City or countryside? For anyone planning a meeting or conference, it’s a critical question. The answer will have an enormous impact on the feel, to say nothing of the cost, of your event. While Estonia offers plenty in the way of urban distraction, there are solid arguments for gathering your group somewhere far removed from the rattle and hum of the city, somewhere where life flows at a slower pace, somewhere where you’ll have your guests’ undivided attention and all the privacy they might need. Our choice for your great escape: Vihula Manor.
Only an hour’s ride from Tallinn and Tallinn Airport (even less time than you’d spend on the airport transfer in many cities), Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa, 4 Star Superior, ticks all the right boxes for the perfect Estonian conference getaway. The luxury establishment makes its home on a charm-packed, 16th-century estate set in the wilds of the nation’s beloved Lahemaa National Park. The manor house’s two main buildings, along with 25 other related structures, have all been painstakingly restored, creating a times-past atmosphere here among the ponds and greenery. There’s no shortage of top-notch amenities either. Along with 75 ultra-comfortable guest rooms, Vihula comes with fine dining, a swimming pool, mini-golf and even its own eco-spa.
In addition to creating an idyllic backdrop, the location in Lahemaa National Park means that Vihula works great as a base for exploring some of Estonia’s most breathtaking nature areas. Incentive options here are plenty: a bike ride to the seaside with a picnic, a guided walk through the forest, a visit to the Sagadi Forestry Museum, a bog-shoeing adventure… the list goes on. You can even arrange to have your very own private concert in the middle of a peat bog.
Meeting rooms with a difference
Arguably Vihula’s strongest advantage over city-based conferences, apart from the bucolic setting, is its meeting spaces.
The usual grey-carpeted box lit by florescents? Not here. You’ll be giving your lecture in the old Oil Granary. Or, if you need more space, in a beautifully refurbished barn, surrounded by limestone walls, wooden beams and natural light. How about a cocktail reception in the watermill café, followed by a party in the Blacksmith’s Party House?
Vihula’s full-service conference centre not only provides all the high-tech bells and whistles of its big-city rivals, it also offers just the kind of nontraditional – and unforgettable – meeting rooms one would expect to find in a restored manor complex. The total capacity for meetings and banquets reaches 500, from the largest meeting room, the Constance Conference & Concert Hall seating 160 theatre style, to the 8-person von Schubert Presidential Suite.
Other meeting rooms not already mentioned include the Ursula and Dora conference halls, both in the Old Barn, and the Palm House Conference Hall. Additional dining space is found in the Kaval-Ants Tavern, which can hold 100 people, as well as the Tea House, the Wine Cellar and the Vodka Distillery.
Activities and social programmes for every taste
Relaxing, building bonds with coworkers and filling in gaps in your event schedule is made easy at Vihula thanks to the multitude of cleverly designed tours and incentive activities available on site.
Why not start with a walking tour – or better still, a golf-cart tour – to get oriented and learn the manor’s history and legends? Your group can also go for a leisurely boat ride along the adjacent Mustjõe River, followed by a picnic on the manor park.
For those with a creative streak, there’s a workshop in soap felting and another in the 18th-century art of découpage. You can also arrange a mini-golf tournament on Vihula’s 18-hole course, have your group become experts in vodka tasting or learn to prepare berry schnapps. The Mohito-making workshop is a great icebreaker, literally and figuratively, as well as a perfect opportunity for networking or winding down after a busy conference day. Bike and golf cart rental is available for those who want to cruise around in smaller numbers. Biking tours to the nearby seaside can also be arranged.
For the belly and the body
One would expect an establishment of this quality level to offer top-notch catering as well, and Vihula certainly doesn’t disappoint. Chef de Cuisine Fred Ruubel creates fresh inventions inspired both by manor traditions and by local nature. Many of the ingredients he uses come directly from the manor’s very own organic garden and Eco-Farm.
Apart from ensuring that every dish at Vihula is perfect, Chef Ruubel leads cooking activities for groups. What could be more cosy and fun a way to bond with conference colleagues than cooking dinner together?
Vihula’s elegant fine-dining restaurant, named simply Vihula Manor Restaurant, is divided into four dining rooms: the 50-seat Ball Room, 30-seat Lounge Room, 20-seat Library Room and intimate Chimney Room. When the weather agrees, conference guests can dine on the Manor Terrace to enjoy views of the park or have sunset cocktails on the Sun Terrace.
A far more folksy, old-fashioned dining scene can be found in the 2-storey Kaval-Ants tavern, which has space for 100 guests indoors and another 50 on its terrace. The rustic interior makes it a perfect setting for an Estonian-style dinner or conference reception.
After a busy day at the conference, guests can pamper themselves at the Eco-Spa or take a dip in the swimming pool. Located in the manor’s Carriage House, the boutique spa features exclusive international brands and professional treatments, all of which are, just as the name promises, 100% eco-friendly. The 15-metre swimming pool in the manor’s large Cattle Barn comes with a Turkish steam bath and a gym.
Those looking for more outdoorsy exercise can head to aforementioned Vihula Manor Mini-Golf. At 1,800 square metres, the 18-hole course is the largest mini-golf facility in the Baltic countries. In fact, its design is actually based on the architecture of all three Baltic countries, so playing here is a bit like touring the Baltics.
Guests who have any energy left after all the massages, swimming and golfing are welcome to climb the stairs of the property’s 1860-era Dutch stone windmill. The platform on its upper floor offers a breathtaking view of the manor and surrounding countryside. Watching the sunset from here is a perfect way to end a successful day of meetings at Vihula.
Conference success stories
Experience is always a concern when your event has to come off without a hitch. Rest assured that the Vihula Manor Country Club & Spa has built up a strong track record when it comes to hosting international conferences and meetings, as a couple of recent examples will show.
In late April of 2017, Czech automaker Škoda held the pre-launch for its newest model, the Karoq, at Vihula. Attended by 60 international journalists, it was the first event of its type to take place in Estonia and made good use of the nearby rural roads for high-speed photo ops.
And in August of that year, the 5th International Castle Meeting on Coding Theory and Applications brought in dozens of specialists for four days of presentations and workshops.