As the long weekend was approaching, I was set on chasing some Easter sun. As it turns out, so was everyone else and prices to anywhere semi warm were exorbitant. Plan B? Finland & Estonia!
Finland was the only Nordic country I had left to visit. I spent 2.5 days in Helsinki and loved it. It’s quite small, so a perfect weekend trip.
It was still off-season so hotels were cheap. I took advantage of a “secret deal” and stayed 4-star hotel for a great price. The Scandic Hotel Grand Marina was in a good location and had a decent sized room and friendly staff. Even though it was April, it was still super chilly in Helsinki and snowed one of the days I was there. I love walkable cities and Helsinki is nice and compact so it’s easy to hit all of the sites on foot.
I visited museums, art galleries, parks, shopping malls and met a friend of a friend, who’s a Finnish local and she showed me around the city, and we capped off the afternoon watching the sunset at Ateljee Bar.
My favourite experience in Helsinki was walking down to Loyly, a relatively new urban oasis, focusing on something that is very important to the Finnish – saunas! Loyly explain on their website:
“Sauna bathing is an essential part of Finnish culture and national identity. There are only 5,4 million Finns but 3,3 million saunas. Public saunas used to be common in bigger cities but now that most new apartments have a sauna of their own, public saunas have decreased dramatically in number. There are only a couple remaining. As a sense of community is becoming a more and more important part of the new urban culture, many new public saunas are being planned. With Löyly (meaning the steam that comes when you throw water on hot stones in a sauna) Helsinki will offer foreign visitors a public sauna experience all year round – a must when visiting Finland.”
I booked a space, and spent the next two hours going between very hot saunas, and then jumping in the sub-zero ocean, and repeating the process. It was equal parts scary and invigorating and a great way to spend the afternoon.
Like all Nordic countries, Finland is quite pricey and after a couple of days, I was happy to take the 2-hour boat ride across to Tallinn, Estonia. I first went to Tallinn with Brad on our Scarlett Adventure Tour in 2015 and absolutely loved it. After a very chilled, solitude filled time in Helsinki, Tallinn was about staying in a hostel and mingling with locals and other travellers. It was the Easter weekend so there were plenty of people out and about. It was freezing in Tallinn as well but that just means you can have lots of warming food and drinks, right?!
Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best in Europe and you can spend ages wandering around and getting lots in the cobbled stoned streets. I did a walking tour and found out a lot of great facts about the city and the country (mainly that they consider themselves part of the Nordics, not Eastern Europe!) and have a thriving tech scene. They’ve taking to calling them E-Estonia and without a doubt and leading the way on how to be a digital republic. I am truly fascinated by this but so I don’t ramble to much some quick super cool facts are:
- Skype was invented in Estonia
- Transferwise was created by two Estonians living in London
- Everything is signed digitally and all Government services are purely online
For more info on how Estonia are completely rocking the digital era, read this great article.
I went on a super fun pub crawl while I was there, lost my phone and wallet in a massive club, yet someone handed it in to the barman, who gave it to me on my way out (I am forever indebted!) and met some awesome people. The food, the history, the people and the vibes in Tallinn are amazing and you absolutely HAVE TO VISIT!