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History in a Nutshell: Medieval Tallinn
Tallinn is a Baltic city well-known for its Old Town area, a compact maze of cobblestones streets, historic buildings, breathtaking vistas and UNESCO status. Tallinn is the capital and largest city of recently turned centenarian Estonia. With Estonia's 100 years being celebrated this year, Tallinn has many things to offer. Being the capital city, Tallinn serves as the major political, cultural and educational center of Estonia. Nowadays, the capital city is also a major fishing port, commercial and industrial centre of Estonia although Tallinn's main strengths are in IT, tourism and logistics.
Reval is the Former Name of Tallinn
The Estonian capital was not always called Tallinn. Before 1918, when Estonia gained independence, it was named as Reval, which is believed to be of German origin. It is special to note that Estonia was occupied by German forces from 1941 to 1944. Legend claims the origins of this former name originates from a deer hunt, when an animal fell off a cliff and perished. Reh-fall means deer fall in German language. Several historians debate about this theory and believe that this old name more likely to have derived from the old Estonian county called Revalia.
Helsinki to Tallinn by a Ferry
Tallinn is one among the favorite getaway destinations among Finnish residents, local or immigrants and also increasingly becoming popular for international tourists visiting Europe via Finland. Tallinn is located on the northern coast of Estonia, on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. It is approximately 80 kms to the south of Helsinki, which explains the easy accessibility of this Baltic beauty from the Finnish capital by boat. Travelling from Helsinki to Tallinn or from Tallinn to Helsinki by a ferry is extremely popular.
The ferry routes between Helsinki and Tallinn connects Finland and Estonia and is currently operated by three active ferry companies. Tallink Silja operates their crossing up to 8 times per day, Viking Line 2-3 times per day and Eckerö Line service is available up to 3 times per day. There is a fourth candidate also, called Linda Line, but it ceased its operation in the winter 2018. It was planning to continue operations in the summer 2018 but so the plan didn't realize. It seems Linda Line won't be operating in 2019 either.
Our Ferry Experiences
We have visited Tallinn several times in different occasions and seasons. We have tried all of the four ferry companies. We wrote a comparison about the differences of each cruise ship company to give our readers idea which one suits them best. You can easily have a day cruise from Helsinki to Tallinn if Helsinki is your main destination. Another good option is to visit Tallinn first and then to travel from Tallinn to Helsinki because flying from the Central Europe to Tallinn is sometimes cheaper.
Are Helsinki Tallinn Ferries Safe?
The Gulf of Finland is crowded with cargo and passenger boats. It is rational to wonder if the ferries are safe to travel by.
During the long history of Helsinki-Tallinn ferries there have not been any serious incident. Cruise companies are operating professionally and the traffic on the Gulf of Finland is coordinated. The ships are equipped with modern technology and they can operate almost in any kind of weather.
We are not worried about their safety ourselves. Like with flying, incidents may still happen and it is good to prepare. Always on the boat, get familiar with the safety instructions. For example, if the ship evacuation is needed, know how to act.
Tallink Silja is an Estonian ferry company. Among these four ferry companies, Tallink Silja has the best and the most modern ships operating between Helsinki and Tallinn. Their ships are also fast and the travel time takes only 2 hours. However, one of their ships, called M/S Silja Europa, makes an exception because it travels 3 and half hours from Helsinki to Tallinn. This is the biggest ship traversing the Baltic Sea and it is mainly meant for cruise passengers who are spending their night in the ship. With its recent renovation, this cruise ship feels really modern.
The quality comes with the price and Tallink Silja is not the cheapest option. One way ticket costs usually about 30 euros when the cheapest Helsinki to Tallinn ferry price is less than 20 euros. The cheapest ticket (about 14 euros) is valid for the slowest ship. Consequently, the better and the faster ship you book, the more you need to pay. A return ticket may be really cheap if you go and come back during the same day. Otherwise, return ticket may cost up to 60 euros.
Tallink Silja makes also overnight cruises from Helsinki to Tallinn where a cabin is included. You can sleep in the ship and then visit Tallinn for a few hours before the ship leaves back to Helsinki. Surprisingly, overnight cruises are often very cheap because the company assumes you to spend on the ship. The actual price depends on the cabin class.
Be aware that by the many ferry companies' rules, it is prohibited to consume your own drinks and food in the ferry. Of course, they are not inspecting your belongings but we still recommended you to use the ferries' restaurants. Cheap tickets wouldn't be possible without passengers using ferries services.
Tallink Silja has multiple departures, every two hours during the day so they provide a more flexible option for passengers. If you are not calculating every single penny, we recommend you to try Tallink Silja and especially their newest ship called M/S Megastar. It may be the most modern ship between Helsinki and Tallinn.
Tallink Silja ferries have free WiFi on-board.
Viking Line is a Finnish cruise company which operates only one ship between Helsinki and Tallinn. The travel time is 2 and half hours so the connection is a little slower compared to Tallink Silja. The cruise ship of Viking Line is not as new as the newest ships of Tallink Silja but the ship is still really modern and in good condition.
In the summer 2018 Viking Line operated temporary also another but slower ship between Helsinki and Tallinn. It seems that option is not continuing during the summer of 2019.
