Seven things to do once you’ve landed in Tallinn

Source: Kaupo Kalda, Visit Estonia

Seven things to do once you’ve landed in Tallinn

The blog from AirBaltic covers travel in Europe with a special focus on Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. With flying into Tallinn even easier and simpler, they have a few ideas about what to try out after you've landed. Since Estonia is relatively small, you can stay in Tallinn your whole visit, make a series of day trips, or visit other Estonian cities like Tartu and Pärnu. If you prefer a more urban setting, you can visit the Christmas markets or check out the street art. If you want to have a more nature-focused experience, take a trip to the wetlands and see the wildlife. No matter what you do, don't miss out on real regional cooking and experience an authentic Estonian sauna.

A festive mood in Tallinn Christmas town

Tallinn can feel like a fairy-tale in the wintertime

Photo by Erik Peinar

Walking through Tallinn during Christmas time is one of the most fairy-tale experiences you'll find. You can take a stroll through Hanseatic-style streets that have been around since the middle ages in Tallinn's Old Town, a UNESCO world heritage site. When the temperature drops, you can embrace the winter season by heading to Harju Street for some ice skating. And to top everything off, Old Town hosts the Tallinn Christmas market where you can try yuletide treats and shop at artisanal stalls. And as you do some shopping or try the warm mulled wine, you'll have a view of the impressive Christmas tree that overlooks the market.

Get ready for an Estonian Christmas with traditional cuisine

The Estonian way of life is based on the changing seasons and the bounty of nature that comes with it. Berries are collected throughout the summer, while fruits, vegetables, grains, and mushrooms are harvested in the autumn. These ingredients, as well as wild game and farm meats, are pickled, salted, smoked, and preserved in order to fill up the pantries for the winter. With commercial markets, it's no longer essential to preserve goods at home but the practice remains popular in the countryside and is increasingly making its way back into modern kitchens.

Winter dishes in Estonia are hearty and filling in order to provide energy and warmth during times of cold weather. Christmas food is no exception, and staple recipes include verivorst (blood sausage), sült (jellied head cheese), hapukapsas (sauerkraut), oven-roasted potatoes, and pork. Often the whole family will bake special Christmas bread alongside gingerbread. Apples and mandarin oranges are also enjoyed as Christmas treats. All the food is often paired with drinks like beer or Estonian-made wine which is typically quite sweet and includes sparkling wine from berries, rhubarbs, and gooseberries.

Experience something different at the Estonian Open Air Museum

Experience the past at the Open Air Museum

The Open Air Museum is a unique experience, showcasing the day-to-day lives of the past

Photo by Visit Estonia

A mere 15-minute drive from the centre of Tallinn, the Estonian Open Air Museum showcases the country's rural architecture, way of life, and history under the open sky. The museum grounds include more than a dozen buildings and farms that show off how families from different parts of society lived in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. You can walk through a village and sit on a living room couch from the 1970s or on the straw of a pre-industrial bed. One recent addition to the museum is an authentic kolkhoz apartment building which shows visitors what life was like in a communal apartment building during the Soviet Era.

At the museum, you can also buy handicrafts, ride horses, and at the Kolu Inn try a range of traditional Estonian dishes.

Experience real nature by heading into the wetlands

The Estonian Wetlands offer nature-lovers plenty of adventure

Photo by Alari Teede

If you want to stay under the open sky, Estonia has plenty of nature to explore, especially in the wetlands. These are ideal for getting away from the stress of city life and getting closer to nature. Since they're close by, Estonian wetlands are easy to get into when you want to be alone and recharge. You can choose to go out into them either on your own or with a guide, but no matter what you choose, don't forget your bog-shoes. 

Northern Estonia is the best area to go explore and feel the invigorating force of the wetlands and maybe even for a swim! One of the most unique experiences is the Kõnnu Suursoo bog which feels like a place outside of time. If you're not ready to go bog shoeing, you can keep your feet dry on the Mukri Trail. And while you're out, you can enjoy an open-air picnic or some grilling.

Keep exploring the wild side of Estonia

A lynx in its natural habitat 

Don't forget your binoculars when you go for a hike

Photo by Remo Savisaar

With more than half of the country covered in green space, Estonia is also a paradise for animal lovers. Out in the forests bears get ready for their winter sleep and wolves and lynx wander through the forests. Grab a pair of binoculars and see what you can spot at places like Toosikannu Holiday Centre which is ideal for observing animals in their natural habitats. You can catch a glimpse of wild boars, moose, and roe deer. You also have the option to go on 'safari' in a Soviet-era truck.

See street art in Tallinn and Tartu

You might not be aware of it, but Estonia is a hot spot for street art and one of the big thrills of graffiti is knowing that the masterpiece you saw today may very well be gone tomorrow. If you're in Tallinn or Tartu, then checking out Estonian street art is one of the lesser-known gems of the country. In each city, you can see two distinct styles. In Tallinn, you're likely to see more freehand art, while street art in Tartu tends to be more stencil-based.

Winter swims and world-famous saunas

No visit to Estonia is complete without a sauna trip

Photo by Ott-Erik Eendra

While you're exploring around Estonia, you can enjoy a cold dip in the water. It's worth noting that Estonians make a distinction between winter swimming and winter bathing. The first is an endurance sport, while the latter is more associated with sauna traditions. Winter bathing renews the skin and strengthens the heart, leading to greater antioxidant capacity in winter swimmers.

Of course, no trip to Estonia is complete without a trip to the sauna. Although you may be familiar with steam saunas, Estonians put a twist on the tradition with the smoke sauna, which is listed by UNESCO as a part of world heritage. Throughout the ages, Estonians have used different saunas to treat ailments of both the body and the soul as well as to pay homage to ancestral spirits, meet friends, give birth, and wash the dead. This was and still is where people met regularly, something like the original social network for Estonians. And the idea of the smoke sauna in the wintertime was also to let go of everything old and be ready to face the new year.

If you want to know more, you can read the full article on seven things to do after arriving in Tallinn.