Welcome to Haapsalu – the Venice of Northern Europe, as the more than 700-year-old town has been called!
In the centuries since its foundation in 1279, Haapsalu has hosted dignified heads and spiritual leaders and been a summer paradise for visitors from north, south, east and west.
The rich history of Haapsalu, as the centre of the Saare-Lääne bishopric for three centuries, is reflected in the ruins of its ancient castle and in its cathedral, where under the August full moon you might just encounter the mysterious White Lady…
The nobility of both Sweden and Russia have left their mark on the culture and history of the town; legend has it that Tsar Peter I settled on Haapsalu in his search for somewhere to call his own port.
Following the discovery of the therapeutic benefits of Haapsalu’s sea mud, the town soon evolved into a burgeoning summer resort, enjoying popularity among the Russian imperial household and the Baltic German elite. It was during this era that some of the town’s most recognisable features emerged: its railway station with its distinctive, fully covered 216-metre platform; the only wooden Resort Hall in Estonia to have retained its original design; its mud treatment centres; and its quaint wooden homes. The foreshore promenadewith its pavilion, pontoons and polar bear sculpture (which is anchored to the sea bed) are the pride of the town.
Take a look around Haapsalu’s museums and galleries, count the steps to the top of the bell tower in the castle and pace out all 216 metres along the railway station platform – and when you’ve done all that, treat yourself to coffee and cake at one of the town’s cafés, bring back childhood memories at Ilon’s World of Wonders, dip your toes in the warm sea waters and pamper yourself in a mud bath at one of Haapsalu’s world-class spas.
Perhaps you’ll fall in love with the place like so many others have before you…