Viking Line ferries have free WiFi on-board.
The price level of Viking Line may be slightly cheaper than Tallink Silja's prices. One way ticket costs about 20 euros. A return ticket costs about 12 euros if you come back during the same day, otherwise it will cost more than 30 euros. As with all companies, weekends and summer season are more expensive time to travel than weekdays and the winter season. Travelling with Viking Line also gives you an option to book a cabin for overnight connection.
Viking Line has a free bonus club called Club Viking which gives you great offers. If you are planning to take Viking's connection, joining the club before booking your ticket is a good choice. Downloading their mobile application allows you to connect to their free public WiFi during the cruise excursion.
Eckerö Line is also a company from Finland from Åland islands. It operates only one ship between Helsinki and Tallinn. The ship travels from Helsinki to Tallinn two to three times a day and the travel time is 2 hours and 15 minutes. Eckerö Line concentrates more on the relaxing cruising atmosphere and it is popular especially among Finns who just want to relax by having a nice day cruise to Tallinn and back.
The ship of Eckerö Line called M/S Finlandia is not the most modern but well-renovated. It is almost of the same size as the previous ferries and also able to operate even in extreme weather conditions. Generally, it is comfortable to travel with Eckerö Line too.
One way ticket to Eckerö Line costs about 19 euros and a trip back is included if you travel during the same day. Otherwise, a return ticket booked on different day costs a little more. We recommend Eckerö Line for passengers wanting affordable ticket but still good enough quality.
Eckerö Line's ferry have free WiFi onboard.
The fastest connection between Helsinki and Tallinn was offered by Linda Line. The travel time was just 1h and 30 minutes. Unlike the above ferry companies, Linda Line is not safe to operate during winter season because of its small size.
The speed comes with drawbacks. The ships are small and crowded. Usually they can't operate with high winds and waves. All other companies can operate in almost any weather even in the winter. Linda Line is more unstable during windy times making people suffer easier from seasickness compared to the bigger ferries.
If you are just finding a fast way to cross Baltic Sea and you do not want to enjoy the cruise feeling, Linda Line may be your choice. It is usually a little cheaper than the other companies and it operates many departures per day. Be prepared that your journey may be cancelled if high winds occur. Unfortunately, that is not uncommon in the Baltic Sea.
The company won't operate in the summer of 2019.
Harbours in Helsinki
Helsinki has multiple really busy cruise harbours.
The South Harbour of Helsinki is located just next to the main market square and close to the white cathedral. Helsinki South Harbour to the city centre can be rode with trams.
Tallink Silja's Stockholm ferries (but not Tallinn ferries!) and Viking Line's Tallinn ferries are using the South Harbour. Tallink's Stockholm ferries leave from the Olympia terminal and Viking Line ferries from the Katajanokka terminal. These terminal are opposite each other and must be reached by different tram connections. Olympia Terminal can be reached by the trams numbers 2 and 3 and Katajanokka Terminal the tram numbers 5 and 4. Make sure you are heading to the right terminal. From the South Terminal there is also a local boat connection to Suomenlinna Island.
Google Maps works well in Helsinki so it is a valuable aid for travellers.
Tallink Silja's Tallinn ferries and Eckerö Line's ferries are using the West Harbour. The West harbour is moderately close to the center but not as well located as the South Terminal. Helsinki West Harbour to the city centre can be rode with the tram number 5.
There are also other harbours in Helsinki but Helsinki Tallinn ferries are not using them.
In Tallinn the situation is simpler. All companies except Linda Line are arriving to the same Passenger Harbour that is about 2 kilometers from the Old Town. There are 4 terminals in the harbour separated by the letters A, B, C and D. Even though the terminals are really close to each other, make sure you are heading directly to the right terminal. The sea between the terminals may slow down your walking.
We recommend you to walk from the Tallinn Harbour to the center. In the case you need a taxi, be careful with their pricing. The most expensive taxis tend to come to pick-up tourists. Negotiate the price with the driver before boarding or use Uber or a similar apps.
Linda Line uses a different harbour but the company is not operating this season.
Helsinki to Tallinn Ferries Comparison
|Company||Ferries||Travel Time||Reliability||Price level|
3 fast ships,
1 big but slower ship
|2h or 3h 30mins||Very reliable||Usually more expensive than competitors|
|Viking Line||Modern, only 1 ship||2h 30mins||Very reliable||Often good offers|
|Eckerö Line||Older but well renovated ship||2h 15mins||Very reliable||Affordable normal rate|
|Linda Line||Small basic ships||1h 30mins||Cancellations in the bad weather||Often cheap, currently not operating|
Where to Book?
There are some third party travel agencies which sell really cheap cruise tickets. Unfortunately their websites are often in Finnish language and fetching the tickets may be a little complicated. Don't be afraid of Finnish pages but use Google Translator or ask us to help. :)
The easiest way to book the ferry tickets from Helsinki to Tallinn is to visit companies' own web pages. All of the companies have often sale campaigns going on but that is rarely told clearly on web pages. It is good to start following prices early to understand what is a good rate.
Are you planning to visit Tallinn but not sure what to do there? Check our article about things to do in Tallinn.
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