If you have decided to celebrate Christmas in Estonia, you have made an excellent choice. Tallinn, the Estonian capital, has a Christmas market that often ranks among the best in Europe, and the city of Tartu also gets into the Christmas spirit with its own market. Furthermore, if you fancy seeing more of Estonia, other cities host smaller markets and fairs. You will encounter Estonian-style holiday celebrations, food, and crafts, enjoy cities lit up with decorations, and experience the city in a way relatively fewer travelers do—during the Northern winter! Christmas markets in Tallinn and Estonia do not disappoint.
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Main Christmas Market in Tallinn
Voted one of Europe’s best Christmas markets in 2019, the main Christmas market in Old Town Tallinn takes place at Raekoja plats, or Town Hall Square, around a central Christmas tree. This Christmas tree competes with Riga’s for symbolizing the “first” Christmas tree—Tallinn boasts a Christmas tree first set up in the first half of the 15th century, several decades before Riga’s Christmas tree was purportedly established as a part of public holiday life. The Christmas tree is live, sourced from nearby, and is decorated with lights and ornaments reflecting the year’s chosen theme.
Estonia loves combining tradition with technology, and when a live Santa isn’t available, a hologram Santa has been known to step in as substitute. You can also post letters to the North Pole via Santa’s post box, so make your Christmas wishes good ones. Letters from Estonia have only a little way to travel, so Santa’s elves should receive them without delay.
What’s more, Tallinn’s Christmas market pays special attention to Estonian culture, meaning you can snag yourself a souvenir or get a unique gift for a loved one, such as a signed book or CD. Traditional crafts and designer work are also available for purchase. The material culture is complemented by a calendar of events, which features concerts and performances of all types. Hang around the Christmas market and the old town area long enough, and you’re sure to catch live music or dance.
Visiting Tallinn’s Christmas market is one of the best things to do in Tallinn during the month of December!
Tallinn’s Christmas Charity Bazaar
Held at the KultuuriKatel, the International Christmas Bazaar is a charity event organized by the embassies based in Tallinn. The bazaar features food and gifts from the countries represented, a visit from Santa Claus, and a silent auction. You can help support local charitable organizations by shopping at the bazaar. This one-day event typically is held at the beginning of the Advent season during the weekend.
Tartu Town Hall Square Christmas Market
On one day in December, Tartu’s Town Hall Square hosts a Christmas fair that centers around a Christmas tree. Transparent stalls, lit from within, create an inviting scene, particularly if the weather is snowy. Shop for local crafts and souvenirs, warm yourself with a cup of mulled wine, munch on gingerbread, and enjoy the live entertainment.
The Tartu Christmas market is an excellent opportunity to see Estonia’s second most popular town decked out for the holiday season. It’s a university town with loads of personality, so be prepared to be delighted and take home fond memories of your visit. It’s one of the best things to do in Tartu during this time of year.
Tartu Exhibition Center Christmas Market
The Tartu Exhibition center has been hosting a Christmas market for many years—this market typically takes place during one weekend early in December. In addition to local vendors, vendors from nearby countries—think Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, and Russia—set up booths to tempt you with their wares.
Parnu Christmas Market
Head to the coast to Parnu to enjoy an indoor Christmas market. Held at the Kaubamajakas shopping center, you can browse Christmas decorations, wearable items, and crafts without having to brave the winter weather. This market takes place during the latter half of December up until Christmas. While you may not get to enjoy the beach as you would during the warm season, the winter views of Parnu Bay will be striking—and a walk along the Parnu River will give you plenty of excuse to get cozy during dinner over a plate of traditional Estonian food and a glass of local beer or mulled wine.
Paide Christmas Market
Another single-day event is the Paide Christmas festival. Games and competitions make this event a fun-filled one, even as the typical Christmas market fair is on offer, Paide style. Paide, known for its medieval castle, welcomes travelers year-round, but Christmastime is certainly a special time to visit and a way to see the town aglow with the holiday spirit.
Narva Christmas Market
Head to the northeastern part of Estonia to experience Christmas in Narva. The Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Centre hosts vendors offering locally sourced organic products, while teachers and students offer demonstrations and workshops. Narva is an interesting city with a large Russian population—indeed, you can see Russia across the border where Narva Castle and Ivangorod fortress face off. Explore Narva’s interesting mix of cultures when you visit, which will expose you to both Estonian and Russian traditions.
What to Buy at Christmas Markets in Tallinn and Estonia
What’s on offer at the Christmas markets in Estonia differs every year according to trends and the sellers who set up shop here. But if you have a list of people to buy for, consider the following items:
- Original artwork by Estonian artists
- Fine and costume jewelry
- Hand-knitted mittens, scarves, and socks
- Hand-thrown pottery
- Clothing and table linens from natural materials
- Candles and natural cosmetics
Tips for Visiting Tallinn’s and Estonia’s Christmas Markets
Keep a few tips in mind for visiting the holiday markets in Estonia:
- Check dates. If you want to visit more than one Christmas market, check the dates of the markets outside of Tallinn so that you won’t miss them. Some may fall on the same day, so you may have to prioritize which ones you want to visit.
- Dress for winter in the Baltics. Estonia is in a northern latitude and winters are cold and dark. Make sure you have gloves, warm socks and boots, a cozy coat, and other accessories to make browsing outdoor markets comfortable.
- Increasingly more people are headed to Tallinn every year for the Christmas market, especially given that it ranks so highly among Europe’s Christmas markets overall. Plan ahead for the greatest choice in accommodation and flights as well as for better prices.
- Use the variety of Christmas markets around Estonia to explore the country! Even if you only choose to visit one town outside of Tallinn, you will come away with a greater understanding of the country and some unique souvenirs to boot.
- Plan ahead for Christmas concerts and performances. Tallinn and other Estonian cities organize a holiday calendar of events that takes advantage of the best venues. Tickets can typically be purchased ahead online, and you can plan for a nice evening out during your stay in Estonia.
- Use the Christmas markets as a chance to try local foods. Of course, typical holiday dishes will be on offer, but so will home-grown and homemade items. While you may or may not be able to take these home with you depending upon how they’re packaged, you can still sample and enjoy what local producers have on offer.
- Learn about Estonian culture, including how Estonians celebrate Christmas, but also about their handicrafts and agricultural products by talking with the people who manage the stalls at the Christmas markets. They’ll be more than happy to tell you how items are made or what they mean to Estonian culture and life.