From Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry: the ultimate Erasmus experience

A breath of fresh medieval air! 🏰

If you are enjoying your Erasmus experience in Finland or going there soon, let me tell you, first of all, that I am very, VERY jealous of you (but in a friendly way, I promise!). I had the chance to live it back in 2016 and, even if the feeling of nostalgia never disappears completely, it just goes to show how amazing it was!

On another note, I am here to share with you an awesome trip that every international student should tick off their checklist during their Erasmus stay in Finland. Apart from enjoying the sauna, swimming in a frozen lake, and trying out some snow sports, traveling to Tallinn from Helsinki by ferry is an absolute essential. Ready to hop on board for this Nordic adventure? Let's go!

Colorful houses in the Town Hall Square, Tallinn

A glimpse of Tallinn's color palette

Friday: ferry ride and wandering around the Old Town

Who said Fridays are a lost day on weekend getaways? Join me on a ferry crossing through Baltic waters and a lovely stroll around the magical streets of the Estonian capital. You will quickly understand why Tallinn stole our hearts from the very beginning.

Ferry trip across the Baltic Sea

The start of our adventure was Joensuu, our Erasmus basecamp, so first things first, we set off for Helsinki! VR, the national railway company, provides a very comfortable service with affordable tickets. You can also go by bus (Omnibus) instead. Having traveled to the Finnish capital several times, I would recommend taking the train, as the trip is way smoother and there are many connections from both Joensuu and other university cities.

Once in Helsinki, it's time to make your way to the port! Depending on the ferry company, your journey will start at different terminals, so make sure you check the details when booking your tickets. Eckero Line and Tallink Silja Line vessels usually depart from West Terminal 2 and Viking Line ferries sail from Katajonokka. Both terminals are less than 30 minutes on foot from the train station and the Helsinki city center, so... How to say no to a stroll around the Finnish capital before getting on board?

Three friends on the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia

Erasmus friendships + ferry trip = an everlasting memory

Instant crush on Tallinn

Immediately upon disembarking in Tallinn, we took a walk to the Old Town, as our flat was located in one of the many narrow streets of this area. Within about 30 minutes, we were standing in front of the Viru Gate (Viru tänav), a charming gateway to the old city framed by two picturesque round towers covered in vines.

As soon as we stepped through this entrance, we simply let our feet take us wherever they wished to. Fully immersed in the medieval feel of the place, eyes wandered to the shop windows, the cute little houses and the stalls of handicrafts and tempting street food. Believe me it all looks like something out of a fairytale, so it is best not to have a fixed itinerary and just let loose.

To recharge our batteries, we grabbed some takeaway food, sat down for beers, and talked about everything and nothing at all in such a special setting. We fell in love with Tallinn at sunset and then fell in love once again with its nocturnal ambience. Afterwards, it was time to rest and recover our strength for Saturday!

Medieval knight in Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, a trip back to the Middle Ages

Saturday: sightseeing, good views, and a party

A promising Saturday sun hinted that it was going to be a great day, and indeed it was! We did some sightseeing in the morning, spent the afternoon admiring Tallinn's top vistas, and the night was all about experiencing the nightlife scene. Keep reading to discover all the steps we took!

A morning of tours and culture

The weekend in Tallinn got off to a flying start and we were more than ready to make the most of our Saturday. We headed to the tourist information office, located right in front of St. Nicholas Church (Niguliste kirik). Here, we were told that there was a free tour around the city starting in just 15 minutes, so we jumped at the chance!

We spent 2 or 3 hours visiting and learning more about the history of this Baltic capital, visiting key sites such as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Toompea Castle and St. Mary's Cathedral (Toomkirik). We also stepped into one of the oldest operating pharmacies in Europe (Raeapteek), an exceptional spot that will take you back in time and let you picture all the potions, ointments and preparations that used to be sold here in the Middle Ages.

For nostalgic souls only: the Erasmus experience, with its anecdotes, intense friendships, and incredible destinations, remains forever recorded in unforgettable memories that you will love coming back to over and over again. Will you be able to resist the temptation to take a picture at the Kohtutuotsa viewpoint and its iconic “The times we had” graffiti? 🥺

A group of friends at the Kohtutuotsa viewpoint, Tallinn

Erasmus postcard with one of the million times we had

Evening with panoramic views and… some party!

After lunch, we took a walk to St. Olav's Church (Oleviste kirik). The entrance is for free, yet the highlight of the visit is to go up to the top of the tower and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic sight of the city. For €2, it is very much worth it for the 360° view of the Old Town, the harbor and the residential area of Tallinn. 

The night came and, obviously, we were in the mood for some party, so off we went! We made our way to Mad Murphy's, an Irish pub where the music, the beer and the vibe didn't miss the party either. Anyway, in Tallinn there are plenty of bars and nightclubs, so you can always check out some Erasmus Facebook pages to get inspired and choose the perfect place for your Estonian night out.

Panoramic view of Tallinn from St. Olav's Church

Panoramic view of Tallinn from St. Olaf's Church tower 

Sunday: shopping and ferry ride back to Finland

Even though Saturday night was quite intense, we could not leave Tallinn without another little wander around the Old Town. We bought some souvenirs, and, with that delicious medieval flavor, we headed to the port to catch the ferry to Helsinki.

Tip: Estonia is far cheaper than Finland, so don't miss the opportunity to get any goods you need!

The port of Tallinn from the ferry

A view of the port of Tallinn from the ferry

With a wonderful feeling and an infinite urge to repeat (spoiler: we went back to Tallinn not once, but twice more!), we set sail back to Finland's shores. In the end, the Estonian capital, with its magical atmosphere, its colors and its charm, became some kind of ritual destination for brief getaways from our Finnish city.

Although Ferryhopper did not exist back then, it would have been great to compare prices, schedules and companies at a glance. I remember we used to get pretty crazy browsing through dozens of tabs, and diving in the ferry companies' websites to find the best ferry for us. Lucky you, now you just have to select the dates, choose your trip and book your ferry tickets in a few steps!

Author Bio

Hi, hi! 🌞 I'm Marta, a freelance translator, the Spanish voice of Ferryhopper, a committed yogini, and a proud—and a bit obsessed—dog owner. This is why my days are a happy balance of words, my mat and walks in the nature.

As I enthusiastically advocate for the superiority of ferry travel over flying (trust me, it's THE way to go!), I'm also busy plotting my next maritime adventure with my beloved greyhound. ⛵🐾