With snowy Medieval spires and winding, cobbled streets, the Nordic country of Estonia is the most enchanting destination for a festive break. Candles and fairy lights decorate windows, mulled wine is served in cosy cafes, and a host of special seasonal events and attractions – both in Tallinn and across the country – make the festive season in Estonia one to remember.
What to do
The world famous Tallinn Christmas Market is an absolute must-see during a festive visit, taking place in the medieval Town Hall Square from 18th November to 7th January. The action takes place around a tall, sparkling Christmas tree which has been set up in the square since 1441, making it the first to be displayed in Europe. Santa and his reindeer greet children and a programme of special events run throughout. Visitors can enjoy Estonian Christmas delicacies from black blood pudding and sour cabbage to ginger breads and hot Christmas drinks. Visitors can enjoy local food and drink while browsing the stalls of handmade gifts, and enjoying one of the many performances from local dancers and singers.
The Tartu Christmas Fair is held in the centre of Tartu every November and has come to be the largest Christmas fair in Estonia. The Forest of Swings is an event enjoyed by children and adults where locals believe that swings and swinging help encourage good health in people and today act as a meeting place for locals to enjoy each other’s company, music and activities. Along with the swings visitors can also enjoy traditional food and drink, organic and ecological products, cosmetic and health products, handicraft and jewellery, clothes, animal exhibitions and Christmas Land.
The town of Paide is located in central Estonia with its own 13th century castle. The Christmas festival takes place on 3rd December and is a day of family fun and activities including a candy tournament, tree-decorating contest and performances by elves in Paide Central Square.
Narva is a historical city on Estonia’s eastern border and hosts an annual Winter Fair in December where artisans from all three Baltic countries sell their crafts in the town centre. The Winter Fair offers a plethora of different family activities and masterclasses for locals and visitors to enjoy together with their family.
Gingerbread Mania is a quirky event that has been running since 2006. Each year, hundreds of designers showcase the art of sculpture exclusively made from gingerbread cookies. Over 300kg of dough is used to make the unique creations which are often inspired by art history and famous artists.
Christmas Jazz is a multi-week collection of concerts by international artists in intimate venues such as churches, concert halls and clubs across Tallinn taking place taking place from 23 November to 16th December.
Kumu, the Art Museum of Estonia, is an impressive modern artwork and was awarded the European Museum of the Year in 2008. During the winter the museum holds many art exhibitions and Christmas time concerts and performances.
Learn about rural life at the Estonian Open Air Museum with a special winter program including a Christmas Village and Holiday Weeks with handicrafts, bread baking, wood chopping and more.
Where to Stay
The medieval Old Town is the ideal place to stay during a wintertime trip to Tallinn, on winding streets of historical buildings, a stone’s throw away from the Tallinn Christmas Market. The Savoy Boutique Hotel, consistently voted one of Estonia’s best, is small and luxurious, decorated in Art Deco style. Hotel Telegraaf began it’s life as a post office and telephone centre in 1878, but has since been renovated into a modern five-star establishment.
Guests at My City Hotel can enjoy a large collection of Italian art that decorates the walls as well as fresh baked breakfasts and an in-house spa, all without leaving the Old Town.
For elegant yet budget-friendly accommodation, look just outside the Old Town. For a taste of “manor elegance right in the heart of Tallinn”, book a room at the Von Stackelberg Hotel, a 19th century city estate of German-Baltic Baron von Stackelberg. Each of the rooms at the modern Solo Sokos Hotel Estoria, in the city centre, are different and tell an individual story. The Park Inn by Radisson Central Tallinn, just across the street, is around the corner from the lively Rotermanni quarter.
Mark Bibby Jackson
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