Paldiski is a town on the Pakri peninsula of northwestern Estonia; it lies off the coast of the Baltic Sea.

A brief history of Paldiski

The recent history of Paldiski is very unusual, and during the past century the town has seen massive changes, in 1962, the Soviet Union made the town a nuclear submarine training centre that employed around 16,000 people. There were two land-based atomic reactors at the facility, which was the largest of its kind in the Soviet Union. The whole city was then closed off with barbed wire for security and barracks were built to house the stationing troops and those in training, which has been left in disrepair ever since. This situation continued until well after the fall of the Soviet Union and Estonian Independence in 1991. The last Russian warship didn't leave until 1994 when the city opened again. The nuclear reactors were shut down, waste material transported back to Russia, and reactors decommissioned; the Russians finally relinquished control of reactor facilities in 1995.

After Estonia regained Independence in 1991, the city hardly had any Estonian citizens, and Paldiski is full of derelict Soviet-style apartment buildings and the relics of military bases. Today the population is hovering somewhere around 4,300, and the vast majority of the town's residents are ethnic Russians, there is one regular ferry connection with Kapellskär in Sweden which provides some passing trade.

Things to do in Paldiski

The fortress of Peter the Great is in Paldiski and well worth a visit, if not only for the fantastic sea views you get from it! The fort was designed to become an important stronghold in the Russian defence system, the Czar at the time, Peter the Great, designed this Dutch type of fortification himself. It has five bastions on the Pakri peninsula cut into the limestone as one solid construction; the earth walls are 4 m high and 17 m above the sea level. In 1790, the fortress had over 40 cannons! The Pakri lighthouse was built-in 1889, but during World War II the tower and lighthouse keeper's house were severely damaged. However, the main structures have survived, and in 2001 the lighthouse was fully renovated.

The Pakri Peninsula, on which Paldiski lies, extends from northwestern mainland Estonia's Harju County into the Baltic Sea. It is 12 KM long covering an area of about 40 square kilometres, there is some excellent hiking along the tops and down at the base of the cliffs, which are protected within the Pakri Landscape Reserve due to their unique geological features, rare of flora and fauna and historic interest and the views over the peninsular are brilliant! Another excellent place to visit is the Amandus Adamson Studio Museum is a beautiful manor house and garden, it is Estonia's only sculptor's studio museum. The studio, surrounded by a peaceful oasis, which also holds the summer gallery, is one of the best-preserved of all the pre-20th-century buildings in Paldiski.

Beaches around Paldiski

Kloogaranna rand is a lovely stretch of sandy beach a few kilometres east of Paldiski. It is quiet and peaceful, and the water is clean for bathing. Located on the next peninsula to the east of the Pakri peninsular is Lohusalu beach; it has sand and some rocks and is beautiful and shallow, so good for kids. If you want to swim, but you prefer freshwater then why not explore the Treppoja Cascade waterfalls, located just inland a little from Paldiski. Not only are they beautiful, but they also provide a little shaded place to swim to escape the sun.  

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Travel guides and tips: PALDISKI

Discover how to reach and what to do to Paldiski: tips, events, local festivals, culture, food and all the other details to explore Paldiski can be found on our blog!

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