Tallinn is arguably one of the most picturesque and romantic cities in Europe. There is an abundance of chic cafes, gourmet restaurants, and a backdrop including 13th century church spires, red slate roofs and cobbled streets. However, what makes this place THE destination to visit this Valentine’s Day is the fact that it boasts its very own Kissing Hill! This place is one of the most private spots in town, surrounded by trees and dotted with benches. This is just the place for a loving glance, coy smile and passionate embrace!
Book a last minute two-night break with Regent Holidays (Tel: 0845 277 3317; Website: www.regent-holidays.co.uk). Prices from £289 per person, based on two sharing a double room on bed and breakfast basis in the three star l’Ermitage Hotel, including return flights in economy class from London Gatwick with Estonian Air, sparkling wine on arrival and flowers and candles in your room.
The annual European Capital of Culture Award has done wonders for tourism in cities across Europe including Istanbul which received the award last year. This year’s winner, Tallinn, is particularly special, as Estonia celebrates its 20th anniversary of Soviet independence. To celebrate both the award and the country’s independence Tallinn will be hosting daily art, music, literal and cultural exhibitions throughout the year.
During the year an impressive 251 different events are planned, with one large festival each month, including the Jazzkaar jazz festival in April, Tallinn Old Town Days in June, the Youth Song and Dance Celebration and Tallinn Maritime Days in July, the Birgitta Festival for opera in August and the Black Nights Film Festival in November. This, the largest cultural event in the history of Estonia, will attract some of the world’s biggest names in art, literature, music, film and culture.
Tallinn has chosen for its Capital of Culture theme `Stories of the Seashore’, to tell the story of Tallinn and Estonia’s spiritual and cultural associations with the seashore, as the city continues to re-open the city to the sea. As part of the seashore development the new Estonia Maritime Museum will open in July in the re-developed vast concrete sea-plane hangars, located on the coast to the west of Tallinn centre. The route to the museum will be along a specially marked walkway, enabling visitors to walk the one kilometre route from the city to the Museum.
A full programme of events has been scheduled and information about the daily events in the city can be found at www.tallinn2011.ee with a `What? When? Where?’ event planner and search engine to help visitors plan the date and itinerary of their visit to Tallinn.
This festival, which takes place this year between 28 January and 6 February, was originally initiated by an Estonian early music ensemble Hortus Musicus and its leader Andres Mustonen in 1989 as a series of winter baroque music concerts in the historical Tallinn Old Town and the Tartu University Hall. It soon acquired international recognition, attracting many internationally famed performers including Gustav Leonhardt, Jordi Savall, Barthold Kuijken, Emma Kirkby, Patrick Gallois, Edward Parmentier as well as Liana Isakadze, Michel Lethiec, Natalia Gutman, ensembles Timedance, Consort of Musicke, The Tallis Scholars, Red Priest, Providence, Concerto’91, Kremerata Baltica with Gidon Kremer, Taganka Theatre with Yuri Lubimov.
Since 2002 the Festival has significantly widened its repertoire but visitors are always guaranteed the brilliance of the Hortus Musicus and its Academic Orchestra. Most recently the festival has focused on the interaction between Eastern and Western music cultures.
Following the opening night’s Golden Bach, this year’s programme includes the works of Dufay, Monteverdi, Byrd, Händel and a new opus from Giya Kancheli. The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Hortus Musicus, Ramin Bahrami, I Virtuosi Italiani, Stile Antico will all perform at the festival.
Christmas Markets are a true highlight of the advent period and are sure to get everyone into the festive spirit. Head to one of the many markets in Eastern Europe to enjoy some real festive fare including local wine, beers, sausages and artisan crafts. Here’s our top ten…
During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance with many concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets taking place throughout the city. The most renowned markets include the Viennese Christmas Markets on Freyung, at Spittelberg, at Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche).
Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true ‘winter wonderland’ setting. The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste. Open 9am to 7pm daily.
The Festive Fair, held in the Town Centre (Breg and Cankarjevo nabrežje embankments, Prešernov trg square) is well known for its vibrancy and cheerful atmosphere. Festively decorated green stalls, designed specially for the fair, sell a fine choice of products suitable for giving as gifts including food and drink, clothes and fashion accessories. Open from 10am to 10 pm daily.
Each festive season Nuremberg’s Old Town is decorated in its Christmas regalia and the tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages and gingerbread create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The Christkindlesmarkt is situated in the heart of the city which is steeped in more than 400 years of tradition providing an international showcase for all Franconian and German Christmas Markets. While younger visitors can enjoy the Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) where historic steam-powered merry-go-rounds and other activities are waiting for them. Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursdays, 9.30am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 8pm on Sunday.
Cologne holds an impressive seven Christmas Markets. The four largest Christmas markets are located at Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt (Home of the Heinzel Christmas Market), on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz (Fairytale Christmas Market). Every year these four markets attract almost 2 million visitors. Open every day from 11am to 9pm.
