Travel 4 minutes 15 August 2022

A MICHELIN Guide Road Trip Around Estonia

Travel the countryside on a gastronomic tour of restaurants recommended in the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Estonia 2022

Estonia is a place that is easily explored by car. With a good road network running across the entire country, it’s accessible and stress-free to get around here – and the attractive landscape makes journeying out of town a real pleasure. Home to many national parks, stunning forests and islands, you’ll find a multitude of new places to discover as you move from place to place.

Summer and early autumn is the best time to visit: the days are warm and long, and it's a great time to take advantage of the more remote restaurants and their terrific surroundings. Stop by for a hearty lunch before heading off to explore the local area, or finish your day relaxing with a leisurely meal and drinks.

Our trip starts in Tallinn and moves in a clockwise direction around the country, making for a varied and exciting Estonian road trip.

Ruhe, Neeme
Ruhe, Neeme

Neeme – 40 kms east of Tallinn

Just 45 minutes’ drive from Tallinn, you’ll find yourself in the small, picturesque fishing village of Neeme, on the eastern coast of the Ihasalu peninsula. Here the pace of life couldn’t be more different.

Places to Explore…
Jagala Waterfall; A guided boat tour of the small islands from Neeme Harbour

As you’d hope from a restaurant in a fishing village, nautical culture is the inspiration here: a ‘ruhe’ is a historic boat hollowed out of a tree trunk – and you'll find one sitting on the sizeable decked terrace. The wooden building has a stripped-back, minimalist style and its the views out over the Gulf of Finland that will steal your attention. It is only natural that seafood leads the way here, and the kitchen delivers a concise, globally inspired menu with fish and shellfish at its heart. Produce comes not only from local waters but also from further afield, and the pleasingly unfussy dishes rely on the quality of the fresh ingredients to make a statement for themselves. Upstairs are 4 neatly styled bedrooms.

Mere 38, Võsu
Mere 38, Võsu

Võsu – 65 kms east of Neeme

This peaceful country village will make you question the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s set within Lahemaa National Park and plays host to a popular sandy beach where you enjoy the view with a relaxing swim or get active in the outdoor gym or on the BMX pump track. As well as lifeguards, the beach also has wi-fi!

Places to Explore…
Võsu Port; Käsmu – The Captains’ Village, The Field of Boulders and The Nature & Cultural History Trail

Mere 38
A peaceful country village plays host to this immaculately kept, green-painted clapboard house, which comes with a small, contrastingly modern New England style restaurant, as well as smart apartments upstairs for those who wish to spend the night. In summer, the front terrace is definitely the place to sit while, in late autumn and early spring, the dining room with its cushions and fleece-covered chairs is a great place to cosy up. The small menu offers Mediterranean-inspired dishes with the occasional Asian touch; all of which are fresh, vibrant and full of flavour – the seafood dishes are usually a highlight. The serving team strike a good balance between being friendly yet efficient.

Põhjaka Manor, Mäeküla
Põhjaka Manor, Mäeküla

Mäeküla – 98 kms south of Võsu

If you like spending time with the plants and the animals more than you like spending time with people, then you’ll love Mäeküla. It really is in the middle of nowhere – and there’s not much more to it than this simple restaurant.

Places to Explore…
Mäeküla: Prandi Springs & The Lake of Springs; Hindreku Farm – The Estonian Wine Chamber & A Canoe Trip Through the Bog Landscape; Kirna Manor Park

Põhjaka Manor
Set within a modest-looking manor house dating from the early 19C and surrounded by beautiful open woodland, Põhjaka Manor is a simple place, comprising three interconnecting rooms with a vintage, shabby-chic style; think mismatched furnishings, distressed plaster walls and stripped wooden floors. Daily changing, hyper-seasonal menus showcase local and garden produce, and there's a sustainable ethos running throughout the place. The tasty, rustic dishes arrive in generous portions.

Read more about Põhjaka Manor's MICHELIN Green Star Award here.

