Make Tartu your Winter Wonderland! 4 Tips on Winter Activities from a Swede – Patrik (Sweden)

Whether we like it or not, winter is here. Personally, I am so excited! Still skeptical? I understand. Yes, I am a Swede, meaning… I am not a stranger to the icy roads, early sunsets, and weather that makes you want to wear at least five sweaters before even thinking about going out. But, have no worries! Having lived in Tartu for one winter already, I will let you in on four tips about what to do here during this truly magical season.

A visit to the sauna. While sauna is the answer to every question, at any given time of the year, and a must-do here in Estonia, there is something about winter that makes it special. Perhaps it is the fact that you can cool down by rolling in the snow, or for those, uhh… brave enough (me included, of course!) even jump into freezing water. No stress, though, a great experience is guaranteed without turning yourself into a human popsicle. If you feel like you need to warm those frozen toes and fingers this winter, why not check out a traditional smoke sauna? What I love about Tartu, is that booking and visiting the sauna does not have to be an entire project — several hotels offer a perfect winter get-away right in the city — step into the warmth and enjoy!

Photo credit: Ulrike Leona, Pixabay

Hot chocolate, cookies, and cakes. Drinking hot chocolate twice a day during winter, maybe three times just to be sure, is or at least should count as an activity. Coming from someone who was brought up relatively close to the Northpole (To be honest, not really… but hey, it is really cold up there, OK?!), preparing a good cup of cocoa has put a smile on many of my friends’ faces.

But why stop there? Hot chocolate, maybe topped with some whipped cream, goes really well together with a nice cinnamon roll or gingerbread (and if you are not the baker of the year, volunteer to be the taste-tester of the group). Get creative, get together, and give a go at making your favourite pastries from around the world. Nothing is better than sitting down around the kitchen table with friends and freshly baked treats or bringing some back for snacking whilst reading a good book, for that matter.

Photo credit: Sabrina Ripke, Pixabay

Soul-searching in the snow. Put less dramatically, please please do play in the snow! Of course, this depends on whether we get any (crossing fingers!). I had the most amazing fun sledding down the Toomemägi hill last year, falling at least ten times on my up while children did it effortlessly… Snow angels, snowball fights, catching the flakes — make sure you do it all! The sound of snow crackling under your feet is something else, and it is worth savoring every moment when we can goof around.

On that note, if you are eager to head outdoors during winter, there are skiing tracks just minutes away from the city center, in Tähtvere Recreation Park. And if you have not had a chance to take a look yet, there is an ice-rink built around the Kissing Students fountain. I for one cannot wait to rent a pair of skates and go for a few lapses around the rink. And remember — it is not all about elegance, just trying to keep yourself from falling is an achievement in itself (this is what I aim for). 

Take a stroll through the city. My final and favourite tip is simple: take a walk. Regardless if it is to get a short break from your studies, to catch up with a friend, or if you are in the mood for midnight stargazing, winter walks can ironically be the warmest, at least to me. What it does for me is that Tartu lights up in winter. The Raekoja light village, the Christmas tree centerpiece, and even ornate lamp posts not only brighten up the darkness but my mood. Sometimes, it is the seemingly simplest things that mean the most, and a good tune or heartfelt chat while walking through Tartu definitely does. Therefore, take time this winter to see the city in a new light!

Photo credit: Patrik Persson

To wrap up my thoughts on things to do in Tartu during the winter season, I hope you are looking forward to the rest of this season. Whether we get snow or not (mind you, we have already seen the first snow of the year!), winter is anything but usual this year. With that in mind, I urge you to take all safety and health recommendations seriously and stay informed about how the current situation affects different activities mentioned in this post. 

With that said, be with friends, have fun and make sure you get to relax. Try one of these activities, or maybe all of them! Winter is what we make of it – and I hope yours will be nothing short of wonderful!