With well over 50 Christmas Markets and advent bazaars every year, Berlin features prominently on Germany’s calendar of Yuletide events. A popular market is situated next to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church amidst the bustle of shoppers on the high street between the Kurfüstendamm and Tauenzien. The Berlin Christmas Market shown on the map on the left is WeihnachtsZauber situated on the Gendarmenmarkt. This is probably one of the most popular markets in Berlin and is well sited in terms of nearby hotel accommodation. Open 9am to 9pm daily.
One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits the lovers of winter programmes this year again in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square. There are more than 100 wooden pavilions, which sell unique high quality folklore and applied arts products. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woollen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter while enjoying traditional products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks. Open 10am to 8pm daily.
Sibiu Christmas Market is one of the most popular events of the year in the city. Being the first traditional Christmas Market opened in Romania, it was first held in 2007, in the Little Square located in the downtown area, with a total number of 38 wooden cabins. In 2008 and 2009, Sibiu Christmas Market took place in the Large Square, one of the best places to be visited in the historical center of the city. Open from 10am to 9pm daily.
Cologne in London, UK
Once again Londoners and visitors to the city can enjoy a taste of Cologne this Christmas at the London Southbank Christmas Market. While wandering about, look for and find unusual Christmas presents such as amber and silver jewellery, hand-crafted toys, fragile glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes and sizes, hand-made ceramics and creative metal design. Sip on a glass of glühwein or bottle of Kölsch” and nibble on some gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and candies or even a delicious crepe. Open 11am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays, 10am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.
Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive and though temperatures do dip quite drastically this time of year, the city’s celebratory atmosphere does well to dispel the cold. Tallinn’s Christmas Market may be one of the most recently established but it is now among the most well-loved in Europe. December’s darkness is dispelled with colourful lights, music and an abundance of activity. Head to Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, Raekoja Plats, and visit more than 50 merchant stalls featuring products by local artisans. These stalls surround a beautiful Christmas tree. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
Symbolically, the Tallinn Light Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2010, continuing to offer art projects in public space during the darkest time of the year. The conception of the Light Festival is not solely centered on light art and design, but also offers possibilities in various fields of culture and for different age groups. The 10th festival will be marked by a selection of artists and works that have participated in the Festival during these 10 years, but they are presented in new situations. The main axis of the spots of events is formed by 11 cultural cauldrons many of which have started to boil during these 10 years and that have accommodated the festival by chance: Battery Prison, Cultural Factory, Telliskivi Environment for Creative Industries, Polymer, Baltika Quarter, Latin Quarter, Tartu Yeast Factory, Pärnu Museum of Modern Art, Von Krahl Theater, Rotermanni Quarter.
The agenda follows the last year’s pilot of moving the opening of the Festival to Christmas time, thus supporting the developing idea of the Winter Festival introduced bu the town government. The programme starts in the Christmas teepee on the 20th of December and the winter solstice journey on the 21st of December. Light installations can be seen primarily within the period from Dec 29th to Jan 10th, on the 12th and 13th of January the projects in Tartu and Pärnu are opened. Traditional burning of the fire sculptures made from old christmas trees takes place in the Fish Market on 16th and Mustamäe on 17th of January. On the 30th of January the Festival reaches its apogee in Kadriorg with the Fire and Ice Show. This years cold winter also hopefully enables the building of the Snowtown in Tallinn and to greet the year of tiger on Valentine’s Day.
The 14th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival will takes place from 19th November to 5th December 2010. This is a particularly unique event combining a feature film festival with the sub-festivals of animated films, student films and children/youth films. The festival aims to present Estonian audiences a comprehensive selection of world cinema in all its diversity with the emphasis on European films, providing a friendly atmosphere for interaction between the audience, Estonian filmmakers and their colleagues from abroad. Alongside this festival there will be a number of others taking place in the Baltics this winter. Check out the programme below…
Black Nights Film Festival main programme (24 November – 5 December) – International competition programme EurAsia and Tridens Baltic feature film competition.
Student and Short Film Festival Sleepwalkers (20 – 24 November) – International competition of student films from previous 2 years.
Animation Film Festival Animated Dreams (19 – 23 November) – Competition of short animations from previous 2 years.
Children and Youth Film Festival Just Film (19 – 28 November) – Competition of children’s films and youth films.
Nokia Mobile Phone Film Festival MOFF (1 September – 3 December) – Competition of short films made with mobile phones.
Black Market Industry Screenings (1-3 December) – regional cinema and audiovisual market focusing on the new films from the neighbouring regions and smaller film industry countries.
During the festival Baltic Event film and co-production market (1- 4 December) takes place, which screens the newest feature films from the Baltic countries along with a co-production market open for projects from the Baltics, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia.
The August DanceFestival is a contemporary performing art festival introducing new generation of performing arts artists from the World to the Baltic region and serves as a meeting point and common ground for artists. Since 2004 every second year the festival has been devoted to emerging young artist and their work.
The first August DanceFestival was held in 1999 in Tallinn, but it is a continuation of summer festival idea started in 1996 in Pärnu, Estonia. The festival will take place mainly at the Kanuti Gildi SAAL, but other venues are used as well. Kanuti Gildi SAAL is Estonian’s first production and event house devoted exclusively to the genre of contemporary dance and art and situated in the centre of Tallinn Old Town.
