Worth seeing in Haapsalu and Läänemaa

In the romantic small town of Haapsalu and small villages, hospitable people await you, surprising you with their sincerity and interest in history and culture. The guests who stayed here are remembered again and again with great respect.

Haapsalu Art School Galleries

Haapsalu Art School Galleries offer diverse exhibitions of works by its pupils and other artists. There are new exhibitions every 3–4 weeks. There are three different types of galleries: the house, yard, and cellar gallery. The house gallery is open year-round, the yard gallery opens in April, and the cellar gallery can be visited from May.

Swedish Market

Haapsalu’s main street, Karja, begins at the Swedish Market. The name of the street (“herd”) originates from the time when animals belonging to the citizens of the town were led out to pasture down this road. As late as the beginning of the 20th century, the Swedish Market was an empty square where the fish market was held. Many plots of land in the area belonged at that time to Estonian Swedes (or Coastal Swedish) families. In the 1930s, a small park with the town well was built here. To decorate the square, the sculpture “Boy With A Fish” was commissioned from the sculptor Juhan Raudsepp (erected in 1936). Good to know: The fountain side is still a nice and romantic place to sit. During the summertime festivals such as August Blues and the White Lady Festival the Swedish Market is transformed into a small open air stage. 

Pürksi Manor

Pürksi manor house, built in the 19th century, is located in the centre of the rural municipality – in the village of Pürksi. The manor belonged to the Ungern-Sternberg family until 1919, later on the manor was the home for Pürksi Agricultural and Folk High School. The building was restored in 1989-1995 and now it is the home of Noarootsi Secondary School. Pürksi park is under nature conservation. The trees in the park include white beech and you can see the unique circle of lindens there. Take a look at the few outbuildings that have survived, for example the barn and stables-coach house by the court in front of the main building.

Saxby Lighthouse

Saxby lighthouse has a 27-metre-high beacon that controls the entrance to the Väinameri Sea archipelago and is an important aspect in the Vormsi island’s culture. The tower, built in 1864, is the oldest lighthouse assembled from cast-iron using the Gordon system. The tower was built at the same time as the Kihnu and Virtsu lighthouses and looks similar to them, which is why a legend from Kihnu island tells a story about the construction of lighthouses. It’s said that there are only three of lighthouses in the world: one on Kihnu island, the second on Vormsi island, and the third one at the bottom of the sea, which is said to have disappeared on a sea lane at an unknown location. The lighthouse is open and offers a beautiful view of the Vormsi island’s Northwestern coast.

Haapsalu Lace Centre Museum and Gallery

The Haapsalu shawl, an extremely fine knit shawl that can be pulled through a woman’s ring, has been the symbol of Haapsalu for more than a century. Ever since then, these shawls have been highly regarded by women. The knitters of the traditional shawls are professionals and the skill is passed down from generation to generation. In the Shawl Museum, you can see a permanent exhibition on the past and present of the Haapsalu shawl, examine the extremely fine patterns, and buy one of the masterpieces for yourself. In the summer, local shawl knitters hold trainings and workshops. Haapsalu shawls have been presented as gifts to the women of the Swedish Royal Family as well as the honoured guests of the President of Estonia.

Risti Monument for the Deported

Risti railway station was the place from where most of the deportees from Läänemaa – almost 3000 people – were deported to Siberia. The monument designed by Viljar Ansko “The railway rails remember…” has been placed on a small freight platform with stone stairs on both sides. Four rails reach for the sky from the four corners of the platform. The rails are joined into a cross with two horizontal bars just before the top. At night the monument is illuminated diagonally by four spotlights installed inside the railway platform. The height of the monument is almost 13 metres. Besides commemorating the mass deportations in recent history, the cross also symbolises the history of the small railway town Risti.