With its cobbled streets, castles, markets and cathedrals, surely there’s not a more magical place to spend Christmas than In Estonia’s capital city: Tallinn? Located in Northern Europe, Estonia is relatively new to the tourist scene, but it’s starting to make a name for itself. Tallinn is a good destination for those looking to enjoy the Scandinavian lifestyle, but at a much cheaper price. In fact Lonely Planet name the city as the number one value destination of 2018.
Outside of the Old town, Tallinn is a booming modern city. The country has actually been hailed as a pioneer in the technology industry. Did you know that Skype was invented there? And the capital is full of cosmopolitan eateries, new shopping malls and getting around is easy thanks to The Tallinn Card, which provides free public transport and entry to attractions. However Tallinn’s Old Town is romantically old-fashioned. Sealed within the ancient walls, The Old Town is Unesco World Heritage site, consisting of winding paths, cosy little eateries and at christmas, a little market in the main square, which is the perfect place to pick up some last-minute christmas gifts. Expect cold weather if you’re visiting in the winter months. Estonia’s geography means that it can easily get into the minuses.
Things to do:
Gaze over the city at Toompea Hill
Make sure to leave one day to explore the old town and soak up the atmosphere of these medieval streets. Head up to the viewpoint on Toompea hill first to peer down at the beautiful city, where the rooftops are dusted with snow, and orientate yourself before setting off to explore the cobblestone streets and loosing yourself all over again. Tallinn’s not a place to forget your camera, and at christmas its charm and beauty is magnified even more. Make sure to walk by St Catherine’s passage; a little lane selling handicrafts, which is even more beautiful at Christmas.
Warm up with Mulled Wine at the Christmas market
In the heart of Town Hall Square is Tallinn’s fairytale like christmas market. Magical by day, even more so by night, the little stalls of the market, nestled around the christmas tree, are the perfect place to buy handicrafts, traditional sweets like marzipan and gingerbread, or to simply clutch a steaming hot cup of mulled wine and soak up the atmosphere.
Experience Estonian comfort food
Nowhere does comfort food quite like in Tallinn. Escape from the snow and head into one of the Old Town’s cosy restaurants to sample traditional stews and casseroles, or the local pea soup served with dense black bread. If you’re in need of something sweet after then head to Bonaparte restaurant, where gingerbread biscuits are served warm out of the oven.
Cosy up in a Vinotheques
Hide away in one of these cosy little bars and enjoy a glass of wine and some light eats. Tallinn Vinotheques are usually low-key, relaxed bars with sofas to lounge on and plenty of atmosphere. Visit Veinipööning for a traditional wine attic, hidden in the Old Town.
Ice skating in the Old Town
It’s hard to find a more festive activity than Ice skating, and there’s no better place to do this than at the Uisuplats skating rink on Harju Street. Spend an hour wrapped up skating on the ice rink, and take in the enchanting atmosphere, before retreating into one of Tallinn’s cafe’s for hot chocolate.
Fill your pockets, and your stomach, with traditional Estonian Marzipan
Local legend says that Marzipan was invented in Tallinn and the Kalev Marzipan Room is the perfect place to go and learn about its history and to try some for yourself. Here you can see a display of 200 marzipan figurines; Now that’s my kind of museum.
If you’re looking for a little more information on the Old Town then make sure to sign up for one of the free walking tours. These run daily from the Tallinn tourist information centre.
When you’re tired of walking, settle down for a couple of hours an enjoy a movie in one of the cities cinemas. These are usually shown in English, with Estonian subtitles.
Head into any suburban Estonian home, and you’ll find in-house sauna’s, which are as popular in Estonia as they are in Finland. Tourists can partake in this ritual and spend some time in one of the country public sauna’s. The smoke sauna is the oldest type and the tradition is actually listed by UNESCO.
Estonia: Outside of Tallinn
If you have a little more time, take a trip out of the capital to see what else Estonia has to offer. Tartu is the second capital and is where the universities are based. It’s creative, romantic and youthful vibe means that it’s great to visit in the winter months.
If you’re looking for somewhere to ski, then Estonia is for you. The country has plenty of ski resorts, reachable by train from Tallinn. One of the best is Otepää, a Three hour train ride away.
Fancy seeing a little more of Eastern Europe? Helsinki, Finland, is just a Three hour ferry ride from Tallinn’s port, with regular ferries daily.