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Those looking to spend more than a few days travelling in Estonia are bound to need ideas for places to visit. In that search, you might just notice the town of Rakvere in the country’s north. Found roughly midway between Tallinn and Narva, Rakvere quickly jumps out as a possible option. But since the town is not a major well-known destination, it begs the question: is Rakvere worth visiting?
Short answer: most definitely. Rakvere is one of the oldest towns in Estonia and home to more than enough attractions to justify a trip. Even though it’s only a small town it’s a very green place, which isn’t too uncommon for Estonia, and one with plenty of history. Rakvere was never a large industrial town and was instead a centre of education and culture, which is usually good news for tourists. During my most recent trip to Estonia I spent two days here, so allow me to show you what to expect when you visit Rakvere.
When it comes to the main thing to do in Rakvere, it’s pretty cut and dry. Rakvere Castle is the town’s main attraction and often the reason that people pay the town a visit. The castles of Estonia are seriously underrated and Rakvere Castle is a great example of how dramatic they can be.
Rakvere Castle has been the defining landmark of the settlement here going back to the 5th or 6th century. The stone castle standing today replaced an older wooden stronghold in the Middle Ages, probably during the Danish rule of the region. In 1605 the castle was abandoned after it took significant damage in the Polish-Swedish War. It’s only in recent years that the castle has been restored and renovated.
Today, Rakvere Castle is sort of a medieval theme park, with workers in costume and various activities available for visitors. I have to say that this kind of thing wasn’t for me honestly, but I’m sure families and kids will have lots of fun here.
There are some sections of the castle that you can explore to get a sense of what it used to be like, including a hall upstairs. Perhaps the best part of the visit for me though was seeing the views from its towers, both into the central courtyard and out to the weird earthen fortifications around it.
One of the nicest things about walking around Rakvere are the town’s many, many parks. It gives the town a similar feel in that sense to Viljandi and I think makes it immediately inviting. With sculptures, churches and memorials in the parks, they’re definitely worth seeking out when sightseeing.
The first park you’re likely to see is the one running south from the castle to the very modern outdoor amphitheatre. You’ll also find a similar park around Rakvere Manor, a building that’s not really noteworthy to visitors. The nicest park to me though is the one with a large pond behind the Lutheran Church near the town centre. Another that’s really interesting is the massive Rakvere Tammiku Park, although it’s much farther out.
Looking around the centre of Rakvere you’ll mostly find an assortment of unremarkable 20th century buildings. The one exception to this is along Pikk Street, where you’ll see loads of charming old buildings. This cute old street runs parallel to the castle park and is just fascinating to me.
From old wooden houses to grander buildings like the yellow one seen above, Pikk Street offers a great glimpse into the town’s past. What’s weird is that the street itself has been recently renewed, which gives it a strange mix of old and new that’s kind of unique.
German War Cemetery
Of the sights I expected to see in Rakvere, a cemetery for German soldiers fighting in WWII was definitely not on the list. The German War Cemetery is found deep within the Rakvere Tammiku Park and extremely understated. I was just enjoying the peaceful forest surrounds when I stumbled onto this small cemetery. It was only once I saw the small plaque in German that I realised where I was.
Given the context of those buried at the cemetery, this could be an uncomfortable place to visit for some. However you can’t help admire how locals have respected this as a final resting place despite the cause the soldiers were fighting for.
Travel Tips for Visiting Rakvere
That really sums up what I found interesting about Rakvere in Estonia. One attraction I didn’t experience was the Estonian Police Museum, but again it does seem aimed at kids. As you can see there aren’t lots and lots of places to visit in Rakvere, but there are enough to warrant visiting Rakvere.
While I wanted longer to explore, I honestly think it’s better to visit Rakvere as a day trip from Tallinn. Rakvere is super easy to get to by train as it’s only 75 minutes by train on the route from Tallinn to Narva.
If you do decide to stay longer, I recommend staying at Hotel Wesenbergh as I did. The hotel is nice and comfortable, with a convenient location halfway between the train station and town centre. For food, try the Virma Pubi and Sarvik restaurant next door that both offer tasty Estonian dishes.
Have you heard of Rakvere Estonia before? Does this pleasant town seem like somewhere you’d want to see when you travel to Estonia? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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