At the beginning of Spring my boyfriend had the excellent idea of taking me for a romantic break across the Baltic to the medieval city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. He had never been there, and had been reading our Baltic neighbour was celebrating its centenary, marking one hundred years of the Republic of Estonia.
The tickets were booked online in a matter of minutes, and the following morning we caught the tram to Helsinki’s West Harbour to board the Tallink Megastar. It left at the very reasonable time of 10:30, and arrived at 12:30, scheduled to begin the return journey at 19:30, which gave us over 6 hours to explore this marvelous, historic city.
The Megastar itself was a revelation; it is the pride of the Tallink line, an LNG powered fast ferry and Tallink’s newest ship. It features the largest shopping mall on the Baltic Sea – the Traveller Superstore, which occupies 2,800 m2, packed with stores selling brand name perfumes, cosmetics, delicacies and candies, souvenirs, and the variety of wines, beer, spirits, and tobacco products. We had booked us into the Business Lounge, where we spent the outgoing journey relaxing in comfort.
Bubbly Breakfast on the Megastar
This was my first time travelling in the Business Lounge, and it was certainly as luxurious as I could have anticipated. A spacious area styled in Nordic chic, the broad windows give an excellent view over the front of the ship. The breakfast buffet on offer was delicious, and came with free drinks, so we treated ourselves to a glass of bubbly to set the mood.
After the lovely breakfast we further explored the ship, noting that there were some very good dining choices available, the Delight Buffet looking particularly enticing. It would have to wait for the return journey as we had already eaten in the Business Lounge. We arrived at the Sea Pub at the opposite end of the ship, having passed through the elegant Victory Bar, and sat outside to have another drink and enjoy the view of sea ice bobbing on the waves in our wake. Although it was still chilly outside, the terrace was comfortably heated – it’s like a garden! The two-hour journey passed in no time, and soon we were watching as the city of Tallinn loomed into view.
Tallinn – A Medieval and Modern City
Having disembarked, we began the relatively short walk from the terminal to Tallinn’s famous Old Town, making our way up the cobbled streets to the Patkuli viewing platform. Anyone who has looked at a postcard from Tallinn was probably looking at an image taken from this vantage point, easily the best in the city. The view is over the Old Town’s castle walls and towers, to the distinctive spires of St. Olav’s Church, and on to the busy harbour area and the Baltic Sea.
We descended a narrow flight of stone steps, and made our way through quaint narrow streets with old buildings of varying styles packed against one another. Our next stop was Café Maiasmokk, the oldest café in the city which still retains its delightful, pre-war interior. A popular café, it was packed downstairs so we made our way to the upstairs section where we had a delicious lunch followed by coffee and pastries.
Rested and re-caffeinated, we left the café and stepped across the road to learn more about Estonian history in the 15th century Great Guild Hall, which is home to the Estonian History Museum. This spectacular relic of Tallinn’s past belonged to the Great Guild, whose members controlled the Town Council, and in the cellar rooms we learned the history of the building in an exhibit called ‘Power of the Elite’. Other interesting exhibits included the history of coins in Estonia and the weapons chamber. In Börsi käik, the narrow passageway that runs alongside the building, a ‘Road of History’ exhibit highlights the most important events of Estonia’s past.
We continued our explorations through the Old Town, eventually arriving at the modern Viru centre in the new part of the city where we spent some time shopping and browsing, before making our way towards the harbour. This took us through the Rotermann Quarter, a 21st area of avant-garde architecture housing bars and shops. The Flamm Flammkuchen wine bar looked interesting, so we stopped in to savour a nice glass of wine, and watch the passersby.
Delight Buffet – A Feast of Flavours
Back on board the Megastar we headed directly to the Delight Buffet in the fore part of the ship, where there was a Swedish style smörgåsbord available, with a tantalising selection of hot and cold plates, with soft drinks, coffee, tea, beer and wine included in the price of the meal.
Having eaten, we took a walk down to the Travellers Superstore to have a look for bargains. Prices there were considerably lower than in Finland, and we took advantage by getting some fine wines, before I checked out the cosmetics section. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all the top brands were available for low prices, with plenty of special offers to entice me. From there we returned once more to the Business Lounge to relax with another glass of wine until the ship docked once again in Helsinki.
Taking the Megastar from Helsinki to Tallinn is an excellent day trip, with the short journey of two hours giving visitors plenty of time to explore this marvelous medieval city. As our own day out was meant to be a romantic break, the upgrade to the elegant and spacious Business Lounge was perfect, and my boyfriend said it was very affordable and great value for anyone looking to make the journey that bit more special. The services on board the ship are top class, with a wide range of restaurants and bars to choose from, while the shopping experience was as pleasant as it could possibly be.
To get to the Tallink terminal couldn’t be easier, as both the 6T and the 7 trams arrive right outside the main entrance of the West Terminal 2, and can be caught from their stops outside Helsinki Central Railway station, with a journey time of around 15 minutes. The 2017 opened modern West Terminal 2 features huge glass walls with a breathtaking view of the sea and offers a whole new level of travel comfort and convenience.