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Have a few leisurely days in Helsinki and looking to venture beyond the Finnish borders? A fun and easy excursion well worth the money is a day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry! The Estonian capital is a picturesque fairytale gem and promises to mesmerize you with its colorful, cobblestone streets and captivating medieval allure! To help you experience this enchanting city, here’s what to know, from how to get there to the must-see sights!

A picture of Tallinn's Town Hall Square and it's colorful buildings.

Short on Time? Here’s the Best Helsinki to Tallinn Tour

Helsinki to Tallinn Guided Tour w/ Return Cruise Tickets — This full-day tour includes direct hotel pick up, a guided walking tour around Tallinn’s Old Town, free time to explore & round-trip tickets for the ferry!

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Getting From Helsinki to Tallinn by Ferry

As you can likely tell by the title, the easiest way to get from Helsinki to Tallinn is by ferry. And via this route, you can either go with a guided tour group or do the day trip independently.

Best Helsinki to Tallinn Tour

For those who don’t want to worry about navigating the ferry system or perhaps want to delve a little deeper into the history of Tallinn, going with a tour group is the best option.

Below, you’ll find details for the specific tour I recommend doing if you decide to go this route.

A picture of Kristin with the picturesque skyline in Tallinn and all the bright red rooftops.

 RATING: 4.5 out of 5 – 135+ 5-star reviews! |  LENGTH OF TOUR: 13-14 hours

The Helsinki to Tallinn Guided Tour with Return Cruise Tickets includes:

  • Convenient hotel pick-up & transfer to the ferry terminal
  • 3-hour walking tour of Tallinn’s gorgeous Old Town
  • Free time to explore Tallinn on your own/eat
  • Round-trip tickets for the ferry

Looking for a stress-free day trip to Tallinn?
This is the most popular guided tour that goes from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry and is perfect for those who don’t want to stress about navigating local transportation and who want to discover Tallinn with the help of a local guide!

During this full-day tour, you’ll be picked up directly from your housing accommodations in Helsinki and taken to the ferry terminal. There, you’ll avoid waiting in ticket lines and receive your tickets to board the ferry.

Upon arrival in Tallinn, your local guide will greet you and lead you on a 3-hour walking tour along the charming streets of Tallinn’s medieval Old Town. You’ll visit everything from beautiful churches and cathedrals to historic castles and stunning viewpoints!

Afterward, you’ll have plenty of free time to visit a museum, grab a bite to eat, and explore independently before boarding the ferry back to Helsinki. Thus, if you want to make the most of your limited time in Tallinn without too much fuss, I highly recommend checking out this fantastic guided tour!

“We enjoyed this tour. We were picked up at our hotel and taken to the ferry in Helsinki. We were met by our guide in Tallinn and off we went for an informative day. The history is fascinating and the city is beautiful preserved and restored. We highly recommend if you want a day trip from Helsinki.”

– Edward D. (See More Reviews)

Independent Day Trip from Helsinki to Tallinn by Ferry

Your second option is to independently do a day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry. This is great for those on a tight budget but don’t want to miss out on exploring this quaint capital city.

I’d also recommend it for those who aren’t up for lots of walking. The one negative side of the tour option is that there’s a fair bit of walking involved and going on your own allows you to rest whenever you need to.

Whatever your reason may be, below are all the details you need for doing a day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki on your own.

Two pictures. The left picture is of a stone gate that's at the entrance to Pikk Street. The right picture is of Town Hall Square.
Left: Gate you’ll pass through as you enter Pikk Street | Right: Town Hall Square

Where to Purchase Your Ticket

When you decide the date you want to do your day trip to Tallinn, you have two ticketing options. You can purchase a ferry ticket with Get Your Guide or on the Tallink website.

Both sites allow you to book a ticket on the Silja line, which is the line that I opted to go with since it’s what my local tour guide said was best and recommended to me.

The only thing to note is that you’ll want to be sure to book both a ticket to Tallinn as well as a ticket back to Helsinki if you book with Get Your Guide! No to being stranded in foreign countries!

Check prices and times for ferry tickets on Get Your Guide here

A picture of the outside of the Tallink cruise ship.
Even the outside of the Tallink Cruise looks pretty!

