5 Tips on How to Survive Winter in Estonia

Kris Härsing • 26 Oct, 2015

According to various research studies, seasonal depression is very common in Estonia due to the long, dark and harsh winters. In the depths of winter the days are really short and we rarely see the sun, not to mention the freezing temperatures that can drop as low as -30° C. It’s no wonder people living here get sad and tired! Luckily, during my 20+ years of having to cope with Estonian winters, I’ve learnt a few tricks to make them more bearable.

1. Get your vitamins

One of the mains reasons we get so sad and tired during winter is vitamin deficiency. Firstly, we don’t produce nearly as much vitamin D as we need because of a lack of sunshine. One solution is to take a trip to a warmer country, but many of us don’t have this possibility. Another option is to occasionally visit a sunbed, but this comes with health risks, plus a lot of people tend to overdo it and end up looking like grilled chickens.

Vitamin D of course isn’t the only vitamin we have a shortage of. During winter the availability of many fruits and vegetables is limited, and the ones that are available often taste like plastic (have you ever tried those sad reddish rocks they call tomatoes?). Long story short – it’s important that you get your vitamins somehow, whether from tasteless fruit or from a jar. Just make sure you get them!

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Photo credit: J. Triepke

2. Engage in a social hobby

In summer Estonians literally live in the nature and spend all their free time outside, but as soon as the days get shorter, they turn into couch potatoes. It’s not unusual for people to get home from work, cook dinner and spend the rest of the evening in front of the TV or online. And this happens every single night! Instead of becoming antisocial when the weather gets depressing, it’s a great idea to include a social hobby in your routine – something that gets you out of the house and involves other people. Whether you do sports, join a book club or organise weekly dinners with friends, it’s important for your health to stay social. Plus, a regular hobby gives you something to look forward to each week!

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Photo credit: Jeremy Wilburn

3. Attend events

This is pretty much an extension of the previous point, but it’s worth emphasising on its own. Tonnes of cool events actually happen in the “off season”. In the beginning of November a selection of Tallinn’s best restaurants offer set lunch and dinner menus at amazing prices as part of Tallinn Restaurant Week. Then there’s the Black Nights Film Festival (aka PÖFF), which is the highlight of autumn in Estonia. Afterwards, all the magical Christmas events start happening: the Christmas Market, Christmas Jazz and various concerts and performances in churches and other venues. Then we reach January, which brings me to my next point…

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Photo credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

4. Go on a trip

In my opinion, January is the most depressing month of the year. Christmas and New Year’s Eve have passed in the blink of an eye and we’re left with nothing else to look forward to besides summer, which is still a good four or five months away. This makes January the best time to make a quick (or not so quick) escape! If your finances and schedule allow for it, I’d suggest taking a beach holiday so you can fill up on that much needed vitamin D. If, however, you can’t afford it or the beach really isn’t your thing, even a quick city break can make a difference. Once again, it gives you something to look forward to, especially if you book early! This way you can dream about it and make plans in the moments when you’re feeling down. Travelling also takes you out of your daily routine and makes you feel positive emotions.

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Photo credit: dronepicr

5. Get cosy

This final tip is a little controversial, but as long as I make it a special occasion, it works for me. Basically, I recommend embracing winter and doing everything possible to get cosy. Light some candles, make a big cup of hot chocolate, curl up in a blanket and watch your favourite movie. Have a long bath with bubbles, a face mask, a pedicure – the works! Or a gaming marathon! We all need some me-time every once in a while, so why not make it special? There’s no better person to spend quality time with than yourself.

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Photo credit: Andrea Goh

For more local recommendations read:
What locals like to do in Tallinn
Where locals like to eat in Tallinn
Where locals like to party in Tallinn

Special tip:
For a more authentic Tallinn experience, get the Like A Local mobile app

Cover photo credit: jorma.

Kris Härsing
Happy-go-lucky kind of gal and obviously a travelphile. Born and bred in Tallinn, but have resided in Sweden, Australia and Russia.

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    Hi Kris, Your post sounded to cozy that I couldn't help but write to you. Me and my sister, we are hoping to Visit Estonia during November. Much as everyone has advised summers, I like to ditch the touristy crowd and maybe land up when its much more quieter. Do you think its a great fun idea to plan a November trip... We plan to stay around 10 days in Estonia, hoping to have a lovely time exploring the country.
    Dhira Chakraborty • Oct 25, 2017 • Reply
      Hi, Dhira! If possible I would rather recommend you to come in December, early December if you would like to avoid the crowds. Then the city will be filled with lights and lovely Christmas events (like the magical Christmas market on the town hall square and numerous concerts) November is usually a very dark, cold and rainy month in Estonia. There are no guarantees regarding weather in Estonia, but one can hope to see snow in December, which automatically transforms the city into a winter wonderland. Also the nature looks much better with snow on it during this time of year. However if November is your only option, come prepared with weather-proof clothing and plan some indoors' activities as well.
      Kris • Oct 25, 2017 • Reply
    >"seasonal depression is very common in Estonia due to the long, dark and harsh winters" > article contains a picture of the dorm where my ex used to live yes, I am more depressed now, but not because of the cold. so sadly these tips don't help
    a • Oct 31, 2015 • Reply
    Thanks for good article (y)
    Ehsan • Oct 29, 2015 • Reply
    okay, i come from the middle east Israel, and we had an unbelievable heat wave.. no exaggeration it reached 60 in some countries like Iraq & Kuwait,we recorded 51 but generally it's very hot area and i thought its going to be hard to adapt Estonia's known cold weather, but it's nice so far even below zero late at night.. no shivering yet
    Ben Yaromir • Oct 29, 2015 • Reply
    Sure, you can share it from Like A Local Guide facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/likealocalguide/?fref=nf
    Kris Härsing • Oct 28, 2015 • Reply
    Is it possible to share your article on Facebook ?
    Charly • Oct 28, 2015 • Reply
    So far I've managed to get by :D! However it is true that every winter I'm yet again surprised by just how cold and dark it can get. You never really get used to it, you simply endure!
    Kris Härsing • Oct 28, 2015 • Reply
    Actually when it gets really cold, usually it's very sunny, so sunny that it hurts to look at snow :)
    Ülane • Oct 28, 2015 • Reply
    Thank you for awesome tips, but I think it is not enough to survive winter in Estonia, it is so cold and not sunny :/
    Sandro • Oct 28, 2015 • Reply
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