Considered among the most magical Christmas markets in Europe, the Tallinn Town Hall Square becomes a romantic and atmospheric place where the local merchants sell a range of Estonian arts and crafts, as well as mulled wine and traditional food.
Tallinn’s modern-day Christmas market has been running since 1991 and has gone from strength to strength. Once you have slowly walked through the streets of the magical medieval Old Town, finally strolling around the Christmas market on a nice winter day or early evening feels like you’ve just arrived in a winter wonderland – especially when it has snowed (which is not, alas, guaranteed on these days).
The tradition of celebrating the good Old Yule at the Town Hall Square goes a way back – Tallinn is arguably also the place where the world’s first public Christmas tree was erected. The tree was the focal point of a ritual that began in 1441 and involved unmarried merchants singing and dancing with local girls around a tree, which then was burnt. This was the first public Christmas tree ever put on display in Europe by the Brotherhood of the Black Heads guild, an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners and foreigners that was active in the region at the time.
Food and events
These days, the Christmas tree is surrounded by wooden stalls where vendors sell festive delicacies and various local craft, such as hand-knitted jumpers, wool hats, homemade scented candles and other decorations made by local artisans. Gingerbread and mulled wine lift the merry spirits – and if that’s not enough to fill up tummies, then traditional local Christmas food, such as sauerkraut, hog roasted pork and blood sausages, will surely do.
Each year the market changes a little. This year’s Christmas tree has been enhanced with new LED lights as well as red and golden baubles that make it look more elaborate than the previous one. The entire square is lit with over 40,000 lights while the traditional performance stage is decorated with over 600 Christmas stars.
The stage itself will see approximately 1,700 artists to perform this year – from folk dance ensembles to a cabaret group (on the New Year’s Eve).
If you happen to be there at the right time, you might even bump into Father Christmas (Santa Claus) who would otherwise be found at his house, where children will be able to recite him poems and ask for presents.
The Tallinn Christmas market will be open until 6 January 2018, daily from 10AM to 8PM (hot Christmas drinks are served until 11PM). The cultural programme will run on Fridays from 5PM to 7PM and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12PM to 2PM. Father Christmas can be found at his house every day from 3 December, from 12PM to 6PM.
Cover: The Tallinn Christmas market from air (image by Kaupo Kalda).