Booking on the Tallink Website

If you’d rather book on the Tallink website, click “book a cruise” and then “Day Cruise: Helsinki – Tallinn.” You want to purchase from this category because you’ll receive a price break instead of paying more buying round-trip tickets under the “flexible dates” category.

Afterward, you’ll see the different departure and arrival times. And, a neat feature I appreciated is that it also displays the amount of “time onshore” you’ll have in Tallinn based on your departure times.

Just note that you should subtract about an hour from this number. This will help account for the buffer time you’ll want to give yourself when transiting between Tallinn’s Old Town area and the port!

To give you a reference point of what I did, I booked the 10:30 AM departure from Helsinki and booked a return ticket for 7:30 PM. This gave me about 6 hours in the Estonian Capital, which was perfect.

What Class to Purchase

In the section beneath, you’ll select your travel class: Star Class, Comfort Lounge, Business Class, B-Class, A-Class, or A-Plus.

I did Star Class, which is the basic level ticket. As you would expect, the area of the cruise designated for the Star Class was pretty chaotic and crowded with children running around.

That said, the ship itself was immaculate and modern. You’ll find plenty of comfortable seating, arcade games for kids to play at, and an area that has beverages, snacks, and full-on meals available to purchase, which was way more than I was expecting.

Two pictures of the interior of the Tallink cruise that goes from Helsinki to Tallinn
I loved how sleek yet inviting the interior of the cruise was

If you’re a remote worker who needs good Wi-Fi or just after some peace and quiet, I’d recommend paying extra for a higher class. You’ll also be able to enjoy complimentary snacks and refreshments, which are always welcome!

After purchasing your ticket, you’ll want to go ahead and check in via the confirmation email when the departure time is within 24 hours.

PRO TIP: Save your ticket to your Apple Wallet if you have an iPhone or take a screenshot of the PDF ticket if you don’t. This way you can easily pull up the ticket when going through the ticket turnstiles.

Arrival At Helsinki Port

On the day of departure, be sure to give yourself ample time to arrive at the Helsinki Port.

I left my hotel, Hotel Mestari, about an hour before departure and took a 20-minute tram to the port. This meant I arrived about 35 minutes before the scheduled ferry departure.

Upon arriving at the port, you’ll check in if you haven’t already and then head over to the ticket turnstiles to scan your ticket. Afterward, follow the signs to the correct terminal and wait for boarding to begin!

A picture of the Helsinki Port. Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time for your day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn.
The outside of the Helsinki Port

Once boarding begins, it can get pretty turbulent, but as long as you follow the general mass of people, you’ll be fine.

Upon boarding the ferry, you can pick any available seat in your designated class. Then, sit back and relax as you take in the endless sea views on your 2-hour and 15-minute journey across the Gulf of Finland!

Arrival at the Tallinn Port

When the cruise docks, it’s a little overwhelming as there’s no order or lines for disembarking. But, everyone has to exit, so you’ll make it off in due time.

Once you’re off the boat, I recommend making note of the terminal you arrived at. This is especially true if you go with a different cruise line (not Tallink/Sulja line).

From the dock, it’s about a 20-30 minute walk uphill to Tallinn’s Old Town. Nothing too steep, but I still suggest wearing good walking shoes as the cobblestone can hurt after a while.

10 Things: What to See in Tallinn in One Day

Alrighty, now it’s time for the good stuff! Depending on how much time you have to explore, here are 10 things to see and do in Tallinn in one day! They are listed in the order I did them since I’m all about minimizing walking distance.

And in case you’re curious, several sites I’ve listed below are also covered on the guided tour. Thus, no matter which route you choose, you’ll get to see a little bit of it all!

NOTE: Be sure to keep track of time! I arrived at Tallinn’s Port 45 minutes early, and they began boarding shortly after. They even left about 10 minutes early before the official departure time… so DO NOT BE LATE! And remember, seating is first come first serve…

Two pictures. The left picture is of the Holy Spirit Church in Tallinn and the right picture is of Pikk Street.
Left: Peek the clock on the Holy Spirit Church | Right: The most charming street in Tallinn

1. St. Olaf’s Church

On your way from the port, the first stop is at St. Olaf’s Church, a medieval marvel with a towering spire that dates back to the 12th century. It’s believed that long ago during the 16th century, this was once the tallest building in the world.

Today, visitors can climb the 258 steps to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360-degree view of Tallinn’s charming Old Town and its surroundings.

