TALLINN - MAGICAL CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
A medieval restaurant, trendy bars, a gingerbread museum and copious amounts of Glögi
When searching for a Christmas market holiday James and I spent an age trying to decide on the best one. We were attracted by the more well-known places such as Germany, Amsterdam and Budapest but after visiting these countries before we wanted to try somewhere a little different. We found that Tallinn in Estonia was voted as the best Christmas market destination of 2018 so we thought we’d give it a try. We flew from London Gatwick on a short flight to Tallinn in December 2018. We caught a public bus from the airport to Viru which was at the entrance of the old town. I had booked a trusty AirBnb but we could not check in to our apartment until the afternoon so found a lunch spot while we waited. As always I had researched where to eat and on this occasion I opted for Ehe Maitse - a quaint place which was a cafe come wine bar. The style is set out mostly like a shop with tables dotted around in the centre and a deli bar to the left as you walk in. It wasn’t the most friendly of welcomes as we walked in and the staff seemed surprised that we weren’t perhaps the usual locals who drop by everyday. Despite this the food was good. We both had paninis and they were jam-packed full of our requested fillings whether that be meat, cheese or vegetables. This place filled our stomachs but there were nicer places available.
Our AirBnb was located in Jahu, North of the old town and around a 10-15 minute walk. The apartment I chose was part of an apartment block and it was sleek and stylish. We were greeted by our host and her little boy who despite not speaking English managed to communicate with us extremely well telling us the basics such as where to leave the key on departure.
The sun was going down and the air was getting cooler. After putting on some more layers we headed back out to explore Tallinn. With snow on the ground we walked slowly and carefully back into the centre. We then continued into the old town and visited one of the most famous bars/restaurants Old Hansa. This is a medieval style restaurant and the theme is executed very well. Everywhere you look there are shields, armour, clay pots all that you can imagine. The staff are also dressed in medieval-style clothing. Beers are served in large tankers making the obligatory “cheers” before drinking all that more fun. We stopped here for a beer (or two) before heading back out into the cold to explore the Christmas markets. The Christmas markets are located in the centre of Tallinn in the town hall square. There is something so magical about Christmas markets, the large Christmas tree as the centre piece adorned with coloured lighting, shuffling past other visitors wrapped up in their scarves and gloves and the smell of sausages and mulled wine. In Tallinn mulled wine is known as Glogi and I thought it tasted slightly different taste to usual mulled wine. The balance of juice, spices and alcohol is perfect and cups were being consumed far too easily! This is definitely the best way to stay warm whilst exploring the markets. The market was, as expected, selling Tallinn souvenirs, Christmas ornaments, food and drink but also some very high quality wool products. There was a stage for entertainment where local dancers and singers performed and high tables and little canopies to take shelter from the cold air. You could definitely eat your way around the market and everything on offer looked mouth-wateringly delicious. However, we had set our sights on visiting the trendy Telliskivi area and grabbing dinner closer to our apartment.
The Telliskivi area is around a 15 minute walk from the town hall square. You pass over a main road and some train tracks and will reach various shipping containers hiding some of the best bars in Tallinn. We first visited F-Hoone where we had dinner and drinks. F-Hoone is a large building with high ceilings and a very popular drinking spot in Tallinn. The tables are nicely spread out and the place is buzzing with a great atmosphere. The menu is vast and offers a variety of different food from ravioli to burgers to traditional Estonian dishes such as lamb meatballs and mutton in a cream sauce. There is also plenty of choice on the drinks menu with wines, beers and cocktails galore. This is a great spot to visit and one that will really settle you in to the feel of the Telliskivi area. After dinner we moved onto St Vitus. St Vitus is all about craft beer and with around 20 different beers to choose from you could be here all night. The bench style seating and light decor give this place a clean and fresh look whilst still keeping with the quirky theme of the Telliskivi area. After testing a few beers and landed on our favourites we drank them leisurely before calling it a night. With only two days in Tallinn we wanted to make sure we were in a fit state to get up early and make the most of our remaining time in this beautiful city.
Morning came and we headed out to join the coldest walking tour we have experienced so far. I definitely recommend joining the free walking tours, as always, but you make sure you layer up and wrap up warm for this one. This tour began at 11am and was 2 hours long in total. It focused on Tallinn’s old town and took us to the most famous attractions such as the St Mary’s Church, Town Hall Square, Freedom Square and the Kohtu platform in Toompea. This platform is recommended as the top viewpoint and to capture Tallinn at it’s best. Head here for sunrise for the best views. The walking tour left us with little feeling in our fingers and toes so it was time for a coffee and some cake to warm up. We chose Caffe Veronesi and had lattes and some berry cheesecake. I was really in the mood for some warm pudding and custard but that’s a little too British for Tallinn.
The next stop was Gingerbread Mania. I was intrigued, as you can imagine, as to what Gingerbread Mania was. It turned out to be an temporary exhibition, over the Christmas period, displaying art work made from gingerbread. Yes, the pieces were impressive and the artists very talented but it wasn’t all too interesting. There wasn’t enough gingerbread eating opportunities for me! The museum is small and for a small donation to enter it’s worth a visit. Let’s face it, how often are you going to come across a museum dedicated to gingerbread? After some more wandering around the Old Town and passing through the Christmas markets we landed on a German-style beer house. With long wooden benches, large tankers and the smell of sausage and sauerkraut we momentarily forgot which country we were in. The beer house sold a variety of beers and we took advantage of the warmth and tried a couple.
As the sun went down we went to visit the Nevsky Cathedral. It is lit up at night and looks spectacular. The cathedral faces the parliamentary building of Estonia and Toompea Castle. A great photo spot if you can brave taking your hand out of your glove to use your camera. This evening we planned to eat at Rataskaevu 16 but unfortunately due to its popularity it was fully booked. Make sure you book this restaurant on your first day in Tallinn, if not before, as it is highly recommended. Instead we thought we were would go back and explore the Telliskivi area. We found ourselves in a shopping mall area and there was a food hall with restaurants selling all kinds of different foods. We had dinner at La Tabla which was a mexican restaurant selling tacos, fajitas, burritos, everything you could want. I chose a chicken quesadilla and washed it down with some sangria. The food was nice but by no means the best Mexican food I have ever eaten. The food and the style of the restaurant felt like a Mexican chain you would find in the UK such as Chiquito or Las Iguanas.
The evening drew to a close in a shipping container bar in Teleskivi. There were a few scattered tables close to the bar and then a vast open space which we later discovered turned into a dance floor from 1am. We had a couple of drinks and some shots of Vana Tallinn before heading to bed. In the morning we were heading across the Baltic Sea to Helsinki.
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