A Fairy-Tale Christmas in Tallinn

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Wooden stalls trimmed in evergreen boughs and white lights form a patchwork in Old Town Square. Shoppers bundled against the -12C temperature clutch steaming cups of Nordic glogg while perusing the colorful ornaments and winter accessories on display. Reindeer rustle quietly in their pens while awed children shove handfuls of hay between the slats. A dusting of snow covers the surrounding medieval rooftops. Welcome to the Tallinn Christmas market.

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For a birds-eye view of the market, head up to the second floor of one of the many restaurants lining the square.

I first visited Tallinn, Estonia at the end of summer and thought that it was among the most charming European capitals I’d ever had the pleasure to explore. My second visit was in December and the city was overflowing with yuletide cheer. A Christmas market complete with twinkle lights and a soaring tree had been set up in the shadow of the 15th century Town Hall, with vendors selling everything from reindeer jerky and gingerbread to knitted hats and hand-carved wooden ornaments. Strangely, for such a heart-warming place, there were few other people there.

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The same story was repeated throughout Tallinn’s Old Town. Swarming with tourists just a few months before, the cobbled streets now were practically deserted. We could hear our boots click against the slick stones, the sound dampened by snow. Previously crowded shops and passageways were empty and we had the city’s many churches and museums practically to ourselves. I guess travelers are put off by the cold, dark northern European winter, but if you ask me, it’s the perfect time to visit!

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This was my first Christmas market in Europe and my high expectations were definitely met. We originally planned to travel to Munich, but were thrown off by exorbitant hotel rates. As it turned out, four nights at a boutique hotel in Tallinn cost less than one night in Munich! Germany may be the capital of all things Christmas, but if you want the quaint European Christmas experience minus the hordes and high prices, then head to Estonia. Just be sure to bundle up.

The Tallinn Christmas Market, or Tallinna Jouluturg, is open daily from the end of November through the beginning of January.

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Christmas in Tallinn

Which European Christmas markets would you most like to visit?

33 thoughts on “A Fairy-Tale Christmas in Tallinn

  1. Exploring the beautiful city, the Christmas market in minus 12 degrees … wow! Bravo! I am glad to come across your blog from Facebook and all your photographs and vivid descriptions hooked me instantly.

    Being an ardent traveler and a travel blogger, from now on, I would love to follow all your posts. Keep it up!
    chirasree Banerjee recently posted…Spirit Museum in Stockholm, Sweden! Cheers!!My Profile

  2. Oh, what a beautiful post about what looks to be a charming, charming holiday destination! If that doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, nothing will!

  3. Fairy tale is right! That first photo looks like something out of a movie – just beautiful. And please tell me those numbers under the elves aren’t prices — they are not only 5, 6, 7 Euros a piece, are they? If so, then I need make my way to the market next year and stock up on Christmas gifts (and souvenirs for myself) for the next decade!!
    Daina recently posted…European Union Film Showcase 2014My Profile

    • Brace yourself, Daina, those are indeed the prices of the elves. We couldn’t believe how affordable everything was! I bought two pottery mushroom ornaments for under five euros and two wooden vikings for ten. In hindsight, I wish I’d bought even more, but I’m sure I’ll go back next year 🙂

      • Wow, that is a deal!! Let’s just say I know of several individuals who *love* Nordic style Christmas ornaments like that. I’ve purchased two Estonian-made elves here in the States in the last couple of years – clearly at much higher prices.
        Daina recently posted…European Union Film Showcase 2014My Profile

  4. I totally agree with you, Heather–I would much rather visit here during the quaint, cute, and much less crowded season of winter than during the busier summer months! It’s really beautiful, and what a fun way to get in the spirit of the season!

    I’ve heard great things about the Christmas market in Bath, England, too…I would love to revisit during that time!:-)
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted…7 Ways To Spread Kindness Around NYCMy Profile

  5. I absolutely love this place and I hope I can make it there in the near future!!! But for now, I’ll carry on enjoying Amsterdam :-).

    • Thanks, Emiko! I always thought I’d start with a German Christmas market, too, but I’m so glad I went to Estonia instead! Not only was Tallinn’s market beautiful, but it super affordable, too!

  6. Wow! This looks absolutely incredible. I think one of the best things about visiting Europe in the winter (other than the lower number of tourists) would be visiting markets like this. Talinn looks like it resembles a fairytale town at anytime of year, but those Xmas markets make it look downright magical. Loved the photos—they made me feel like I was right there with you! (Now if only I had some glogg, right?)
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Melancholic Musings on FlorenceMy Profile

    • Thanks, Steph! These markets are one of the best things about living in Europe, too. Riga has three dedicated Christmas markets and I saw that they were setting up yet another one the other day. Not to mention the literally hundreds of Christmas trees and lights spread around the city. It definitely helps me forget how dark and cold it is here right now 🙂

  7. Did you say -12C? Wow, that must be incredibly cold, when we left Berlin the coldest we experienced was -3C and it was already quite bitter for us. Despite the cold, Tallinn looks very pretty, I like Christmas markets but the look of the old town is what attracts me the most. We were in Munich last year, the Christmas market there is very special but as you said it’s incredibly expensive, we were lucky because we were housesitting.
    Franca recently posted…Five Pics and Tips for BolognaMy Profile

    • Yep, -12C. Tallinn was absolutely freezing!! But it was just so pretty with the snow and the Christmas lights that we almost didn’t notice the extreme cold. Riga has been a relatively balmy +5 degrees lately and I’m actually craving some colder weather!

    • I definitely love that I can hop on a bus and be there in four hours. I’m tempted to go back again – it’s just so heart-breakingly charming!

    • As a matter of fact, we did see Santa! We were having lunch in Old Town Square when he came in and ordered some soup! I hope you get to take your boys there soon 🙂

  8. Tallin is such a beautiful place. Thanks for taking me along
    with you. It was quite cold but bundled up like we were,
    didn’t mind it too much. The food we had was delicious. I’d
    go back just for the roasted cheese soup. I had a great time.

  9. It looks so pretty! I visited Tallinn in the middle of summer, so it’s nice seeing that it still maintains its charm in the wintertime. 🙂

    • While I did love eating outside in the Town Hall Square in summer, I think I prefer Tallinn in the winter. There was just something about the cold temperature and the snow that felt right 🙂

  10. I absolutely ADORE Europe in winter! I remember visiting Vilnius in winter and thinking how pretty it was, even if the city failed to charm me. I adored Prague and Gdansk in winter, too. Anyhow, the photos here are just so Christmassy and are making me feel all warm and fuzzy. Christmas is by far my favourite holiday of the year.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted…Lehua Night Market: 樂華夜市My Profile

    • Ooh I bet snow-covered Prague is breathtaking! I’ve yet to visit Vilnius, but will keep in mind that it might be best appreciated in winter.

      And if you like Christmas, stay tuned for my next post on Riga. This place is positively overflowing with holiday cheer!

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