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Tartu has a unique cultural life. The city is an ideal environment for people engaged with professional, folk and alternative culture. Tartu is home to interesting museums as well as theatres and concert halls with diverse repertoires. Interesting and exciting festivals take place all year round. Thanks to Tartu’s top athletes and major sports events, the city’s sports life is also well-known beyond Estonia’s national borders.

Department of Culture

+372 736 1360

Raekoja plats 12, 51004 Tartu

Tartu - European Capital of Culture Candidate City 2024
UNESCO City of Literature
Reputational events

Tartu - European Capital of Culture Candidate City 2024

European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) is one of the most recognised and treasured EU projects that started already in 1985. By 2020 60 European cities will have held the title.

It brings together all ideas, people and stakeholders in the city or region.

Through culture and art, Tartu as an European Capital of Culture improves the quality of life and strengthens its sense of community. Among the rest.

Tartu and the local governments of Southern Estonia are working closely together to ensure that Tartu becomes the European Capital of Culture in 2024.

In 2024 Tartu and the Southern Estonian region could be in the centre of the whole Europe.

The City Council of Tartu voted for running for this title in the autumn 2017 and after that Tartu is doing its utmost to put itself at the heart of cultural life across Europe.


See more


Discussion on Tartu City Day 2017 in Sisevete Saatkond (Inland Waters Embassy) on the river Emajõgi. Photo: Lilian Lukka
Discussion on Tartu City Day 2017 in Sisevete Saatkond (Inland Waters Embassy) on the river Emajõgi. Photo: Lilian Lukka

Last changed 23.08.2018

UNESCO City of Literature

Since 2015, Tartu has been part of the UNESCO City of Literature network. Other such cities include Baghdad, Barcelona, Dublin, Dunedin, Edinburgh, Granada, Heidelberg, Iowa City, Krakow, Ljubljana, Lviv, Melbourne, Montevideo, Norwich, Nottingham, Obidos, Prague, Reykjavík and Ulyanovsk. The activities of the City of Literature are coordinated by the Estonian Literary Society, which also works with the Department of Culture of the City of Tartu.


Since receiving the title, Tartu has placed greater emphasis on increasing the literary interests of children and young people, which was one of the city’s principal objectives in its nomination to gain the title of UNESCO City of Literature. Every year, the city hands out an award for children’s literature, supports the organisation of literary events in schools and organises regular training events for kindergarten teachers regarding good children’s literature and up-to-date reading methods. In 2017, the Estonian Literary Society will organise the first Children's Literature Festival in Tartu, the purpose of which is to bring children of various ages closer to literature and the art of the written word through engaging endeavours.


Tartu has made investments to renovate the representative centre of the City of Literature (Tartu Literature House), has appointed a City Writer, is training guides for the City of Literature and has made an effort to encourage international cooperation.


One of the guides to different locations in literary Tartu is a map (in Estonian and English) that features, among other things, a reading recommendation on the topic of Tartu.


As of 2017, the City of Tartu also awards a year-long City Writer scholarship. The first City Writer for Tartu was Kristiina Ehin. The current City Writer is Mika  Keränen


View the map of the City of Literature

Website of the City of Literature

Photo by Heikki Leis
Photo by Heikki Leis
Mika Keränen. Photo by Ove Maidla
Mika Keränen. Photo by Ove Maidla
Kristiina Ehin. Photo by Ove Maidla
Kristiina Ehin. Photo by Ove Maidla

Last changed 30.01.2018

Reputational events

Tartu is a university city with a vivid and colourful cultural life that is renowned for its youthful atmosphere. In addition, Tartu also hosts a range of high-ranking events that are international in scope. For example, the skiing event Tartu Maraton is one of the oldest ski marathons in the world, with 55 years of history. The marathon is also hard to outdo in terms of the number of participants it attracts and its level of organisation. Tartu Hanseatic Days and the Hansa Fair have been entertaining residents of Tartu in early July for more than 20 years. In August, Town Hall Square transforms into an outdoor cinema for the week-long Tartu Love Film Festival tARTuFF. At the start of September, Tartu hosts the theatre festival Draama, bringing together the very best of Estonian theatre. Tartu is also known around the world for its street art, which is celebrated with the annual street art festival Stencibility.

