Last week, a friend and I spontaneously booked ourselves on a trip to Helsinki for the weekend, which would then extend to Tallinn, for a day in the Estonian capital. However a storm called ‘Sven’ which swept through Denmark and Sweden on Thursday looked to be inhibiting our travel plans as we were due to fly from Copenhagen to Helsinki on Friday afternoon.
On Thursday night I kept tabs on the storm, regularly checking Copenhagen airport’s website, which was regularly crashing. I was put at ease by the excellent cooking of Johannes Snr who cooked a few of us a traditional German meal on Thursday.
Copenhagen airport had been closed until 6am on Friday morning and train services from Lund to the airport were not running until 12. However, Johannes Jnr and I met at the station feeling optimistic. However, the electronic boards were full of disappointment. There were no trains running from Lund until around 13.30. The airport was 45 minutes away and our flight was at 14.50. Waiting would be cutting it extremely fine if our flight was to take-off on time.
Plan B. Take 2 buses to Malmö central station and get the train to Copenhagen airport from there. 4 buses later (we accidentally got on a bus in the wrong direction) and one train journey later, we arrived at Copenhagen airport just after 1pm. After passing through security, it became apparent that our flight had been delayed by an hour so we tucked into some lunch and looked out onto the runway. This also gave me the first opportunity to test out my new camera.
Our flight eventually took off just after 4pm, and with the time difference, we landed in Helsinki at around 7pm. We made our way through the city to our hostel in the south-east, walking past the famous Helsinki Cathedral, and Uspenski Cathedral, pictured below.
After checking into the hostel, we ventured out in search of somewhere to relax and have a drink, and we stumbled upon this great, albeit expensive, place called ‘Beer House’, but went back to the hostel early, in preparation for a long day coming up.
We woke up extremely early on Saturday morning (5.20am to be precise) and boarded the first ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, and pulled into Tallinn harbour as the sun was rising, and snow continued to fall as we made our way to the old town, passing through Viru Gate, the main entrance to the old medieval town.
A short walk from Viru Gate is the Town Hall, and the adjacent main square with lots of market stalls. We looked round the main square and had some glögg (mulled wine) to warm ourselves up as the temperature was consistently below freezing. Close to here is Kiek in de Kök, a 15th century artillery tower, and the 13th century St Nicholas’ church.
We then found a nice little café in the heart of the old town. Scrambled eggs and a large coffee was just what was needed for a long day ahead. Tallinn is a great city to experience some fantastic panoramic city views, and the Neitsitorn Kohvik museum gave us the first opportunity. Close by is Toompea Castle which houses the Parliament of Estonia and opposite Parliament is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – unfortunately photography was forbidden inside but it was probably the most beautiful cathedral I’ve set foot in.
Our attention then turned to another panoramic view over the city, from where you can see a number of churches, the distinct red architecture, as well as the harbour in the background. The wall reads “The Times we had” creating a cool picture for tourists to take away with them.
Hungry from our adventures, we returned to the café that we had eaten breakfast at, and we treated ourselves to some traditional Estonian food (roast pork with potatoes and sauerkraut), and an Estonian beer. Following our lunch, we spent more time in the main square (I bought a rather dashing Christmas hat), and admired the popular St Olav’s church. As the sun began to set and snow flurries became more common, we got the ferry back to Helsinki and settled in a bar for the evening, before heading back to the hostel early in the evening as another early start was upon us.
On Sunday, we woke up early again and indulged ourselves in the morning sauna, which was included in the price of the hostel. This set us up perfectly for the day. We left the hostel around 7am and boarded a ferry to the island of Suomenlinna, a sea fortress off the coast of Helsinki, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We spent the early hours of the morning before sunrise exploring the island by foot, before heading back to mainland Helsinki.
In the late morning, we had a coffee break in a nice little café opposite Helsinki Cathedral, and had a look round Senate Square, the main tourist hotspot in Helsinki.
A short walk from here is the Uspenski cathedral, and we then took the tram to Temppeliaukio Church, also known as Church of the Rock, since the late-20th century church was built directly out of solid rock.
We then jumped back on the tram and ventured north to the Helsinki Olympic stadium, the central venue of the 1952 Summer Olympic Games. For 3€, you can get a lift to the top of the tower overlooking the stadium, which stands at almost 250ft and looks out over the city.
We then boarded another tram back to Helsinki Cathedral in order to see its interior, and before we knew it, It was time to get a bus to the airport and fly back home. Thankfully the journey back from the airport was far simpler than the journey on Friday; Lund was just a train ride away, and then it was time for me to catch up on some much-needed sleep after a great weekend.