Narva, the city at the end of Europe

Estonia is a compact country. A mere two-hour train ride takes you to its eastern border, Narva, where East and West collide. 

Narva’s turbulent history 

Located across the river from Russia, Narva has a fascinating blend of cultures and a long history as a city at the crossroads. Narva was an important location on international trade routes for several centuries, even as early as the Viking Age. 

First mentioned in the Danish land register in 1240 and given city status in 1345, Narva’s city center once looked much like Tallinn’s Old Town. Narva Castle defended the city, and merchants and villagers lived in a maze of buildings with red-tiled roofs. Even though Narva changed hands at several points throughout history – from the Danes to the Germans, Swedes, and Russians – the city didn’t experience massive destruction until World War II. Heavy shelling by the Soviets during the Battle of Narva in February 1944 destroyed much of the city, and the bombing of Narva by Soviet aircraft on March 6, 1944, razed the historic old town to the ground. 

When you visit Narva now, you can see past and present side by side. A walk along Narva’s riverside promenade is a great place to start your city tour. The Five Krooni View observation deck is the best place to get an overview of Narva Castle, the Narva River, and Russia’s Ivangorod Fortress on the opposite bank. Follow the signs for Hermanni Linnus (Hermann Castle), another name for Narva Castle. The castle houses Narva Museum, a finalist for the British Guild of Traveler Writers award for Best Europe Tourism Project. Until the end of 2024, you can see an exhibition about the bombing of 1944. From there you can walk to Town Hall Square, the tourist information center in the newly-renovated Town Hall. They offer a VR tour that shows you what the city was like before the bombing. 

The Kreenholm Textile Factory 

When the Kreenholm Textile Factory was built in the 19th century, it was the largest textile factory in Europe and the Russian Empire. In the early 1900s, over ten thousand people worked there. The company declared bankruptcy in 2010, and the factories were abandoned. Contact Narva Museum to arrange a guided tour, or you can take a free self-guided audio tour around the grounds. 

A trip to the seaside 

North of Narva is the seaside resort of Narva-Jõesuu, with three spa hotels and nearly eight kilometers of sandy beach. Russian nobility from Saint Petersburg called the area the “Riviera of the North” when they visited Narva-Jõesuu’s famous spas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  

When you arrive at the train station in Narva, you can take a bus directly to Narva-Jõesuu. However, the most picturesque way to get there during the summer is by boat. The Caroline ferry departs from the pier near the Ro-Ro Club. 

Things to consider before traveling

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Some tips to consider while traveling

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