The Port of Parnu lies on the banks of the Parnu River on the eastern shores of the Gulf of Riga off the Baltic Sea in southwestern Estonia. It is a popular tourist destination and beach resort served by many restaurants and fine hotels. It is also a center for light industries producing food, wood products, and leather. Known as “Estonia’s Summer Capital,” about 44 thousand people lived there in 2004.
The Port of Parnu is an important regional harbor serving the southwestern Estonia hinterlands, which provide much of the raw materials exported through Estonian ports. Parnu Sadam AS is the port authority that owns the basic infrastructure of the port and manages ocean-going traffic. Parnu Bay is ice-bound in the winter, and ice-breakers are used to keep the port open.
There is evidence of human habitation in the area at the mouth of the Parnu River as early as 8500 BC, and there was a human settlement there in 7000 BC. By 1000 AD, there was a “modern” settlement at the mouth of the Reiu River. The Port of Parnu was first mentioned in historical records in 1241 AD, and the dome church of the Episcopal Osilian Diocese was opened in 1251. The village was destroyed in 1263 by the Lithuanians, and then the new Parnu was established on the Parnu River in 1265 by the master of the Teutonic Order.
It was controlled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1560 to 1617. In the early 16th Century during the reformation movement, churches were taken over by the local town council, ultimately leading to a civil war. 1560 saw the beginning of an era of wars that lasted until 1617 when the Swedes occupied the town. By 1696, the town had doubled in size, and the town wall was finished. In 1710, the Swedes surrendered to Russian armies, and the Black Plague hit the town.
In 1779, the construction of sailing ships started at Heinrich Harder & Co. In the early 19th Century, the first bathing establishment was opened in the village, and the first regular newspaper soon followed.
In 1837, local businessmen opened a bathing establishment from an old tavern near the beach. Opened the next year, the spa had bathrooms where visitors could have baths in hot seawater in the summer and saunas in the winter. Today’s stone Parnu Mud Baths was erected on that site in 1927, and wings were added for more baths and a pool.