Not long before Christmas, I took a trip to Helsinki in Finland. One the beautiful things about living in London is having easy access to multiple airports. This in turn usually means cheaper prices, particularly if you look ahead. As part of a festive trip, we packed our bags and got ready to leave after work for Gatwick. It really couldn’t be simpler than that – catching the train from outside work for the airport, for which I’m eternally grateful! Keen travellers, one of the things we were most excited about was tying in a trip to Tallinn in Estonia. Ticking off another country as part of our long weekend was an added bonus. So here’s what we got up to in Tallinn.
Arriving in Helsinki, Finland
As all Brits must do, we began our Helsinki trip with a pitstop in the airport Wetherspoons. Fuelled by a few drinks and some train journey sushi, we were readier than ever to hit up a new Scandi country.
We couldn’t go without a tasty can of ‘Aass’ on the plane, of course! Thank you, Norway, for your appropriately named beer. With the flight taking just under three hours, we promptly arrived in Helsinki.
Arriving into Helsinki’s Vantaa airport, it couldn’t be much easier to get into the city centre. Simply walk through the airport to reach the train. There’s a ring rail line between Helsinki Airport and the city centre. For just a few Euros, you can purchase tickets on the platform. We waited a few minutes, boarded, and relaxed on the way into Helsinki. From the train station, we then collected our apartment keys, and walked to find the WeHost property.
Located on Albertinkatu, it’s a lovely little apartment on a quiet residential street. I could quite happily live in the studio – it was comfortable, warm, and had everything we needed for a long weekend’s stay.
Having arrived at nearly 3am, we went straight to bed for a long day ahead exploring Tallinn in Estonia.
Travelling from Helsinki to Tallinn
Excited to explore Tallinn, we’d pre-booked a ferry via Tallink. We rose and headed out on the brisk November day. I was impressed to see the sun still rising, even at 10am, across the Baltic Sea. We wondered in search of the ferry terminal.
We passed Löyly, a modern seaside sauna with a stylish restaurant and deck with sprawling side views. You can read all about my Löyly experience.
On our walk to the ferry terminal, we came across another iconic Helsinki attraction – meet ‘Bad Bad Boy’. A rather bizarre yet endearing statue, Bad Bad Boy is symbolic of sneaky pees around the world. At an impressive height of 8.5 metres, Bad Bad Boy has an embarrassed expression and a blush to match. First unveiled in 2014 by artist Tommy Toija, the statue once stood along waterfront tourist attractions, and is now next to the Helsinki ferry terminal.
Frustratingly for us, we arrived for the ferry just a couple of minutes after the boarding process had shut. This meant we had to book on to a new ferry later that day, and we would miss some of the light. Feeling a little hungry, we set off in search of somewhere to grab brunch. We discovered Gran Delicato.
It’s an adorable Greek café and deli serving speciality food and good coffee. We each grabbed a coffee and a ciabatta for fuel before our ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn.
With a little time spare before our ferry was scheduled to depart, we wanted to get a better view of Helsinki. At the city’s Clarion Hotel on the way to the ferry terminal, you’ll find the Sky Room. Nearly 78 metres high, it offers an elegant space with a great view across Helsinki. We decided to come back that night for a drink at the bar after our day trip to Tallinn.
Ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn
Determined not to miss another ferry, we hot footed it to the terminal and boarded the boat. One of the best discoveries we made is the fact there’s a Sea Pub on the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. We grabbed some drinks and settled down for the 2 hours and 30 minutes cruise across.
If you fancy a wander, head out to the top deck for a view over Helsinki as the ferry leaves the harbour. Estonia, here we come!
Another of the most impressive features of the Tallinn ferry is its duty free shopping. You’ll find one of the largest alcohol shops I’ve ever seen! There’s pretty much any kind of booze you can think of, all for a cheaper rate.
After a browse, we went back to the Sea Pub for another few drinks. There were Christmas decorations and also live music from two singers. It’s a great trip to take during the festive period, and you’ll have a lot of fun on the journey to Tallinn too.
Arriving in Tallinn, Estonia
After a couple of hours, we began to pull in to the harbour in Tallinn. We arrived in the early afternoon, just as the sun was already beginning to set. It was a beautiful first view of Tallinn.
