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Christmas Market in Tallinn, Estonia. Courtesy Nick Nolin

Calgary

By Nick Nolin, For Postmedia News

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It’s always tempting to travel south and enjoy some of the winter seated pool in shorts and sandals, but your next winter getaway should be in Tallinn, Estonia. The harsh weather and rapid winds blowing from the Gulf of Finland may discourage some, but Tallinn has a lot to offer those who are willing to venture into one of Europe’s northernmost capitals. The city’s picturesque Old Town is one of the city’s most preserved medieval European centers, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s main tourist attraction. During the holiday season, Tallinn’s Old Town Square is also home to one of the most famous Christmas markets in the world.

Top European destinations recently announced Tallinn as the 2019 winner of Best Christmas Market Marketing and that’s why they’re right.

tree

The Christmas tree is the focal point for any Christmas market and Tallinn is no exception. Visitors to the Tallinn market not only get the pleasure of seeing a beautifully decorated tree towering above the shops and performance stage, but they must recreate a special historical event. It was on this square that European discoverers of Christmas were gathered for the first time to admire a decorated tree. Raekoja Square has been following this tradition since 1441 and somehow finding a way to impress the viewers every year.

Christmas Market in Tallinn, Estonia. Courtesy Nick Nolin

Calgary

shops

With nearly 50 stands buzzing the market from all directions downtown, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list. Many of the stands sell locally-made, hand-made products so you can be proud to know that the gifts you buy here come not only from a unique place, but also from a unique place. The Baltic region has been blessed with an abundance of amber deposits, so it’s not surprising to see this precious gemstone work on everything from jewelry to sculptures to wild local life. No Christmas market would be complete without many toys in hand. Kids of all ages will be thrilled with a dizzying array of stuffed animals, carved wood dolls and festive outfits lining the stands – not to mention the chance to meet a reindeer or two!

An Estonian flag in front of Tallinn Town Hall and the entrance to the Third Dragon Medieval Tavern. Courtesy Nick Nolin

Calgary

Food and drink

Whether you’re looking for a sweet snack or a hearty meal, Christmas Market has something for you. Chocolate, biscuits and sweets are all plentiful, but it is the aroma of verivorstid meat (a traditional Estonian blood sausage) that is the first to draw your attention. There are also many options for a complimentary warm drink. Kids can get an apple cinnamon spice drink served by barmaids dressed in medieval clothes and adults can sip on a steamed boiled wine. For a local twist on the most typical types of cheated wine, glögi can be an ideal way to catch a long day out.

For those who have more appetite, the Third Medieval Medieval Tavern allows the dinners to escape the cold and enter the candle world of 1475. Located on the ground level of Tallinn Town Hall – itself a masterpiece of gothic architecture completed in 1401 – you can enjoy delicious unlimited oat ribs and pickles (assuming you can successfully provoke them from a barrel using a 15th-century copy fork).

The beauty of the Old Town of Tallinn shines throughout the year but is brighter at Christmas. With centuries of tradition, plenty of unique shopping experiences and memorable dinner options, you will be hard pressed to find a niche market to visit. Leave your sandals and swimsuit at home and head to Tallinn, Estonia.

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