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Viljandi linn
Viljandi town hall


Coat of arms
Location of Viljandi
Viljandi linn is located in Estonia
Viljandi linn
Location of Viljandi
Coordinates: 58°22′N 25°36′E / 58.367°N 25.6°E / 58.367; 25.6
Country  Estonia
County Viljandi County
 - Total 14.62 km2 (5.6 sq mi)
Population (2007)
 - Total 19,870
 - Density 1,386.7/km2 (3,591.5/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)

Viljandi (German: Fellin) is a town and municipality in southern Estonia with a population of 19,870 (2007). It is the capital of Viljandi County. The town was first mentioned in 1283, upon being granted its town charter by Wilhelm von Endorpe.

In 1211 the hill-fort of the Estonians in Viljandi was besieged by a joint army of Germans, Latvians, and Livs. The Livonian Sword Brethren captured the hill-fort in August 1223 from a contingent of the people of Rus, who joined forces with the insurgent Estonians. The following year the Grand Master Volquin led the construction of the castle at the site of the former hill-fort. The Viljandi (Fellin) castle was one of the largest in the Baltic region. It was a major fortification of the Livonian Order and was appointed a commander from 1248. The fortress was continually rebuilt and modernized over the next two-hundred years.

In 1283, the town received a charter from Wilhelm von Endorpe, the master of the Order. The town became a member of the Hanseatic League at the beginning of the 14th century, and is one of five Estonian towns and cities in the league.

St. John's church

In 1470, Johann Wolthus von Herse, then master of the order, took up residence in the castle. In 1481, Ivan III of Russia laid siege to the castle but could not take it. However, during the Livonian War, Muscovite Russia succeeded in seizing it in 1560. During the Polish–Swedish War at the beginning of the 17th century the castle changed hands several times and fell into ruins. The same goes for the town, which was deprived of its privileges.

After the Great Northern War the Russians revoked local autonomy until 1783, when in the course of the regency reforms of the Empress Catherine the Great Viljandi became a district town. This involved the re-establishment of town bylaws. The economic and political importance of Viljandi started to increase. The population, after decreasing in population and wealth, started to rise again, as handicraft, trading, and cultural life were revived.

The popular Estonian newspaper Sakala was founded in Viljandi in 1878.



The flag of Viljandi is bi-coloured, its upper part light blue and lower part white. The city's shield-shaped coat of arms is light blue, with a white rose in the middle. Viljandi is the white rose city – in midsummer there are 720 white roses flowering in front of the city hall, planted for the town's anniversary in 2003. In summer, the White Rose Day is celebrated in Viljandi.


St. Paul's church

First records of civilization in the surroundings of Viljandi date back to the 5th millennium B.C. The first written record of the earthen stronghold of Viljandi was in the year 1154 in the commentaries to al-Idrisi's world atlas Geography.

In the 12th century, a permanent settlement emerged around the stronghold of Viljandi, which also became the economic centre of the ancient Sakala district.

After the fight for freedom in the first quarter of the 13th century, Viljandi fell under the rule of the Order of the Brethren of the Sword (later the Livonian Order) and in place of the Sakala wooden stronghold a powerful Order Centre was started in 1224.

In the 13th century, a medieval town arose on the northern side of the stronghold. The Hamburg-Riga town bylaws, lands and population of it were first recorded in 1283. During the first half of the 14th century, Viljandi joined the influential Hanseatic League – the town had become an important stop for merchants on their way to Russia and back. In 1365, the town council was party when peace between Denmark and Hansa was concluded.

In the Middle Ages, Viljandi was a typical small commercial town, which got its main income from transit trade. The local trade and handicraft played an equally important role. The decline of Viljandi started during the Livonian War. In 1560, the forces of Prince Kurbski demolished the town and the stronghold.

During the Polish–Russian War in the first quarter of the 17th century, the town and the stronghold were completely destroyed. Under the Swedish rule in the 17th century the town bylaws of Viljandi were cancelled.

After the Great Northern War, Russians seized the power and Viljandi was without laws until the year 1783, when in the course of the regency reforms of Catherine II Viljandi became a district town. This involved the re-establishment of town bylaws. The economic and political importance of Viljandi started to increase. The population, meanwhile, having decreased to the minimum, started to rise again; handicraft, trading and cultural life were enlivened.


Hanseatic Town

Viljandi is one of the 5 Estonian Hanseatic towns. Hanseatic League is a historical mercantile union of Northern European towns. Many of them are still cooperating. Every year the Hanseatic Days are taking place in different towns in Europe.

