Travel Plans – Baltic Trip to Estonia, Finland & Russia
Next week we are off to explore a section of Europe we have yet to travel, the Northeastern Baltic cities of Helsinki, Finland – Tallinn, Estonia and finally Saint Petersburg, Russia. We can’t wait to explore the beauty, culture and unique character of these cities. Even with a late Easter holiday, the temperatures will be cooler but we are ready. The shoulder season should mean smaller crowds and the cities may be a bit quieter, even for a holiday week. Like I posted about earlier this week, it’s a good time for us to travel as expats because most of our friends will be visiting family for the Easter holiday. Here are some of our plans for the week:
We are flying in and out of Helsinki after finding a great fare on FinnAir through SkyScanner. Although we will be touching down in Helsinki, we are spending our first two nights in Estonia, taking the ferry to Tallinn on our first day. The ferry is a really popular way to see two great European capital cities in a long weekend, round trip fare was about $45 per person and we booked online through Direct Ferries.
From what we have researched, Estonia is a very unique country. It’s closest geographically and in shared history to Latvia and Lithuania, the other Baltic Countries, but is generally tied closer with Finland despite 50 years of separation in the Soviet era. Despite its history with Russia, modern Estonia is one of the most economically successful newer European Union countries. Tallinn is said to be full of charm and a mix of modern and medieval – so a fun combination for a unique vibe. We spent a long weekend in Riga, Latvia last year and felt the same style in Riga’s old city.
We have 2 nights booked in Tallinn at a historic hotel in the heart of the Medieval Old City, Hestia Hotel Maestro. For our first day, we have a walking tour booked and, as usual, we booked through GetYourGuide. We are excited to see the walled old city and cobblestone streets as we tour. Tallinn also has great nightlife which we plan to tap into depending on our energy level after traveling. Our second day remains open because we like to ask around the first day to find what locals recommend. For dinner our second night we have a table booked at Rataskaevu 16 which is supposed to be the best restaurant in Tallinn.
We are excited to spend one night in the Finnish capital. From friends who have made similar trips, we are told this is all we need (no offense Helsinki). We’ll take the ferry back across the Gulf of Finland and make our way around the eclectic city. I’ve read it described as “nonmainstream chic” and full of shops and waterfront buildings.
We were recommended to visit the Allas Sea Pool. It’s described as a garden-like oasis in the center of town. It’s near the Market Square and features a large sea swimming pool, saunas and bathing saunas to relax. There is also a restaurant for wine and food.
We booked a Bus tour with audio guide to get a quick and efficient feel for the city. We opted for only one day in Helsinki, so this option suits our needs, even if we normally prefer to see destinations by foot. We are staying at the Scandic Kaisaniemi Hotel and we look forward to the high level of service we know from Scandic. We chose not to make a dinner reservation since we only have one night in town. Our plans already include the Finnish Sauna, bus tour and we were told the live music scene Helsinki is great – so maximum flexibility is needed.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Capping off our Baltic odyssey, we will spend three nights in Saint Petersburg. This is the first visit to Russia for both of us and we can’t wait to be up close and right in the center of beautiful Saint Petersburg.
This port city is the cultural center of Russia, and we are planning to see the opera while visiting. The architecture is supposed to be stunning and more Scandinavian in design than Moscow and interior Russia. We have plans for The Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress and The Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood. A lot of the itinerary we are covering we lifted from our friends Timothy and Danny from tripbytrip.org who did a Baltic Cruise last year and spent two days in Saint Petersburg and gifted quite an insightful blog post (which I have linked).
In Saint Petersburg we are staying at the Royal Radisson Hotel, and they have been fantastic in helping with arranging our visit. To receive a Russian visa, you are required to present paperwork from the hotel in which you are staying and the staff there were helpful, attentive and quick to reply with everything we needed from them for this process.
We have one meal planned so far and that is at Restaurant Gogol, an eatery with a unique concept. The restaurant is inspired by 19th century, Russian author, Nikolai Gogol. He lived in Saint Petersburg from 1828-1836 and wrote fiction novels set in the city during the same period. The motif and atmosphere of the rooms are designed true to the period. There are even actors playing out scenes from Gogol’s work live in the restaurant. We are obviously looking forward to that experience!
Have you been to Tallinn, Helsinki or Saint Petersburg – what are our plans missing? Leave a comment and let us know what to check out!