Pärnu, a city of 40,000 sitting on Estonia’s southwest coast, is the ultimate seaside resort destination – a place where an expansive sandy beach, tranquil parks, old-fashioned architecture and a nearly 200-year-old spa industry come together to create a relaxing escape from the pace of 21st century life. Estonians have nicknamed it their ‘Summer Capital’, but Pärnu is perfectly set up to host conferences and events throughout the year thanks to a finely-honed tourist sector. The industry has brought state-of-the-art spa and conference hotels along with an excellent local dining scene and a good share of nature-related group activities. The city’s prime location – roughly on the halfway point between Tallinn and Latvia’s capital, Riga, and reachable in about two hours from each – have also made it a popular pick for international conferences.
Though its history goes back to Medieval times, the main impression Pärnu gives today is that of a quiet, early-20th-century beach town, where art nouveau and functionalist villas line leafy streets and parks. Pärnu is small enough to be easily explored on foot, so visitors will get plenty of opportunity to stroll around the green areas, along the beach promenade and through the pedestrianised town centre – a charming historic zone filled with boutiques and cafes. The local culinary scene is also worth a mention, since several high-quality local bistros and restaurants cater to visitors.
Meeting facilities and conference hotels
For a city its size, Pärnu offers a surprisingly good number of meeting and event venues, the largest being the Pärnu Concert Hall, which seats 897 theatre style. Most major meeting facilities are supplied by the city’s busy hotel and spa sector, particularly its two largest establishments – the Estonia Resort Hotel & Spa and the Strand Spa & Conference Hotel – which have both gained a wealth of experience from hosting international conferences over the years. Other spa hotels are also likely to have at least small meeting rooms available for use. As far as accommodation capacity goes, the city’s hotels offer 2,500 guest rooms in total.
Most hotels have their own restaurants that are well suited for receptions and gala dinners, but for groups looking for offsite alternatives, Pärnu boasts some fairly unique options. Among the most popular choices are the elegant Pärnu Concert Hall (350 pax), the scenic Eagle restaurant at the Pärnu Bay Golf Links, the unforgettably historic Ammende Villa, the Jaanihanso Cider House and the Pärnu Yacht Club restaurant. During the warmer months, it’s even possible to arrange a barbeque dinner right on the beach!
First and foremost, Pärnu’s restaurants and cafes stand out for their talented chefs. The best restaurants in Pärnu are featured in the White Guide Nordic and are therefore definitely worth visiting. To-rated restaurant is the elegant Rannahotell Restaurant on the seafront. Besides the fancy a la carte restaurants, you will find many lovely cafes and good pubs in Pärnu. The restaurants and cafes are mainly located in the town center and the beach area, which makes them convenient for visitors. You can enjoy the beautiful seafront and dine while the sun is setting in several restaurants. See Visit Pärnu’s Eating Out page for best restaurants and cafes in Pärnu!
Wellness and outdoor experiences
Thanks to its abundance of top-quality spa hotels, Pärnu is the perfect place to incorporate wellness-related activities into your conference programme. You can put a healthy spin on your group’s workday with spa treatments, pilates breaks, yoga classes and more, or even round out the day with a full-fledged pool party.
It’s just as easy to add wellness elements to a conference programme by signing up to one of the many nature and sea-related group activities on offer in Pärnu, be it biking tours, sailing, windsurfing, jogging, fat-biking on the beach or golfing in one of the nearby courses. Estonia’s one-and-only surf club, Aloha, makes its home in Pärnu and can arrange all varieties of water-related fun.
Yoga has been a popular fitness trend in recent years and more people are beginning to pick up this form of exercise. What a better way to experience true harmony between your mind, body and spirit than being surrounded by nature and greenery right in the middle of the city? There are parks and many green areas in Pärnu you can ring your own yoga mat or blanket to stretch and meditate. Cosy indoor yoga studios are also available for rainy days.
Tours with a local twist
As an alternative to the standard sightseeing tours, visitors can treat themselves to a truly authentic and personal introduction to Pärnu with the help of tours designed to deliver the local perspective. These tours, usually conducted on foot or by bike, are led by enthusiastic natives who are keen to show off their favourite hidden courtyards, cafés and boutiques, share a few of the local legends and provide tips on just about anything a newcomer might be interested in.
Some of the most unique Estonian experiences are right at Pärnu’s doorstep. Bog walking through the country’s fascinating peat bogs, for one, is an absolute must for nature lovers. Groups can also tour the Jaanihanso Cider House to learn all about how cider is made. Thrillseekers can test their nerves on the Audruring motor racing circuit – a true rarity in this part of Europe – where participants can take high-speed laps in sports cars, learn to drift in a drift taxi and even put the pedal to the metal in an F1. For an unforgettable cultural experience, arrange a trip to Kihnu island, where the centuries-old traditions and general atmosphere have been wonderfully preserved since the days when this was the domain of seafarers, fishermen and seal hunters.
Easy to reach
Getting to Pärnu is quick and easy. The city sits roughly halfway between Tallinn and Riga. Both cities are reachable by direct flight from the major Eurpean airports.
For conference groups, transfers can be organised from Tallinn or Riga Airport. The ride takes about 1.5 hours from Tallinn and 2 hours from Riga. Dozens of regular bus connections also connect both capitals to Pärnu.