Just starting initial planning for Scandinavia trip. This will be 7th RS Tour, so we know the format. Really like going early and doing independent travel and then joining tour. Prefer to return home after tour rather than extend at the end. Never been to northern Europe. Considering flying in to Helsinki and ultimately going by ferry to Stockholm. Open to going 3 to 5 days early before the tour starts? Open to suggestions from you experts out there?
I think Helsinki is a fine idea. With 4-5 days, I'd add a couple of nights in Tallinn. You can start in Helsinki, then ferry to Tallinn, then direct ferry from Tallinn to Stockholm to begin your tour.
There's also much to be said for adding a few days to Stockholm at the beginning. The RS tour only has 2 nights there, and there's plenty more to see than the tour gives you time for.
Great suggestions. How long are the ferry rides? Overnight?
My husband and I took the RS Best of Scandinavia tour in 2016. We flew into Helsinki a week early, spent 3 nights there, then took the ferry to Tallinn, spent 2 nights there, then took the overnight ferry Stockholm. We arrived in Stockholm one day before the tour began. It was really nice doing a week on our own before starting the tour.
Helsinki to Tallin 2 Hr (Hydrofoil is faster)
Tallin to Stockholm 15.5 Hr
Helsinki to Stockholm 16+ Hr
Helsinki is a nice city to recover after an overnight flight. Walkable with transit services available. Suomenlinna is a nice place to walk about enjoying the outdoors after a night on the plane.
If you plan a couple of days in Helsinki you have a time cushion for delayed flights etc.
We visited Helsinki and Tallinn as part of a RS tour. We flew into Helsinki and spent our recovery night at the airport Hilton which is just steps away. We booked an Executive room which provided major relaxation perks including an in- room sauna, complimentary cocktails/ canapés and breakfast.
We took the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn to meet our tour. . It is only a couple of hours. The ferries are like small cruise ships with restaurants, shops etc. We loved Tallinn and regret that we didn't arrive a few days earlier. The history ( previously unknown to us) is fascinating and well- represented at the Museum of Occupations. http://www.okupatsioon.ee/index.php/et/. The Old Town of Tallinn is charming and you can watch artisans weaving or making glass. Well worth a couple of days and you might consider booking a local guide so you get truly comprehensive info about this amazing country. We stayed at the My City hotel ( modern and clean) which was a good location for exploring the old town area. Basic breakfast was included.
We thought Helsinki was okay, but two days was enough for us. The two highlights were the Suemolinna Fortress which is not to be missed. http://www.suomenlinna.fi/en/. The other highlight was watching the hordes of students at the annual sit-sit at the base of the Lutheran Cathedral. http://blogs.helsinki.fi/esn-hyy/finnish-student-life/sitsit/. We stayed the Hotel Rivoli. It was a good location, clean albeit small rooms and an excellent included breakfast.
The Scandinavia tour is high on our list for next year as well. It sounds active enough that doing extra days before the tour starts is probably the best strategy.
I went to Helsinki and Tallinn with my sister in May, and it was a great experience. We stayed at Hotelli Finn (recommended in the RS Scandinavia book) for a few nights and it was central to just about everything. It was a short bus ride from the airport, about 25-30 minutes, and was walkable to the train station, shopping, dining, and the harbor. Just the perfect location if you're looking for a central location, and the staff was very helpful and gave great suggestions on where to eat and things to do. All of the signs are in Finnish and Swedish, both of which I don't speak, but everyone that we met was incredibly friendly and completely fluent in English and willing to help out.
We took a day trip to Tallinn, and I wish we could have stayed longer to explore the historic city. Again, we followed the Rick Steves book suggestions and did the walking tour of Old Town Tallinn, which was absolutely beautiful. We booked the ferry over to Tallinn in advance so that we just walked onto the boat and had a very easy experience with that.
We also went to Stockholm, but we decided to take a flight instead of the ferry. We did it strictly for time constraints, because it was an overnight ferry vs a 1.5 hour flight (if that, it's been a while and I don't remember exactly.)
I would highly recommend going early before the tour to explore. The cities are beautiful, clean, and friendly, and well worth a few days.
Thank you! Everyone has been so very helpful. We plan to spend two nights in Helsinki and two nights and Tallinn and then one night on the ferry to Stockholm. Great suggestions!