There is one legendary hotel in Pärnu and its Villa Ammende. Though Pärnu is renowned as Estonia's summer capital, Villa Ammende is a place for all seasons, equally inviting at Christmas or in July.
This is because Villa Ammende has the mystique of history and form. It is a unique structure, the most famous in the city. It was built by the German businessman Hermann Ammende for his daughter's wedding reception in 1904. Villa Ammende is made in the Art Nouveau style with great attention to detail and dramatic architectural persona. The building is majestic and imposing, yet warm and inviting. The entrance hall is grand and prompts the imagination to its varied histories.
Alas the carefree years of plentitude came crashing down with the first world war for the Ammende dynasty and the family moved back to Germany, selling the Villa to the city of Pärnu. There were plans for reconstruction which, fortunately, came to naught, and the building had different uses. During the Soviet occupation in 1940, the Red Army took control of the place, only to be supplanted by the Germans when they came, who turned it into a casino.
Eventually, Villa Ammende fell into disrepair. In 1995 two Estonian businessman came to the rescue and restored the Villa to its original grandeur. This meant the Art Nouveau designs and details that were removed were put back in place and the building's character rejuvenated. Even the mailbox has a beautiful Art Nouveau motif.
Now Villa Ammende is ideally suited for romantic holidays. It is the perfect place to relax with a loved one or even family, as some of the suites are quite large an accommodating. A roaring fire and dinner in your room is the start to a cozy evening as the weather turns cold. The hotel is perhaps more charming off season as the summer crowds disappear and evocations of the past seep in. This is when Villa Ammende is most suggestive of its history and setting.
Dining is a big part of the allure of this hotel. Unlike most hotels, Villa Ammende has a hot food menu for breakfast in addition to its buffet. Dinner is served in various rooms, all marvelously decorated. The male waitstaff is old school and fits with the surroundings. The food is locally sourced and delicious.
Visitors should not miss the high tea served in the afternoon. This is pleasant indeed and conjures up notions of the English high tea custom. An array of sandwiches and a glass of sparkling wine accompany.
Villa Ammende is equidistant to the centre of Pärnu with all of its shops, bars, eateries and cultural entertainments and to its famous strand of white sand beach and promenade. The location is thus perfect for the city's attractions. For the sporty, golf and hunting can be arranged.
In Estonia Villa Ammende is special. It is not the medieval history that tourists flock to in Tallinn for daytrips. It is a more subtle yet equally splendid and more recent history of a family with fortunes won and lost and a beautiful building. It is atmospheric and like the Italians say molto romantico.