The Viljandi Hanseatic Days are traditionally held in June every year. The program covers different activities and events like Hanseatic fair, where people can buy and sell traditional goods. The Viljandi Hanseatic Days also offer concerts and live performances from local and foreign performers. Different workshops are opened. Medieval sports games take place by the Lake Viljandi. Viljandi Hanseatic Days are held every year and the European Hanseatic Days will be held there in 2015.


The city is situated on the north-western coast of Lake Viljandi, which lies in the primeval valley. Green zones cover 27% of the city area. Public green areas cover about 418 ha, including 92 ha of parks. The largest is the nature-protected Castle Park, but also Valuoja Park, Kiigepark, Uueveski Park are worth mentioning. The main tree species are oak, lime, birch, and pine. The grandest tree-lined avenues are Maramaa (named after August Maramaa, twice the mayor of Viljandi) and Lembitu avenues. Among foreign species, American larch can be found in Köler avenue and Douglas fir in Uus street.


Viljandi is sometimes called the cultural capital of Estonia, partly due to the Viljandi Culture Academy being located there.

In Viljandi, several international festivals and other cultural events take place: Viljandi Folk Music Festival, The Early Music Festival, Hansa Days, Young Dance Festival, Winter Folk Dance Festival, the "Theatre in Suitcase" puppet theatre festival, and others.

Since 1920, Viljandi has had the Ugala drama theatre. The tradition of open-air performances dates back to the same year. The Viljandi Puppet Theatre also works there.

In 2002, a new library was built, which is also a venue for exhibitions, meetings with famous people, culture seminars, etc. There are several exhibition halls and galleries in Viljandi. A meeting place for artistic people is the Kondas Centre, dedicated to Estonian naïve artist Paul Kondas.

Viljandi is famous for Viljandi Folk Music Festival – a music festival with a focus on European folk music. It is traditionally held in the end of July. In the year 2006, over 24,000 people attended the concerts. As such, it is the largest annual music festival in Estonia. Due to this, Viljandi is sometimes called the Estonian Capital of Folk Music. A manor house on Kirsimägi in the Castle ruins was restored and holds the Estonian Traditional Music Center (or Traditional Music Storehouse). The mission of the Center is to promote and teach traditional music.


There are 871 businesses in Viljandi (as of 1 May 2005), 50% of them in service, 45% in trade, and 5% in production areas. The major industries represented are the construction materials industry, textile industry, and food and bakery industry. In 2005, the Investor of the Year title was awarded to the waterworks operator AS Viljandi Veevärk, the Employer award to AS Toom Tekstiil, and the Sponsor of the Year title to AS Viljandi Metall. Unemployment rate among the working-age population in Viljandi was about 3%.

In 2005, Estonian Match, the successor of the 100-year old Viljandi Match Factory, made a six-metre match, which was registered as the largest match in the world in the Guinness Book of Records.

At the moment, 2 modes of transport can be used – road and rail.


There are 7 schools and 7 kindergartens in Viljandi. Vocational education can be acquired at Viljandi Joint Vocational Secondary School and professional higher education at Viljandi Culture Academy. Special interests are catered for by the Music School, Sports School and the Youth Hobby Centre. The Youth Centre of Viljandi County is successful in offering various information and consulting services.

Schools in Viljandi


There are sports events in Viljandi for both top athletes and amateurs. Family sports events, Sunday skiing trips, cycling tours in spring and autumn are very popular. In the city there are 53 sports clubs, a large sports hall and the new sports hall of Maagümnaasium. Soon, the jogging and cycling track around Lake Viljandi will be completed. A new skateboarding and roller-skating area has been built in Männimäe. At the lakeside are tennis courts and the city stadium.

Several races are held in Viljandi – around Lake Viljandi and Lake Paala and up and down the Trepimägi stairs. The longest tradition – the race around Lake Viljandi has been organised since 1928. This race takes place annually on 1 May, with the number of participants being about 1300 in the recent years. The winners' names are cut into stone columns. The legendary Hubert Pärnakivi, whose monument is also a tribute to the race, was an 11-time winner of the race.

Other popular fields of sport in Viljandi are football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, archery and rowing.


Boatman of Viljandi

Often the popular song is sung about the Boatman of Viljandi or the legend of him is told. Long-long ago, as a young man he had once taken a young girl across the lake on a summer evening and fallen hopelessly in love with the girl's blue eyes. Nobody knows what happened on the lake, but on the other side, the girl just waved him good-bye and left... However, the Boatman, a grey old man now, is said to row on the lake to this day, longing to see those wonderful blue eyes again.

According to another story, it was a boatman from Gauja who had dedicated a song to his loved one. As the young woman had moved near Viljandi, the song had changed, too.

