Travel for 2 cost breakdown (at the time of writing this post):
- GLO Hotel: $160 per night (A Toast the Moon Favorite!!)
- Roundtrip Airfare from San Francisco to Helsinki (1-stop): $550 pp
- Food/Entertainment/Transportation/Souvenirs: $1000
- GRAND TOTAL FOR 2 TRAVELERS – 4 days: $2740
***At this time, we are not endorsed by any outside affiliates. That said – when booking our trips, we have had a lot of success with Hotels.com, Skyskanner, and Tripmasters.
Booking a trip to Finland and Estonia (as well as most of the EU) is easy for Americans! The US passport allows US citizens to enter the EU visa-free for up to 90 days. You will be free to roam all Schengen Area countries (including Germany, France, Italy, The Czech Republic, Belgium, Denmark, and more). All you need is a US passport, flights, and accommodations and you’re good to go!
The Glo Hotel – GORGEOUS!!
Finland – a Land Foreign and Familiar
I didn’t know a lot about Finland when planning this trip. It was the third leg of our Scandinavian tour, and I was torn between Bergen, Norway and Helsinki. When I learned that we could easily get to Tallinn, Estonia for a day-trip from Helsinki, the deal was sealed. Next time, Norway…next time!
Finland is known for it’s toughness, it’s Lapland, it’s cuisine of reindeer and bear, it’s strength, it’s alcohol. It’s a place where macho is a sport – world sauna competitions to see who can withstand the hottest heat and then jump into the coldest water, where 20 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures warrant shorts and t-shirts, where throughout their history they have fended off constant attacks from Germany, The Soviet Union, Russia, and Sweden. To describe the Finnish people as tough and resilient seems like an understatement.
On the softer hand, Finland was voted the “happiest” country in the world according to the World Happiness Report in both 2018 and 2019. It boasts one of the top education systems. It has built wealth with science and design, but has also fostered some of the best artists and musicians of the past century. It provides one of the strongest health care systems in the world and its citizens have an average life expectancy of 81.5 years old!
Finland is a place where you are asked to find your roots. Ancient man calls to you with fierce temperatures, rugged environments, the untamed Lapland, and wild game. And maybe because of this wilderness, the people have a more grounded, and therefore happier existence. A wise soul… If you’re curious to learn more, I recommend this book: The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen
What We Did
Helsinki isn’t a huge city, but there is plenty to see and do! And, most of it can be accomplished on-foot! Just take shoes with excellent soles…Mine didn’t make the cut and were buried on our last day in Helsinki…
We visited the Market Square, the Rock Church, Sibelius Monument and Park, Uspensky Cathedral, Finlandia Hall, Kiasma (Museum of Contemporary Art), The Central Station, The Design District, and the Design Museum Helsinki.
And, the food was incredible. There is definitely a hunter/gatherer vibe in the traditional food. And, if you have the opportunity to try traditional Lapland delicacies – do it! We really enjoyed Saaga, the Market Hall, Recatta near the water in Sibelius Park, and Hakaniemi Food Hall.
Tallinn – Time Stands Still
Tallinn, Estonia is a medieval walled city. Like most walled cities in Europe, it is primarily a tourist-destination. However, outside the walls is a vibrant and bustling modern city. In fact, you can thank Tallinn for the introduction of robotic bartenders (Yanu) and Taxify transportation solutions. But, inside the walls, time has stood still for 800 years.
Since tourism is a big piece of Tallinn’s economy, you can expect to see friendly faces dressed in medieval garb speaking in traditional medieval Estonian (or Olde-English!). They scoff at cell phones, declare that bank cards are some kind of black magic payment, and generally have tons of fun with their visitors from the “future.”
What We Did
We only had a day in Tallinn, since we took the Tallink Ferry from Helsinki (around 2 hours each way). The ferry was much more like a cruise than a traditional ferry. There were restaurants, bars, casinos, a mall, and entertainment. You could even book a private room if you wish to sleep during the voyage. As for us, we had far too much fun exploring the decks and looking at the views of the beautiful Gulf of Finland/Baltic Sea. If you plan to use the Tallink Ferry, I will give you a tip. If you can navigate the Finnish version of the website, the prices are much cheaper than they are in English. 😉
Upon arrival, we raced to St. Olav’s Church where we climbed the 232 uneven, narrow, and unbalustered (I know, I made up a word. It works, doesn’t it?) stairs. I’ve climbed many stairs in many a countries, and I’ve never been more terrified. It’s definitely worth it to say that you did it and to enjoy those city views, but beware. You will get vertigo and you will feel like you are going to fall down stone stairs at any moment to your certain demise. But, my 60 year old mother and her friend did it – so you can, too!
We explored the old-city center, went shopping, and throughly enjoyed all of the fare and experiences of Olde Hansa Restaurant and Store. This was a simply delightful destination!
Toast the Moon Rating:
- Food and Drink: 9/10
- Culture/Locals: 10/10
- Things to Do: 9/10
- Adventure Opportunities: 10/10
- Cost: 9/10
- Total: 9.4/10 – Kippis and Terviseks!
Enjoy your adventure!
Toast the Moon – Cheers,
Noah and Majhon