Check out the line-up below:
14.08 /SAT./ 20:00 Kanuti Gildi SAAL
HOOMAN SHARIFI /NOR/: “Lingering of an earlier event”
This summer there are all manner of events taking place in Estonia which will no doubt attract many visitors. First there is the Medieval heritage celebration, when participants dress in Medieval costume and for markets, workshops and street theatre.
A full list of events throughout the summer are listed below:
Medieval Days, 8 – 11 July
Visit Tallinn’s Old Town between 8th and 11th July 2010 and you’ll think you’ve slipped back in time. A medieval procession opens the event followed by workshops, events and theatre performances, with participants in full Medieval dress. In Town Hall Square a large medieval market is manned by Medieval merchants while musicians and dancers perform on stage. Children are invited to participate in workshops, knight tournaments and other exciting activities and the whole town reverts to a time when Estonia was a major player in the Medieval Hanseatic League. www.folkart.ee
American Cars in a Medieval setting, 9 – 11 July
To see American cars in a Medieval setting head for Haapsalu from 9th – 11th July when an expo of American cars takes place in the castle grounds, followed by drag-racing and a cruise through the streets of Haapsalu on 11th July. www.american.ee
The Baltic’s biggest beer festival, 14 – 17 July
The Baltic’s biggest beer festival and the largest open air event in Estonia, the `Summer 2010’ takes place in the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds from 14 – 17 July 2010 when up to 80,000 music fans are expected to attend to see performances by over 100 international bands, including Calvin Harris, the Scissor Sisters and tributes to Sting and George Michael. www.ollesummer.ee
Tallinn Maritime Days, 16 – 18 July
Between 16 and 18 July, Tallinn’s Maritime Days – the biggest free family event in Tallinn this summer – will be bringing a sailing regatta, a swimming competition a Jazz arena and an amazing boat dance show with a police and Border Guard flying squad to Tallinn Bay. The 2010 festival will offer more seaside entertainment than ever before. www.tallinnamerepaevad.ee
Birgitta Festival, 12 – 21 August
Tallinn’s Birgitta Festival is a spectacular and unique opera and ballet festival, held in the ruins of St. Bridget’s Convent, just outside Tallinn centre. This year’s programme includes performances of “Orpheus and Eurydice”, Bizet’s ballet Carmen, Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin”, Rossini’s `Barber of Seville’ and a concert of jazz arrangements of opera music on the final evening, including arias from Carmen, Travita, Don Giovanni and the Magic Flute, Turandot and Tosca. www.birgitta.ee
Rotermann Estonian Food Market running until 30 September
In the heart of a modern city, experience rural Estonian producers bringing their produce from Estonia’s farms, smallholdings and gardens for sale in the Rotermann Quarter. The food market is open from 10am – 7pm, Weds – Sun (10am – 4pm at weekends), with handicrafts for sale each Sunday from 10am – 5pm,
This year Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, hosts its 8th Christmas market since the tradition was revived in post-Soviet times. The 64 wooden stalls that throng the picturesque wide open space of Tallinn’s Town Hall Square around a massive central Christmas tree will set up daily from 9am – 7pm, from 29th November until 7th January 2010. During the 40 day period the city expects to welcome up to 200,000 visitors to the traditional heart of this picturesque, snowy city that nestles on the Gulf of Finland in the north of the country.
Appropriately enough the Town Hall square was the site of the world’s first Christmas tree, which was central to a ritual begun in 1441, when unmarried merchants sang and danced with local girls around a tree, which they then burned!
Estonia’s colourful, pocket-sized capital is fast becoming a culinary centre for food lovers. Restaurants specialising in a new, modern style of Estonian cooking now proliferate and 4* and 5* hotels, spas and manor houses with award-winning chefs and restaurants can easily be found. Visitors to the capital can also try their own hand at chocolate making, making marzipan sweets, cooking Estonian cuisine and visiting vinoteques and breweries.For visitors wanting to taste the source of food in Estonia, specialist and locally produced food can be purchased from local growers and suppliers at the Rotermann Market, which rubs shoulders with historic conversions and high tech buildings in the Rotermann Quarter. There are also smaller specialist food outlets, such as NOP an organic shop and cafe which plans to organise foodie events, such a Saturday morning “Morning at Gourmet Market”, offering produce directly from manufacturers and importers.
Chocolate & sweet production Anneli Viik Chocolate Café promotes the production, and consumption, of fine chocolate and hand-made sweets. Run by a former successful financier who fancied a career change, the venue combines a café, chocolate shop and the opportunity to see the chocolatiers at work, and for small groups to pre-book to join them in creating hand-made chocolates.
Chocolate and coffee is at the heart of two `Chocolaterie de Pierre’s’ cafés in Tallinn and one in Tartu in southern Estonia. The first Chocolaterie de Pierre café opened in Tallinn’s Old Town in 2003 and has since been offering hand made chocolate, coffees and light snacks, with the opportunity for small groups to create their own confections.