Tuesday, 7 February 2017

How to do Lapland on a Budget & Make it Feel Like Anything But! (Part 4) Helsinki & A Magical Day Trip to Tallinn



We may have spent our last day in Rovaniemi but we’re not finished with Finland yet! This week I’ll tell you all about our visit to Helsinki & our day trip to Tallinn in Estonia. I’d highly recommend doing both as they cost relatively little, while you’re already in that part of the world you might as well see as much as you can.


Overnight Train Rovaniemi to Helsinki:

We boarded the VR overnight train at 20 to 6 in plenty of time for our 6:03pm departure time. We visited the supermarket to stock up on supplies for the return trip but we decided to have dinner in the dining carriage anyway as the Spaghetti Carbonara looked & smelt delicious. Priced at just €10 the portions were huge so the children shared one dish between two. Afterwards we had our own drinks and desserts that I had bought in the supermarket saving us about €30 on train prices. We skipped the free porridge for breakfast & treated the children to a McDonald’s breakfast when we arrived in Helsinki at 7am.






Where to stay in Helsinki:

If you’re travelling on a budget or you’ve a large family like we do Airbnb should be your best friend. I found this (https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/13810669) lovely Airbnb just outside central Helsinki for just €172 for 7 of us for 3 nights but we only paid €137 for our stay as I earned €35 for referring someone to Airbnb. The bus runs in a loop from outside the train station to outside Anne’s apartment every 30 minutes or so & it’s only a 15 minute journey. Anne was lovely to deal with and we had everything we needed in her pristine apartment for our 3 night stay.




 What to do in Helsinki:

There really is a lot to do in Helsinki with kids, with thanks to Visit Helsinki we received 72 hour Helsinki Cards so we could cram in as much as possible during our short visit. With the Helsinki Card you can avail of free public transport, free entry to a variety of museums, discounted food, drink and shopping even discounted ferry crossing to Tallinn. 72 hour cards are priced €64 for adults and €32 for children aged 7-16. Under 7’s don’t need a card as they already avail of free public transport in Helsinki and free entry to most museums.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see everywhere we wanted as our 5 year old Cillian caught a 24 hour bug on the train. We did however get to see the fabulous Christmas Market, ice skate at the train station, join a sightseeing tour bus, Ateneum Art Museum and a visit to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress including a visit to the Toy Museum and Military Museum. We missed out on the Natural History Museum, the Zoo & Children’s Town so they’re top of our list for next year.
Helsinki is really easy to navigate and getting around couldn’t be easier just hop on tram numbers 2 or 3 as they circle the city so they’ll get you to where you need to go. Make sure to visit the tourist information office on Pohjoisesplanadi 19 for information and some handy maps, we made great use of a day in Helsinki & Helsinki for kids maps.  





Kovanen:

A couple of weeks ago I told you about Kovanen providing us with complimentary VIP transport from Helsinki Airport to the train station and it was faultless so we decided to book them again for our early morning transport from our Airbnb to the Ferry terminal. We called them on their 24 hour customer care line and booked it at8pm the night before for 7am the following morning. The service was fantastic and cheaper than most other taxi companies. It cost us just €17 for the 7 of us whereas during our stay we hailed a cab at the train station and paid €23 for a shorter journey.





Ferry Crossing to Tallinn:

In my post last September when I was pricing this trip I told you about Tallink Silja as they allowed us the most amount of time ashore in Estonia. I had priced it at €117 for 2 adults, 4 children and 1 infant return. Tallink Silja very kindly gave us complimentary ferry crossing and upgraded us to comfort class, it’s something I probably wouldn’t have thought about doing as it’s priced at €20pp (under 5’s are free). I’m really glad they did as Comfort Class entitles you to sit in a segregated area on the ferry with amazing views of the Baltic Sea; you also avail of complimentary refreshments, snacks, newspapers and WiFi. We’ll definitely be purchasing Comfort Class next year when we return as at that time of the year the ferries were really full so it was great to be able to have a bit of privacy and extra room with the children for the 2 hour crossing.

We went over to Estonia on the Tallink Star 7:30am ferry and it was fabulous very sleek and modern with lots of shops that were very affordable. It even had a Burger King on board so there’s plenty of choice for food. We ventured outside on deck but it was Baltic so we made a quick retreat! We boarded Tallink Superstar for our return trip at 8:30pm it was bigger than Tallink Star, there was live music in the huge bar & auditorium at the rear of the ferry. There were lots of dining options on this ferry too with a buffet, sandwich bar, burger bar and a sit down restaurant there’s something for everyone’s taste buds. Our youngest boys had a great time in the play area. We bought a few toys and a couple of bottles of wine in the duty free on the way back as prices were great as did most of the ship as they duty free alcohol all but sold out! We checked in online 24 hours before we set sail and I found it really useful that we didn’t have to print boarding passes, I just downloaded them to my phone when I had WiFi.





Tallinn Estonia



Seaplane Harbour:

When we arrived in the ferry port there were plenty of taxi’s available so we hopped in one costing us €10 to take us to Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour Museum. We absolutely loved this museum. We could’ve easily spent the whole day there. They’re very child orientated with loads of activities such as flight, torpedo and machine gun simulators. Children can drive remote controlled boats and even dress up in one of the many military uniforms and have their picture taken at a green screen so you can choose your background. We learned lots about submarines, seaplanes, icebreakers and even got to see a 16th century ship that was on display. We received complimentary admission to this museum tickets are priced at €28 for a family pass or €32 for a family pass to both Seaplane Harbour and Fat Margaret Museum.




Fat Margaret:

We realised we could walk between these museums so we did just that and strolled 15 minutes to Fat Margaret Maritime Museum as we had also received complimentary tickets for this museum. The museum is spread out over four floors with exhibitions such as a captain’s cabin, a schooner mast complete with sails an early diving suit and over a hundred magnificent model ships but our little ones favourite part was the Viking era treasures from Estonia. If you do visit don’t forget to go out on the roof for an unhindered view out over the rooftops of Tallinn.





Tallinn Christmas Markets:

Located in the Old Town Hall Square Tallinn Christmas Market is small but picture perfect. It’s the oldest capital city in Northern Europe and dating back to 1441 it’s the first place in Europe to have a decorated Christmas tree on display. We spent a wonderful few hours buying sweets, gifts and trinkets at some of the many stalls. I only wish we’d booked an overnight stay so we could explore some more as Tallinn is so beautiful. We had dinner in one of the restaurants dotted around the square before having a last look in the market before walking back to the ferry port to catch the ferry to Helsinki.   


Check back next week when I’ll conclude our Lapland posts with a rundown of what we wore & where I bought our ski wear hopefully saving you a few Euro!

*At the time of publishing today another Dad contacted me to say he's successfully booked Lapland using my tips. That brings our total to 71 families, SEVENTY ONE! I can't tell you how much it means to feel like I've helped to that extent. If you've ever used my tips or posts as a push to book your own holiday, I would genuinely LOVE to hear from you. It makes every minute of documenting our trips worth it*



If you’re new to Airbnb & would like €30 towards your first trip you can use my link below to claim your credit, I’ll also receive €30 for my travels that I'll blog about, so it’s win/win!! www.airbnb.ie/c/corrinas11

*** Disclaimer: As advised above we received a complimentary Helsinki Cards from Visit Helsinki, complimentary ferry crossing courtesy of Tallink Silja and tickets into both Fat Margaret and the Seaplane Museum. As usual all thoughts are my own, I was not asked to write this review. As ever, neither free services nor payment would ever sway my opinion. ***
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