I will never get over how in Europe it is so unbelievably easy to travel between countries, so much so that you can even make a day trip out of it! The ferry ride between Tallinn and Helsinki takes roughly two hours and there are multiple departure times per day. The boat itself was huge, practically the size of a cruise ship, as it also transports cars. The area for passengers was comfortable enough that I was actually able to lay down on a couch and nap on the early morning ride, though the afternoon ride was more crowded. It had strong WiFi, which as a millennial is all I could ever ask for, as well as a cafe and shops.
As soon as we stepped off the ferry and I saw the cost of an Uber, I knew we were in Scandinavia. Like Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Bergen, Helsinki is an expensive but very nice city. I appreciate how clean the Scandinavian countries are, and you can just tell they have a high standard of living. It makes me feel more at home, where people are friendly and the city itself is modern and international. It’s very livable, aside from the cold, gray weather year-round.
On the ferry ride over to Finland, where we would arrive at 9:30 a.m., I searched for breakfast places and decided on bagels at Brooklyn Cafe because good bagels are something from home that we rarely get to eat. It really hit the spot, and the delicious coffee warmed me up for the day—figuratively and literally.
We knew with our limited time we wouldn’t be able to do everything. There was the hop-on-hop-off bus or free walking tour option to learn more about Helsinki, but we ultimately decided on taking yet another ferry to Suomenlinna, an island with a UNESCO-World-Heritage-listed fortress. It was built in the mid-1700s when Finland was under Swedish rule. We were able to walk around and see cannons, bunkers and the stone walls meeting the sea. The rest of the island had historic buildings, and we were treated to periods of sun to highlight the beautiful fall colors on the trees. It was a peaceful way to spend a couple hours, and the ferry only took 15 minutes and cost €5 round-trip from the Market Square.
I’m convinced we picked the right time of year to go to Helsinki, considering we heard that it’s cold and gray even in the summer. At least the changing leaves gave us some color during our visit! And we avoided the crowds of summer tourists!
Once we got back to the city center, we were hungry, cold, and a bit rushed, so we picked Momotoko, a fast casual ramen place for lunch. It was such a warm, yummy pick! And for dessert, Kanniston Leipomo is a bakery right next to Momotoko where we indulged in my favorite kind of pastry: Scandinavian cardamom buns. I love the dense dough with the unique orangey flavor, though they also had almond, pistachio, cinnamon and vanilla buns too.
We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for souvenirs and admiring the grand Helsinki Cathedral before we had to Uber back to the ferry terminal. Our boat left at 4:30 p.m., and while we could have taken a later journey, we were ready to get back to Tallinn.
Helsinki was a surprisingly nice city (I say surprisingly because I don’t usually like big cities) that I would highly recommend visiting and even combining with a Tallinn trip because of their close proximity. It would have been nice to have more time to explore, but this was the last day of our 12-day trip and we knew we would be exhausted. But at least I can now say I’ve been to Finland!