Estonia, Europe

Magical Tallinn and its Christmas Market

With sunrise at 8:33 am, we had no trouble getting up for that since we are early birds. However, it was totally cloudy so there was no reason to go out for sunrise. We took our time and had a wonderful breakfast in the hotel which was included due to my Marriott Platinum status that I got from my credit card – The Ritz Carlton credit card that has been discontinued. Breakfast is in the hotel’s beautiful Tchaikovsky Restaurant; the interior is simple but very elegant with a chandelier hanging down. The ceiling is glass to let natural lights in like a greenhouse but it was still dark out when we had our breakfast.

The seats were very comfortable and each table has a little lamp.

Breakfast consisted a large spread of typical hot items such as grilled beans, scrambled eggs, and sausages. Their pastries are very fresh.

In addition, they have a whole table of sweets….how about macaroons for breakfast?

After breakfast, we walked out to explore Tallinn’s old town and the sky just started to lit up. The Viru Gate that separated the old town from the more modern area outside.

The main shopping street inside the old town: Viru Street was well decorated with Christmas lights full of holiday spirit.

I love the rows of draping lights and the tower as the backdrop.

Right outside Viru Gate is a row of flower shops and they open very early in the morning.

On our walk through the old town, there are a lot of pastel colored buildings and copper statues.

The Freedom Square and St. John’s Church (Jaani Kirik):

We turned around back to the old town since it was still very early in the morning so we saved Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform till later in the day when more day light. The houses inside the old town are very pretty and colorful, full of medieval charm.

Every corner is photogenic and almost no crowds at all early in the morning.

We walked back to Town Hall Square and the Christmas market stalls were not even open yet, that was how it looked like during day light:

Many more cute houses:

The street where our hotel is located:

We went back to the hotel to take a nap (LOL) and went back out at 10 am to explore the rest of the old town when places open. We took the shortcut through St. Catherine’s Passage which is famous for the home to the St. Catherine’s Guild – a guild of artists who practice the traditional way to create glassware, jewelry, quilts, etc.

Then to Hellemann Tower and Town Wall Walkway, entrance fee was
€3; the Town Wall is very short so unlike other town walls we visited, it’s not completely surrounded the old town. The views up there were okay, not spectacular.

We walked all the way toward Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform where we pass by some interesting architectures like the Kiek in de Kök Museum and Bastion Tunnels:

And the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral built in a typical Russian Revival style. I think this was our first time seeing a Russian Revival style architecture. The park beneath the cathedral give a good angle of the domes.

Otherwise, when you get in front of the cathedral, you can barely see the domes:

Right next to the cathedral is this massive pink building which is The Parliament Of Estonia.

We went in the cathedral to check it out but no photos allowed so can’t show you how it looks inside. It’s quite dark inside and nothing lavish but worth to take a look as it’s free to enter.

A lot of souvenir shops behind the cathedral but those are quite expensive.

We went in the post office behind the cathedral as well to check it out and Jason bought the following stamps. Too bad they don’t have much Estonia or Tallinn themed stamps but they also sell Latvia stamps so added to Jason’s collection.

Continued with our walk and passed through many more pastel colored houses.

St Mary’s Cathedral (Toomkirik) where we went actually to climb its tower but it was closed when we were there 🙁 The staff said come back later, it might open….urg “might”? The interior is worth a look though with many beautiful coat of arms hanging on the wall.

After St. Mary’s Cathedral, we walked to the Piiskopi viewing platform (Piiskopi vaateplatvorm) but it’s giving the view of the “new” section of the town so it’s not photo-worthy at all. You can skip it if all you want is to take pics of the old town and head toward Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform directly. We turned back and you can see a little bit of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral from this angle.

It’s hard to capture the full Alexander Nevsky Cathedral since it’s surrounded by houses and located on top of the hill….there’s no higher up ground near by to give the top-down angle. I have seen postcard of the cathedral taken either from a drone or helicopter and it’s amazing especially when covered by a thin layer of snow.

