Pretty city with one of Europes best Christmas markets but hardly any tourists
If you’re after a magical festive holiday experience without the hoards of tourists, then look no further than Tartu, Estonia. Utlising its beautiful neoclassical architecture, Tartu doesn’t just host a Christmas market, rather it transforms into a Christmas city.
The city is the perfect location for a seasonal escape with its gorgeous glass pavilions, and yet it remains a relatively unknown gem. Around 255,000 tourists visit the city each year which pales in comparison to the capital Tallinn, at 1.7million.
The locals really know how to put on a show, with dancing in traditional Estonian costumes, open fires and stalls serving hot mulled wine and gingerbread. For the children, there’s the ever so cute straw house, a swing and carousels, as well as a sparkling Christmas chandelier and wonderfully decorated Christmas tree.
What’s more, Tartu is accessible too. Tourists can get to the wintery paradise in less than three hours by train from the Estonian capital, which itself is only a two hour 45 minute flight from London.
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Those that have been to Tartu rave about their experience. One Tripadvisor user, Andy from Rotherham, wrote: “Beautiful unspoilt Tartu Old Town is the Oxford or Cambridge of Eastern Europe. Picturesque, impressive and unspoilt by the past or present. Well worth a visit, especially at night or at Christmas time when the lights and tree give a beautiful feeling.
Another user, Jerome, wrote: “Tartu city center is probably the top priority for any visitors because that is where you get exposed to the city spirit. Your experience may vary depending on the season. The central square is covered in all the restaurants’ verandas during the summer, while December brings the Christmas market and the ice rink.”
A user from St Helens added: “Tartu old city is a lovely place to walk around as the buildings are pretty, the Christmas lights give the place a magical feel, there is restaurants to find, coffee to drink and beer to taste.
“You can experience the heritage and check out the impressive sights of the city when you walk up to the University.”
Tartu isn’t only a Christmassy haven, although that on its own would be more than enough. It also boasts magnificent history, including a 17th century university and the spooky KGB cells museum.
Visitors can view where prisoners were kept, rooms complete kept in a classically USSR condition, complete with portraits of Stalin.
It’s reasonable too, with tickets for adults costing only 7€ and for children and pensioners only 4€. Families can go for 15€.
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