Christmas markets are a beloved tradition in Tallinn Estonia. In this article we will be discussing the history of these festive celebrations, as well as practical information for visitors to Tallinn Christmas Market during the holiday season.
Tallinn and the country of Estonia are magical at Christmas time. Estonians understand a thing or two about cosiness. From mood lighting to hearty Winter food, the ambiance during the Advent period is warm and inviting.
Tallinn Christmas Market Review
One of the most famous Gothic cities in the world, Tallinn has a wealth of medieval buildings. The first Christmas tree in Europe is thought to have been installed in Tallinn in 1444 by the Brotherhood of the Blackheads, a medieval guild. The Emperor of Russia, Peter the Great, took part in this procession in 1711.
The capital of Estonia, Tallinn has so much history and culture that can be explored during any season! However, for those who want a taste of Christmas cheer, December is a great time to visit this popular destination. This is because there are several different events taking place including craft fairs, Christmas concerts and cultural events.
The festival of lights is a time to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. This celebration is all about sharing holiday traditions. Tallinn Christmas Market is one example of these wonderful traditions.
Tallinn Old Town Christmas Market
The modern Christmas market began in 1997. This festival has gone from strength to strength since then.
Tallinn’s Christmas Market is held on historic Raekoja Plats which is also known as Town Hall Square. The tall Christmas Tree is tastefully decorated with gold and silver baubles.
On the Old Town Square you’ll find many wooden chalets selling hot drinks such as mulled wine or glogg as it’s known in Estonian. You can also buy black pudding, sauerkraut, wooden Christmas decorations and clothes at the market stalls.
There’s a nativity scene adorning the medieval Town Hall and several children’s merry-go-round rides. Santa Claus has his very own chalet too.
Tallinn Christmas Market takes place from 25 November until 8 January 2022 from 10am to 8 pm every day.
There is no entry fee for the festive market itself. It’s not too crowded, making this potentially the best Christmas market in Europe right now. Whether you’re visiting Tallinn for the first time or are a return visitor, this is a great place to get into the Christmas spirit.
Talllinn Christmas Illuminations
There are several different locations of Christmas lights in Tallinn, including Viru Street and at Toompea Castle in the upper town. In the centre of Tallinn, you’ll also notice many smaller individual fir trees, giving a fairy tale atmosphere. Lit up at night, they’re assembled together at the end of the season, together with the main Tallinn Christmas tree.
You’ll find some other interesting Christmas decorations in the Rotermann Quarter. This design district has quite a few warehouse buildings and interesting artworks.
Estonian Christmas Traditions Tour
We highly recommend a morning walking tour with Eva-Maria from Nordic Experience. She speaks perfect English and will regale you with tales of festive Estonian traditions. Nordic Experience also arrange bespoke Tallinn tours for cruise ship passengers.
Although we’ve previously visited Tallinn for 3 days, Eva-Maria showed us some places that we hadn’t come across before such as the Three Monks in the Danish King’s Garden.
Christmas Village at The Estonian Open Air Museum
Experience holiday traditions of days gone by at this impressive cultural center in Haabersti District.
Set in 72 hectares of land, the museum has 74 buildings which represent the different types of architecture in Estonia.
Transported to the museum from all over Estonia, they’re a fascinating testimony of times gone by. Visitors can look around barns, farmhouses, a village shop and school.
On 17 and 18 December, the Christmas Village at the Estonian Open Air Museum is a popular event. Learn about traditional Christmas games, make festive decorations and buy gifts from local craftspeople.
Enjoy traditional dishes such as mashed potato with groat or salted herring at Kolu Inn. There’s also a good gift shop with local handicrafts, where we picked up a wool shawl in the colours of the Estonian flag.
Tallinn Open Air Ice Rink
Open daily from 10 am to 10 pm daily, Tallinn Ice Rink on Harju Street is a very atmospheric place to skate. This pop-up ice rink has views of St. Nicholas Church and a cafe selling warm drinks.
Tallinn open air ice rink is usually open from mid November to March. For children or novice skaters, there are skating supports that you can rent for a small extra charge.