We walked pass this manor looking building – Estonian Academy of Sciences:

Finally, we arrived at the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform, my favorite view of the old town from here! The first photo that I saw when Googling about Tallinn is taken from this viewing platform with the famous “The Times We Had” on the wall. When I saw that photo, I wanted to visit Tallinn!

An interesting fact about Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform, to this date, no one knows who and why “The Times We Had” painted on that wall. Also, that wall is a private property (someone’s house) and in the summer of 2018, the owner chose to paint over it so that iconic sentence was gone. However, when we visited in Nov. 2018, someone painted back that sentence but in all caps which looked not as magical as before.

Before it was painted over, photo credit:×683.jpg

The new “The times we had” in all caps with the most famous seagull in Tallinn, it even has a name “Steven”.

The panoramic views of Tallinn’s old town with all those bright orange/red rooftops and towers. It looks even more magical when lightly covered by snow, no luck of snow when I was there though 🙁

A panorama and Steven was still there posing.

Time to pose with the sentence, yep, really, “the times we had” in Tallinn 🙂

There’s another view point close by called Patkuli Viewing Platform and the views are quite nice as well so don’t forget to visit that viewing platform as well. More souvenir shop:

Here, the view from Patkuli Viewing Platform where you can see the Monastery Gate (Kloostrivärav).

I have to agree with this statement painted on the wall: “Save the camera, honey. Enjoy the view” hahaha! Make sure you take a break from taking photos and enjoy the view for a minute or two 😉

We walked down the flight of stairs from there back into the old town where we headed next: St Olaf’s church. I read that the views from up its tower are worth the climb but the tower was closed during winter time 🙁

We turned back from the church to one of the most photogenic streets – Pikk Street in the old town.

There is sightseeing train as well if you don’t want to walk or with limited mobility.

I think Tallinn’s Old Town is one of my favorite old towns, every corner is just picturesque! It’s compact enough that you can walk everywhere and large enough to spend a day and not be bored! The colorful pastel houses reminded me of Prague but Tallinn’s cuter style.

This clock on the wall of the house looked very ancient.

Mündi Street where it connects Pikk Street to the Town Hall Square, another must photographed location!

Continued on Pikk Street, isn’t this beautiful?

This looked like right out of a fairy tale book, more dreamy and romantic medieval style that’s different than the colorful half-timbered houses in Germany and France, another of my favorite storybook style.

After all those walk, it was time for lunch. We went to the #1 restaurant in Tallinn – Rataskaevu 16 (with over 6,000 reviews) but it was a full house. However, the waiter called their sister restaurant and reserved a table for us where they serve the exact same menu. The sister restaurant is called Vaike Rataskaevu 16 located nearby.

For starter, we ordered the slow-roasted duck tartare, hard to explain but it tasted different than other duck meat that I had. We also ordered jasmine tea to keep us warm and it tasted very good.

The homemade bread was very soft and fluffy.

For the main dish, I ordered the chicken breast which was very tender and interestingly they added bak choi (a common vegetable we stir-fried at home). I tried to avoid the sauce since it contained red wine.

Jason ordered braised elk roast with a mix of interesting flavors.

The dishes were greatly presented, the taste was okay not amazingly memorable. Our lunch cost $57.11 with 10% tip. After visited Prague, we found that eastern Europe often has a 10% tipping custom than western Europe where you only round to the near Euro or two.

After lunch, we walked back to the Town Hall Square where the Christmas market stalls are all open!

This stall selling knitted hats, sweater, mittens, and scarves. I got a very warm comfortable pink hat for €13 and so glad I bought it because it kept me very warm 😀

Candle products:

My favorite ceramic houses:

The stall that we bought our houses from the night before:

Mündi Street again:

Back to Pikk Street to take a photo with this pink building, like my matching hat?

My favorite section of Pikk Street!

