Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a charming medieval city that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. It is one of the best-preserved old towns in Europe, with cobblestone streets, Gothic spires, and colourful buildings. But Tallinn is not only a summer destination but also a winter wonderland that will enchant you with its festive atmosphere, cosy cafes, and snowy landscapes. Here are 10 must-sees and dos when you visit Tallinn in December and January.
Visit the Tallinn Christmas Market
The Tallinn Christmas Market is one of the highlights of visiting Tallinn in winter. It is in the Town Hall Square, decorated with lights, garlands, and a giant Christmas tree. The market has over 50 stalls selling handicrafts, souvenirs, food, and drinks. Traditional Estonian products such as woollen hats, wooden toys, ceramics, and candles can be found. You can also enjoy local delicacies such as black pudding, sauerkraut, gingerbread, and mulled wine. The market is open from late November to early January and has a festive music, dance, and entertainment program.
Explore the Old Town
The Old Town of Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful parts of the city. It is divided into two sections: the Upper Town and the Lower Town. The Upper Town is where you can find the Toompea Castle, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and the St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Lower Town is where you can find the Town Hall, the St. Olaf’s Church, and the St. Nicholas’ Church. The Old Town is full of charming alleys, courtyards, and squares, perfect for wandering around and admiring the architecture. You can also visit some of the museums and galleries that showcase the history and culture of Tallinn.
Enjoy the views from the viewing platforms.
One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of Tallinn is to see it from above. Several viewing platforms around the Old Town offer panoramic views of the city and the sea. The most popular ones are Kohtuotsa, Patkuli, Piiskopi, and Harju. You can see the rooftops, towers, churches, and walls of the Old Town, as well as the modern skyline of Tallinn. The views are stunning at sunset or when the city is covered with snow.
Warm up in a cosy cafe.
Tallinn has a vibrant cafe culture that will make you feel cosy and welcome in the cold winter days. You can find cafes for every taste and mood, from traditional to trendy, from coffee to tea, cakes to sandwiches. Some of the most popular restaurants in Tallinn are Røst (for freshly baked bread and pastries), Maiasmokk (for classic Estonian cakes and coffee), NOP (for organic and healthy food), Chocolaterie Pierre (for chocolate and macarons), and Kompressor (for vast and delicious pancakes). You can also try local specialities such as kama, a roasted flour mixture; kohuke, a curd snack coated with chocolate; and glögg, a spiced hot drink.
Kalamaja is a hip and trendy neighbourhood located next to the Old Town. It used to be a former industrial area transformed into a creative hub for artists, designers, and entrepreneurs. You can find many cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, galleries, and studios that showcase the contemporary side of Tallinn. You can also visit some of the attractions in Kalamaja. One is Telliskivi Creative City, a former factory complex hosting events and markets. Another is the Patarei Sea Fortress Prison, a former prison serving as a museum and cultural centre, and Seaplane Harbour, a maritime museum displaying historical ships.
Go ice skating
Ice skating is one of the most fun and romantic things in Tallinn in winter. There are several ice rinks around the city where you can rent skates and glide on the ice. One of the most popular ones is the Harju Ice Rink, located next to St. Nicholas’ Church in the Old Town. It has a festive atmosphere with music and lights and is open from December to March. Another option is the Uisuplats Pirita Beach Ice Rink, located on Pirita Beach near Kadriorg Park. It has a scenic sea view and is open from January to February.
Visit Kadriorg Park and Palace
Kadriorg Park and Palace is one of Tallinn's most beautiful and elegant places. It was built by Peter the Great in the 18th century as a summer residence for his wife, Catherine I. The park covers 70 hectares and has many gardens, ponds, fountains, and statues. The palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It houses the Kadriorg Art Museum, which displays paintings, sculptures, and furniture from the 16th to the 20th century. You can also visit the nearby Kumu Art Museum, Estonia's largest and most modern art museum.
Experience the Estonian sauna.
The Estonian sauna is a traditional and relaxing way to warm up and rejuvenate in winter. It is a ritual that involves heating up in a wooden cabin with a stove and stones, pouring water on the rocks to create steam, whipping yourself with birch branches to stimulate blood circulation, and cooling down in a cold pool or snow. Tallinn has many saunas, from public to private, modern, and rustic.
Take a day trip to Lahemaa National Park.
Lahemaa National Park is the largest and oldest national park in Estonia. It is about 50 km from Tallinn and covers 725 square kilometres of land and sea. It is a natural paradise with diverse landscapes like forests, bogs, lakes, rivers, islands, and cliffs. You can also find many historical and cultural attractions, such as manor houses, fishing villages, churches, and museums. You can explore the park by hiking, biking, skiing, or snowshoeing. You can also join a guided tour to visit the park's highlights.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is one of the most festive and exciting times to visit Tallinn. The city comes alive with fireworks, music, and parties. You can join the crowds at the Town Hall Square or Freedom Square to watch the countdown and the fireworks show. You can also enjoy some of the concerts and events around the city, such as the New Year’s Eve Gala at Estonia Concert Hall or the New Year’s Eve Party at Club Hollywood. You can also find many bars, restaurants, and clubs that offer special menus and entertainment for the night.
Tallinn is a winter wonderland that will charm you with its medieval beauty, modern vibe, and festive spirit. It is a perfect destination for a winter break that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Book your trip to Tallinn today and discover why it is one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter!