Tartu – City of Good Thoughts

Tartu, with its population of around 100,000 in an area of 38.8 square kilometres, is the second largest city of Estonia. Tartu, lying 185 kilometres south of Tallinn, is also the centre of Southern Estonia. The Emajõgi River, which connects the two largest lakes of Estonia, flows for the length of 10 kilometres within the city limits and adds colour to the city.

The first written records of Tartu date from 1030.

Tartu has all the best of the globally new but with the local advantage – the costs are lower, security is higher and air is cleaner than in Tallinn, Helsinki or New York. The access to Estonian’s central market region, a well-qualified work force, good transport system and fully modernised business infrastructure has made Tartu an attractive location.

The geographical location makes the city very attractive logistically. By car/bus it takes no more than 2.5 hours to Tallinn or 3.5 hours to Riga.


Facts about Tartu

  • The second largest city of Estonia
  • Area: 38.8 square kilometres
  • Population: about 100 000 inhabitants
  • Distances from Tartu: Tallinn 186 km, Narva 184 km, Pärnu 178 km, Riga 250 km, St. Petersburg 315 km 
  • Ethnic composition: Estonians 76%, Russian 19%, others 5%


Tartu - the smart location in Estonia

Tartu is a city that promotes innovation via competitive enterprises, being attractive to investors and facilitating entrepreneurship and knowledge-based production and services.

If you are considering Estonia as a source of investment opportunity you should really take a look at Tartu city and county.

Tartu is a city in motion, empowered by the changes taken place over the last decade. These changes have been radical with a substantial influence on citizens´ welfare and business growth.

The region´s infrastructure has been extensively updated and is ready for further expansion. The development strategy and detailed action plans have been prepared and put into force in most areas to maximise the potential of the development. Recognising that the city and county are so mutually dependent, the administrations of both are actively coordinating at every level to continue the rapid tempo of positive change.

Long traditions and high competence in electronics, information and biotechnology have made our enterprises internationally competitive.

Tartu - City of smart enterpreneurship


Education and R&D

Tartu is a university town and known as a centre of education in Estonia. In addition to Tartu University, founded in 1632, two more large institutions of higher education are located here: the Estonian University of Life Sciences and the Baltic Defence College. Tartu has a total of 16 institutions of higher education. Tartu Vocational Education Centre offers vocational training in the following fields – IT and construction fields, electricity, food technology, metal works, sewing etc.

Since 2001, Tartu has been the seat of the Ministry of Education of Estonia. Tartu is also an internationally known research town. The research institutions of Tartu practically represent all the trends and fields of science of Estonia – Institute of Physics, Institute of Technology, Estonian Marine Institute etc.

The majority of Estonian life sciences and medicine R&D activities are concentrated in Tartu. Also, more than 60% of the total Estonian research potential is concentrated in Tartu.


Information highway

All professional and technical services are available in Tartu, including international operators. About 98% of business transactions are non-cash. Mobile network coverage is 100% throughout the county.

Several innovative technical solutions and applications have been developed locally, for instance MPS (mobile positioning system).

Tartu was the first city in the world to introduce paying for parking via mobile phone – a trivial fact, but a good indicator of how technically advanced Tartu has become. Now this extends to paying for public transport (m-ticket) via mobile phone.



Tartu industry is modernised and in the phase of a rapid development. Large foreign investments have been made into Tartu’s traditionally strong sectors – engineering, electronics, food industry – as well as new ones – information technology, glass industry and biotechnology. Foreign companies have invested also in the public services: city energy, transport and maintenance companies. Machinery and metal industry growth is based mainly on local investments, but the sector is one of the strongest and competitive in Tartu.

The growth rate of goods export picked up, facilitated by increasing external demand and recovering competitiveness during the last years.

Tartu holds a strong position in the establishment of high-tech enterprises, notably in the fields of biomedicine, material science and information technology.

  • The service sector dominates the economy of Tartu both with regard to profits and the number of people employed (over 2/3).
  • Conference tourism in a university town has been an obvious sector for growth. Enterprises have responded, and created the capacity and variety for Tartu to compete as an attractive conference venue with quality and hi-tech services.
  • Closeness to Russia makes Tartu a perfect place for businesses to trade with the Russian Federation. Customs and Toll declarations can be made in Tartu rather than at the border.
  • Nice and friendly living environment – you may find a wide spectrum of cultural activities with many interesting museums, libraries, theatres and open-air events.
  • A well-developed commercial and business atmosphere bases on good contacts between local business, universities, various institutions and service providers in Tartu.