30 Oct 8 magical reasons to visit Tallinn, Estonia, in the snow
A medieval gem nestled on the coast of the Baltic sea, Tallinn is one of Europe’s most underrated yet most beautiful capital cities. Wrap up warm and you’ll see an even more special side to this city in winter, when the pretty rooftops and streets of the old town are scattered with snow.
There’s something a little bit magical about snow.
The way it dusts trees and roofs and leaves and streets with a glistening icing sugar coating. The way it softens the air, wrapping you in cloud of sparklingly silence, cut with crispy crunching underfoot. The way it transforms a skyline and rooftops, highlights details and brings lamplight to life.
It’s one thing to visit a new place in spring, summer or autumn, it’s quite another in a northern European winter.
So when Tallinn’s first snowfall of the winter fell when we were in the midst of an autumn city break last week, I couldn’t have been more delighted. After a few days exploring this beautiful Baltic city decked out in russet colours, a sprinkling of snow was the perfect way to see the town in a whole new light. Two seasons in one week? That’s twice the fun.
Let’s be honest, we weren’t expecting winter to arrive so soon (my slightly sad looking city boots are now testament to that). But Tallinn had surpassed our expectations already, so a snow day – or two – was an unexpected surprise and a chance to explore all over again. We would never have thought to visit in mid-winter, but now I’ve experienced it in real life I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it – provided you pack your thermals.
I wanted to share the unexpected magic of this Baltic beauty. So here’s an ode to Tallinn in the snow – eight reasons why I think you’ll also fall in love with this city.
P.S. If you want to find out more about the beautiful city of Tallinn, and what to see and do during your stay, check out A city guide to Tallinn: Baltic beauty in the Estonian capital. It’s also packed with my recommendations for where to stay, where to eat and how to get around.
1. The old town hall and square look spectacular dusted with snow
The huge cobbled town square in Tallinn is ringed with medieval merchant houses and bustling cafes and restaurants that spill out across the stones, even during the colder months. Above them all towers the delicate spire of the town hall, almost 500 years old and as imposing now as it was then. Whilst you can’t explore inside during the winter months, there’s plenty of details to be seen from the outside.
2. You can cosy up in restaurants and cafes that look this pretty
Why wouldn’t you want to curl up inside some of these beautiful buildings? Estonians are great at coffee and comfort food, so indulge yourself and warm up indoors. Head away from the old town square for the best goodies, and try the local dark rye bread with whipped honey butter – it’s divine.
3. Toompea Hill offers magical views over the old town below
Toompea Hill is the crown on Tallinn’s old town. This little hilltop is home to two of the city’s cathedrals, pretty pastel-coloured townhouses and jaw-dropping viewpoints. Here you’ll realise just how lovely the rising spires, little turrets and towers, pitched rooftops and ornate weathervanes of this medieval city are. I loved this area at sunset when the sky came alive with different colours.
4. Beautiful Kadriog Park looks like it might be Narnia
Go a little way out from the city centre and you’ll find Kadriog Park. This huge green space is home to the colourful Kadriog Palace, elegant avenues of trees and wide open spaces as well as some delightfully pretty traditional wooden Estonian townhouses. If you’re out early after a fresh snowfall like we were, you can enjoy the immense fun of being the first to make footprints in the snow.
5. Fresh cinnamon buns are all the better when it’s cold
Røst is a new bakery in the Rotermanni district of Tallinn and was one of my favourite places to cosy up with a cup of coffee in Tallinn. Housed in a converted warehouse, the bakery has been designed so that the kitchen isn’t shut away – you can watch their skillful bakers plaiting pastries, and count down the seconds between a fresh batch of treats leaving the oven and landing on your plate. A bottomless cup of (yummy) filter coffee is only €2.50, and their cheese gougères are scrumptious.
6. The old town gates look like the entrance to another time
Viru Gate used to be part of the city’s defences but now welcomes visitors to the old city. With its little rounded turrets lit up in the dark, it’s quite the charmer. You can climb up onto the old city walls near the gate, and survey the rooftops from the covered passageway along it’s top.
7. The churches of the old town look even prettier with a little sprinkling of glitter
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral sits on top of Toompea Hill in the old town of Tallinn. Surrounded by colourful townhouses, it’s a spectacular structure topped with onion domes and glittering gold crosses. Dust it with snow, and it becomes even more enchanting.
8. A little dash of snow makes the colours sing
The houses of the old town of Tallinn, and the nearby neighbourhoods of Kalamaja and Kadriog are painted almost every shade of the rainbow from dusky pinks to sage greens. Once the snow had settled we realised how much these colours came to life. Stroll around and enjoy 500 years of architecture in perfect pastel technicolour.
Have I managed to convince you that Tallinn is worth exploring in the winter months? I hope so.
To make the most of a trip here during the colder months, and especially if there’s frost and snowfall around, here’s a few tips;
- Head out as soon as possible once snow has started to fall. You’ll find more chances to explore undisturbed snowy streets and be the first to make footprints
- Wrap up warm, and stay dry. Let’s face it, northern Europe isn’t warm in winter. To enjoy it, you’ll want to be properly prepared. Shoes that’ll keep your feet dry and won’t slip are essential, as are plenty of layers and a waterproof outer or umbrella if snow is falling.
- Dawn and dusk are pretty special in the snow. After dark is also a great time to explore as the streets are quieter and the snow glitters in the lamplight. The city is well-lit both from a practical and a pretty perspective, but I found dawn was most magical when the cloudy sky warmed in colour but the twinkling lights were still on.
- Dry out and warm up regularly with a hot beverage or baked goods in the many cosy cafes around the city – you’ll enjoy your time outside all the more for it.
Where’s your favourite place to visit during the colder months? And do you have any tips for other great cities that look great under a blanket of snow?
Want to find out more? Find my ultimate guide to a stay in Tallinn in A city guide to Tallinn: Baltic beauty in the Estonian capital