Pärnu, Estonia’s main seaside resort, comes into its own in summer, when it fills up with locals and tourists and hosts daily cultural and musical events.
Rüütli, cutting east–west through the centre, is the Old Town’s main pedestrianized thoroughfare, lined with shops and a mix of seventeenth- to twentieth- century buildings, while parallel Kuninga boasts the largest concentration of restaurants. The entertaining Pärnu Museum traces local history from 9000 BC up until World War II; ask for the information sheet in English. The oldest building in town is the Red Tower, a fifteenth-century remnant of the medieval city walls at Hommiku 11, a block north from Rüütli.
Follow Nikolai south from the centre and you’ll reach the Kunsti Museum set in the Communist Party HQ at Esplanaadi 10. It holds regular shows, film festivals and excellent temporary exhibitions of contemporary Estonian art. South of here Nikolai joins Supeluse, which leads to the beach, passing beneath the trees of the shady Rannapark. Just beyond the sand dunes lies Pärnu’s main attraction: the wide, clean sandy beach, lined with see-saws, changing booths and volleyball nets. During the summer months, the largely Swedish and Finnish crowds have replaced the Soviet ones.