Tallinn Christmas Market Websites:
I don’t believe that anyone could deny that the Old Town of Tallinn is picture-postcard pretty. Set on a low hill in the centre of the relatively low-rise modern city, the Old Town is so beautifully renovated that it almost looks like a Disney recreation of itself. When we arrived there were a few inches of lying snow, but the paths and roads were all clear and/or gritted so the snow was picturesque, rather than problematic.
From the airport arrivals, we hopped on a bus into the city. A confusion about routes meant we got on the wrong bus, but we also managed not to pay for the trip so, given that we only had to walk about fifteen minutes to our hostel, on the whole we did okay. (For future reference, take the 90K, not the 2, it goes all the way around the Old Town!)
The Knight House Hostel is on the edge of the Old Town, so is ideally situated for visiting the Christmas Market in the main square, Raekoja Plats. We’d considered getting the Weekend Transport Pass from the airport on the way in, but the historic centre of Tallinn is all within easy walking distance; the only time you’d need public transport is to get about in the new city.
While the Tallinn Christmas Market isn’t the largest I’ve visited this year, I think it is my favourite. The stalls at all Christmas Markets have largely similar merchandise and there are only so many variations you can work on those themes before you get into repetition, so bigger isn’t necessarily better. Instead of quantity, Tallinn goes for the quality prize. It’s not so much about what’s for sale on the stalls, as the entire experience of visiting the market.
As I’ve noted Tallinn’s Old Town, where the market takes place, has a period ambiance of its own. Combine that with the thirty-or-so stalls with real snow piled on their roofs, the chill in the air alongside the smell of Glögg (the local variation on Glühwein/Mulled Wine), the big Christmas tree and stage at the heart of it all and the friendliness of the multi-lingual Estonians and you have an idyllic Christmas Market experience.
Comparing some of the details then: You get polystyrene cups for the Glögg instead of the souvenir mugs of Central Europe. I don’t know whether this is because the market’s on a smaller scale than its Germanic counterparts, or simply for the practical reason of keeping the drink hot long enough for you to drink in this climate. Compared to the other markets, I think there were proportionally fewer crêpe/pancake stalls and more of the local delicacies for sale; gingerbread, marzipan figures and sausages. There was definitely a greater emphasis on knitwear; plenty of stalls were selling scarves, gloves and hats – again, for practical reasons I’m sure, given the sub-zero temperatures in December! There were probably more local crafts – local linens, embroidery and suchlike – than I’d seen elsewhere. The wood-carving, also seemed more regional than the more generic offerings in the larger markets.
The only thing that felt out of place was the juxtaposition of all the traditional elements of Christmas in the Market with the very modern-looking professional dancers on stage, writhing away to Rhianna and Beyonce! Maybe it’s just me getting old, but if felt somewhat incongruous – Particularly when they were followed by Santa Claus leading the children in song! To be fair though, there is quite a varied programme of entertainment listed on the Market’s website (above) over the weeks that it is open.
Another thing to be aware of is the relatively early closing time; the market closes by 7:30pm.
Raekoja Plats is surrounded by restaurants and cafés (and souvenir shops and high-end boutiques) so there’s plenty of choice for food and drink once you’ve had your fill of the Glögg. The old town of an evening is also very lovely to walk around. There is a portion of it, up around the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which has several viewpoints over the town, one of which looks out to the Baltic Sea, with Finland in the distance.
Tallinn is definitely a place to visit for Christmas; the market is everything you imagine a Christmas Market should be and it is set in a location straight off a Christmas card.
See the entire photo album here.