Birds fly South and so should you!
Late Autumn tends to be quite miserable in Norther Europe and it’s the thoughts of inevitable X-mas festivities that barely brighten the mood. Either those or a prospect of taking a sunny holiday in December.
Planning for a quick last-minute get-away can be tough, even if you have a budget. You need to go through hotel websites, figure out logistics, decide on what the hell you are going to do, once you get to your destination and so on. You can get so stressed by the whole planning aspect that you end up just giving up and staying home on your sofa.
But there is an easy way to give yourself a warm fuzzy boost of energy without the whole stress! Take this guide and go South to visit the Summer capital of Estonia, the city of Pärnu. We have you covered!
Back in the day, visiting Pärnu during off-season was slightly depressing – an empty town with the only life-form being aged Finnish tourists clinging to a couple aging Spa-hotels and shots of Vana Tallinn. I’m happy to inform you that this is (mostly) no longer the case. There are a couple modern shopping malls, a few bars and several restaurants working year-round, as well as significant improvements in number and quality of Spas.
So, here is a short guide to getting a fun and revitalizing experience in Pärnu. You will:
- Do a heavy-duty wellness tour
- Do some casual entertainment
- Visit a secret gambling game den
Packing for success
I will not pretend to know, how a lady packs for a weekend in a Spa, so let’s say take what you usually do. However:
- Bring your favourite flip-flops, as Spas are slippery. Extra points for sexy look for your feet, as if you were at a resort somewhere warm.
- 2-3 bathing suits, as you might be jumping between spa and treatments and even with dryer in your room’s bathroom, they might not get dry quick enough.
- Your favourite snacks/bottle of champagne/anything you might want to consume in the quiet of your room.
- Want to be extra fancy? Bring your own silk Japanese-style bathrobe to stand out from the crowd!
There are several large stores about 15-minute walk from hotels open till 10PM, so you can do some shopping, if you run out of anything or forget to pack.
Getting in and out
Pärnu is a couple hour drive from Tallinn, but you shouldn’t subject yourself to two hours driving through a speed-cam infested highway! Luxexpress can get you there in the same amount of time in comfort. Tickets range from 5-10 eur each way, the earlier you book – the better the rate. For best results, I suggest getting in on Friday afternoon and returning on Sunday afternoon.
On your bus trip you get to:
- Watch a movie or a show on a personal mini-TV
- Enjoy free tea/coffee/coco
- Have a luxury of an on-board WC
PRO-TIP 1: There is no food or beer served on the bus, so why not bring over a Subway sandwich and a little rum & coke pre-mixed in a discreet bottle?
Once in Pärnu, pop open your Google maps and take a 15-minute stroll to your hotel. Alternatively, a Taxi ride to hotel will set you back 4-5 euros.
Setting up your base of operations
There are several Spas in Pärnu, with rooms prices ranging between 40-100 eur/night with unlimited Spa access and breakfast. Which one will be perfect for you? You could just google the options, but I suggest Viiking Spa (www.viiking.ee) and as it is a bargain! Here is the setup:
- 2 nights in a nice room with a balcony
- Bathrobe to ensure extra-relaxed feeling
- 2 buffet breakfasts
- 2 buffet dinners
- 1x 20-minute classical massage
- 1x 40-minute green tea oil massage
- Leg lymph-massage
- LED gel mask treatment
- Mint bath
- Cranberry hand-spa
- 30 minutes in a salt chamber
- Unlimited jacuzzi and sauna time!
Disclaimer: Prices are as of article publishing (November 2017), please refer to hotel’s website for detailed pricing information and available special offers.
There is a small shop for all your needs on site. It’s 90% alcohol, 5% souvenirs and 5% candy. Pricing is a little weird, but you can grab a decent bottle for wine for about 6 eur. Beer and scotch are somewhat overpriced though.
PRO-TIP 2: While we all love booking.com, you are very likely to get a better deal on hotel’s website with a bunch of treatments included.
PRO-TIP 3: The main difference between hotels, from budget perspective, is the number and quality of spa-treatments you get for your buck. Use that as main selection criteria, if you start comparing.
PRO-TIP 4: Book your treatments in advance, as weekends tend to get a bit crowded and you want your treatments to be lined up perfectly.
For best effect, I advise doing all your treatments on Saturday. This way you can spend 6-8 hours getting treated like a princess (in a good way). Optionally, you could grab a massage on Friday evening to get in the mood on arrival, but I honestly think that just spending an hour in the Spa should do the trick.
Can you just give us a step-by-step schedule already, please?!
Assuming that you arrive on Friday afternoon and pick Viiking Spa, your dive into Zen should look like this:
A few days or weeks before the trip
- Book your Spa hotel or pick Viiking Spa
- Buy the bus tickets
- Book your treatments (call the Spa you picked, its +3724490510 in Viiking)
16.30 Settling in
After checking in put your swimming gear and that pristine-white bathrobe on and head towards treatment centre. Make sure that your Saturday treatments are nicely booked. Or, if you ignored my tip, book those darlings.
Off to Spa you go! Spend an hour in a variety of saunas, jacuzzies and the large warm pool. There is a bar, where you can order a milk-shake or something stiffer. Orders will be billed to your room, so no need to stick that credit card into your knickers.
17.45 Grab a bite & prepare for going out
Buffet dinner is rather unadventurous, but of good quality. Several meats, vegetables, carbohydrate-sides. Don’t over-eat! You will be grabbing some comfort food later in the evening! Time to change from that robe into your casual-smart evening dress.
19.00 Grab a book and watch a 3D movie in Apollo
Surprized? Well, Pärnu sports a nice modern cinema on top of one of its new shopping centres (named Port Arthur and Port Arthur 2). It shows all the new Hollywood flicks and the last row features kissing-seats. Remember comfort food? Grab a portion of warm nachos with salsa for your movie experience!
