Bunny’s 24 Hours in Tallinn
Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn is a very easy day trip from Helsinki. For Finns, travelling to Tallinn is a bit of a national hobby, almost as common as collecting Iittala glassware or watching Formula One racing on television.
Bunny has visited Tallinn many times in the past but as Mr. Bunny had never set foot in Estonia, she decided it was time they made a little trip there together. A visit to Tallinn provided a perfect little urban respite to their summer cottage time in Finland.
The Bunnies had only one night in Tallinn but it felt like a satisfying mini holiday. Read below what Bunny managed to see and do during her 24 hours in Tallinn.
Tallinn from Helsinki
Tallinn is an attractive destination from Helsinki mainly because it is so close and affordable. The distance between the two capital cities is only about 80 kilometres and three major ferry lines offer daily services between Helsinki and Tallinn: Eckerö Line, Viking Line and Tallink-Silja.
Travelling to Tallinn, you get to experience an old Hansa town full of interesting architecture and culture. Tallinn also offers excellent dining and shopping opportunities for better prices than in Finland.
Which Ferry to Take?
As there are no major differences in price or comfort levels between the ferry lines, it is best to just choose the company whose timetable works best for you.
Bunny combined two different ferry lines for her trip after realising that buying return tickets would not save her any money. There is also little point in trying to look for deals on ferry tickets. Simply buying tickets directly on the ferry lines’ websites is usually the best option, Bunny says.
The journey takes just over two hours one way. All three ferry lines have comfortable ships, with restaurants, cafes, shops and even entertainment on board. And for anyone worried about sea sickness, Bunny can assure you that the crossing is usually very smooth, particularly in summertime.
All three ferry lines use different terminals in Helsinki. Eckerö Line operates from Helsinki West Terminal T2 and arrives in Tallinn A-Terminal. Viking arrives in the same terminal in Tallinn but leaves from Viking Line Terminal (Katajanokka) in Helsinki. Tallink-Silja ferries depart from Helsinki West Harbour Terminal or Olympia Terminal and arrive in Tallinn D-terminal. Make sure you know where you’re leaving from, Bunny says, because there is quite some distance between the different departing ferry terminals in Helsinki.
Travelling from Finland to Estonia is very easy because both countries are part of the EU Schengen area. This means there are no border controls. When you get to Estonia, even the currency, Euro, and the time zone stay the same.
Bunny’s Tallinn Trip
Bunny decided to take the Eckerö Line’s 15:15 ferry to Tallinn so she could enjoy a lazy morning. She arrived in Helsinki by train and walked all the way from the Helsinki railway station to the West Terminal T2 where the ferry departed. It was doable (3,5km) but wouldn’t be much fun if you have heavy luggage.
The terminal building was new and clean, and there were no queues at all. Bunny used the easy automated check-in machine to obtain her boarding tickets and hopped onboard soon afterwards.
Onboard the ship Finlandia, Bunny headed straight for the sun deck and snagged a good seat near the outside bar. It proved to be a lively journey with a rowdy crowd and a live band onboard.
The ferry arrived in Tallinn on schedule (17:30), leaving the Bunnies plenty of time to check in to their hotel, hop around the Old Town and enjoy a lovely dinner that evening.
Where to Stay in Tallinn
If you have never visited Tallinn and plan to stay for one night only, it is best to book a place somewhere in the Old Town itself - the most interesting part of the city.
For her short sojourn, Bunny chose the recently renovated Hotel St. Petersbourg in the heart of the Old Town which is part of the small luxury hotel (SLH) programme. Being an established member of the SLH loyalty programme, Bunny fully expected an indulgent experience and this is exactly what she got.
Hotel St. Petersbourg
When the Bunnies walked in to Hotel St. Petersbourg, they received a very friendly welcome. A glass of sparkling wine (always a nice touch, Bunny says) was offered right away. The Bunnies also received a complimentary room upgrade and found a nice fruit platter in their room, complete with some artisanal chocolates … Bunny’s SLH membership paid dividends again!
The room itself was very stylish (much to Bunny’s liking), with plenty of space to move around (Mr. Bunny’s main concern). The bathroom was also elegant and there was a lovely turndown service shortly after the Bunnies arrived.
The location of Hotel St. Petersbourg could not have been better. It was right in the middle of the Old Town and everything of interest was within short walking distance.
Bunny noticed that ear plugs were provided in the room, perhaps suggesting that the excellent location came with some downside but the Bunnies did not suffer from any noise whatsoever.
The next morning, the Bunnies started their day with a private sauna session. This is perhaps not the most obvious thing to do on a nice summer morning in Tallinn, but hey, free use of the sauna was included with the room price at Hotel St. Petersbourg! Plus, it was a nice way to help recover from a slight hangover from the night before. Enough said.
Breakfast at the hotel was a nice surprise. It was served downstairs, in the Golden Piglet Inn, which has a very meat-filled Estonian dinner menu. The breakfast, however, had fantastic healthy options (sea buckthorn, anyone?), with plenty to eat for vegetarians. In addition to the extensive buffet, there was also a choice of freshly made hot dishes (Bunny opted for porridge). Full marks from Bunny!
Hotel St. Petersbourg’s other restaurant, the sophisticated Tabula Rasa, was perfect for enjoying handcrafted signature cocktails on the terrace. Although Bunny didn’t eat here, she did study the menu carefully and noted a number of interesting vegetarian options. Perhaps next time…
What to Do in Tallinn
Bunny wanted to spend her 24 hours in Tallinn hopping around the winding cobblestoned streets of its Old Town which dates back to the Middle Ages and has great architecture, beautiful old doors (a passion of Bunny’s) and fascinating details around every corner.
