Christmas and New Year in Tallinn: where to go and what to try
Christmas Tallinn

Christmas and New Year in Tallinn: where to go and what to try

In 2018, the best Christmas fair in Europe was recognized as the market in Tallinn’s main square. Do you want to see Christmas and New Year’s Eve like in the movies? Then it’s worth traveling to Estonia.

In 2018, Tallinn’s Christmas Fair took the title of Europe’s best fair from Zagreb, which had held the title for the previous three years in a row. Unlike many other fairs, there is snow — which is what is usually lacking in stately Vienna, cheerful Munich and even more so in warm Zagreb. I’ll tell you where to look for Christmas cheer, what to try and what to buy at Europe’s main Christmas market.

Christmas Fair at Town Hall Square (Tallinna Jõuluturg end taas sisse Raekoja platsile)

The main advantage and difference of the Tallinn fair from other European markets is its working hours. While most Old World fairs close before December 31, the Tallinn Fair is open from mid-November to January 7.

The size of the market may seem small, and the Town Hall Square itself is small. But the decoration is traditional, cozy and New Year’s Eve, like an illustration from a children’s book. A huge Christmas tree stands on the square, everything sparkles with lights, and there are smells of food and caramel everywhere.

Fair in the Town Hall Square
Fair in the Town Hall Square

The best time to come to the Christmas fair is after dark, when the illuminations are switched on. It gets dark early in Estonian winter — as early as 3.30 p.m. you can take your seats at the market stalls.

  • Operation mode of the fairgrounds: from 10:00 to 20:00.
Christmas in Tallinn
Christmas in Tallinn

What to try at the fair

The main rule at the fair is to take your time! Estonians don’t like fuss, and what’s the rush for a tourist in December? You should look at every item at the shops, ask questions and talk to the seller.

It’s only appropriate to have lively conversations and pay quickly at trays with glög, the local equivalent of mulled wine. Glög is a Swedish word, and it is one of the symbols of the Scandinavian holiday of St. Lucia’s Day. During the Christmas period, it is the main drink throughout central and northern Europe.

Glög can be made with different spices and almonds. Each vendor has a different recipe, so I recommend buying a portion for everyone and tasting it before taking a lot from one untested place. Not all vendors will pour you a good proper mulled wine. And most proper street mulled wine should contain notes of rum or skate in the flavor. When heated, the wine evaporates and in order not to lose the hot power of the cocktail, you should add stronger alcohol.

  • One glass of drink costs from 4 €. Alcoholic products can be bought until 22.00 on weekdays and until 23.00 on weekends.
  • The official opening hours of the fairgrounds are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but many vendors work longer hours.
Christmas Fair in Tallinn
Christmas Fair in Tallinn

You can buy ready-made mulled wine in the store as a souvenir. The most popular is Vana Tallinn Glögi Authentic, recognized as the best in its category in all Scandinavian countries. The Estonian version has overtaken even its Swedish progenitor. In its composition, in addition to the traditional ingredients for mulled wine, there are secret additives, which the manufacturer does not disclose. It is better to buy Vana Tallinn gleg in company stores or local supermarkets. There it costs from 10 €.

The nearest large supermarket is in the basement of ViruKeskus (Viru shopping mall and Viru Hotel, Viruvaeljak 4). In the old town, this building is hard to miss. A former Soviet hotel with 20 floors, it is the only high-rise building in the city center.

Supermarket in the ViruKeskus shopping center near the main fairgrounds
Supermarket in the ViruKeskus shopping center near the main fairgrounds

What to try from Christmas street food:

  • Pies with fillings. The fillings are varied, but I recommend starting with the meat pies — it’s thin, crispy dough with a big, juicy meat filling and spices. The pies cost from 2 €.
  • Local lard. In cold weather, it keeps you warm and gives you energy for long walks. Even a small piece of it will be cut for the company, so you can snack on mulled wine on the go. Price from 5 €.
  • The biggest queues gather at the hot food stands: Bavarian and liver sausages with sauerkraut and mustard, roast piglet with fries and typical Scandinavian and Nordic dishes such as dried venison and moose sausage. And if you dare, try the beaver meat. A good dinner for one of different Estonian delicacies on average costs from 15 €.
  • For an appetizer — local fish: smoked salmon and pickled herring. Herring in general is the main tourist food — all restaurants prepare a sandwich with pickled fish on black bread with boiled egg and herbs. The price is 2,5 — 4 €.
  • Smoked delicacies are highly respected in Estonia, and even cheese is preferred smoked. This product is one of the symbols of Tallinn’s Christmas fair. The price is from 7—8 € per kg.
  • For dessert at the fair you can find sweet pastries, traditional gingerbread and lollipops. All the children stand at the candy stalls for a long time, as you won’t find such a variety anywhere else — from tiny candies to huge caramel animals. A medium-sized candy costs about 1 €.
Christmas Fair in Tallinn
Christmas Fair in Tallinn

Entertainment at the Christmas Fair

Riding the Christmas steam train and carousel, tasting mulled wine at all the vendors — this is the minimum program for a tourist, but that’s not all!

There will be singing and dancing in Tallinn’s Town Hall Square for almost 2 months — the program is very full and is published on the official Christmas Bazaar website. The main events are planned for Fridays and weekends. And colorful Estonian music can be heard on any day of the fair, including village bands and even gypsy groups.

The Christmas train stops at the Town Hall.
The Christmas train stops at the Town Hall.

New Year in Tallinn

New Year’s Eve is celebrated here in the center — on December 31 in the Town Hall Square, with Santa Claus, dancing and fireworks.

  • The New Year’s program starts on December 31 at 22:00. The concert is led by Santa Claus himself! Here he is called «Jyuluvana». He looks like Santa Claus.
  • Meet the children with Santa Claus at Town Hall Square — every day from January 1—7 from 12:00 — 18:00.
Winter Tallinn
Winter Tallinn

What you need to know before traveling

Unlike «old» Christmas cities with a long tradition of Christmas markets, where at least some kind of fair can be found in any neighborhood of the city, in Tallinn the main location of the holiday is the Old Town, Town Hall Square.

Time: tentatively, from November 15 to January 07. Actual dates appear on the official website closer to the fall. Opening hours: from 10:00 to 20:00.

You need to dress warmly. Tallinn can be harsh in January, with strong winds from the sea and snow. You can keep warm at the fair by buying a real woolen sweater with reindeer or a warm hat with snowflakes.

A definite advantage of the Tallinn Christmas market over other European fairs is that everyone can speak to you in Russian.

New Year and Christmas in Tallinn on the capital’s main square is a lively atmosphere, delicious food and obligatory hot mulled wine. And all this — against the background of not very many tourists, compared to Austrian and German fairs. Every year there will be more and more tourists, because winning the competition for the best European markets will bring guests from all over Europe.