Helsinki lies about 80 kilometers North of Tallinn, Estonia, 400 kilometers Northeast of Stockholm, Sweden and 300 kilometers West of St. Petersburg in Russia. With all three cities, it has close historical connections.
On my last trip to Finland in January, I didn’t just visited the lovely city of Helsinki (with the very interesting iittala factory), but I was also lucky enough to squeeze in a daytrip to Tallinn. I never realized that it would be so easy to visit two countries in such a short period of time -and not feel rushed.
A Lovely Day Away
With the Eckerö Line, you can make the crossing to Tallinn twice per day. There are cabins on board, so you can leave your belongings on board when you only visit for the day. Of course, you can also stay overnight.
The Finns that travelled with us on this trip, told us that Tallinn is the place to have a proper girls day out, as doing your hair and nails, etc. is a lot cheaper there than in Helsinki. Also bread, craft items and alcohol are a lot cheaper, I’ve been told. And because you can enter the ship with your car as well, you can stock up good too.
But making a trip like this is not just about the shopping. In fact, quite a few people like to make the crossing just because of the onboard entertainment, no kidding! The Eckeroline prides itself for their choice in live music… and especially the karaoke, our host Timo Nygard tells us proudly.
And yes, people are actually keen to dance and sing too. (I have proof of this:)
I love the look on the face of the woman at the end. (Like: ‘What the BLEEP is going on here?’)
Enjoying the Journey
We’re enjoying the broad selection of food as one of us suddenly looks out of the window. ‘Wow! Have a look at that sunrise!’. Good bloggers as we are, we all jump up to make our ways to the deck for that perfect shot….
…only realising that -16 degrees with no coats on is actually a pretty stupid idea.
But we have to make our priorities and so we keep clicking, before rushing back inside as quickly as we can before we turn into living ice sculptures. Let me know if it was worth it:
All Aboard! … The Titanic
Once off the boat in Tallinn, it’s only a short walk or even shorter taxi ride into the center. But we make a stop at the Lenusadam Seaplane Museum first, where we get to experience the amazing Titanic Exhibition. Because learning about ships that sink misserably will make our boat journey back to Helsinki in the evening just a little bit more adventurous.
I must say that I was actually really impressed by this exhibition and that I can only but recommend it. What I liked, was that before entering, you got a boarding pass with the details of one of the actual passengers of the Titanic. Making your way through the exhibit, you get to know more about their life onboard… and at the end you’ll get confronted with the harsh truth of whether ‘you’ survived the disaster or not. I was a 15 year old girl and neither me nor my mother survived unfortunately.
At the end of the exhibition, you have the chance to dress up a little and pretend Leonardo diCapro is standing behind you on the bow of the ship. Or do as I did and go black&white to pretend you were actually on the ship!
Estonian Design Hotspot
If you didn’t know that Estonia was pretty well-known for their design (like I didn’t know that), then the following will bring you up to speed. With our visit to the Estonian Design House and the Nu Nordik Shop, we learn that even though Estonia is just a small country, the density of designers is very high. Some even say there is 1 designer for every 800 inhabitants! Check out some of the best design shops in Tallinn.
We got to have a look in the studio above the shop and met Markus Vihma from the Reet Aus Design team. They design garments made out of recycled materials. Each item of their collection has a label with a unique calculation of the environmental impact. And it all looks really cool too!
Estonian Food Hotspot
I’ve found out recently that I’m not really the ‘hotspot’-type. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good place to eat and it makes me happy when the interior looks a bit funky, but I never compile a list of ‘must see’ coffee places or restaurants when I go on a trip. Actually, I don’t even like coffee, but that’s beside the point now. I just like to walk around towns and villages and walk into a place to check out if I like it or not.
But I love it when people bring me to a spot they recommend as it’s usually a place I wouldn’t have found on my own. And in Tallinn, we got taken to Baar Bistro Kukeke. This fun little place located in an old railway depot house from the 1800s and they serve fresh, seasonal and mainly local food.
Admiring Old Tallinn
While I won’t say no to a bit of modern art and design, I’ve always grown up with visiting historical sites (say no to that with an archeologist dad). And I still prefer the old over the new, to be honest. So visiting the historical center of Tallinn was a great experience for me. The streets looked like a fairytale book and I kept looking over my shoulder if Santa was following us.
The entire center of Tallinn is World Heritage Listed and it’s easy to see why. It was built up from the 13th to 16th centuries, when Tallinn was a thriving member of the Hanseatic trade league. The city wall is almost entirely intact still, including guard towers, just as the colourful houses, hidden courtyards and grandiose churches. .
This funny guy started chatting to us on the market square and invited us for a free drink in his tavern.
Not sure exactly what we were drinking, could have been motor oil for all we knew, but with such a cold, anything to warm us up would have been gladly accepted.
This drink was acceptable in the Middle Ages, but today? Not so sure…
One day in Tallinn is a little short to see it all, although everything we saw was easily accessible on foot and we got a great sense of the look and feel of this pituresque town. Now it was time for us to get back to the ferry and to continue our adventures in Helsinki itself.
I’ve seen that there is both a modern as a historical side to Tallinn and I really found that the Estonians have found a good balance to combine the two. Adding the snow, the city got a great atmosphere that definitely made me a bit sad to leave…
… to be continued one day, I hope!
Have you ever been to Tallinn? What is your best recommendation to see or do there?
I was in Finland as part of the Nordic Bloggers Experience / MATKA Travel Fair. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Follow all bloggers through the hashtag #nbeFinland and #Matkamessus- Special thanks to Satu Vänskä-Westgarth and Johanna Uimonen for showing us Tallinn this day!