, staying active and opened in the same location for the last 100 years and also received the award from the London Bookfair for recognition, hitting top 3 in 2020. 

In 2019, the store went through a completely new renovation and updated its inward and outside design.

The rooms now have soft white ambient lighting, the furniture matches the old style, making it look sophisticated and similar to the 1920’s Irish vibe we don’t see in modern bookstores so much anymore.

In 2003, there was a danger of shutting it down and closing the doors but people gathered on the streets, and over 12k signatures were collected to put together a repetition against the closing of the store.

The goal was achieved and the oldest bookstore in Estonia stayed open for the public.

#3. Vargamäe location – A movie set in Võrumaa

One of the most famous Estonian authors A.H.Tammsaare wrote the “Truth and Justice” 5-book series in 1926-1933 and in 2019, the Estonian film industry decided to shoot and release a movie based on the “Truth and Justice 1” for the 100th anniversary of the country.

The movie takes place in a place called Vargamäe and a complete set of country houses were built from scratch on a field in Võrumaa, Vastse-Roosa.

To this day, it is a popular literature-based destination for foreign tourists and residents.

#4. National Library of Estonia – Rare and unique publications

The National Library of Estonia is located in Tõnismägi, Tallinn, and has one of the best collections of rare and unique publications since as early as the 14th century.

The library is open for everyone to visit and old documentations are available for everyone to check out. Very old and fragile manuscripts and books have been digitalized and accessible for reading and discovering online. 

Every year, the National Library of Estonia holds exhibitions about different topics, genres. The rare books in the library’s collection can be viewed in the Rare Books and Archival Collection Reading Room.

#5. Mattiesen printing house – historical location

In 1852, Carl Mattiesen opened the first printing house in Tartu and three years later in Tallinn. The building is still there after two centuries and available for exploration.

The business doesn’t work as a printing house anymore but is open for visitors and tourists to visit.

Since 1997, it has been working as a pub, a bookstore, and exhibition holder for the old. Even though the oldest printing house in Tartu was opened in 1631, the Mattiesen building still exists and is open to the public.

I hope you would include these top literary destinations in Estonia in your itinerary, they are worth a visit after all. If Baltics are your kind of place, do also check out the top literary destinations in Latvia.

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Literary Destinations in Estonia

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