Haapsalu Episcopal Castle

Western Estonia & the Islands

Haapsalu’s crumbling heart is its bishop’s castle, which was western Estonia’s centre of command from the 13th to the 16th centuries but now stands in partial, very picturesque ruins. A turreted tower, most of the outer wall and some of the moat still remain. Entry to the grounds is free year-round, but a ticket is required to enter the castle proper, where there’s a museum devoted to its history, including some creepy tunnels and dramatically displayed medieval weaponry.

Accessed from within the museum is the striking Dome Church (properly, St Nicholas’ Cathedral), built in a mix of the Romanesque and Gothic styles, with three inner domes. It’s the largest such structure in the Baltics and its phenomenal acoustics means concerts are regularly held here. Inside the church, keep your eyes peeled for the ghost of the White Lady.

In summer, the park within the outer walls is used for concerts. There’s a wonderful children’s playground complete with a pirate ship, and a viewing platform within one of the towers. You can also try your hand at archery just outside the main gate (€5 for 10 arrows).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Western Estonia & the Islands attractions

1. Town Hall Museum

0.13 MILES

Built in 1775, Haapsalu's former town hall now houses a charming little museum with displays on the history of the resort town, regional history, a re…

2. Ilon’s Wonderland

0.15 MILES

Showcasing the works of Estonian-Swedish illustrator Ilon Wikland, who spent her childhood in Haapsalu and is best known for her illustrations for the…

3. St John’s Lutheran Church

0.15 MILES

Although it has its roots in the 16th century, the exterior of this whitewashed church owes much to a renovation in 1858. Inside, look out for the…

4. Haapsalu Kuursaal

0.22 MILES

This fairy-tale wooden confection, painted pale green and white, sits plumb on the waterfront, surrounded by rose gardens. Stepping into the airy spa hall…

5. Promenaadi

0.26 MILES

Nineteenth-century Russian toffs, like their counterparts in Victorian England and Paris’ belle époque, liked nothing more than a good see-and-be-seen…

6. Birdwatching Tower

0.27 MILES

Broad, shallow, reedy Haapsalu Bay is a key habitat for migrating waterfowl in Estonia, and is listed as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance…

7. Africa Beach

0.31 MILES

People still take to the waters at this pint-sized beach, despite the water being murky and full of weeds. It earned its name from the statues of wild…

8. Tchaikovsky Bench

0.38 MILES

Erected to commemorate the visits of Tchaikovsky to Haapsalu, this stone bench is inscribed with the first few notes of his VI Symphony. There's also an…