I went to Finland (again!) and Estonia this winter. Whenever I tell people where I went, I really only get one sort of reaction:
“You’re going to Finland in the winter? Why?!”
I got this question quite a bit before I embarked on another trip to Suomi in late February. I’m originally from the Northeast USA, so I’m no stranger to snow. I’ve also lived in Canada before, where we definitely got our fair share of hard winters. People who know me also know that I absolutely love snow and the thought of being in a winter wonderland for a few weeks sounded like a great idea. Who could hate that? Turns out, a lot of people. But if you’re one of those rare adults who actually love snow, read on!
We weren’t totally sure where else our trip was going to take us. It could have taken us to Stockholm or Berlin, though we had been considering Estonia despite not having any interviews there. When our other plans fell through, I jumped onto booking.com and airbnb.com to see if checking out Tallinn was even a viable option and I’m so glad it was. Not only is Estonia a gorgeous country to begin with, it’s also very budget-friendly.
For the naysayers who think that once the winter chill sets in you need to flee to Florida, I present to you four reasons why you should give the city of Tallinn a chance to impress you.
- Tallinn’s oldest buildings look more beautiful covered in snow
Tallinn is already photogenic in the summer, with the medieval architecture in Old Town so prominently displayed. You’ll also have most of the city to yourself because it’s the off-season and most of the tourists have opted for warmer climes. Empty streets make for ideal and atmospheric shots of the city itself, though you’ll still see enthusiastic Estonians in medieval garb trying to woo you into their restaurants. The only thing you’ll miss out on are more street performers, but having a more intimate look into the city is worth the sacrifice.
2. Glögi (mulled wine) tastes sweeter in the cold
One thing I noticed that Tallinn had in abundance were vendor carts even when it was snowing and frigid. There’s something so surreal about passing a cart selling meats and mulled wine while an Estonian woman sits inside playing on her smartphone. On one particular corner, a young man working inside his cart was desperately trying to shoo away a pigeon who was harassing him.
I approached the cart, cajoled the bird away (he was a persistent little thing, he must have REALLY wanted that mulled wine) and then exchanged a euro for a cup of some of the sweetest, spiciest mulled wine I’ve ever had. Was it really that good, or was it because it was freezing outside?
3. Getting into restaurants is much easier in the winter
Unsurprisingly, Tallinn’s streets in the winter time are clear of foot traffic. You’ll still see people out and about, but it’s nowhere close to the volume of tourists in the summertime. Most people are hanging out indoors with many of the restaurants reaching max capacity fairly early on in the evening. Even though we were there in early March and there was snow covering everything, we still had to make a reservation at one of the restaurants. They called to check in on the other two restaurants they owned to see if they had any space for us, but alas, they were full too. And this was at lunchtime!
A very long line formed outside of another popular spot around two in the afternoon. I couldn’t imagine how frustrating it must be to eat in Old Town in the summer.
4. There’s plenty of museums to visit
We killed about 2.5 hours in the Seaplane Harbour Museum Lennusadam one afternoon. It’s incredibly clean, admission was cheap, and the exhibit was definitely worth a peek even if you’re not particularly interested in ships. There’s also a submarine you can check out inside and out. I didn’t partake in this – I hate cramped spaces, but the rest of my party enjoyed it quite a bit.
Another museum we visited was the Tallinn City Museum. It’s only a few euros per person to access the entire museum, though be warned – it’s not very accessible for the elderly or disabled. Hell, I had a hard time with those stairs! Despite this, it was a lot of fun to read about Tallinn’s rich history. There’s also a cafe at the top of the museum. The menu looked pretty unique with some classic Estonian dishes featured.
I hope I’ve made a compelling list of reasons for why you should out this charismatic medieval city in the winter. Generally speaking, Tallinn would be great to visit any time of the year, but if crowds really bother you or if you’re already in the area in the colder months, don’t hesitate to visit. Tallinn is a history buff’s dream, and foodies will also appreciate the balance between ancient and modern cuisine.
And don’t forget to pack layers!
For more pictures of my trip to Tallinn, be sure to check out my Instagram.