Taking the ferry to Helsinki...

Helsinki bound!  Sailing out of Stockholm past all the islands on the cruise ferry to Helsinki...  Courtesy of Michael Herbert & Bernadette Hyland

UK to Finland without flying...

It's easy to travel from London to Helsinki by train and ferry, a wonderful 3-day 2-night journey across Scandinavia with a lot to see on the way.  It's a great alternative to an unnecessary flight.  On this page you'll find a step-by-step guide to planning, booking & making a journey from the UK to Finland by train or ferry, with train & ferry timetables, approximate fares, and the best way to buy tickets.

COVID-19 update Trains are running between the UK & continental Europe.  Eurostar is running a much-reduced service, check times online.  Beyond Paris & Brussels, there are some service reductions, but train service is much closer to normal.  Copenhagen-Stockholm currently requires a change in Malmo as direct trains are temporarily suspended.  See COVID-19 travel information.

Train times, fares & tickets...

small bullet point  Which route should you choose?

small bullet point  UK to Scandinavia route map

small bullet point  London to Helsinki via ferry from Stockholm

small bullet point  London to Helsinki via ferry from Travemünde

small bullet point  Train travel in Finland: Night Train to Lapland...

small bullet point  Helsinki to other European cities by train or ferry

small bullet point  Other European cities to Helsinki by train or ferry

small bullet point  Helsinki to St Petersburg & Moscow by train


large bullet pointUseful country information

Train operator in Finland:

 

VR, www.vr.fi for train times & fares within Finland.

Trains between Helsinki & Moscow

Trains between Helsinki & St Petersburg

Ferries to Finland:

 

www.tallinksilja.com & www.vikingline.fi (Stockholm to Turku & Helsinki)

www.finnlines.com (Germany to Helsinki)

Railpasses:

 

Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online

Time zone & dialling code:  

 

GMT+2 (GMT+3 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).  Dial code +358.

Currency:

 

£1 = approx 1.11 euros  Check current exchange rates

Tourist information:

 

www.visitfinland.com.  Helsinki metro, bus, tram info: www.hsl.fi.

Page last updated:

 

1 December 2020. Train times valid 15 Dec 2019 to 12 Dec 2020.


large bullet pointWhich route should you choose?

There are several good options for reaching Finland in comfort without flying:

Interactive map:  London to Helsinki by train & ferry

...click on a route for train & ferry times from the UK, and how to buy tickets.

Route map London to Helsinki by train Key - Finland via ferry from Germany Key - via Harwich-Hoek Key - via Eurostar Via the Harwich-Hoek ferry Train travel in Sweden Train travel in Norway Train travel in Finland Travemunde to Helsinki by ferry Helsinki-St Petersburg by train Ferries to Tallinn Stockholm-Riga by ferry Stockholm-Helsinki by ferry London-Norway via Hirtshals London to Oslo by train London-Sweden by train London-Copenhagen by train


large bullet pointLondon to Helsinki via Stockholm

This is the fastest option, with daily departures.  You travel from London to Hamburg by Eurostar & onward trains on day 1, stay overnight in Hamburg, then travel from Hamburg to Stockholm on day 2.  Take a bottle of wine and a good book, and enjoy a 2-day train ride across Europe on modern & comfortable trains with not an airport security queue in sight.  Stay overnight in Stockholm and take the daytime ferry+train service to Helsinki next day.  Or spend the day in Stockholm and take the overnight cruise ferry to Helsinki with a comfortable en suite cabin reserved.  What's the journey like?  Note that the Cologne to Copenhagen sleeper train was discontinued in 2014.

London ► Helsinki

Helsinki ► London

How much does it cost?

  Helsinki station
 

Above:  Helsinki's beautiful art nouveau station, by famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen.

Photo courtesy of Adrian Tanovic

How to buy tickets...

How to buy tickets by phone...

Let Railbookers arrange it...

What's the journey like?

1. London to Brussels by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Brussels in just 2 hours, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide.  Brussels Midi station guide & short cut for changing trains in Brussels.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

Standard Premier/Business Premier.  Larger photo.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Brussels to Cologne by ICE3...

Germany's superb ICEs have a bistro-restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  In 1st class, bistro orders are taken at your seat.  50 minutes after leaving Brussels the ICE calls at Liège, where you can admire the impressive station designed by celebrity architect Santiago Calatrava.  As you approach Cologne Hbf you'll see the twin towers of Cologne Cathedral on the right, next to the station.  More information about ICE3 Brussels Midi station guideCologne Hbf station guide.