Christmas at St Nicholas Church
The St. Nicholas Museum, also known as The Niguliste Museum, was built in the 13th century. Showcasing an important collection of paintings and silver, this historic building plays an important role in Tallinn’s Christmas celebrations.
There’s a Christmas tree created by Shishi and a series of guided evening tours focusing on medieval color symbolism. Christmas decoration workshops take place regularly, and there will be several organ music recitals and kids’ lessons.
Christmas in Noblessner
You’ll find another impressive Christmas tree in Noblessner Square in the trendy new Noblessner Quarter. Formerly a submarine shipbuilding hub, Noblessner is now a cool area with some great restaurants such as Lore Bistro.
There are also fun activities for kids and big kids in PROTO Invention Factory. Here, prototypes of some amazing inventions are brought to life with interactive technology.
Iglupark is a cool collection of handcrafted wooden private saunas, meeting rooms and accommodation overlooking the waterfront. During the festive season, there will be an igloo village and an Iglu Photo Studio.
Shishi Home of Beauty
One of the best places to buy Christmas decorations in Tallinn is at Shishi in Noblessner. Housed in a light-infused building at Peetri 3, this beautiful store is filled to the brim with elegant festive decorations.
From glittering golden baubles to acorn garlands and glitter cone wreaths, there are some very stylish home accessories. The rest of the year, you’ll find a wide range of ornaments for the home and garden.
Fat Margaret Christmas Tree
Another interesting Tallinn attraction is Fat Margaret, a 16th century cannon tower which houses the Estonian Maritime Museum. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as Paks Margareeta in Estonian, takes its name from the fact that it’s one of the fattest towers in Tallinn.
The museum’s star attraction is a medieval shipwreck, which is artfully displayed. During the festive season, don’t miss the nautical themed Christmas tree.
Taking place in the Design and Architecture Gallery at Pärnu mnt 6 in Tallinn City centre, this annual event is taking place from 1 December to 7 January.
All the items on display are made from gingerbread dough. Many artists get involved and visitors can take part in creative workshops.
Christmas Shopping in Tallinn
In addition to the suggestions above, we can also recommend the following places for clothes and food shopping:
- Eesti Esindus Tallinnas for high-quality handicrafts such as wooden toys, colourful felt scarves and hand-bound leather books.
- Hää Eesti Asi on Viru tänav 1 in Tallinn and at Tallinn Airport – we picked up a men’s scarf in the Estonian flag colours and a ladies red woollen cape with a Little Red Riding Hood vibe!
- Katariina Guild – ceramic, glass, leather and textile artisans in a historic guild hall.
- Masters’ Courtyard – a nice range of traditional Estonian crafts and jewellery.
- Solaris Center on Estonia pst 9 for interesting stores such as Estonian Nordic Design.
- Stockmann department store on Liivalaia 53, close to the Hilton Park hotel.
- Tallinn Town Hall Pharmacy – the oldest pharmacy in Europe has a museum and some interesting gifts such as klarett, a historic spiced wine originally used as a medicine.
Where to Eat and Drink During Christmas in Tallinn
For some holiday cheer, try hearty dishes such as pork with sauerkraut and oven roasted potatoes, which are perfect Winter warmers.
In the old town, you can enjoy medieval style food and drink at Olde Hansa and Pepperjack. If you’re feeling brave, pop into the Third Dragon, a medieval style bar on Tallin’s Town Hall Square, where the sharp tongued tavern lady may give you a dressing down, as part of the fun!
Fotografiska – this zero waste restaurant within an amazing photography museum in Telliskivi Creative City has a relaxed vibe and delicious dishes made from local products. Don’t miss the regularly changing photography exhibitions. At the moment, you can see photographic works by Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Maisie Cousins and Nick Brandt.
Juniperium Distillery – just around the corner from Fotografiska, this is the first artisan gin distillery in Tallinn that is open to the public.
Kalev Marzipan Museum Room – at Pikk tänav 16, within Cafe Maiasmokk, the oldest cafe in Estonia. Originally a medicine, marzipan became a popular sweet treat. You can admire around 200 marzipan items here and buy some to take away.
