The idea of traveling to Tallinn arose as I was planning my Helsinki “slash” Northern light expedition (In fact, it seemed the trip ended up hardly an expedition – Finland is so developed, even in the arctic circle!). Tallinn was a day-trip thing, and I think it would be appropriate for any Helsinki visitors to have a small detour during their stay at the “Daughter of the Baltic.”
How to get there – well, a lot of information are online and there are quite a few service providers available, such as:
Viking Line http://www.vikingline.com/en/Book-and-travel/
Linda Line http://www.lindaline.fi/en/?p=1408
Linda line claimed itself to be the fastest route commuting between Helsinki and Tallinn in 1.5 hours with speedboats. YET! Note that different ferries took off at different terminals. In the end, I selected Tallink & Silja Line cruise for 19 Euros in the morning after balancing the benefits of location and price, with a discount for having a Helsinki Card 🙂
7:30 am Day Trip Starts
The voyage is about 2 hours. Boarding 7:30 am and returning at 5:30 pm, I had exactly 8 hours to stroll in the old town of Tallinn. Although it should have been a shuttle service – the vehicle was a cruise. Yes, a modern Titanic kind of cruise with pools, bars, restaurants, performance theaters, etc. Sadly, for the Helsinki-Tallinn route, none of those was in service except for the snack bars; but fortunately, the seating areas were all open and free for grab. I got an entire booth in a public restaurant and had some space for myself.
10:00 am Walking in Tallinn
Nice walk in the Old Town – I didn’t plan any specific for the day (and I usually would yet I suggest other fellow visitors do the same for Tallinn); Because the cruise drop, everybody off at the terminal and then the old town would be just 10 to 15 minute walk away. The city is compact, and most of the iconic attractions could be reached by foot. After my successful free walking tour, I joined in Moscow (We are Here! Moscow!); I discovered another free walking tour online after my visit to Tallinn, interesting. I didn’t join it myself, and I welcome feedback and comments regarding the tour!
Tallinn Free Tour http://www.traveller.ee/tour/tallinn-free-tour
“A Le Coq – The country’s oldest local brewery”
Different from the big Russian cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Tallinn is a second-tier city with a fusion of modern and medieval times– ancient Orthodox churches, baroque palaces, and old wooden townhouses were popped out in between modern commercial malls, designer shops, and appealing eateries and cafes.
The route for me kicked start at the Estonian Maritime Museum > Three Sisters > Saint Olaf’s Church (Probably the highest building in old town?) > walked along the stone wall at Laboratooriumi > and through the shopping streets to the Tallinn Town Hall (Town Hall Square) > Slowly strolled my way uphill to the viewpoint where visitors had a picturesque bird’s eye view of the city (Highlight – yeah, high, I like high). I kinda like the gifts I bought from the shops around this area, too.
After that, I returned passing the Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral and Kiek in de Kök artillery tower.
3:55 pm Eating in a nice Restaurant
Excellent dining @ a reasonable price – After the walk and there was some time left before boarding the cruise back to the hustle and bustle Helsinki, we were looking for someplace to eat. Budget travelers would know that Northern Europe countries are the most expensive in the world and dining in Northern Europe is outrageous. As Tallinn started developing to a tourist hotspot (not long ago), restaurants, eateries, atmospheric hotels were booming that makes visiting a breeze, and dining out a surprisingly high, and economical experience.
(I have a tip for dining in Helsinki though :P). I walked into one restaurant randomly, and the food and service were nice, for more than half the price if I were dining in Helsinki.
A tip for you: I always mail postcards to myself and close friends wherever I go. There was a post office right across the cathedral Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Overall, I think Tallinn did remain some of its historic elements but continuously moving forward to be a fascinating and vibrant hub on the Baltic Sea.