Estonia’s capital Tallinn is one of the best places to visit in Europe for the holidays. The Tallinn, Estonia Christmas Market during December can only be described in one word…enchanting. Europe’s best-preserved medieval city is a must-see at any time of year, but in December the Christmas lights add a touch of magic. Read on to find out why Tallinn, Estonia draws more than half a million visitors for their Christmas Market every year!
** This guide has been updated with 2023 dates! **
What to do in Tallinn during December
Visit the Tallinn Christmas Market
It’s easy to see why the Tallinn Christmas Market has been recognized as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. They have delicious food, beautiful decorations, and a stunning location in the heart of their historic medieval Old Town. The Christmas traditions in Tallinn even date as far back as 1441!
See an Enormous Christmas Tree
Did you know the first Christmas tree in Europe was in Tallinn? Legend says that in 1441 the first known public Christmas tree in Europe was in Tallinn’s Town Hall Square where it stands today. The Christmas tree that’s used every year is now locally grown in Estonia too.
What to Drink at the Christmas Market?
A hot glass of glögi (spiced mulled wine) is a must-have at any Christmas market. At the Tallinn Christmas market, you can have your glögi with Estonian style with a shot of rum-based Vana Tallinn liqueur.
What to Eat at the Christmas Market?
Blood sausages and sauerkraut (Verivorstid ja hapukapsad in Estonian) is the national dish. The sausage is a mixture of barley, onions, allspice, marjoram, and blood. It’s typically a popular winter dish. The sausage is traditionally served with sides of butter, sour cream, and sauerkraut. You can also buy homemade black rye bread, another Estonian staple, at the Christmas market! If blood sausage isn’t your thing, you can always turn to a warm gingerbread (piparkoogid).
What to Do at the Christmas Market?
The Christmas concerts and events change every year, but you can learn more about the festive activities for Christmas time in Tallinn here. For children, they have a carousel and a small train that drives around the market.
Popover Tip: Some Christmas market stalls in Tallinn accepted credit cards, but I was still glad I had Euros on me for smaller purchases.
Ice Skate in the Old Town
This classical outdoor ice skating rink is right in the Old Town on Harju Hill. The rink is typically open at the beginning of December and closes at the end of March. You can rent skates too for €3! More information on opening times can be found here.
What to do in Tallinn Year Round
Take a Walking Tour of the Old Town
Tallinn is one of the best well-preserved medieval cities in all of Europe. The Tallinn Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage Site with buildings dating back as far as 500 years. With so much history all around, it’s nice to have a guide to point out unique facts that you wouldn’t have otherwise known.
I loved our local guide, Heli, from Tallinn Traveler Tours! The walking tour usually lasts around two hours. If you’re going in winter, wear warm and sturdy boots. Chances are likely that it could be snowing, or icy. You can book a walking tour with Tallinn Traveler Tours here.
I was surprised to learn Estonia just became Independent in 1991 after they declared separation from the Soveit Union. Estonia has a culture that is shaped by both Nordic- and Russian-influence. Estonians have a great sense of pride and nationalism since becoming independent, and they’re booming in the tech industry too! Have you heard of Skype?! The Skype software was actually created by four Estonians.
Popover Tip: Always book a walking tour at the beginning of your trip because it helps you get better acquainted with the city. Not to mention, you can ask your guide for any local recommendations.
Visit the Oldest Pharmacy in Europe
Town Hall Pharmacy opened in 1422. This unique little shop in the Town Hall Square is, in fact, the oldest continuously running pharmacy in Europe.
The family who owned the pharmacy, the Burcharts, operated it from 1581 to 1911. It was so famous in its day that the Russian czar even ordered medicines from the pharmacy.
Remedies that were sold during medieval days included snakeskin potion, mummy juice, and powdered unicorn horn. Today, you can see some of these remedies on display for yourself in the mini-museum that’s inside the pharmacy!
It’s free for you to enter the pharmacy and walk around. They’re open Monday-Friday 10:00-18:00. You can find out more information on their website here.
See the Birthplace of the Danish Flag
My boyfriend is Danish, and seeing the birthplace of his beloved Danish flag was his favorite part of Tallinn! The Danish King’s Garden is at the top of Toompea Hill in the Old Town. Halfway down the steps towards Rüütli street you can see an iron sword and shield with a Danish cross.
Why did the Danish flag come from Estonia? According to the story, King Valdemar II of Denmark’s troops were losing their battle with the Estonians when suddenly the skies opened and a red flag with a white cross floated down from the heavens. Taking this as a spiritual sign from above, the Danes pushed forward to victory. Whether or not the story is true, it’s a must-visit stop for any Dane!