No reservation is necessary, but there is a small 5 fee to climb to the top. And unlike paying to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe or Biarritz’s Lighthouse, they only accept cash!

2. Pikk Street

A picture of Pikk Street and all its colorful buildings and historic architecture.
Perfect place to grab a small souvenir

Afterward, you’ll want to wander along Pikk Street or Long Street as you trek to Town Square!

This cobblestone street is lined with well-preserved medieval buildings, some of which house fascinating museums, galleries, restaurants, artisan shops, and cafes. You can pretty much find it all on this street.

And with the idyllic pastel buildings, you’ll feel like you’re being transported in time or plopped into the middle of some Disney movie! I personally was living out my Beauty and the Beast dreams.

Either way, be sure to spend some time exploring the rich history of Tallinn as you meander along this picturesque thoroughfare!

P.S. If you look closely enough, you’ll notice the unique features that set each building apart…

3. Holy Spirit Church

At the end of the long Pikk Street, you’ll find the Holy Spirit Church, a 13th-century church with a striking clock that has been keeping time for centuries.

To enter the church, you’ll have to pay a small 2 fee. This might be annoying, but I think it’s worth it as it holds a lot of understated beauty. You’ll get to see lots of intricate woodwork and paintings that were originally commissioned by German merchants.

But, if you’re keen on seeing an interior that resembles the Duomo in Milan or Sainte Chapelle in Paris… you’re gonna wanna skip paying the entrance fee.

4. Dominican Convent

Two pictures of St. Catherine's Passage. This is fun street to walk along during your day trip to Tallinn because it has a very medieval atmosphere.
Pictures I took from St. Catherine’s Passage

Just a short walk away is the historic Dominican Convent. This is a place that provides insight into Tallinn’s medieval religious life. The building dates back to 1246 and is where monks used to live and study. Visitors can walk through the inside of this medieval building on the weekends for 5 (cash only)!

But, if you happen to be visiting on a weekday or don’t want to pay the entrance fee, a good alternative is to walk along St. Catherine’s Passage.

This narrow passageway is believed to date back 700 years, and you can truly feel the medieval history entrenched in the walls. For example, you’ll notice the ancient arched beams above.

There are also workshops, studios, and some well-preserved tombstones hanging on the wall that date back to the mid-19th century. It’s all very atmospheric and fun to browse through the different shops, especially if you’re like me — someone who isn’t used to seeing this kind of architecture and history!

5. Raekoja Plats

A picture of Raekoja Plats or Town Hall Square. If you get hungry during your day trip to Tallinn, you'll find several restaurants with patios around the square.
During the winter season, it’s a winter wonderland with a festive Christmas market in the center

From the passageway, walk a couple minutes to Raejoja Plats, or Town Hall Square. This is the vibrant heart of Tallinn’s Old Town.

Surrounded by colorful, centuries-old buildings, it’s the perfect place to soak in the atmosphere. You’ll find open-air cafes, street performers, and markets during special events, making it a hub of activity.

My favorite part is that in the summertime, they often have public seating available in the center of the square, making it a fine spot to people-watch.

Oh and if you’re feeling hungry, there are also plenty of good restaurants to eat at around here. It just costs a little more since this is the main tourist spot.

PRO TIP: If you want to explore the local culinary delights, keep an eye out for Kapsasupp. It’s cabbage soup, which is made with sauerkraut, pork, and barley. There’s also Verivorst, which is more commonly known as “blood sausage.

6. Danish King’s Garden

Two picture's of the Danish King's Garden. The left picture shows the bright purple flower beds while the right picture shoes two of the bronze monks.
You can also learn about the history/legend of the Danish flag here

When you’re ready to move on, I recommend walking towards the Danish King’s Garden, which is hidden behind thick medieval walls. According to the legends, King Valdemar II of Denmark camped in the area during the early 13th-century Northern Crusades. Hence, the gardens were named after him.

This serene garden features some well-manicured flowerbeds, picturesque views of Old Town, and remnants of Tallinn’s fortifications.

You can also walk along the walls and find a cafe up on the second level, but it does cost a small fee. Either way, it’s a great spot to sit on a bench and relax.

Oh and don’t forget to look out for the three bronze monks! There’s “waiting monk” Ambrose, “praying monk” Bartholomew, and “observing monk” Claudius.

7. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Right on the other side of the Danish King’s Garden is the stunning Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is a masterpiece of Russian Orthodox architecture.

You’ll notice its 5 distinctive onion domes and bright pink color. The cathedral is the largest is the largest orthodox cupola church in the city and represents a time when Tallinn was part of the Russian Empire.

A picture of the vivid exterior of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn. Whether you do your day trip to Tallinn with a tour group or independently, be sure to stop by here.
The architecture is so mesmerizing

I recommend stepping inside to witness its opulent interior, which is adorned with intricate and richly decorated iconostases and stained glass windows.

Just beware of a couple of things. First, no pictures are allowed inside. Second, if you’re a female, they may ask you to cover your head or legs with a wrap or scarf.

This is very typical of Russian Orthodox churches and something I learned while visiting the Cathdrale Saint-Nicolas in Nice, which looks very similar to this cathedral.

8. Toompea Castle

Another popular attraction to visit is Toompea Castle, which is perched atop Toompea Hill. This historic site houses the Estonian Parliament.

And while you can’t explore the interior, the castle’s architecture and surrounding viewing platforms offer captivating perspectives of the city and the Baltic Sea.

9. Patkuli Viewing Platform

A picture of Tallinn's signature red rooftops and clock towers as seen from Patkuli Viewing Platform. This is a must-visit during your day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn!
My favorite viewpoint of the city

From the castle, head to the Patkuli Viewing Platform for one of the most enchanting views of Tallinn’s Old Town. This is where you can best capture the essence of the city and see the medieval towers and red rooftops that create a postcard-worthy scene.

10. Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform

And for the final stop on this Tallinn in one-day itinerary, stroll over to the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform. I found that this viewing point is a bit more crowded than the other one. But, it’s still worth coming over here to savor Tallinn’s magical skyline.

Map of Tallinn in One Day Itinerary

To make things just a tad easier for you, I’ve included a Google map with all the recommended locations I just mentioned!

The red pin represents the ferry port. Meanwhile, the purple pins with stars in them symbolize places I would prioritize visiting if you have limited time!

Oh and since I’m a glutton for ice cream, I’ve also included this awesome ice cream shop that I discovered and can happily recommend! You find it under the food pin

Where to Stay in Helsinki

If you haven’t booked your housing in Helsinki, here are some places I recommend checking out. They’re based on where I stayed while visiting and the research I completed while planning my trip!

PRO TIP: I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, unlike literally every other Nordic country, Finland has relatively affordable housing accommodations. Thus, you might want to use this opportunity to splurge and treat yourself to a fancy stay! I certainly did and it was ah-mazing!

Low-Cost Stay

  • The Yard Hotel — Cute hostel w/ welcoming atmosphere | 8.8 / 10
    • Has a stocked kitchen, private rooms, & dorms available
  • Hotel Indigo Helsinki — Stylish 4-star hotel w/ big rooms | 9.2 /10
    • Prime location near most attractions & close to tram lines

Mid-Range Stay

  • Hotel Mestari — A refined 4-star hotel that I loved staying at | 8.9 / 10
    • Lots of breakfast options & located in downtown Helsinki
  • Hotel Katajanokka — Lovely charming 4-star hotel | 9.4 / 10
    • Located in a quiet area near the harbor & offers a big breakfast

Fancy Stays

  • Hotel Kmp — Elegant 5-star hotel with chic interiors | 9.1 / 10
    • Located right along Esplanadi Park & Market Square
  • Hotel St. George Helsinki — Luxurious 5-star hotel | 9.4 / 10
    • Has a restaurant, bar, Wintergarden room, spa, & workspaces

Click the buttons below to head to your favorite booking platform and see additional housing options there.

Alternatively, if you want extra time in Tallinn or prefer viewing housing options based on location, try the interactive map below. You can easily compare housing prices. I also recommend entering your travel dates for even more accurate pricing!

Tips for Visiting Tallinn

To prepare you for your escapade over to Tallinn, here are some tips to keep in mind and things you’ll want to bring!

  • Good walking shoes: Tallinn has mostly uneven, cobblestone streets. As such, you’ll want to wear comfortable walking shoes — not flimsy sandals or heels!
  • Portable Charger: I strongly recommend bringing a reliable portable charger with you! Your phone is your ticket onto the ferry and how you’ll likely be navigating the city… And we all know Google Maps kills phone batteries.

