Visitor information

The University of Tartu Museum, the Old Observatory and the University of Tartu Art Museum are open all year round, in three historical locations in the centre of Tartu.  

University of Tartu Museum

University of Tartu Art Museum

Buildings with the spirit of Tartu

The University of Tartu Museum is located in three buildings unique to Tartu, which were designed by Johann Wilhelm Krause at the beginning of the 19th century. The main building of the university, the museum in the ruins of the cathedral and the observatory all shape the academic spirit of Tartu. In these buildings, the University of Tartu Museum offers the opportunity to experience the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment and the special atmosphere of both the university and the city of Tartu.

Tartu Cathedral
The University of Tartu Museum is located in the choir part of the cathedral, where the university’s library used to be.

The cathedral, built between the 13th and 16th centuries, was the main church of the bishopric of Tartu, and the cathedral of the bishop of Tartu. During the Reformation, it suffered heavily from iconoclasm, and the church was later destroyed during the Livonian War.

After its reopening, the architect Johann Wilhelm Krause decided to build the university’s library inside the choir part of the cathedral. Krause’s plans saw an observatory built in the church towers, but this idea was never carried out.

In 1981, the library of the University of Tartu was moved into a new building, and the university’s museum has been opeating within the cathedral ever since.
The university’s main building
The University of Tartu Art Museum is located in the university’s elegant main building.

One of the most prominent examples of classicist architecture in Estonia, the main building was completed between 1804 and 1809 and designed by the university architect Johann Wilhelm Krause. The wings and the university church in the courtyard were added later, between 1856 and 1859.

The main building was erected at the foot of Toomemägi, on the site of St Mary’s Church, which was destroyed in war. The simultaneously stern and majestic building stands out in the centre of Tartu due to its dimensions and good location. The six pillars at the entrance have become a symbol of the university and of Tartu.

The University of Tartu Art Museum, founded in 1803, is the oldest art museum in Estonia.
Old Observatory
The Old Observatory, which used to be one of the most important global centres for astronomy, occupies a significant place in Estonian scientific history. Designed by Johann Wilhelm Krause, it was built between 1808 and 1810 in the southeast of Toomemägi.

The scientific research conducted at the observatory has repeatedly changed humanity’s understanding both of the Earth and of the universe. Geodesy, astronomy, seismology, chronometry, and theoretical and experimental physics have been the focus of research here.

The Observatory’s director Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve made history here in 1835, becoming the first to measure the distance of a star from the Earth. As part of the Struve Geodetic Arc, the Old Observatory belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Guided tours in the museums and on Toomemägi

We offer exciting tours that take you around Tartu, the university, and through the history of Estonian thought.

Guided tours

Cathedral Shop: souvenirs of Tartu and the university

The Cathedral Shop in the University of Tartu Museum has a large selection of unique and practical gifts. The shop’s products are sold in the University of Tartu Museum on Toomemägi, in the University of Tartu Art Museum, and at the Old Observatory. 

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