What to see and do in Haapsalu?

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White Lady - Estonia's most famous ghost

In the 14th century, a round baptismal chapel was built for the Haapsalu Cathedral, where the image of a white lady appears on the window during full moon nights in August. According to legend, one of the cathedral lords brought the disguised woman into the castle. The deception was discovered, and the girl who violated the monastery law, which forbade women from stepping over the monastery threshold, was walled into the wall of the baptismal chapel. It is said that the same girl now appears as the White Lady at the chapel window. Thousands of people from near and far travel to Haapsalu on August full moon nights just to catch a glimpse of the lady at the window. During the appearance of the lady, Haapsalu celebrates – it's known as the time of the White Lady, when the whole town is filled with concerts, performances, exhibitions, and parties.


The secrets of the castle walls

Built in the 13th century, Haapsalu Castle and Cathedral is one of the best-preserved medieval structures in Estonia. The convent building houses a museum complex with exhibition halls showcasing castle finds and mysterious vaulted cellars, an alchemy laboratory named after Bonifacius, and a hospice showcasing medieval healing practices. Visitors can climb to the top of the clock tower for a beautiful view of Haapsalu. In the castle moat, there is an exciting medieval playground for children. Meanwhile, on August full moon nights, the White Lady may be spotted at the window of the cathedral's baptismal chapel.


Famous resort town known for its therapeutic sea mud

Dr. Carl Abraham Hunnius, a military physician, is credited with the discovery of Haapsalu's famous therapeutic mud. He opened a mud spa here in 1825, which garnered international interest. Members of the Russian imperial family and wealthy citizens from Western Europe sought treatment in Haapsalu for rheumatism and other joint ailments. After World War II, Haapsalu was a closed military town to foreigners, so not everyone could access the sanatoriums here. However, Haapsalu's fame as a resort town is on the rise once again.


The warmest seawater in Estonia

Due to its shallow bays, the sea water in Haapsalu warms up quickly at the beginning of summer and remains warm throughout the summer season. In summer, the water temperature at Haapsalu's most famous beach, Paralepa, is the warmest among Estonia's seaside resorts, making it ideal for families with children to enjoy water activities in Haapsalu.


The charming old town, the Promenade, and the wooden lace

Haapsalu's old town is situated on a peninsula formed by two bays, which continue as small, winding waterways – the Great and Small Viik. The old town of Haapsalu can be divided into a medieval section and a resort area from the early 20th century. The medieval part consists of the Episcopal Castle along with streets and buildings such as Kooli, Jaani, Vee, Linda, Rüütli, and Väike-Mere. Surrounding it are wooden lace houses from the resort's heyday, along the Promenade, Africa Beach, and parks.


Imperial railway station

The Haapsalu railway station, built in the early 20th century, gained fame for having the longest covered platform in Northern Europe at the time of its completion, measuring 216 meters. As the railway station was constructed for the use of the Russian imperial court, it features a separate Emperor's pavilion, and even the platform's length was determined by the length of the Tsar's train. While it's no longer possible to travel to Haapsalu by train, the railway station is home to the Estonian Railway Museum, and the station building is a popular filming location for many filmmakers.


Ilon's World of Wonders

The gallery of Ilon Wikland, the illustrator of Astrid Lindgren's books, was opened in Haapsalu in 2006. Three years later, the Ilon's Wonderland theme center, known as Iloni Imedemaa, was completed. Visitors can explore Ilon's illustrations, draw their own pictures, watch movies, write letters to Karlsson, and explore the kitchen from Bullerby. Outside, there are craft workshops and Matthias' house, where visitors can listen to the secrets of the Magic Well, walk on stilts, and watch children's performances.


The Haapsalu shawl

The tradition of knitting lace Haapsalu shawls and scarves began in the second half of the 19th century. The lace shawl from Haapsalu gained fame as a luxurious item thanks to the wealthy spa guests. The elite society required elegant scarves, so simple wool yarn was replaced with fine wool. The skill of knitting a shawl through a ring has been passed down from generation to generation. When creating patterns, shawl knitters draw inspiration from nature, as well as from world history and crowned heads: those interested can buy or knit shawls with patterns dedicated to actress Greta Garbo, crowned heads of Sweden and Spain, and Estonian First Ladies.



Birdwatching doesn't always require a trip to Matsalu; it can also be successfully done in Haapsalu. During spring and summer, many birdwatchers from around the world can be seen within the castle walls and along the shores of Tagalaht. The birdwatching tower erected at Africa Beach offers a good view of Haapsalu's Tagalaht. For most of the year, this is the most interesting birdwatching spot in terms of birdlife.


A vibrant cultural scene - from horror film festival to summer concerts

Haapsalu's cultural life is vibrant and rich in events, particularly during the summer months, when it's rare to find a weekend without a festival. From the Haapsalu Horror Film Festival to August Blues and the Early Music Festival, the city hosts a diverse range of major events during spring and summer. Between these festivals, there are plenty of smaller concerts and performances to enjoy. In addition to the iconic Toomkirik (Cathedral) and the Castle, Haapsalu offers excellent concert venues such as the Kuursaal and the Promenade during the summer season. Furthermore, the renovated cultural center serves as the focal point for winter cultural activities.

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