ICE3M to Cologne & Frankfurt, boarding at Brussels Midi

An ICE3M to Cologne at Brussels Midi.  More information about ICE Advice on changing trains in Brussels.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china & metal cutlery...  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier! See  current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant on an ICE3M...  Larger photo.

3. Cologne to Hamburg by Intercity train...

Germany Intercity trains travel at up to 200km/h (120mph), with power sockets at all seats and a bistro car serving tea, coffee, wine, beer, snacks and hot dishes.  On the Cologne to Hamburg route you'll find some departures are operated by high-speed ICEs (usually ICE1) rather than Intercity trains, although the ICEs are no faster than ICs on this section of line.  More information about Intercity trainsHamburg Hbf station guide.

A DB InterCity train

A German Intercity train.  More information about Intercity trains.

Beef ribs and Spatburgunder red wine on the Amsterdam to Berlin InterCity train   Inside the Amsterdam to Berlin bistro car

Dinner in the bistro.  The beef ribs were delicious...

 

Bistro car.  See current month's menu...

2nd clas seats on a DB Intercity train

2nd class seating is usually in open-plan saloons like this, most seats unidirectional, but with some tables for 4.  Sometimes you'll find 2nd class compartment cars with side corridor and ten 6-seat compartments  Larger photo.

4. Hamburg to Copenhagen by Intercity train

Hamburg-Copenhagen trains are operated by Danish IC3 trains like this, shown in the timetable as IC for Intercity See more photos, tips & information about the Hamburg to Copenhagen journey.

Hamburg-Copenhagen train at Hamburg Hbf

The late afternoon Hamburg-Copenhagen IC3 leaving platform 5 at Hamburg Hbf on a busy summer day.  The yellow stripe above the windows indicates first class, located at one end of both 3-car units.  More information about the Hamburg-Copenhagen journey.

A Danish IC3 train at Copenhagen station...   1st class seats on an IC3 train from Hamburg to Copenhagen

Boarding a Danish IC3 train at Hamburg Hbf...

 

1st class seats on an IC3 train.  Larger photo.

2nd class seats on an IC3 train from Hamburg to Copenhagen   A Danish IC3 train at Copenhagen station...

2nd class seats on a IC3 train.  Larger photo.

 

An IC3 train to Copenhagen at Hamburg.

5. Copenhagen to Stockholm by X2000

These Swedish 200km/h (125mph) tilting trains link Copenhagen & Stockholm in just a few hours, centre to centre.  They cross from Denmark to Sweden over the Oresund Link, a combined tunnel and bridge.  On the bridge section you seem to be flying just feet above the water... More information about X2000

125 mph tilting 'SJ2000' from Copenhagen to Stockholm, at Copenhagen station SJ2000 2nd class seats

A Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train boarding at Copenhagen main station...

 

2nd class seats on an X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm.

SJ2000 train   SJ2000 buffet car seating area   SJ2000 self-service buffet car.

X2000 bistro car...

 

X2000 bistro car seating area...

 

Bistro self-service...

Winter scenery from a Copenhagen-Stockholm train

Winter scenery from a train between Copenhagen & Stockholm. Courtesy of Radoslav Sharapanov

6. Stockholm to Turku by cruise ferry & train to Helsinki...

Viking Line ferry from Stockholm to Turku in Finland   2-berth cabin with shower on board the ferry   The connecting train from Turku to Helsinki

The Viking Line ferry from Stockholm to Turku.  Silja line operate a competing ferry.  These  photos courtesy of Matthew Philips

 

2-berth cabin on the cruise ferry to Finland...

 

The InterCity boat train from Turku Harbour to Helsinki is a double-deck InterCity train. Note the children's play area!

Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Turku

The Silja Line ferry:  Competing with Viking Line with almost identical timings and the same train connection to Helsinki, Silja's Galaxy sails out of Stockholm bound for Turku.  Courtesy Jeremy Nicholls.

...or Stockholm to Helsinki by direct overnight cruise ferry.

Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki   Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki

The Stockholm-Helsinki overnight ferry...  Sail direct from Stockholm to Helsinki by overnight luxury ferry, a true floating hotel.  Two operators, Silja Line & Viking Line compete with almost identical timings.  Above, the massive Silja Symphony towers over the Silja Line terminal in Helsinki.  Photos courtesy of Discoverbyrail.com

Viking Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki

Viking Line's Gabriela sails out of Stockholm en route to Helsinki.  Courtesy Jeremy Nicholls.

Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki

Near midnight, the Silja Serenade sails past the Åland islands en route from Stockholm to Helsinki.  Courtesy Jeremy Nicholls.

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large bullet pointLondon-Helsinki via Travemünde

  Finnlines ferry from Travemunde to Helsinki

Don't fly to Finland, cruise there!  A Finnlines Travemunde-Helsinki Star class ferry.  Below:  A cabin on the Finnlines ferry.

Photos courtesy of www.finnlines.com

  Cabin on the Finnlines ferry from Travemunde to Helsinki
   

This leisurely option runs every day and takes 3 nights outward to Helsinki, just 2 nights inward back to London.  In the outward direction it includes a day at leisure exploring Hamburg, too.  Take a morning Eurostar to Brussels and onward trains to Hamburg, and stay overnight.  After a day exploring Hamburg, transfer by local train to Travemünde on Germany's Baltic coast, then take the daily Finnlines ferry from Travemünde to Helsinki, a 2-night cruise.  This route is shown on the route map above in red between London & Hamburg and in dark blue between Hamburg & Helsinki.

London ► Helsinki

Helsinki ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

It takes several websites so it's best to try a dry-run on all of them first to check prices and availability before booking for real.  Here's how it's done:

How to buy tickets by phone...

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large bullet pointTrain travel within Finland

How to check train times & buy tickets for Finland...

It's easy to check Finnish train times and buy tickets online at the Finnish Railways site www.vr.fi, for English click EN  top right.  Bookings now open up to 130 days in advance, and you may find it goes offline from 01:30 to 04:00 Finnish time.  Mainline train fares are now dynamic like flights, cheaper in advance and on less popular dates and trains, more expensive closer to departure date and on more popular dates and trains.  You can choose to print your own ticket, collect it from the self-service machines or staffed ticket counter at any main VR station, or in some cases an e-ticket can be sent to your mobile phone.

Helsinki station...

Designed by famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, at Helsinki station you'll find the  usual range of services:  Ticket counters, left luggage, food stores, newsagents, restaurants and cafes.  Photos courtesy of Michael Banbrook

Helsinki railway station   Inside Helsinki station

The night train to Lapland...

There are daytime trains from Helsinki to Oulu, Kemi, Rovaniemi & Kemijärvi, or you can use one of the time-effective sleeper trains, now equipped with air-conditioned double-deck sleeping-cars, all sleepers with cosy duvets, washbasin, soap & towels provided.  Some deluxe compartments have a private toilet & shower.  You can buy sleeper tickets to Lapland at www.vr.fi and print out your own ticket.

Trains at Helsinki in the snow   2-bed sleeper on a train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi

A snowy scene at Helsinki station, with a Pendolino train on the left and a double-deck sleeping-car on the right...  Photos courtesy of Michael Banbrook

 

2-berth sleeper in one of VR's double-deck sleeping-cars.  Some have a private toilet & shower.

Double-deck sleeping-car on the train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi   Restaurant car

A double-deck sleeping-car...  Photos courtesy of Michael Banbrook

 

The sleeper train to Rovaniemi features a restaurant car (above) and on-board shop..

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large bullet pointRecommended guidebooks

You should take a good guidebook.  For the independent traveller, I think this means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  I personally prefer the layout of the Lonely Planet, but others prefer the Rough Guide.  Both guidebooks provide the same excellent level of practical information and historical background.  You won't regret buying one!  My own book, an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", was published in June 2008, and is available from Amazon with shipping worldwide.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk...

Lonely Planet Finland - buy online at Amazon.co.uk Click to buy - Lonely Planet Scandinavia Rough Guide to Scandinavia - buy online at Amazon

Or buy direct at the Lonely Planet website, shipping worldwide.

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large bullet pointEuropean Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at either www.stanfords.co.uk or www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Buy it online for £14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses £2.80) at www.stanfords.co.uk/Continents/Europe-A-Travellers-Railway-Map_9789077899090.htm or (in the Netherlands) for €13 + €5.50 postage from www.treinreiswinkel.nl.

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large bullet pointHotels in Helsinki & Scandinavia

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

www.tripadvisor.com is the place to find independent travellers' reviews of all the main hotels.

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelworld.com...

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Paris and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.

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large bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel without travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should also cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  However, don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback is always welcome.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flag

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

UK flag

 Australian flag New Zealand flag  Irish flag    If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

 US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card to save on foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explained ExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

 


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