Right next to the cinema is a book-store with a good selection of books in various languages. Why not grab one for later?
PRO-TIP 5: While the cinema is just 15-minute walk from hotel, it’s best to book your tickets a few days in advance online.
21.00 Let’s check out that provincal disco!
Half-way between the hotel and cinema is a bar called Bum Bum. It has a rather distinct atmosphere, some live music and might be a great place to check out before settling in for the night. Night-caps!
9.00 Rise and shine
Have a good breakfast, as with all the treatments, you probably wouldn’t have time or want to have a lunch. Eggs, vegetables and sausage should give us enough proteins and fibres to go until dinner. If you are an early bird, then take that first trip to the Spa or gym to get in the spirit beforehand.
9.30 Treatments galore!
You should have a schedule to last you for the next 6-7 hours. Enjoy your vacation and clear your mind. These treatments will become one of the best memories of this Autumn and you deserve it!
If there is a break in the action relaxation, use it to jump into Spa. There is plenty of room in jacuzzies and on hot benches to revel in the atmosphere of soothing relaxation.
Alternatively, you might want to take a walk on the beach promenade around mid-day. Empty autumn beach and closed stores have their gloomy charms. If you get hungry, grab a coffee and a scone in one of cafes closer to city centre or visit Pizza Stefani for somewhat legendary pizza lunch. Younger crowd from Tallinn occasionally drives here (130 km each way) just to get a slice. Try it for yourself!
16.00 Down time
Yep, you got it. You need a little rest from all that resting. Stretch out on your bed with that book or write a poem. Or go for a walk in the nearby park, checking out the boats and small architectural gems.
17.30 Let’s refuel
It’s up to you – grab another dinner at the hotel buffet or go out. If hotel buffet feels boring, pay a visit to one of restaurants in the centre. Pärnu has really stepped up its cuisine game, so there is plenty of choice. I really liked Mt. Everest though. It’s a small place with a huge menu, offering Indian, Chinese, Nepalese and Thai dishes. Don’t rush and savour the meal.
PRO-TIP 6: Did you meet someone interesting during your stay yet? Great! Invite them over to share the dinner with you. Asian food is amazing for social eating, as you can share tablesful of naans, rolls and curries with your newfound friends.
19.00 Let’s play!
A game of monopoly or risk with a bunch of well-spirited people is a great adult or family pass-time. Except here, you are going to play some good old Texas Hold’em.
I think that playing in a casino brings a slight extra pressure (you might win several hundred euros or lose 50) and you might end up playing with professionals with stone faces and ruthless strategies. While there are two “proper” casinos in Pärnu (Olympic and Grand Prix), where “serious” tournaments can be played, you are out to chill and have fun.
Meet 2Pairs, one of Estonia’s best card-game pubs. It’s run by lovely Regina and her mate and offers a cosy atmosphere of casual games, including a couple of poker tables with tournaments running each weekend. For a couple euros, you get a seat and a chance to win a few free beers from the bar or a larger prize, if you best all opponents. “Opponents” being friendly neighborhood guys and gals, who are full of inside jokes and are quite a nice bunch.
I know a thing or two about poker, but here I’ve found an amazing mix of personalities that really made for an amazing past time. Grumpy uncle, drunk semi-pro, aspiring young-ling, local darling and a dumb tourist (me). I wish I had a pub like this next to where I live, as it’s pure fun.
By the way, they stock a nice bar, with a good variety of beers and spirits for all tastes.
NB! As an alternative, you might want to check out Endla theatre. It’s over 100 years old and is still going strong. While it’s not exactly fancy pants, there are some good plays and guest troupes visiting.
23.00 When you just need a little more action
Let’s be honest, you want a bite and bit more fun, but not too much. So, let’s wrap the night up in Sweet Rosie. A British-styled pub with a great selection of beers, pub-snacks and Newcastle ale on tap. It’s going to be noisy and crowded and just the place to spend an hour reminiscing on the day’s events before you fall into your soft hotel bed after a great night out. Be careful with your drinking though, you still have another day tomorrow. Remember to hydrate!
9.00 Do I really have to leave?!
No, you don’t! The check-out is not until noon, so it’s a great time to take advantage of your unlimited Spa package. Robe and swimming garb on, grab a coffee and a bagel in the restaurant and jump into the pool. Remember, the pool bar is open, so hydrate with refreshing drinks to compensate for last night’s excess.
10.45 Let’s brunch!
Sunday breakfast is going on until 11am, so, just before it’s end, you can get a couple platefuls of food to prep yourself for the trip back home. No need to take the bathrobe off, you are still on a vacation! After the brunch though, it’s time to call it a stay.
12.00 Time to say good-bye
Yep, unfortunately, out weekend-break is over. Make sure to fill out the feedback form about your stay in the lobby. If some of the hotel’s employees really made your day(s), make sure to mention them – it’s important for their career and benefits, let’s appreciate their effort!
If there is some time until your return bus, you could have a latte in one of coffee shops close to the bus station or just stay in the hotel for another treatment or a few hours in the spa.
Same as on the trip to Pärnu – consider getting some snacks and drinks to compliment the ride with a movie or an article you write about your stay.
Wrapping things up
And this is really it. You can get an amazing amount of positive emotions by spending 48 hours in Pärnu. Just spend a little time planning and use this simple guide to get the most out of your time there. Remember, spend on experiences, not stuff!
If you liked this guide, you might also like our guide for another South Estonian SPA gem – Lake Pühajärve.
This is a guest article by Vladimir Jelov, an IT sales expert and business writer, who has recently grown a beard (literally). You can contact him on Twitter or his blog, once he gets either.