Saaremaa Museum

Western Estonia & the Islands

Occupying the keep of Kuressaare Castle since the late 19th century, this museum is devoted to Saaremaa’s nature and history. A large part of the fun is exploring the warren of chambers, halls, passages and stairways, apt to fuel anyone’s Game of Thrones fantasies. One room near the bishop’s chamber looks down to a dungeon where, according to legend, condemned prisoners were dispatched to be devoured by hungry lions (recorded growls reinforce the mental image).

Legend also tells of a knight’s body found when a sealed room was opened in the 18th century, which has given rise to varying accounts of how he met his tragic fate. Upon discovery the knight’s body dissolved into dust but don’t worry, it’s since been re-created to creepy effect.

In the museum proper, there’s not a lot of signage in English until you hit the EU-sponsored post-WWII section, when suddenly the Estonian/Russian captions change to Estonian/English. There’s some interesting coverage of daily life under the USSR, including the interior of a typical apartment, but some of the captions are quite propagandist (you have to admire the irony of a photo labelled ‘a prejudiced pro-Soviet crowd’).

On the top floor, the museum has a cafe boasting fine views over the bay and surrounding countryside.