We don’t celebrate Christmas but Christmas markets in Europe have this magical feeling that I have been wanting to experience. It’s tricky because the most famous Christmas markets are in France, Germany, Austria…countries that we have been to and also a higher risk of terrorist attacks. Jason is very well risk-averse that even the beautiful photos of Christmas markets can not persuade him. I had to balance out to find a country that we never been to, safe, and have a good Christmas market. I found Tallinn, Estonia!
Getting there literally took a day, it’s that hard logistic-wise to get to from Boston. Traveling during Thanksgiving is always more expensive so I had to be creative with the routing. After spending some time, I got it figured out. I found a cheap one-way flight from Boston to London Gatwick with Norwegian Air for only $160. Then, from London to Tallinn via Riga with airBaltic for $106.50. Coming back, from Tallinn to Copenhagen for $74 spent a day there to check off another country and the next day from Copenhagen to Boston via Gatwick for $232. Total airfare to visit two countries for $572.50, not bad right? 😉
We arrived in London on Thanksgiving day at 8:10 AM, our connection flight was at 11:00 AM so we had plenty of time. Even though it was a separate booking, we only had
After our meal, we had some time to spare so we tried to get in the No1 Lounge and it was full and we didn’t have a reservation (you need to pay to reserve in advance). We had been through Gatwick so many times and never have success getting in the No1 Lounge. We waited at the general seating area until our gate is displayed and then walked to the gate. We noticed we were the only Asians in the flight from London to Riga which is a good sign because that means Chinese tourists haven’t overcrowded there yet!
We arrived Riga at 3:45 PM and then the last connecting flight at 6:25 PM arriving Tallinn at 7:15 PM. Riga Airport is small and cozy, most of the interior design are wooden tone. We followed the sign for connecting flight again since we are not exiting out to Riga and led us into this room with four walls completely in wood. It was totally empty that I thought we went in the wrong place. As we turning back, we heard a voice so we looked and the immigration officer was waving at us. LOL, the whole room was covered by wooden walls all blended in that we did not see the immigration “window”. We walked up and got our passport a new stamp – Riga, Latvia 🙂 It was super easy, no question asked, and once we were done, we were so confused where the exit is! Once again, the door and the wall just blended in so we couldn’t even see a handle LOL. The officer pointed……
After immigration, first thing we came out and saw was the welcome center where they have an exhibit local designs that’s free to visit as well as providing free postcard and stamp to promote their country. How wonderful! We mailed a postcard to Jason’s friend and one to ourselves back home….we still haven’t receive that postcard yet so probably lost somewhere!
Afterward, we still have some time to spare so we went in the Primeclass Riga Business Lounge which we have free access with our Priority Pass. The lounge was comfortable with some local hot dishes like baked fish and soup…and my favorite European Fanta!
The Riga to Tallinn flight was like 75% full, mostly locals. Once we landed, there’s no immigration since we already stamped in Latvia so we walked out of the airport, Uber to our hotel – Hotel Telegraaf, Autograph Collection. It only cost €5.35 + €1.00 tip for the 15-minute ride, wow super cheap! Cheap + not much tourist = what an authentic destination!
We arrived at the hotel before 8 PM, check-in, and because I was a Marriott Platinum member, I got a free upgrade. I couldn’t believe it until I opened our room’s door, we got upgraded to a one-bedroom suite OMG! This was the best free upgrade I ever have gotten. I booked the lowest category room at $339 for two nights (very inexpensive for a 5* hotel) and got upgraded to this one-bedroom suite which I checked at the time of our stay, it cost over
€700 per night!!! The one-bedroom suite is the 2nd best category room after the presidential 2 bedroom suite.
Our huge living room with a dining table for 6 people, a sofa, and very nice decors.
To the left is the entrance to our bedroom and that door is the entrance to the bathroom which can be also entered from the bedroom.
The table in our bedroom with an antique telephone.
Our super comfortable bed:
The huge bathroom featured a walk-in shower and a separate bathtub.
The vanity design is chic.
The bathtub and an oil diffuser. What we didn’t realize and expect at all is on the left side of the bathtub…..there’s a glass door….
Our private sauna room OMG!!! Feeling freezing after the outdoor Christmas market? No problem, jump in the steamy sauna room!! Wahhh luxury!
After the excitement checking out our room, we headed out for our dinner at Da Rocco, an Italian restaurant due to its high rating. Unfortunately, the high rating did not deliver….service was extremely slow and it wasn’t like they have many guests either!
We ordered the mussels which were overcooked:
The seafood pasta was okay but the portion was very small for the price.
The not so filling meal was €53. We waited so long to pay for our bill that it was wasting time GRRR. It was like almost 10 PM on our walk back to the hotel that we walked through the Town Hall Square (behind our hotel) where the Christmas market is held every year. Although many vendors stalls are closed by the time we got there, there was a few remaining open and a few locals browsing around. This was the first time I have ever been to a Christmas market, the dream fulfilled! The wooden stalls surrounding the huge Christmas tree at the center and those medieval houses made it extra magical. Legend has it that the first public Christmas tree placed in a town square in Europe is Tallinn’s Town Hall Square Christmas tree which started the tradition!
One of the stalls that were still open were selling those cute ceramic houses that we love to collect wherever we got so it was perfect. There were so many choices and the prices were surprisingly affordable that my decisive disorder kicked in! OMG, so many choices and colors, which ones I should get? Don’t forget we brought carry-on bag only so can only fit so much!
The cutest ceramic houses I have ever seen and the bigger sized one only cost €20, what a bargain! Similar houses in Germany would have easily doubled than that. The smaller ones are like €8-15!!!
After spending some time at that stall picking out the ones I want and through the process of elimination, I ended up getting those 4 houses. I asked the vendor if there’s any discount he can give for 4, he said if we pay in cash, he can give some discount. After some negotiation, we got those 4 houses for €55!
We focused on picking up the ceramic houses so much that we forgot to even take a photo of the Christmas market…stay tuned for the next post on more of the magical Christmas market! Here’s a “sneak peek” of how it looks, taken from the next day.
After we got back to our hotel, of course, we did shower and jump in our hot, steamy sauna 🙂 How wonderful to relax in our own private sauna room after the walk on the cold winter day!