    Avoid being stranded and stressing about your battery by bringing a reliable portable charger. This is the portable charger I love to use because it comes with both a USB-A and USB-C port charging port!

Check prices for my favorite portable charger to travel with.

  • Jacket: Even if you’re visiting during the summer, bring a jacket as it can get pretty cold around sunset. Plus, the jacket makes a great pillow for the ferry ride.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: There aren’t a lot of public fountains everywhere like you see in France or Switzerland, so be sure to bring a reusable water bottle.
  • Euros: Although you can likely get by with just your credit card, I found that some places only accept cash, especially if you’re at a souvenir shop and only purchasing a simple postcard or magnet. Thus, bring some small bills and coins!

Best Time to Visit Tallinn

Looking strictly at a weather perspective, the best time to visit Tallinn is between May and September.

During this period, the average high temperature is in the 60sF (16C), and the average low temperature hovers in the 40s and 50sF (5 – 10C). Again… bring layers because even during the summer, it gets cold!

A picture of Tallinn's Pikk Street on a sunny day. Summer is a fabulous time to do a day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry.
Tallinn is gorgeous during the summertime

That said, there are some fun annual events that you may be interested in planning your trip around. Here are a few fun ones, but you can see the full event calendar for all things Tallinn here.

  • Restaurant Week (Mar 11, 2024 – Mar 17, 2024) — Tallinn Restaurant Week provides a unique chance to explore local cuisine and culinary trends. This year, 15 restaurants are emphasizing environmentally friendly options, aligning with Tallinn’s 2023 title of European Green Capital.
  • Tallinn Coffee Festival (April 25-26, 2024): Tallinn Coffee Festival offers the chance to explore a diverse range of coffee, brewing techniques, and entertainment. With aromatic brews, tea, and cocoa, it features over fifty companies and a variety of street food vendors.
  • Tallinn Christmas Market (Nov 30, 2024 – Jan 1, 2025): Tallinn Christmas Market, once voted Europe’s finest, creates an enchanting scene in Town Hall Square. The 580-year-old tradition features a stunning Christmas tree and festive stalls with delightful goods and food.

Tallinn Day Trip from Helsinki: FAQ

Is Tallinn Worth a Day Trip From Helsinki?

Yes! If you have time in your Helsinki itinerary, then a day trip to Tallinn is definitely worth it! The Estonian capital city has a completely different ambiance, culture, and feel than Helsinki. Not to mention, with it being a fairly small town, you can easily see the majority of the main highlights in 5 – 6 hours. For me, Tallinn was a fairytale medieval city that was an absolute delight to wander around.

How Long Is the Ferry From Helsinki to Tallinn?

The Ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn is approximately 2 hours. This may vary by about 20 minutes, so for planning purposes, I’d assume 2.5 hours if you want to include the disembarking process.

Is the Ferry From Helsinki to Tallinn Rough?

This is a bit weather-dependent, but you likely won’t feel anything even if the Gulf of Finland waters are a little rough. The ship is freaking huge, so it’s not that susceptible to lots of sideways movement. Personally speaking, the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn was the smoothest ferry ride I have ever been on.

Do You Need a Passport for Ferry From Tallinn to Helsinki?

You do not need to bring your passport for the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki or vice versa. They do not perform any passport checks. All they do is scan your ferry ticket, which is in the form of a QR code.

Wrap-Up: Day Trip From Helsinki to Tallinn by Ferry (2024)

Overall, if you have some extra time during your stay in the Finnish capital or a simply looking for a fun excursion, I highly recommend doing a day trip from Helsinki to Tallinn.

From wandering charming cobblestone streets to admiring the colorful buildings, you can’t help but smile and feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Everything in this enchanting city is so picturesque and well-preserved.

Plus, with the fairytale town being a stone’s throw away from Helsinki, it’s an easy and affordable day trip to do on your own. Or, if you want to maximize your limited time in Tallinn and have a stress-free experience, you can go with a local guide.

Regardless of whether you decide to explore Tallinn for a day, stay a couple of days, or not visit at all, I hope this guide has been insightful and wish you the best in your travels!

Two pictures: the left picture is Kristin at the Patkuli Viewing Platform in Tallinn. The right picture is one of the bronze statues that you can find in the Danish King's Garden.
Happy Travels through Tallinn! Sincerely, me and my new bestie!

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