Lore Bistro – with a stylish interior design by Marit Ilison, this cosy eatery in the Noblessner Seafront Quarter specializes in dishes cooked in a wood-fired oven. Chef Janno Lepik has created a fantastic menu with dishes such as roast beef tenderloin with celeriac puree, chanterelles and a creamy green pepper sauce. Sommelier Kristjan Peaske has chosen some great wines for the wine list.
Parrot Bar – get away from the cold in this cosy speakeasy bar at Vana-Posti 7, with its tropical decor and beautifully crafted cocktails and small plates.
PÄRIS Pagar • Deli • Resto – this Tallinn restaurant is popular with locals. It has a very Instagrammable decor and specializes in French dishes such as lobster bisque and salmon tartare.
Restaurant Rado – a popular new restaurant serving seasonal fare, with very friendly service. The menu changes daily, but definitely have the cauliflower entree if you can.
Restaurant Rataskaevu 16 – regularly ranked one of the best restaurants in Tallinn by TripAdvisor, this atmospheric eatery has bare brick walls and a restroom with a glass floor. The fried herring fillets and warm chocolate cake are must-trys.
RØST Bakery – located in a former wheat mill, this small bakery make fantastic sourdough breads and pastries.
Where to Stay for Christmas in Tallinn
Hotel Telegraaf is a 5 star boutique hotel in the heart of Tallinn Old Town that was originally a post office and telegram hub. There’s a charming spa which does a great aroma stone therapy massage and the fine dining restaurant Tchaikovsky.
Hilton Tallinn Park Hotel is known for its spacious eforea Spa and extensive breakfast buffet selection. With a location close to the business quarter, this is a good location for those who are combining a work trip with leisure.
Getting Around Tallinn at Christmas
It’s easy to walk around Tallinn city center. However, if you’re visiting other districts such as Kalamaja, Kadriorg or Noblessner, then you may wish to book a cab with a company such as Bolt or Tallink Taxi. Allow ten to fifteen minutes for cabs to arrive.
You can also rent a bike or register with an app such as Bolt or Tuul to use the electric scooters in Tallinn. If you purchase a Tallinn Card, which gives free access to many museums and top attractions, you get three hours of free bike rental from City Bike. This sightseeing pass also includes unlimited free travel on buses, trams and trolleys in Tallinn.
What to Pack for Tallinn at Christmas
Average temperatures in December in Tallinn are from 0.3°C (32.5°F) to -4.2°C (24.4°F). It snows an average of 11 days in December here.
Wrap up warm during the Winter season and you’ll have a great time. Take a padded waterproof coat, ideally with a hood and the longer the better, as well as a wool hat and gloves or mittens. Fingerless gloves are ideal for taking photos.
Comfy, flat walking boots or shoes are a must. There are quite a few cobblestones in the center of Tallinn. Padded walking trousers with thermal tights underneath are perfect for the coldest days.
People dress quite informally in many restaurants in Tallinn so you won’t look out of place. We don’t recommend wearing jeans unless you don’t feel the cold. Wool trousers will keep you a lot warmer.
Getting to Tallinn
There are regular flights to Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport from many international airports. We flew from London Gatwick with airBaltic and the journey took 2 hours and 45 minutes.
From the UK, Ryanair and Finnair also fly to Estonia. Tallinn Airport is relatively compact so check-in, customs controls and baggage reclaim are generally quite speedy. From the airport, it’s only a ten to fifteen minute cab ride to Tallinn city centre.
Tallinn is also a fairly easy day trip from Helsinki or St. Petersburg.
Tallinn is a charming city in Northern Europe with many surprises. Despite Tallinn’s medieval architecture, it is a forward-thinking place known for digital innovation. For those looking for the quintessential European Christmas markets and attractions, you need to head over there this season!
In our Tallinn article today we’ve covered what makes this Estonian capital so special during the holiday season. Be sure to read our other travel features next week as well. We have tons of great information on destinations around Europe where you can enjoy a festive winter break or simply soak up the atmosphere by visiting one of these year-round favorites.
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Thanks to Visit Estonia for their hospitality.
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