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Helsinki/Tallinn/Riga in Winter--are we crazy?

We want to finally take a trip to Europe for Christmas markets and after considering Germany and Austria, thought it might be nice to go where we have never been before instead--the Baltic States. We are thinking of going late November/early December to Helsinki Tallinn and Riga. Is this completely crazy? Will it be so cold as to be too uncomfortable. I should specific we are from Michigan and thus used to cold winters. Our plan for the short days was to walk around before 3, take in museums and other indoor things after 3, with holiday market and/or music in the evening. Thoughts? Experiences? We are thinking 2 nights in Helsinki (arrival day for home), 3 in Tallinn and Riga, then home. Thank you!

Posted by
7898 posts

We've been up there before. And no, I would not go after September, no matter how dismal your weather is. That's the time to head south to Italy when things are not miserably hot and while the Fall harvest is in full swing.
Temperatures are one thing. Check Wikipedia about average monthly sun hours, average days with precipitation, average high temperatures and average low temperatures. Then make a decision. The far North is often very rainy after September 1st.

Posted by
5828 posts

We were in Helsinki early February 2016 and spent 10 days further north (Vuokatti, FI) for a ski event. Temperatures at Vuokatti ranged from something like -15C to -10C but then warmed to thaw by the end of our stay. Cold (-15C) and dry snow is better than +0C and wet.

Helsinki does a decent job of snow removal and "rocking" the sidewalks. Helsinki is near the water and milder than the inland locations like Voukatti. If you winter in Michigan, you should have the proper clothing. Your plan to end outdoor activities by 3PM will get you indoors before sunset.

Water travel may be impacted by sea ice. During our first trip to Finland, we had hoped to take the fast hydrofoil to Tallinn but the fast ferries were not running because of sea ice. Sea ice may not be too bad early December, but the bigger boats can deal with the ice.

BTW here is a link to the Finish Meteorological Institution's climate page:
Their near term "weather now" forecast and reports were good:

hi Kate,

It is a crazy idea but an adventure is always a little crazy! The Baltic is a great destination.
But I would suggest choosing 2 cities. Tallinn and Riga are not very close to each other and you have only a few days.
And research online about the Christmas markets. And maybe a local tour operator can help you also? did you contact any already?

I've lived in southern WI for the last 8 years and I'm in Tallinn now. I don't think you are crazy to come for the Christmas markets. It obviously won't be warm, but the town would be charming in the snow. Public transport is excellent and things are small and walkable. Can't speak to Riga or Helsinki yet, but I think you should give it a shot.