During my visit to Tallinn, I couldn’t resist to do a short day trip to Helsinki. It’s less than two hours by ferry and I was eager to ‘taste’ a bit of Finland. After a lot of research, I finally came up with the following itinerary for one day in Helsinki. It proved to be an excellent one and is easy to do on your own. I would highly recommend following it for your own Helsinki day trip from Tallinn!
Updated in 2019
The ‘One Day in Helsinki’ Itinerary
Itinerary for the morning in Helsinki
Get up early and take the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki!
There are several ferry companies, but we took the Linda Line since if offers ‘Happy Day Trip’ tickets. With this offer we only paid about 30 euro for a return ticket. Find tips for a smooth Helsinki-Tallinn ferry ride below!
Arrival in the half liquid-half land city of Helsinki! Welcome to Finland, the Nordic country of crisp air, wild nature and unpronounceable names ;)! From the harbour you can walk straight to the kauppatori (the main market square)
It’s still a bit early, so at the kauppatori it may be a good idea to wander around a bit and get used to being in Helsinki. There are loads of souvenir stalls. You may want to get some ‘fruit to go’, which you can later eat at the picknick heaven of Suomenlinna.
Take a ferry to the must see attraction ‘Suomenlinna Sea Fortress’. You can take a commercial ferry (stopping at a different place in Suomenlinna) or the public ferry. The public ferry should cost around 5 euro for a return and leaves at the end of the market. The ferry leaves around 3 times per hour, and will take about 15 minutes.
Suomenlinna was built between 1748-1808 when Finland was part of the Swedish Kingdom. During the years, it served as a maritime fortress and a base for the Archipelago Fleet. Since 1991, Suomenlinna is UNESCO world heritage site.
- Suomenlinna Ferry Tip 1: The right side of the boat provides the best view on the Helsinki islands
- Suomenlinna Ferry Tip 2: Bring some coins or your debit card to pay at the ticket machine.
- Suomenlinna General Tip 3: During the summer, it is possible to stay on Suomenlinna until late at night.
Explore the beautiful and peaceful Suomenlinna Fortress with great views over the sea, grassy picknick spots and lots of interesting history. Of all things to do in Helsinki, Suomenlinna was my favorite!
Itinerary for the afternoon in Helsinki
Head back to the city for more Helsinki sightseeing by ferry!
Arrival at the kauppatori again. And guess what…? It’s lunch time! Take a seat at one of the numerous market stands and enjoy a fresh fish meal or go for something more ‘exotic’ and have a reindeer kebab.
Hyvää ruokahalua (enjoy your meal)!
Time to head into the city because there are so many more things to do in Helsinki. Visit the picture perfect Helsinki Cathedral and the Uspenski cathedral. Both cathedrals are located within walking distance.
The Helsinki cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. It was originally built between 1830 and 1852 as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Today it’s mostly used a tourist attraction. It’s open daily between 9-18, in June-August daily between 9-24.
The Uspenski cathedral was built upon a hillside overlooking the city. It’s an Orthdox cathedral, built in 1862. Admission is free of charge. Please note that the Cathedral is closed in winter on Mondays.
One of the main Helsinki sightseeing spots is the famous Church in Rock (name says it all) or in Swedish the ‘Temppeliaukio church’. The church was designed by Finnish architects Timo Suomalainen and Tuomo Suomalainen, and opened in 1969. The church was built in solid rock.
From the cathedral you can walk via the beautiful Central Train Station to the church. It’s takes about 15-20 minutes by foot.
Sine we only have one day in Helsinki, we might as well do a bit of shopping. You can head to the main street with big brands or visit the cool Helsinki Design District. The Helsinki Design District houses more than 200 shops and boutiques, restaurants and cafes. You can also find the two leading museums in the field of design, the Design Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture. A recommended stop!
Itinerary for the evening in Helsinki
Dinner time! Being on a budget we had dinner at a student pizza place. However, there are many cool dining spots in Helsinki, so I’d definitely check out the website of the Helsinki Tourism Organization.
Take the last ferry back to Tallinn and chill-out & relax! I’m sure you must be tired by now of this busy ‘One day in Helsinki itinerary ;)!
Tip: If you stay overnight in Helsinki, you could also go to a public sauna. It’s a fun way to meet the Finns.
Tip: If you can spare one extra day in Helsinki: consider to visit the gorgeous Nuuksio National Park, which is in easy reach of the capital and makes a great day trip!
Arrival back in Tallinn and still much left of the evening :)!
Is Helsinki walkable?
Yes, definitely! Helsinki is compact and walkable. With exception of the ferry to Suomenlinna, we did not have to use public transportation or taxi’s during our Helsinki day trip! We explored everything on foot!
The Helsinki-Tallinn ferry ride
There are several options to get from Helsinki to Tallinn (and vice versa) by fast ferry such as Silja Line, Tallink, Eckero and Linda Line.
- Helsinki Tallinn Ferry #tip 1: Be there in time. The boarding ends 15 minutes before departure. After that the boat WILL leave. In our case the boat even left before the official departure time
- Helsinki Tallinn Ferry #tip 2: Check which terminal you have to be. They are all quite far apart.
- Helsinki Tallinn Ferry #tip 3: I’m not sure if there’s a ‘best ferry’ company, however on other website Linda Line is supposedly the fastest and also one of the cheapest companies. Also, there is wifi on board and a small cafe to get yourself a wake-up coffee. Still, it’s always good to shop around.
Save Money in Helsinki
Helsinki can be quite expensive (especially a backpacker). If you stay for multiple days, a city pass like The Helsinki Card can be a good value. However, for the above itinerary it is not necessary.
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What should not be missed if you only have one day in Helsinki? Post your tips below!
Go on a day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki:
Highlights of Tallin’s Old Town
Exploring the hipster neighborhood ‘Kalamaja’ in Tallinn