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If you’re considering why you should visit Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, there are countless reasons to take a trip to the beautiful city on the Baltic Coast.
Like much of northern Europe, the winters in Tallinn are long, dark and cold.
But don’t let that put you off! Visiting Tallinn in winter is one of the best things you can do and gives you a tourist free insight into life in this Baltic nation.
However, travelling around a European city as far north as Tallinn has some considerations you’ll need to think about before just hopping on a plane. Keep reading as I delve into the best reasons to visit Tallinn in winter and a complete travel guide on what you’ll need to do and bring that may be a little bit different to your normal summer European city break.
The 6 Reasons to Visit Tallinn in Winter
If pictures of crowds of people shuffling past each other hoping to take a selfie before running off again gives you the chills, you’ll be delighted to know that there are very few tourists in Estonia in winter.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but the sprinkling of foreigners that come to Tallinn in winter are a hardy bunch that are keen to see the city for what it is and experience everything they can before the summer tourists arrive.
Using the Tallinn Card to get around and see all the sites in the capital makes you realise just how few people there are at this time of year.
Beautiful snowy weather
There are an average of 55 days of snow per year in Tallinn and 14 days in January alone. If you’re looking for a snowy city, Tallinn is your answer!
Travelling with snow on the ground does provide additional challenges but it also makes it so much more worthwhile seeing a city with a glistening of white snow against a blue winter’s sky.
Short days make for plenty of golden hour sun for photographers
In the depths of winter, sunrise is at 9.30am and sunset just after 3.30pm. But with the low sun in the sky, Golden Hour seems to last quite a while in Tallinn. Even at midday, the lighting is soft and makes for great photos.
If you love to take sunrise photos of pastel purples on the horizon, winter in Tallinn provides that from 8am onwards, no need for those super early wake up calls for those photos.
By 2pm, the light has the glow that you would want to give a softness to your images. An orange glow reaching the top of church spires and domes occurs shortly after. Between gentle snow showers, and blue skies with a white blanket underneath, Tallinn in winter is a photographers dream.
Experience the Christmas market
Like many European cities, Tallinn has a Christmas market in the Main Square (Raekoja plats) next to the Old Town Hall (Tallinna raekoda).
Take a sip of Glögi (hot wine), enjoy hearty meals or purchase the local arts and crafts with carols ringing out and shows performed on the main stage. It isn’t the largest market in Europe by any means but it provides festive cheer well into January to make your winter trip to Tallinn that little bit more special.
Enjoy magical cosy evenings in underground restaurants and bars
With temperatures barely above freezing for long periods of time, Tallinners know how to still go out in those weathers. Many of the bars and restaurants in Old Town have big heavy doors that keep the heat in with some even having additional curtains just inside the door to keep all the cold out.
Many of the bars and restaurants are cozy affairs that are under main buildings taking up the basement space. So many bars in Tallinn have fires, cozy corners, candles lit on tables and hearty meals all with great local beers. My favourite is Mr. Mauruse Pub which can be found here.
Take a taste of Glögi (Estonian mulled wine)
In the winter, glögi is found all over Tallinn. The local mulled wine style drink is stronger than many other types of mulled wine found in Europe and includes a strong spirit along with the red wine.
Small stalls are found around the city offering a glass of the warm and spiced drink as well as the Christmas market. It’s perfectly common to see people walking the streets in big winter jackets sipping cups of glögi.
What to know when travelling to Tallinn in winter
Getting in and around Tallinn
Tallinn airport is well connected with many other destinations in Europe including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Istanbul and neighbouring Helsinki amongst others with major and budget airlines operating regular flights. Buses, trams, taxis or Bolt offers ways to get to the city centre from the airport.
Flixbus offers affordable bus routes from Latvia, Lithuania and as far away as Warsaw into the Estonian capital. Tallink runs a cruise service from Stockholm and Helsinki into Tallinn.
To get around Tallinn, Bolt is an affordable taxi option with many cars available at all times. I’ve never had to wait for more than a few minutes even in thick snow.
Buses can be used with a foreign debit card being used to “tap on” but can only be swiped at the drivers entrance to the doors. QR codes for bus tickets can be purchased online from https://tallinn.pilet.ee/buy.
Weather in Tallinn in winter
Many websites will state that the average temperature of Tallinn in February is −3.6 °C, the reality can be that it gets considerably colder than that.
My time in Tallinn had temperatures at −2 °C when I arrived but then dipped to −17 °C within a week. With windchill, it actually felt as cold as −25 °C, the coldest I have ever experienced.
Despite the cold weather and few centimetres of snow, life goes on as normal. All bus routes and transport operates as normal. People are still walking their dogs. Restaurants and cafes still operate in the old town.
What to pack for Tallinn in winter
As someone that spends most of their time in tropical climates, this is where I struggled most. Having the right clothing is essential to enjoy your time in Tallinn if you decide to travel in winter. Planning a trip and then having to spend most of it inside because you aren’t prepared for the weather would be the worst way to spend your time!
I had a thick thermal sports top as a base layer and wore it every day. On top of that I had a merino wool base layer as an additional source of warmth as well as merino leggings under my trousers. For a coat, I recommend taking the biggest and warmest you can take. Ski jackets are perfect for this or outdoor jackets from brands such as Arcteryx despite the high price point.
I also took a thick snood, a thick beanie hat and two pairs of gloves that I wore on the coldest days. The first pair, a regular pair of sports gloves with finger tip grips so that I could still use my phone, and an additional pair of merino mittens that went over the top of those for extra warmth. Nobody likes cold fingers!
With snow on the ground, normal trainers or shoes with limited grip will make life difficult as you slowly edge your way around town. I bought some boots especially for the trip that are super comfy and with an excellent tread for walking in the snow. These Skechers were a great choice that look good for a city occasion and a show that I would happily wear in most countries.
As I normally travel with carry on only, I got an extra bag for my trip to Tallinn in winter. I have to say I’m very happy with the Osprey Transporter 65L I have and look forward to using it for many trips in the future.
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.