Hõlm, Tartu
Hõlm, Tartu

Tartu – 110 kms southeast of Mäeküla

Midway through our journey we come to Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city: a leafy university town with a youthful, energetic vibe and an active nightlife. It is the oldest city in the Baltics and has been designated one of three European Capitals of Culture for 2024. It is home to one of Northern Europe’s oldest universities, a wealth of museums and a rich mix of cultural events.

Places to Explore…
Inside: Estonian National Museum; Aparaaditehas Creative City
Outside: Kissing Students Fountain; University of Tartu Botanical Garden; Toomemägi Hill; Jõmmu Barge
Side Trip: The Onion Route

One day is not enough to explore Tartu, so here we recommend two restaurants – both offering overnight accommodation, as they are located within hotels.

Lydia Grünmann Holm is the inspiration both for the Lydia hotel and the elegant Hõlm restaurant which sits within it – and the classically underpinned dishes are based on her 1925-1926 recipe collection. Dishes are confidently executed and attractively presented, and come with appealing flavour and texture contrasts. For the full experience, opt for the 5 course tasting menu.

Also on the first floor of a hotel, but this time located next to the sizeable Lõunakeskus shopping and recreation centre on the periphery of the city, is Fii. This light, airy restaurant has a sleek, pared-back style, which keeps the focus firmly on the colourful, eye-catching food. Dishes have modern twists and take their influences from across the globe – and prices won’t break the bank either.

Fellin, Viljandi
Fellin, Viljandi

Viljandi – 77 kms west of Tartu

Deep in the forest hides this adorable little Hanseatic town with its wooden buildings, impressive castle ruins and lake views. It is a place that celebrates history and tradition and keeps them alive, so it's no wonder it’s been designated a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art! This is an area where you will learn the meaning of ‘slow-living’ – that is until the 25,000+ crowds arrive for the legendary four-day Viljandi Folk Music Festival.

Places to Explore…
Inside: Viljandi Teutonic Castle and Museum of Viljandi; Estonian Traditional Music Centre; The Kondas Centre
Outside: Viljandi Lake for a day on the beach with a swim or boat rental; Uueveski Recreational Area – follow the walking trail to the stream and swimming pools
Side Trip: Soomaa National Park

Set in the heart of the Old Town, this homely café-cum-bistro charms guests with its warm welcome and cosy simplicity. It has something of a bohemian air – which suits this town perfectly – and aims to offer customers a different experience in terms of both food and music. Start the day with coffee and cake or stop in after a day’s exploring for a carefully crafted dish which combines local produce with world cuisines.

Fellin holds a MICHELIN Bib Gourmand Award for its good value cuisine. Discover the other restaurants awarded a Bib Gourmand for 2022 here.

Lahepere Villa, Kloogaranna
Lahepere Villa, Kloogaranna

Kloogaranna – 182 kms northwest of Viljandi

Harju County might be the largest county in Estonia in terms of population – with almost half of the country's population living here – but in the tiny village of Kloogaranna it’s a different story. The long, sandy beach bordered by a pine forest is the main attraction – and you won’t have to worry about sharing it with too many other people.

Places to Explore…
Inside: Arvo Pärt Centre; An event at Kõltsu Manor
Outside: Treppoja Cascade; The Pakri Islands; Lohusalu Peninsula; Keila Waterfall and the Keila-Joa Park Nature Trail

Lahepere Villa
There are no signs pointing out this modern building set just back from the beach; instead, look out for the blazing firepit in the garden, surrounded by sheepskin-covered chairs. It was built by the owner himself and is a homely spot, with chunky tables, cushion-strewn sofas, and a small kitchen in which Chef Silver creates regularly changing set menus inspired by the seasons and the locality. Dishes burst with flavour and the Big Green Egg on the terrace is used to particularly good effect. All are explained on delivery by the chef, while welcoming owner Helen looks after the guests – along with a little help from the rest of the family.


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