The Old Town is surrounded by a medieval Town Wall complete with 20 defensive towers. Many of the towers can be climbed, Bunny suspects to some great views, but she didn’t have time for that on this visit.
Town Hall Square is the centrepiece of the Old Town. Bunny found it beautiful but, in keeping with its equivalents elsewhere in Europe, very touristic. The square is filled with outdoor cafes and restaurants and you can usually also catch a street performer or two. Bunny’s guess is that the restaurants are mostly, if not all, tourist traps but sipping a cocktail and watching the comings and goings in the square wouldn’t be so bad on a nice day.
Another place worth checking out is the gorgeous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on top of the Toompea Hill in the Old Town. It is Estonia's main Russian Orthodox cathedral and is very impressive from the outside. Bunny didn’t dare to go in as a service had just gotten underway when she arrived.
Tallinn by Foot
The beauty of Tallinn is that you don’t really need any transportation, particularly if, like Bunny, you are on a short visit and happy to walk a lot. Bunny walked from the ferry harbour to the Old Town, everywhere within the Old Town and also to and from the Telliskivi area without any trouble.
Fotografiska in Telliskivi
While in Tallinn, Bunny was determined to check out Fotografiska - an internationally recognised museum of photography with its roots in Stockholm.
Fotografiska Tallinn is located in the former industrial complex Telliskivi. Today, Telliskivi is a large creative area with a somewhat bohemian vibe and a thriving artistic community. Telliskivi boasts over 200 businesses, including many restaurants, cafes and design shops as well as lots of interesting street art.
Fotografiska itself was amazing. Bunny loved the main draw - Jimmy Nelson’s Homage to Humanity - which was superbly executed. As a result of the exhibition, Bunny ended up adding a couple of new destinations to her travel bucket list.
The other exhibitions, particularly Distant Land by Pentti Sammallahti, were also worth a look. Afterwards, Bunny also visited Fotografiska’s nice rooftop terrace with its expansive views over Tallinn.
Baltic Station Market
Bunny’s walk to Fotografiska took her right through the recently renovated Balti Jaama Turg (Baltic Station Market) which was a rather cool place. Bunny is not a shopper but is always happy to stroll through markets such as this.
Balti Jaama Turg seemed to have a little bit of everything: traditional fruit and vegetable stalls (Bunny bought fresh peas for a tasty snack), clothes, street food booths, various cafes and eateries, meat and fish halls, even crafts and antiques. Bunny wouldn’t have sought the place out, but having hopped there by accident, she was more than happy to have a look around.
Where to Eat
Bunny is a vegetarian who overindulges on copious amounts of cheese. Therefore, to help curb her cheese intake whenever traveling, Bunny looks for highly rated vegan restaurants. In Tallinn, she was spoilt for choice.
One of the best vegan restaurants in town, V Vegan, was literally two steps from Hotel St. Petersbourg. It is a cozy place which enjoys high popularity so Bunny made dinner reservations in advance.
The food, the service and the place itself were excellent. The Bunnies enjoyed their delicate appetisers and delicious hearty main dishes, together with a bottle of reasonably-priced and nicely chilled white wine.
The next day, Bunny made sure to try another great vegan restaurant for lunch. The Bunnies had spotted Restoran Plant on their evening stroll the night before and decided to try it for lunch.
The food was very tasty! Bunny particularly loved the Blini appetiser with smoked carrots and Mr. Bunny devoured his veggie burger with gusto. The craft beer (some sparkling variety too!) also went down very smoothly. The service was a bit slow and inattentive but the Bunnies were enjoying themselves on the sunny terrace so it didn’t bother them.
Bunny is not a huge fan of anything French (her blog post on a great trip to Paris is still pending after a year…) but even she couldn’t resist the lure of Chocolaterie de Pierre in Tallinn’s Old Town.
This little French place in the picturesque Master’s Courtyard offered a perfect little afternoon break, with appropriate cool, chocolate-infused, drinks. The mandatory self-service was a bit confusing at first (the Bunnies saw customer after customer assume, like them, that table service was on offer) but the atmosphere was just right.
Day Trip from Helsinki to Tallinn?
If you only have one day, it is possible to do Tallinn as a day trip from Helsinki, or vice versa. You will not experience the best of either place but you can certainly get a juicy taste of either capital.
However, Bunny would recommend planning such a day trip in summertime when the days are long and there is plenty of light from early morning until late at night.
If you take a Viking Line ferry from Tallinn back to Helsinki and plan to stay the night in town, Hotel Katajanokka - a former prison turned into a boutique hotel - is the perfect choice. It is a quirky, memorable place, just a 3-minute walk from the Viking ferry terminal.
Is One Day in Tallinn Enough?
Bunny’s plan for Tallinn was simple: stay in a nice place, hop around the Old Town, eat and drink well, and check out the exhibition at Fotografiska. One day (24 hours) was plenty for all this and even a little more.
In the end, the Bunnies were a bit shocked to conclude that they actually liked Tallinn better than Helsinki. At least that’s the conclusion on a nice sunny day from the perspective of a tourist, aimlessly wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere. Tallinn is a perfect compact and manageable city to experience in this delightful and intimate way.