In the UK, both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays. With 4 consecutive days off, it seemed silly not to get out of town and explore new land! So, while everyone else celebrated the start of Spring, I headed to Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia where kids were still wearing snowsuits the Gulf of Finland was frozen solid.
The long weekend started off with a late night arrival into Helsinki on the Thursday night. I went straight to the hotel (Hotel Kamp), which I'd highly recommend. It was very nice and very centrally located.
Because the next day was Good Friday, almost everything in Helsinki was shut. Given the nature of the holiday, it felt appropriate to spend a good portion of the day searching for Jesus statues in a series of churches/cathedrals. Church Tour 2016 included: St. John's Church, the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral and the Uspenski Russian Orthodox Church.
After the religious venues were exhausted, the rest of the day was spent wandering around, getting acclimated with the city, ducking in and out of wine bars to avoid the hail and snacking on various Finnish treats (like reindeer and pickled cucumbers with honey).
On Saturday morning, I boarded the Linda Line ferry (right around the corner from Hotel Kamp). In about an hour and a half’s time, I disembarked in Tallinn, Estonia. It was a 10 minute walk from the port to my hotel. I didn’t stay right in the Old Town, but I would highly recommend doing so. Here are some hotel options that looked cute: Merchant’s House Hotel, Cru Hotel or Savoy Boutique Hotel.
Old Town is the historical city center of Estonia’s capital, Tallinn. Its medieval feel and cobbled streets make it incredibly charming. You can quite easily spend two days wandering around, popping in and out of museums, churches, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.
One of the highlights of my time in Tallinn was dinner at a place called Peppersack. It’s touristy, but the food was very good, the service was great and there was even a sword fight! Yes, a sword fight! I recommend booking in advance and requesting a seat on the balcony so you have a front row viewing of the duel.
On Sunday evening, after another full day in Tallinn, I got back on the ferry and crossed the (still semi-frozen) Gulf of Finland to return to Helsinki and the comforts of Hotel Kamp.
Most venues were closed again on Easter Monday so keeping busy was a challenge. The city is pretty compact and I had already explored a good deal of it on Friday. So, to keep busy, I decided to visit Helsinki’ sea fortress, which is only accessible by boat. The ferry takes about 20 minutes each way and costs €2.70. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, but I have to say, it’s one of the less interesting ones that I have visited. I only lasted for about an hour over there before returning to the mainland.
All in all, the trip was fun and it was great to check out a few new cities, but I don't foresee any trips to Helsinki in my near future.
Both Finland and Estonia use the Euro
Everyone speaks English in both countries
Finland is quite expensive, whereas Estonia is very affordable
The Finns are very heavy drinkers but booze cannot be purchased in supermarkets
Tipping is not expected in Finland
Be sure to dress appropriately. It was very cold and wet when I visited - even the doggies were dressed to keep warm and dry.