With limited hours of sunlight left, we grabbed an Uber from the ferry terminal and headed to one of the spots we both wanted to see: Toompea Hill. Thankfully, Ubers are pretty affordable in Estonia and we got there pretty promptly. We walked from the road up the cobblestoned hill, passing some gorgeous buildings.
Most of the buildings are pastel coloured, with elegant architecture. I love how the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral stands out amongst them all, looming over the city. It’s an orthodox cathedral, and was crafted in a typical Russian Revival at the end of the nineteenth century. It was born into the period when Estonia was part of the Russian Empire.
We scuttled on, keen to reach the peak of Toompea Hill before the sun set. Dating back to the thirteenth century, the hill has winding cobbled streets past lanes, courtyards, and spired churches. Historically, Toompea Hill was home to the gentry that rules over the Estonian countryside.
Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform
At last, we turned a corner and reached the Kohtuotsa viewing platform. It’s one of the best viewpoints in Tallinn, and has a famous wall quote. On the northern side of Toompea Hill, it’s a large terrace with beautiful views across Tallinn.
You can see great views of Tallinn below, and all the way across the the Gulf of Finland. We arrived at dusk, which was a great time given the stunning lights across the iconic red roofs of the city.
As well as the views over Tallinn, the other reason visitors come to Kohtuotsa viewing platform is the famous mural. You’ll find the iconic pastel pink wall next to the landscape views with the quote: ‘the times we had’.
It’s a great space in which to enjoy the views over Tallinn, and it’s free to visit. In the summer, you’ll also find al fresco seating and even the odd dance show. You’ll indeed enjoy your own times in the city.
Working up quite the appetite, we walked back across Toompea hill in search of some food. We passed some beautiful architecture along the way.
The stunning pink building is Toompea Castle, which dates back to the late eighteenth century with its Baroque façade. Nowadays, Toompea Castle houses the Riigikogu, or the Estonian parliament. You’ll see the blue, black, and white flag of Estonia flying high to mark the country’s independence. If you fancy, you can take a free tour around the castle during the week if you book in advance. You might even catch a session of parliament in action.
Another attraction we passed was the endearingly termed ‘Fat Margaret’. A UNESCO Heritage listed building, you can explore its fascinating history of maritime trade and movement in the Middle Ages.
Finlandia Caviar, Tallinn
A place we’d planned to visit for dinner before visiting Tallinn was Finlandia Caviar. With a sister restaurant in Helsinki, we figured from the website it would be cheaper in Tallinn. This wasn’t quite the case, but it was such a treat. They have a whole plethora of caviar to try.
We got started with a glass of Bollinger each. Start as you mean to go on!
We moved on to oyster shots – complete with Bloody Mary style cocktail.
That was before all the delicious food arrived! We went for a tasting selection of caviar, figuring it’s a good way to try a lot of styles. We were served Siberian sturgeon, White sturgeon, Russian Oscietra, and Kaluga. All were delicious in their own ways. They came with boiled eggs, sour cream, and slices of truffle butter toast to enjoy.
Next, we did some oyster tasting. We had: Fine de Claire, Tsarskaya, Gillardeau, Umami, Black Pearl, and Belon. It was a really fun selection to try, and once again all the food was fantastic. The restaurant is definitely a nice treat.
Olde Hansa, Tallinn
In search of a place to grab a drink, we walked along the cobbled streets of Tallinn and discovered Olde Hansa. It’s an incredible medieval themed restaurant and experience in an old Hanseatic merchant’s house.
We stepped inside and discovered servers dressed in impressive historic outfits, and a room lit solely by candlelight. There are musicians dressed in dress from the period, playing medieval instruments like lutes. It’s quite the spectacle.
You can order a gluttonous feast, much like those they ordered back in medieval times. The chefs at Olde Hansa have even researched authentic dishes from the period in Tallinn. You’ll find all kinds of game meats, like boar, elk, and even bear on the menu.
Dodging the elk or bear options, we instead opted for a couple of drinks – mead. It arrived in large terracotta goblets for us to ‘cheers’ with. Olde Hansa is an awesome experience indeed, and I’d highly recommend a visit. Even the toilets are quite the medieval experience, so go and check it out for yourself.
Afterwards, we went to check out the Tallinn Christmas Market. You can check my post for more on our day trip to Tallinn.
Have you visited Tallinn? If so, what did you get up to? Let me know all your tips in the comments below.