A baby blue house:

After nonstop walking for like 3.5 hours, we went back to our hotel to take a break before headed back out for blue hour – sunset at 3:40 pm in the afternoon. Day and night difference in just 2 hours!

The Christmas market a night looked more magical with the Christmas lights turned on, don’t you think?

Never get tired of this view from Mündi Street:

We took a different way to Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform via Pikk Street then Pikk Jalg to make a turn. Pikk Street at night:

Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform at night:

The Times We Had wall and the old town at night:

There were a few tourists there so we had to wait a few minutes for them to leave first. We didn’t bring our flash so we used the “flashlight” from our cellphone to lit us up haha.

The night view from Patkuli Viewing Platform:

We walked to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral for night photos.

With the remote control, we took a photo of both of us in front of the cathedral.

Kiek in de Kök Museum and Bastion Tunnels at night:

We didn’t see this during day light, Maiden Tower Museum-Cafe (Neitsitorni muuseumkohvik):

Another shortcut to get back down to the old town:

More photos of Tallinn’s old town at night.

A lot more people we saw at night than during the day.

Viru Gate at night:

For dinner, we went to Tai Boh, a Thai restaurant that is very nicely decorated.

For appetizer, we ordered the fried calamari; it was very crispy.

Fried shrimp wrapped in thin spaghetti made it extra crunchy.

While waiting for our main dishes after the appetizers, I went to check out the restaurant where it has many different function rooms with different decors.

This beautiful red room in front of the restrooms.

A stairway wall covered by magazine photos.

A mosaic ceiling:

The main dishes, we ordered grilled lamb rack, it was very good!

Indian pancake, couldn’t believe they have it there.

My main dish was curry chicken and the curry sauce was perfect for the Indian pancake. I am surprised they didn’t have any curry dipping sauce for the Indian pancake. The curry was really good with the right amount of spice and coconut milk.

It was a filling dinner and cost $63 plus $8 tips. A bit expensive side but for the atmosphere and quality of food, it was well worth it. After dinner, we walked back into the old town to the Christmas market (yes, again). On the way, we saw this truck lit up with LED lights driven by Santa. Santa made a stop and people started to dance around it. The atmosphere was very festive!

Shops and restaurants in the old town:

Back to the Christmas market again, many times we visited the Christmas market? We just want to make sure we didn’t miss anything 😉

Photos of the stalls and what they were selling:

Plenty of snacks and hot food as well:

Sausages and cheese:

I love the vibes of the Christmas markets, very lively, festival, and interesting stalls to check out. It was a dream come true, now I want to visit more Christmas markets!!! Tallinn is beautiful and as I said one of my favorite old towns. I highly recommend Tallinn, even though a little bit pain to get there especially from the USA but worth it to spend at least a full day there. With the short day light, we got back to our hotel before 7 pm where we spent time to wrap those houses carefully to make sure they can be safely brought back home. Then, hope in our hot sauna to relax 😉

8 thoughts on “Magical Tallinn and its Christmas Market

  1. Lisa your blog is like no other – simply amazing. I’m lying in bed in a small town called Tumbarumba in Australia waiting for my hubby to wake up but reading about cold wintry Tallin. Thank you for the effort you put in, I love your work!

    1. Thank you Tracey, glad you enjoyed reading my blog 🙂 Is it summer down at the southern hemisphere, I can’t wait to escape the cold to get some warm sun!

      1. Sorry I didn’t see your response. We’re just coming out of summer, been very hot and dry here, but still prefer that to winter’s chill.

  2. Beautiful photos Lisa as always. Tallin was in my travel bucket for summer travel but you’ve given me food for thought. Thank you so much for the inspiration.
    Did you find it overcrowded or manageable?

    1. Not at all! I was traveling during winter so might make a difference, however, given not many flights go there and those planes are the small ones so I think it can’t be that touristy. However, avoid the weekends, I heard people from Helsinki goes there for the weekend as everything is cheaper LOL. If you have been to Paris, Rome, London, you’ll think Tallinn is very quiet and peaceful 🙂

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