Christmas is our favourite 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 unhappy except for one spot – Tallinn! We strongly suggest heading to the Estonian capital if you are looking for the perfect place to experience a stereotypical European Christmas. Christmas in Tallinn is everything we could have hoped for and a truly magical experience.
Whether you are fascinated 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 difference to many other European cities that attract travellers from across the globe.
1. Christmas in Tallinn
If I told you that Christmas time in Tallinn is like a scene from a fairy tale, I wouldn't be magnifying 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 perfection of a city that thrives at this time of the year.
Christmas may not be everyone's favourite seasonal festivity (though we don't know why it wouldn't be!). Still, 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 does affect you!
Tallinn at Christmas is a land of festive cheer! A myriad of Christmas decorations and trees can be found throughout the city, with the sound of lively music constantly playing while you explore Tallinn in the crisp winter's air.
2. 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 succeed with continuous reminders of this rich history through the architectural majesty of the buildings surrounding this square.
Cast your eyes to the focal point of the Town Hall Square and admire the towering Christmas tree that displays 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 wanting 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.
Heather and I would agree that this is now our favourite 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.
3. Enchanting Old Town Streets
Tallinn's winding, cobblestone streets create a magical Christmas experience 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 had been divided into two specific areas – Toompea Hill and Lower Town.
Toompea Hill was home to the gentry who oversaw the surrounding countryside and Lower Town, a separate entity with rights as an independent town.
We spent most of our time in the Toompea Hill area admiring the gorgeous overlooks of Old Town before heading down to explore Old Town Square. The Kohtuotsa and Patkuli viewing platforms are famous spots for visitors to Tallinn.
4. Enjoy Festive Estonian Glögg
Christmas in Tallinn is a wonderful 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 generally known German style called Glühwein.
However, Estonia is proud to be home to Glögg, which is very similar but offers a memorable and unique taste that we prefer after experiencing this at the Old Town Square Christmas markets.
A traditionally considered wine stand at a Christmas market is the only place to enjoy a festive drink that keeps you warm during the snowy winter's night in Estonia.
While mulled wine is usually heated with spices like cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest, Glögg is either berry juice or wine heated with the same herbs but with strong alcohol like rum, vodka, or Vana Tallinn mixed in.