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

Viljandi is twinned with:

See also

External links


Coordinates: 58°22′N 25°36′E / 58.367°N 25.6°E / 58.367; 25.6

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Viljandimaa : Viljandi

Viljandi [1] is an ancient hilly city in the South of Estonia.

Evidence of civilization around Viljandi dates back to 500 B.C.. The first written record of a "Viljandi stronghold" was in 1154 in the commentaries to al-Idrisi's world atlas "Geography."

Hanseatic merchants settled in Viljandi in the 14th century.

For many people Viljandi conjures up images of the Viljandi Folk Music Festival and Viljandi Culture Academy. This small city is the "capital of folk music" for most Estonians and also appeals to people who enjoy parks. The city also has it's own lake.

Get in

By bus

Viljandi has a regular bus connection to Tallinn, Tartu, Valga and Pärnu among others. Bus schedules can be found at Bussireised.

By train

Edelaraudtee connects Viljandi to Tallinn - the trains run twice a day.

  • Tourist Information Centre, Vabaduse pl 6, 71020 Viljandi. E-mail:, tel +372 433 04 42, fax +372 433 04 42.
Ruins of the Viljandi Order Castle
Ruins of the Viljandi Order Castle
  • Ruins of the Viljandi Order Castle, Tasuja puiestee, Viljandi. The fortress got its final shape and size in the beginning of the 16th century and was one of the most distinguished fortresses in Estonia and Latvia. Due to various wars, all that are left from the entire order castle today are just a few stone walls, however they still give an impression of its former grandeur. From the ruins you have the most beautiful view over the lake of Viljandi.  edit
  • Trepimägi (Stairs hill), Linnu tn 2, Viljandi. The stairs of the Trepimägi in Viljandi were constructed around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century in order to improve the road connecting the town and the lake. Next to the Trepimägi lie the beautiful homes of the town’s merchants and rich residents from the old days.  edit
  • Väikemõisa manor, Väikemõisa bussipeatus, Peetrimõisa küla, Saarepeedi vald, Viljandi maakond. The Väikemõisa manor was build in the beginning of the last century and is a good example of the Swiss chalet style influenced by the art nouveau movement. Today the manor house accommodates the Väikemõisa young children's orphanage and the house can be marvelled at from the outside only.  edit
  • St. Paul’s church in Viljandi, Kiriku tn 3, Viljandi. Since 1866 a G. Knauf organ fills the church with music, the biggest still functional organ of its kind in Estonia.  edit
  • Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life, Heimtali küla, Pärsti vald, Viljandi maakond. Museum situates in an old village school building of Heimtali that is a beautiful rubble stone building from year 1864. Visitors can familiarize themselves with perfect collection of the examples of national handicraft like old household goods and the furnishings of a hundred year old schoolroom. There's also a children's playroom.  edit
  • Viljandi Rope Bridge. The rope bridge has become a favourite for both residents of and visitors to Viljandi and one of the town’s most important symbols. It was reconstructed in 1995 (originally built in 1879).  edit
  • The Museum of Viljandi, Johan Laidoneri plats 10, Viljandi. The building of the Museum of Viljandi is one of the oldest stone buildings in town. Until 1940 the house accommodated a pharmacy, the museum moved into this building in 1942. The permanent exhibitions of the museum provide an introduction into the local history from ancient times until today.  edit
  • Town hall of Viljandi, Linnu tn 2, Viljandi. The town hall building is one of the four oldest preserved stone buildings in town. The city government of Viljandi resides here.  edit


Viljandi hosts many events and several international festivals throughout the year. The Early Music Festival, Hanseatic Days, Young Dance Festival, Mulgi Rally, Winter Folk Dance Festival, the "Theatre in Suitcase" puppet theatre festival etc.

Hanseatic merchants' spirit can still be felt in Viljandi every June. People trade at a fair, dress the way people did in that area, organise exhibitions and party.

Since 1928, a run around Lake Viljandi has taken place on the first day of May every year.

Tennis courts, cafes, playgrounds, a diving tower, boat rental and catamaran trips are available at the lake.

  • The Viljandi Folk festival, [2]. The festival runs for 4 days on the last weekend in July. More than 100 concerts take place in Viljandi castle's ruins, churches, and other venues throughout Viljandi County. It is the largest annual music festival in Estonia.  edit


The official Estonian tourism website provides an extensive list of options for accommodation in Viljandi.

  • Soomaa National Park, second largest national park in Estonia, famous for its "fifth season"
  • Valga, border-town in South-Estonia
  • Pärnu, historical resort seaside city with a small harbour, Estonia's summer capital
  • Tartu, museum-rich and hanseatic city of Tartu on the banks of the Emajõgi River, famous for its university
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