25 Photos of Our Helsinki to Tallinn Day Trip

Lindsay Cale

We spent a week in Helsinki, Finland with My Helsinki exploring the food, design and LGBTQ scene. While we there, Visit Tallinn invited us to come explore Estonia for a day via the Helsinki -Tallin ferry, Tallink. We’ve heard some great things about Tallinn and jumped at the opportunity.

Tallinn is a unique mixture of old and new. Old Town Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is often regarded as one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. On the complete flip side, the Kalamaja neighborhood is considered one of the most trendy, hipster spots in the world. Estonia is also one of the technology leaders of Europe, everywhere we went there was fast, free wifi, and cool tech innovations.

Helsinki Tallinn Ferry

We woke up early and caught the tram to the Helsinki Port. For the record, public transportation is incredibly simple to use. Once we got the port we boarded the Tallink Ferry to start our 2 hour trip to Tallinn. We were thankful to be in the business class so that we could get some work done as we cruised. I can’t say enough about how comfortable it was to do this round trip with Tallink! They had big comfortable seating and a glorious buffet! Both the breakfast and dinner buffet included a full meal, candies and a completely open self-serve bar.  The best part of taking the early ferry was watching the sunrise over the water.

Things to do in Old Town Tallinn

Once we got off the ferry we took a short cab ride into the Old Town. Old Town is divided into two parts, lower town, and Toompea Hill. Most of the sights you will want to see are on top of the hill.

After wandering through the cobblestone streets feeling a bit like we were in a fairy tale, our first stop was the large brightly colored Orthodox St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. We walked inside to both warm up and admire the ornate wooden interior. Directly across the street, you’ll see the beautiful pink Troompea Castle. You are able to tour the building Monday-Friday and even watch sessions of Parliament from a balcony. At this point, our minds were blown. There is something really special about exploring a place you had no expectations of and having such an incredible day. That’s not to take anything away from more well-known destinations like the Pyramids or Machu Picchu but Estonia was an experience we didn’t have a basis of knowledge for in the same way and ended up being one of our favorite places we’ve visited.

From there we spent time wandering through the streets popping into small mom and pop type cafes for hot tea and the most amazing pastries. My favorite stop was Loiri Nunne Bakery Pastry Shop, we ordered two cups of tea and the most delicious raspberry danish I’ve had. The place felt so cozy as locals dipped in and out grabbing breakfast goodies. We wrapped our ice-cold fingers around our hot cups of tea and just soaking in the moment together. Note to self: pack gloves when traveling to Northern Europe in the winter.

Once we were good and warm we took off to check out two fantastic viewing platforms. Both spots provide beautiful views of the city showing off the bright red roofs. The first one we went to was Patkuli Viewing Platform, for the big panoramic views.

Most things were closed during our visit but it appears on warmer days that you can enjoy a snack up there. People sharing those snacks might just be the reason we saw some gigantic birds waiting around. The layout at Kohtuotsa is a little different but the views are equally spectacular.

One major tip we can share about exploring Tallinn is to get the Tallinn Card. In the old town alone there are museums, botanical gardens, bus tours, and historical building to explore. By getting the Tallinn card you’ll save a ton on admission. We explored the Estonian Museum of Applied Arts and Design and had planned to make it to the KGB Prison Cells but flat ran out of time.

Hipster Kalamaja Neighborhood

Kalamaja is known as the young, artistic neighborhood with tons of street art. We knew we needed to make time to explore before it got dark. Keep in mind that in mid-January we were working with just 6 and a half hours of sunlight. My trusty navigator, aka my wife, assured me it was a short walk from the Old Town to Kalamaja. We do try to do as much of our exploring on foot as possible because you see so many more details but sometimes we underestimate the distance.  I’m going to assume we got lost rather than she planned to take me on a long cold walk. Either way, if it’s the middle of winter take a cab, it’s worth it.

While we walked we did get to see the many of the brightly colored wooden homes that are a hallmark of the neighborhood. Traditionally the homes were built for working-class families, but have become landmarks of the city.  Kalamaja literally translates to “Fish House” and is the main fishing harbor.

As we crept closer to our intended destination, Telliskivi Creative City. We could see a little bit of street art popping up. We love us some good street art so we were getting excited but truly had no idea what to expect. When we finally reached our destination the sun was just starting to set and we wandered along some colorful murals before ending up in the middle of a mural-lined lot. We stuffed our cold hands into coat pockets and took turns snapping shots before we lost the days sun.

After it got dark we dipped in the F-Hoone, one of the eight restaurants in the Telliskivi Creative City area for a much-needed meal. The restaurant is located in an old brick industrial building with giant windows. The menu was super diverse and the prices were good. We shared the Snack Platter of cheese, meats, pickles dipping sauce ($12), a bowl of Ramen ($6) and Pasta with Cream Sauce ($8).

We did eventually make it back to explore the restaurant’s, creative studios, and bakery in the Telliskivi Creative City. Our favorite store was  Minu Väike Maailm for its adorable kid’s clothes (we’re expecting our first niece in July) and Homeart, the interior design store.

Our time in Tallinn, Estonia ended as we boarded the Tallink again, vowing to make a return trip to Tallinn at some point in the future. If you’re planning your gay Europe vacation you’ll regret not considering a stop in Estonia.

Gay Tallinn


With less than 24hrs to explore we knew it would be hard to get a good handle the climate regarding LGBTQ people. What we did learn is that Estonia is widely considered to be the most liberal post-Soviet country in regards to LGBT policies. In 2017 the city celebrated Pride with about 2,000 attendees. As always we encourage you to do whats comfortable for you. 

This post was created in collaboration with Visit Tallinn. As always all opinions are my own.