There are plenty of other exciting high-profile events that regularly take place in Tartu. Read the “What takes place in Tartu?” booklet on reputational events to learn more about what is going on in Tartu.

Photo by Sander Hiire
Photo by Sander Hiire

Booklet on reputational events

The events calendar “What  takes place in Tartu? 2018” provides an overview of the most important events being held in the city. The booklet has been published  in English,  RussianFinnish in addition to Estonian.

What takes place in Tartu? 2018

Photo by Heikki Leis
Photo by Heikki Leis

Last changed 15.01.2018

Honorary cultural titles of the year

The honorary title of Culture Bearer is a way for the City of Tartu to recognise people and collectives in Tartu for their remarkable cultural achievements in the preceding 12 months, or people and collectives whose work and activities have contributed significantly to the creation of cultural values in the city.


Everyone is welcome to nominate candidates for honorary titles. When selecting a winner in the culture-friendly company category, only proposals from cultural organisations are taken into account. The winners are chosen by a broad-ranging committee established under the order of the Department of Culture of Tartu City Government which is made up of pre-eminent experts in different fields of culture.


The winners of the honorary titles awarded for creative achievements in the previous year are announced during a formal ceremony taking place at the beginning of the new year.

Honorary titles are awarded in 10 categories in an effort to recognise and support the diversity of culture.

Culture Bearers 2016

  • The exhibition entitled “Elmar Kits. 1966” at Tartu Art House was declared the winner in the Cultural Event of the Year category.
  • Roland Seer, animation director and artist (chief animator and artist on the short film Amalimbo) was declared the Creator of the Year.
  • The University of Tartu Museum was declared the Processional Community of the year.
  • The team behind the UIT Urban Festival was declared the Amateur Community of the year.
  • Krista Aru, journalism historian, museologist and former director of the Estonian National Museum, was named Folk Culture Bearer of the Year.
  • Kadri Lind, curator and organiser of festivals and projects in urban space, was declared Young Culture Bearer of the Year.
  • Kaili Kask and Raul Oreškin – the duo behind the apartment-based exhibitions of the Voronja Gallery – were declared Culture Organisers of the Year.
  • The team behind the international light and lighting art festival Tartu in Light or TAVA 2016 was declared Newcomer of the Year.
  • Liina Vainumetsa, the editor-in-chief at Klassikaraadio, received the honorary title of Culture Communicator of the Year.
  • Cramo Estonia AS, which supports several cultural events in Tartu, was awarded the title of Culture-Friendly Company of the Year.

Click here to view the gallery from the gala evening.

Last changed 30.03.2017

Grants for cultural projects and activities

Recreational activities

Grant for recreational activities organised by cultural associations

Non-profit associations, foundations and societies without legal entity status organising recreational folk culture activities in hobby groups can apply for the grant.

Recreational folk culture activities are artistic hobby activities based on traditional culture and national traditions in the fields of choir singing, folk dancing, brass-band music, traditional folk music, amateur theatre, national handicrafts and folklore.

The grant issued to a cultural society consists of a capitation fee and/or achievement grant. The society receives a capitation fee tax for every practitioner whose age is either 7-26 or over 60 who lives in Tartu according to the Estonian population register and who has (or whose legal representative has) noted the corresponding hobby group as their preferred activity in the field of folk culture.

The application deadline is 1 September.

You can submit an application in the online environment www.tartu.ee/kotoetused. The site is in Estonian.

Photo by Heikki Leis
Photo by Heikki Leis

Cultural projects

Grant for cultural projects

Private or legal persons can apply for a grant to organise an event or conduct an activity on condition that the event or activity takes place in Tartu or is connected to the city in some other way. The grant is awarded for the organisation of projects planned for the following calendar year.

The application deadline is 15 August.

You can submit an application in the online environment www.tartu.ee/kotoetused. The site is in Estonian.

Photo by Meelis Lokk
Photo by Meelis Lokk

Museum worker scholarship

City of Tartu’s scholarship for museum workers

The objective of the scholarship is to sponsor workers in the city’s museums to:

  • pursue professional self-development;
  • advance their academic, technical and vocational proficiency;
  • acquire and exchange experience; and
  • expand their international relationships and contacts.

The application deadline is 10 February.

You can submit an application in the online environment www.tartu.ee/kotoetused. The site is in Estonian.

Last changed 30.03.2017