Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia, following Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn.
Tartu is often considered the intellectual centre of the country, especially since it is home to the nation's oldest and most renowned university, the University of Tartu. The city also houses the Supreme Court of Estonia, the Ministry of Education and Research and Estonian National Museum. It is the birthplace of Estonian Song Festivals.
Situated 186 kilometres (116 miles) southeast of Tallinn and 245 kilometres (152 miles) northeast of Riga, Tartu lies on the Emajõgi ("Mother river"), which connects the two largest lakes of Estonia. The city is served by Tartu Airport.
Tartu lies within the temperate humid continental climate zone. The climate is rather mild considering the high latitude, largely due to the proximity of the Baltic Sea and warm airflows from the Atlantic. Nevertheless, continental influence can be felt on hot summer days and cold spells in winter, when temperature can occasionally (but rarely) drop below −30 °C (−22 °F). Generally, summers are cool to warm and winters are cold.
Mostly known as a university town, Tartu is also a site of heavy industry. Food industry has traditionally been important for the towns economy and some bigger companies in the field include A. Le Coq, Tartu Mill and Salvest. Kroonpress in the leading printing press company the Baltic States.
In the beginning of the 21st century, many ICT enterprises and other high-tech companies have taken a foothold in Tartu. Notable examples include Playtech Estonia, Nortal (formerly Webmedia Group), ZeroTurnaround, Tarkon, Regio and Raintree Estonia. Skype has an office in Tartu. The university is one of the largest employers, which explains the large proportion of highly skilled professionals – researchers, professors, doctors, and Tartu University Clinic has been considered the largest employer of Tartu.
The city is best known for being home to the University of Tartu, founded under King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1632. Mainly for this reason, Tartu is also – tongue-in-cheek – known as "Athens of the Emajõgi" or as "Heidelberg of the North".
Tartu is also the seat of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Baltic Defence College, Estonian Aviation Academy (formerly known as Tartu Aviation College), and the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. Other notable institutions include the Supreme Court of Estonia (re-established in Tartu in autumn 1993), the Estonian Historical Archives, Estonian National Museum, Estonian Sports Museum as well as the oldest and renowned theatre in the country, Vanemuine, where they have a well-respected ballet company as well as theatre, opera and musical productions.