Tallinn may not be ranked as the biggest European Christmas destinations, but it certainly ranks among the best. The authentic Christmas market, historical old town and state of the art museums make it a perfect destination to get your fill of Christmas magic with the kids.
Tallinn makes a fabulous first impression with its dramatic medieval and gothic architecture, it’s clean streets and wealth of places to eat! At Christmas, the old town is adorned with fairy lights and the smell of mulled wine (glögg) fills the air. It is a great place to explore for kids and grown-ups alike. Prices of food, drink and transportation are incredibly reasonable which makes Tallinn an inexpensive place to take the family (check out our budget for details).
During our four day trip to Estonia, we stayed in a beautiful, clean, two bedroom apartment at the Dhama Yoga Residence which was a short 10 minute walk to the old town. We would recommend this spacious accommodation which had plenty of room for the kids to play.
1. Seaplane Harbour (Maritime Museum)
We honestly rave about this museum to anyone who will listen! It is the best museum we have ever been to… and we’ve been to a lot!
The Seaplane Museum is housed in an enormous concrete seaplane hangar. It is incredibly well thought through and will take you on an adventure from the the ocean floor, to sea level, and right up to the sky. You are able to go inside a real 1930s submarine – and unlike many museums, you can touch pretty much anything on board which was a huge hit with Fin… and us! You can play on the airplane flight simulator, drive model boats, dress up in old naval gear and grab a delicious bite to eat at the cafe. There’s a colouring corner, huge fish tank of indigenous fish and enormous boats moored up outside which you can also board. The information provided is concise, interesting and engaging for visitors of all ages which makes a refreshing change from the London museums we are used to.
The Seaplane Museum is a short taxi ride from the centre of Tallinn or is easily walkable with a stroller. Entry is EUR 15 for an adult and EUR 8 for children (under 8s free) with no hidden charges for simulators or games. You won’t be disappointed, it’s worth every penny! Find out more over on their website.
2. Tallinn Christmas Market
Nestled in the Town Hall Square of the old town is the fairytale Tallinn Christmas Market (Nov-Jan). Adorned with fairly lights, and surrounded by medieval buildings, it’s a really magical place. The market is a relatively small collection of around 30 wooden chalets filled with beautiful handmade traditional Estonian goods. We absolutely loved that so many of the stalls sold unique and traditional items, especially compared to the Helsinki market which was mostly high end designer goods. We picked up a hand knitted woollen jumper for the baby, and some mittens (more later on how unprepared for the cold we were!). There’s food stalls, a small carousel and warm Glögg (alcoholic and non-alcoholic options).
3. Get lost in Tallinn Old Town
Christmas is the perfect time of year to explore Tallin’s UNESCO World Heritage Old Town. The cobbled streets wind past historical buildings which look all the more beautiful with a dusting of snow. Head up Toompea Hill for views over the city, and a close up of the domed architecture of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Any fans of Disney’s Frozen will no doubt love a visit to St Olaf’s Church too!
We toured the Kiek in de Kök, a 15th century artillery tower turned museum. The museum gives a great insight into the development of Tallinn from its medieval roots with unbelievably knowledgable guides. And for the kids there’s a huge toy model of the city walls and armour to dress up in. Entry is EUR 6 and there’s a reasonably priced cafe inside.
4. Hop over to Helsinki, Finland
Hop on the Tallink Ferry for a daytrip over to Finland (EUR 30pp return). The ferry takes around two hours and is complete with shops, food, drink and… wait for it… soft play! Helsinki is a much bigger and busier city than Tallinn which reminded us a lot of London at Christmas. The Helsinki Christmas Market is also much busier and more expensive than its Tallinn counterpart, with a preference for pan-Scandinavian designer wears rather than the rustic handmade products available in Tallinn. Despite that, it was lovely to wander around and buy a warm hat (did I mention how cold it was!?) and a few bits from our new favourite store Newbie.
If you go for a full day there’s time to hop on a tram over to the Finnish Museum of Natural History which, much to Fins delight, had everything from woolly mammoths to dinosaurs! Unlike in the UK, there was an entrance fee to this museum of EUR 15 pp which seemed quite expensive but it was a nice way to spend an afternoon!
Be prepared – Helsinki is MUCH more expensive than Tallinn, especially the taxis.
1. Getting around
Tallinn is small and by staying near the old town most of the main sights are within walking distance, even for little legs. Whilst there are cobbles, Tallinn is quite stroller-friendly and we manage to explore with our pushchair without any problems (unlike similar cities such as Bratislava). Taxis are cheap and easy to find. Taxis are metered and have their rates shown in the window. There are a few reputable websites you can order one from – we used Taxofon which only offers official taxis (unlike Uber for example). Theres also a great tram system but we found that is was tricky to board with a stroller!
2. Packing Essentials
Tallinn has all the essentials you’ll need for yourself and the kids, like any major city. There are plenty of shops for nappies, clothes and snacks if you run out of anything. If you visit in winter we would highly recommend taking proper winter wear. We made the mistake of thinking jeans and a jacket would be sufficient but then it suddenly dropped to -6 degrees and snowed… we were thoroughly unprepared! All of the children we saw under the age of 8 wore full-body snowsuits and snowboots, even if they were just popping to the shops so we would definitely suggest taking serious winter clothes… it seems obvious now we look back on it!
3. Food food food
While in Tallinn we sampled many, many places to eat! There’s a huge choice of places to try, from gorgeous vegan restaurants to a place which only serves pancakes (a huge hit with the toddler!). The Christmas market also offers a range of snacks and sweet treats to try… and Glögg if you need warming up.
Four days, two adults, one toddler – what we spent:
Flights & Baggage – £143
Apartment – £210
Food/drink – £130
Trips/Activities – £185
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