Have a Drink in the Coolest Medieval Tavern
I was recommended to go to III Draakon by our tour guide, and I’m so glad we listened! The decor is inspired by the medieval era with candles everywhere….and no electric lights! It was so dark in there that I wasn’t able to take pictures, but it will make it all the more of a surprise when you go!
Your waiters are a group of “housekeepers” whose job it is to entertain guests with their rude service manner. Their behavior is all purely theatrical – a style that is more like the behavior we would have seen in the medieval ages.
The wine and homemade beer here is incredibly cheap – it is only between 1 and 3 euros. III Draakon has free pickles, but only if you can fish them out out of a giant oak barrel with a spear. If you are famished, the specialties are savory pastries, elk soup, grilled game sausages, and a rack of ribs.
Book a Photography Tour with Tallinn Photo
I always say the perfect souvenirs from any trip are pictures. Photos capture a memory in a way that a refrigerator magnet could never achieve. If you’re traveling with just one other person, you’ve probably felt the same challenge of getting pictures together. The easiest solution to that problem is booking a professional photographer!
The best photographer to book with for a Tallinn photoshoot is Ernest from Tallinn Photo! I really appreciated how he combined his photoshoot tour with historical facts about Tallinn. His Romantic Tallinn tour was perfect for two people.
I promise even if you’re not a travel blogger, you need to book this photoshoot! More information on how to book and prices can be found here.
Where to Eat in Tallinn
Tallinn is a great destination for foodies. Young chefs are flocking to Tallinn and creating innovative and affordable menus for all budgets. If you’re a beer drinker, Estonia is well-known for its expanding craft beer scene too. You’ll find different craft beer all throughout the city.
Väike Rataskaevu 16
If you only have time for one restaurant in Tallinn then Väike Rataskaevu 16 is where you need to go! It’s more of a contemporary take on Estonian classic dishes, but everything was absolutely delicious.
You’ll start with their homemade black rye bread – an Estonian staple. I ordered the pumpkin soup and braised elk roast which I would highly recommend for adventurous eaters. Elk is another signature dish in Estonia.
Make reservations here in advance! This restaurant is tiny! During summer they can book up three months in advance. Check out their full menu and make reservations here.
Café Maiasmokk is the oldest café in Tallinn and has been in the same location since they opened in 1864. We loved taking a moment to escape the cold and pop inside here to recharge with hot soup and some of their famous cakes.
The interior is gorgeous with circular wooden tables, chairs, and benches covered with lush royal red fabric. If you’ve been to one of the traditional Viennese coffee houses in Vienna, Austria, you will think it has a similar look and feel.
The real draw of Café Maiasmokk is their marzipan studio where you can actually want the artists to paint on marzipan. Marzipan is very popular in Europe, I don’t particularly care for the taste, but the detail the artists put in their work here is amazing to watch.
Popover Tip: If you have time, you can book an hour long marzipan painting class here for only 10 €! You can find more information on how to book here.
Estonian Burger Factory
I was shocked when I kept seeing the Estonian Burger Factory come up on the best places to eat in Tallinn. We decided to try it on our last day, and once I took that first bite, I understood the hype!
Their burgers were delicious. I loved how the burger patties, steaks, and other beef and lamb products were all 100% organic. If you’re looking for a break from an Estonian diet of hot soup and elk, visit the Estonian Burger Factory!
Kompressor is a great spot if you’re looking for a quick lunch. They have huge sweet and savory crêpes, great coffee, and strong glögi at very cheap prices.
Where to Stay in Tallinn
Try staying anywhere near the Old Town! You will be within walking distance of the best restaurants, museums, and the Christmas market. Below are some of the places I recommend staying at in Tallinn.
We stayed at the Medieval Bishop`s House Apartment, and I couldn’t recommend it enough! It was the perfect size for two in a cozy 700 years old medieval apartment. The best part was its location in the heart of the old town just steps away from the Christmas Market.
If you’ve never used Airbnb, use my special link here for up to $65 off your first booking!
Fat Margaret’s Hostel
If you’re on a budget, Fat Margaret’s Hostel is a great option with private and shared rooms. You’re just outside the city walls with a short walk away to all the main sites. They also have a complimentary sauna and pool for guests!
Hestia Hotel Kentmanni
Love this option for luxury stays in Tallinn with all the amenities! Hestia Hotel Kentmanni has breakfast included with your stay and a beautiful hot tub and sauna.
Must Visit Spots in Tallinn
Telliskivi Creative City
Located just outside the city walls, Telliskivi Creative City is where you go to see the trendy/hipster side of Tallinn. Telliskivi is a complex of former factories turned into boutiques, restaurants, and cafés all decorated with street art.
How to Get to Telliskivi Creative City?
You can easily get to Telliskivi just by walking from the old city. It’s around a 15-minute walk from the Old Town.
