"In the bleak midwinter ..." Top 5 Page for this destination Tallinn by CatherineReichardt

Tallinn Travel Guide: 1,967 reviews and 5,481 photos

In case you're wondering about the title, it is taken from my favourite Christmas carol ('In the Bleak Midwinter): a melody that was running through my mind for our entire time in Tallinn. And, although, "in the bleak midwinter, frosty winds may moan", I'm delighted to report that - despite the weather - you can still have a cracking great time in Tallinn!

Our Christmas gift from my family was that they would babysit for four days whilst we scampered off for a ‘parents only’ long weekend in Tallinn. We adored Latvia and Lithuania when we visited in 2005, but didn’t have enough time to make it to Estonia, so this is both a chance for us to revel in some Ostalgia and a chance to ‘reccy’ Estonia for potential future forays in that region (a future Estonia/Helsinki/St Petersburg trip has a very attractive ring to it!).

Tallinn must be the ultimate 'city break' destination as it is compact, enchanting and affordable. Even though we went with high hopes (and well prepared based on antistar's tremendous Tallinn page), the city exceeded even our lofty expectations and proved to be a gem of a Hanseatic city that well deserves its status as one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2011. There had been snow storms in the week before we arrived, so the city was blanketed in snow and festooned with icicles which made it look particularly festive. One could question the wisdom of visiting a Baltic city in winter (although so long as it’s not raining, it’s probably one of the most atmospheric times to visit) since the warmest it got over the entire four days was -8˚C - at night, it was closer to -20˚C - but we had decided that it was preferable to be warm nerds than cool frozen people (not sure that this was ever an option for us anyway!), and went kitted out in ski attire!

Like other countries in the former Eastern Bloc, the juxtaposing of Estonia’s proud and independent history with the trauma that they experienced under occupation in the 20th century is poignant, and I am still struggling to get my head around the fact that a third of the entire population turned out at the annual singing festival as an act of defiance against Soviet rule the year before Estonia finally achieved independence to celebrate their Estonian heritage.

We found Tallinn to be an intriguing between mercantile seriousness and eccentricity. We were charmed by posters of storks bearing Euro coins (Estonia proudly joins the Euro zone on 1 January 2011, arguably at a time when other members are debating the value of being part of the common currency), bamboozled by the Greek Ukrainian Orthodox Catholic Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Three Hands (understandably, only a very small building) and enchanted by a quirky exhibition of folk art forged entirely out of gingerbread which is sponsored annually by a local cake manufacturer! And you've got to love a city that gives the towers along the city walls people's names!

Despite the sub zero temperatures, my husband was in his element clambering over a vintage ice breaker and a submarine at the Maritime Museum, and we celebrated meeting travelchili with a jolly evening at the brilliant Olde Hansa medieval restaurant.

Quite simply a magical few days, and a brilliant Christmas present – thanks sis!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:The perfect 'city break' destination - reminiscent of Prague before the tourists took over!
  • Cons:Could be miserable in rain, and treacherous for those of limited mobility in icy weather, so plan accordingly
  • In a nutshell:Tallinn has it all - what are you waiting for?
  • Last visit to Tallinn: Dec 2010
  • Intro Updated May 22, 2012
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Reviews (41)

Comments (13)

  • isolatedpawn's Profile Photo
    Sep 1, 2013 at 5:18 AM

    Ha ha ha! Great.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Sep 1, 2013 at 4:30 AM

    Cathy, I don't know if this was meant to happen, but your writings gave me many laughs! Thanks for the great virtual tour!

    • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
      Sep 1, 2013 at 4:50 AM

      No worries - I spent a lot of time laughing in Tallinn, so it's entirely appropriate, and I'll take that as a compliment!

    • balhannah's Profile Photo
      Sep 1, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      It was a compliment, it's your style of writing. It is good for the health to have a laugh. Keep it up!

  • Ekaterinburg's Profile Photo
    Aug 26, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    An interesting, sometimes quirky look at Tallin and i've really enjoyed reading it. Great practical info as well for those of us planning to visit. I think the Karaoke could be very entertaining in lots of ways but I'll definitely pass on the bear stroganof.

    • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
      Aug 26, 2012 at 9:21 PM

      Thanks so much for your kind comments on my Tallinn page - what a nice way to start off a Monday morning!
      As you might have gathered, I rather liked it, and visiting in winter when we virtually had it to ourselves gave it a terrific added dimension. Highly recommended (and raise a glass of cider in my honour at the Hell Hunt when you finally get there)!

    • DAO's Profile Photo
      Oct 25, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      Hi. Great pics and stories. I was here in January and the ocean was frozen, but no real snow at the time. All the best!

  • alancollins's Profile Photo
    Jul 27, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    It sounds like it was very cold when you visited.

  • King_Golo's Profile Photo
    Apr 3, 2012 at 1:48 AM

    Thanks for this interesting Tallinn page. It's been a while that I went to Tallinn, but I - like you - enjoyed every part of it. Actually, even more: I love the flag, as it is the only one featuring these colours. Unlike the Dutch or French flag (blue, white, red) or the many African flags (red, yellow, green), the Estonian one uses the same three-stripes pattern but goes a little bit further in the choice of its colours. It might have to do with the time of the year when you visited Tallinn, but the flag can be as bright as others.

  • illumina's Profile Photo
    Apr 2, 2012 at 4:47 AM

    I love that you're touring the Danse Macabres of Europe - I have to admit I have mission to see all of those (and the ossuaries) myself! I'll be following your pages with (morbid) glee!

  • Turska's Profile Photo
    Aug 5, 2011 at 1:26 AM

    I came to check out this gingerbread-thing :) Maybe this isn´t so fun for a Finn because we do those before christmas at home. I´m sort of famous among my friends about my ginger breads and my mother in law does even more fancy ones. Doing houses, candle

  • Durfun's Profile Photo
    Apr 11, 2011 at 6:28 AM

    Hey, Agree with your view on the flag. The contrast is bad, could be better if the white was between the blue & black though. This one is my 'dullest' fridge magnet ;-)

  • BillNJ's Profile Photo
    Mar 19, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    Cathy, You certainly saw and did a lot in Tallinn during your brief snowy visit! I look forward to your updates after your future Tallinnn-Helsinki-St. Petersburg trip (which I'm sure you'll do in warmer weather). Cheers, Bill

  • Feb 21, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    I did not know of this town. After reading your entertaining and informative travel page, it is now on my list of places to visit. You do really get your money's worth of experiences on your travels, don't you Cathy. Thanks for sharing them with us!


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