Christmas is our favorite time of the year, so heading on our adventure at the end of November to explore the Baltic States, we were excited and “hopeful” that many of these countries would already have the Christmas festivities up and running. Unfortunately, many of the cities we visited were still in the “preparation” stage so we were left a little disappointed except for one spot – Tallinn! If you are looking for the perfect place to experience a stereotypical European Christmas, we strongly recommend heading to the Estonian capital. Christmas in Tallinn is everything we could have wished for and a truly magical experience.
Whether you are intrigued by the thought of experiencing stereotypical Christmas markets in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town Square or perhaps just enjoying a glass of Estonian Glögg while admiring the historic architecture with the snow falling around you, this is the ultimate destination that frequently flies under the radar in contrast to many other European cities that attract visitors from across the globe.
Having spent the previous 24 hours exploring the Latvian capital of Riga, we hopped on board the Lux Express bus service and took at the four-hour journey through the heart of Latvia and Estonia before arriving in Tallinn. Let’s take a look at why we quickly fell in love with Tallinn and why we consider Christmas to be the best time to visit Estonia.
Christmas in Tallinn
If I told you that Christmas time in Tallinn is like a scene from a fairy tale, I wouldn’t be exagerrating too much! The moment we headed to the heart of Old Town following a short walk from the Park Inn by Radisson Meriton hotel, we immediately captured the magical feeling that usually runs through your veins as a child the night before Christmas.
When you combine the quirky, charming layout of the Old Town with the fortified walls surrounding the area, with the stereotypical festivities we all associate with Christmas, this is the epitome of a city that thrives at this time of the year.
Christmas may not be everyone’s favorite seasonal festivity (though we don’t know why it wouldn’t be!) but even for those that show very little interest, you would be hard-pressed not to fall in love with the holiday season while exploring Tallinn…it really does have that effect on you!
Come and experience Tallinn’s winter full of magic!
Tallinn at Christmas is a land of festive cheer! A myriad of Christmas decorations and trees can be found throughout the city mixed with the sound of festive music constantly playing while you explore Tallinn in the crisp winter’s air.
Town Hall Square Christmas Market
The heart and soul of Tallinn at Christmas can be found in the historic Town Hall Square. A city that dates back to the medieval era of the 13th-century continues to thrive with constant reminders of this rich history through the architectural brilliance of the buildings that surround this square.
Cast your eyes to the focal point of the Town Hall Square and admire the towering Christmas tree that epitomizes the festive season and undoubtedly helps Tallinn embrace this time of year. All the family can enjoy this part of Tallinn, from the kids enjoying the festive rides in the Square to the adults enjoying a fine cup of Estonian Glögg that will keep everyone warm regardless of the temperature.
And then you have the idyllic Christmas markets! We have been fortunate to experience some of Europe’s best markets, notably the Christmas market in the Alexanderplatz district of Berlin, the Winter Wonderland experience in London’s Hyde Park and even those markets along the Champs-Elysees in Paris. But there was something even more magical and spectacular about Tallinn’s Christmas market.
Both Heather and I would agree, this is now our favorite spot for Christmas markets. A pretty bold statement to make but that’s how much we enjoyed this city.
Local merchants are on hand to offer everything from their handmade crafts to a variety of local dishes and festive drinks.
Have you ever contemplated what reindeer tastes like? Or perhaps you are ready to sample a few of Estonia’s finest sweet treats. Well, head to Tallinn’s Christmas markets and you can find out for yourselves!
Enchanting Old Town Streets
The winding, cobblestone streets of Tallinn create a magical experience at Christmas with snow covered rooftops and candles flickering to generate just enough light to allow visitors to navigate their way around Old Town.
From courtyards to spired churches and merchant houses to hidden gems, exploring the streets of Tallinn’s enchanting Old Town is a rewarding experience at any time of the year.
When researching Tallinn’s Old Town, we discovered that for centuries the Old Town has been divided into two distinctive areas – Toompea Hill and Lower Town. Toompea Hill was home to the gentry that oversaw the surrounding countryside and Lower Town which was a completely separate entity that had rights as an autonomous town.
We spent most of our time in the Toompea Hill area admiring the gorgeous overlooks of Old Town before heading down to explore the Old Town Square. The Kohtuotsa and Patkuli viewing platforms are a popular spot for visitors to Tallinn.
Enjoy Festive Estonian Glögg
Christmas in Tallinn is a great idea for many reasons but one in particular is having the opportunity to sample the delicious festive mulled wine known as Glögg. Traditionally, mulled wine in many European cities follows the commonly known Germany style called Glühwein.
However, Estonia is proud to be home to Glögg which is very similar but offers a unique and distinctive taste that we personally prefer after experiencing this at the Old Town Square Christmas markets.
A traditional mulled wine stand at a Christmas market is the only place to enjoy a festive drink that will keep you warm during the freezing cold winter’s night in Estonia. Ok, so I am sure you are wondering what is the difference between Glögg and other mulled wine that you can purchase across European markets?
While mulled wine is usually wine heated up with spices like cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest, Glögg is either berry juice or wine heated with the same spices but with strong alcohol like rum, vodka, or Vana Tallinn mixed in.
Anyone else ready to visit Tallinn and experience a little Christmas magic? I know we are already raring to go back to the Estonian capital to enjoy all of the festivities that make this city such a spectacular place to visit during December.
We spent several hours both during the day and at night walking around Old Town Tallinn and the heartbeat of the city can undoubtedly be found in the Old Town Square. The Christmas markets are a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike to congregate and enjoy a festive glass of Glögg while sampling some of the best local Estonian cuisine.
Although Tallinn may not be at the top of your European wishlist for the best Christmas market breaks, we would strongly recommend rethinking about your options because this part of Estonia is a real hidden gem!