Tallinn to Helsinki by ferry
While in Tallinn, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take an impromptu trip to Helsinki – especially when travelling from Tallinn to Helsinki only involved a 2-hour ferry ride. I had already spent 2 days in Tallinn which was plenty of time to explore the small medieval city, so on the third day I woke up early to catch a ferry from the Tallinn port, which is a 30-minute walk from the Old Town.
There are a few companies that have ferries operating from Tallinn to Helsinki including Viking Line and Tallink. I went with Tallink just because they had a ferry leaving early in the morning and they were also reasonably priced. Tallink also have a counter at the Tallinn port so that made it easy to purchase tickets.
A day in Helsinki
I couldn’t believe it when the Helsinki harbour came into view after only 2 hours on the ferry. As an Australian where far distances are the norm, it’s still mind-blowing to think about how close European cities are to each other. I had read about the fickle Finnish weather so I was prepared for grey skies and blustery rain, so it was quite a pleasant surprise to see clear blue skies as I departed the ferry.
As I only had a few hours in Helsinki, my entire game plan involved walking around the streets of Helsinki and admiring the architecture that the Scandinavian city is renowned for, having been appointed the World Design Capital in 2012 and awarded UNESCO City of Design status in 2014.
By the harbour, the Market Square, with the Skywheel in the distance, is a buzzing and touristy open-air market with stalls selling local food – including reindeer meat – as well as crafts and souvenirs. I scanned the prices and quickly remembered that I was now in Scandinavia and Eastern European prices no longer applied; so much so that the Finns often make the 2-hour journey to Tallinn in order to stock up on booze, and to book beauty treatments and medical appointments. And, why wouldn’t you?
From the market, I walked straight up to the impressively domed Helsinki Cathedral, a Lutheran church towering over Senate Square, which has become the symbol of Helsinki. I continued on to the quaint and authentic Old Market Hall, which is a food hall that has been in operation since 1889. Inside, there are many stalls selling all kinds of Finnish produce and some places have space for you to take a seat and have a meal. I ended up having lunch at a cosy stall selling delicious seafood soup. On particular days, there is also a open-air flea market set up just outside the Old Market Hall selling random bric-a-brac.
After lunch, I went in search of Kallio, a vibrant working-class district of Helsinki that has been likened to other European hipster hubs. I’m not sure if I had gotten lost along the way, but I couldn’t seem to find much that was going on in the neighbourhood and so, given my time constraints, I made my way back to the main city hub.
Helsinki is filled with design stores and shops that all adhere to the minimalist Scandi-cool aesthetic. While wandering the streets, I stumbled upon an adorable coffee and florist concept store called Andante where I sat and enjoyed a cup of delicious coffee while trying to channel my inner Scandinavian hipster (and failed miserably).
Following my caffeine pit stop, I headed to the spectacular Kamppi Chapel of Silence found in Narinkkatori Square, which was constructed for the World Design Capital program in 2012. Inside, there is a chapel that is meant to offer a calm and silent space in one of the busiest parts of the city.
Before I knew it, it was time to head back to the docks to board the ferry back to Tallinn. It was a whirlwind detour and it was fun to spend a few hours in Helsinki, but there was still so much that I didn’t do. I would need more time to discover the real essence of the city. Until next time.
Things to do in Helsinki
- Market Square by the harbour
- Helsinki Cathedral
- Old Market Hall
- Kamppi Chapel of Silence
- Sibelius monument
- Esplanade Park
- Linnanmäki Amusement Park
- Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church)
- Suomenlinna Sea Fortress