What passes for the big smoke in these parts, Kuressaare has a picturesque town centre with leafy streets and a magnificent castle rising up in its midst, surrounded by the usual scrappy sprawl of housing and light industry. The town built a reputation as a health centre as early as the 19th century, when the ameliorative properties of its coastal mud were discovered and the first spas opened. Now they’re a dime a dozen, ranging from Eastern Bloc sanatoriums to sleek and stylish resorts.
Apart from the castle, the best of Kuressaare’s historic buildings are grouped around the central square, Keskväljak. The tourist office is housed in the town hall (1670), a baroque building guarded by a fine pair of stone lions. Directly across the square the Vaekoja pub inhabits a former weigh-house, also from the 17th century.