What to do at Telliskivi Creative City?
It’s the perfect place to spend a night eating and shopping. Telliskivi is a popular hangout spot with local younger Estonias, and local artists. On Saturday’s during the summer they have a Russian flea market too!
Where to Eat at Telliskivi Creative City?
F-hoone has an extensive cocktail list, great food, and a really fun vibe. The prices here are very budget-friendly. Try the mutton dumplings in a creamy mushroom sauce-perfect on a chilly night!
Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform
Do you know that iconic photo that everyone seems to have overlooking Tallinn? This is where you can take it!
For the postcard-perfect view of Tallinn, you can’t miss the Kohtuotsa viewing platform. Located on Toompea Hill (near the Danish King’s Garden). You’ll see the best-unobstructed views of the harbor, church bell towers, and the terra-cotta colored roof tiles.
Another popular photo spot here is “The Times We Had” mural near the viewing platform. I don’t know the back story on why this is here, but I think we can thank Instagram.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This Russian Orthodox church on Toompea Hill has beautiful black onion-like domes that you can see from the Old Town. Take the stairs from the old town and work your way up to see it. The cathedral is open to visitors free of charge, but just be mindful to not enter and disrupt service.
Which Museums to Visit in Tallinn
KGB Museum in Viru Hotel
If you’re curious about learning what life was like during Soviet occupation, you need to visit the KGB Museum. The KGB was the secret spy agency for the Soviet Union.
The KGB museum is on the 23rd floor of the Viru Hotel which was once the secret floor used by the KGB to spy on the political guests staying at the hotel in the floors below. The stories are fascinating, and the rooms have been left in the same way they were left when the KGB agents left in a hurry in 1991. The museum has spy equipment and other objects from the Soviet times, including a phone without a dial that was a direct hotline to Moscow.
I recommend booking your ticket in advance because this is a guided tour. The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday. You can book tickets on the museum’s website here.
The Seaplane Harbour Museum
The Lennusadam (the Seaplane Harbour), is part of the Estonian Maritime Museum house in an old seaplane hangar.
This is a great museum if you’re looking for something interactive. With over 200 exhibits, you can learn about Estonia’s maritime and military history. You can fly your own seaplane in a simulator, or have a boat race with remote controls.We didn’t have a chance to visit this museum, but if you have extra time it always comes highly recommended by other travelers.
Popover Tip: If you’re more interested in learning about the history of Estonia I would recommend visiting the Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom and the Estonia History Museum.
Tallinn Travel Tips
When to Visit
The best time to visit for Christmas is very late November, or all of December. You can find when the Christmas Market opens each year here. If you prefer warmer months, the best weather with the longest days is from May through early September.
How Long to Stay
Tallinn is a small city and it’s the perfect weekend trip. I would recommend two full days in Tallinn. It’s also a popular day trip on the ferry from Helsinki, but if you’re looking to see more of the culture, I would recommend one more full day.
How to Get to Tallinn
Tallinn has a small airport that’s actually conveniently located less than 5k from the city. We flew nonstop from Copenhagen to Tallinn on Lot Polish Airlines. The other two major airlines that fly into Tallinn are Finnair and airBaltic. You’ll find the most nonstops from other Baltic and Scandinavian capital cities.
It’s popular to combine your trip to Tallinn with Helsinki, Finland. Ferries sail regularly from Helsinki to Estonia’s port and are connected by 3 ferry companies. Tallink Silja offers 6 times per day, Viking Line 3 times per day, and the Eckerö is 3 times as well. It takes about 2 hours to cross and prices range from £30 – £100 euros round trip.
If you visit Finland in December prior to Tallinn you can’t miss seeing Rovaniemi in nothern Finland. Rovanimei is the ultimate destination for any Christmas lover. You can read more about the Ultimate Winter Wonderland in Rovaniemi here.
Winter Packing List
Tallinn is very chilly in the winter! In December, you’ll see temperatures from 28°F – 34°F (-2°C – 1°C) with only six hours of daylight.
Because the temperatures here get so cold in the winter, your packing list is very important.
- Hand warmers
- Long heavy jacket.
- Gloves and a warm hat
- Snow boots
- Wool socks
Final Thoughts on Tallinn
Tallinn is a city rich in history, medieval architecture, delicious food, and the friendliest people. There are so many things to do and see here I guarantee your trip to Tallinn will be memorable. Christmas in Tallinn is the perfect place to visit if you’re eager to get into the holiday spirit.
Read More About Christmas Markets in Europe
- Christmas in Copenhagen 2o23
- Heidelberg Christmas Market 2023 (Map + Dates)
- Best Salzburg Christmas Markets 2023
Pin this post to your travel board to save for your future Christmas Market trip!