Helsinki cathedral

Helsinki cathedral...

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 reduced service, but beyond Paris & Brussels train service is close to normal.  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

small bullet point  Helsinki central station information


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:

 

12 September 2022. Train times valid 12 Dec 2021 to 10 Dec 2022.


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.

Faster alternative starting 1 September 2022.  A new sleeper train from Hamburg to Stockholm means you can travel from London to Stockholm in 24 hours as shown here.  Spend a day at leisure in Stockholm, then travel from Stockholm to Helsinki overnight by direct ferry or ferry+train as shown here.  I will update this page fully once the new service starts.

London ► Helsinki

Helsinki ► London

How much does it cost?

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 at London St Pancras (45-minute minimum in Paris, Brussels & Amsterdam) 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 journeyCopenhagen station guide.

Hamburg-Copenhagen train at Copenhagen station

An IC3 Intercity train at Copenhagen.  More information about the Hamburg-Copenhagen journey.

2nd class seats on an IC3 train from Hamburg to Copenhagen   1st class seats on an IC3 train from Hamburg to Copenhagen

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

 

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

Hamburg to Copenhagen train approaches the Great Belt fixed link

Crossing the Little Belt (Lillebælt in Danish) from Jutland (mainland Denmark) to Funen, the island on which Odense is located.

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.

An X2000 train at Stockholm Central

Copenhagen to Stockholm by tilting 200km/h X2000, seen at Stockholm CentralMore about X2000 trains.

1st class seats on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train 2nd class seats on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train

1st class on an X2000.  Larger photo.

 

2nd class on an X2000.  Larger photo.

Bistro seating area on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train   Bistro seating area on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train

Bistro seating on an X2000 train. Larger photo.

 

Bistro on an X2000 train. Larger photo.

On the Oresund link!

Crossing the impressive Öresund bridge from Denmark to Sweden...

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

There is both a day service and a night service between Stockholm & Helsinki using the Stockholm-Turku Viking Line ferries.

Viking Line ferry from Stockholm to Turku

The Viking Glory to Turku at her berth in Stockholm.

A seaside cabin on Viking Glory from Stockholm to Turku A beer on the vista bar on Viking Glory from Stockholm to Turku

Seaside cabin on Viking GloryLarger photo.

 

A beer at sunset at the vista bar on Viking Glory.

Sunset from the Viking Line ferry

Sunset from the Viking Glory.  A beautiful way to travel...

Intercity train from Turku to Helsinki

Turku to Helsinki by Intercity train:  This is a double-deck push-pull Intercity train at Helsinki station, with restaurant car, power outlets at all seats & free WiFi.

The train would normally go direct to Turku Port station just 100m from the Viking Line terminal, but from 2022 for a couple of years long-term construction work means a bus transfer from Kupittaa (Turku east) to the port.  However, the bus transfer is well-signed and well-organised.

Ekstra class on a Helsinki to Turku Intercity train Eco class on a Helsinki to Turku Intercity train

Ekstra (1st) class.  Larger photo.

 

Eco (2nd) class.  Larger photo.

Helsinki station

Journey's end:  The magnificent Helsinki station.

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

An Silja Line ferry links Stockholm with Helsinki overnight every day, and a Viking Line ferry sails overnight to a similar schedule every second day.  It's a much more relaxed affair than the Stockholm-Turku route.  You can board an hour an a half before sailing rather than 15 minutes before, the ferry sails late afternoon so you have a whole evening on the ship, and there's time for a lie-in and leisurely breakfast with a late-morning arrival.  The facilities on board are top-class, from the Grande Buffet to the Lobster restaurant.  A full range of cabins is available, including suites.

Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki

The Silja Serenade at her berth in Helsinki.  Sister ship Silja Symphony is virtually identical.

A class cabin on Silja Serenade from Stockholm to Helsinki Deluxe cabin on Silja Serenade from Stockholm to Helsinki

A class cabin on Silja SerenadeLarger photo.

 

Deluxe cabin on Silja SerenadeLarger photo.

A class cabin on Silja Serenade from Stockholm to Helsinki Central promendade on the Silja Serenade from Stockholm to Helsinki

Grande Buffet on the Silja Serenade.

 

Central promenade on Silja SerenadeLarger photo.

Sunset as the Silja Line ferry sails out of Stockholm for Helsinki

Good night Sweden!  Sunset as the Silja Serenade sails slowly past the many islands out of Stockholm into the Baltic...

Good morning Helsinki!

Good morning Finland!  Make sure you're on deck for the approach to Helsinki.  The ships sails past the King's Steps on the fortress island of Suomenlinna, past the Finnish WW2 submarine Vesikko and through a remarkably narrow gap between Suomenlinna and neighbouring island Vallisaari to reach Helsinki harbour.  This photo was indeed taken from the Silja Serenade!

Good morning Helsinki!

The ferry docks in Helsinki, walking distance from all the sights.  Alternatively, a number 2 or 3 tram will take you from the Olympia ferry terminal to Helsinki station in the city centre.

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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

  • Day 1, travel from London to Brussels on any evening Eurostar you like.

    The last Eurostar currently leaves London St Pancras at 18:04 Mondays-Fridays & Sundays arriving Brussels Midi at 21:05, or at 15:04 on Saturdays arriving 18:05, but by all means travel earlier for a pleasant evening in Brussels.  Check times at www.eurostar.com.

  • Day 2, travel from Brussels to Hamburg, leaving Brussels Midi at 08:23 by ICE3, changing at Cologne Hbf onto an IC train arriving Hamburg Hbf at 15:12.  Taking this departure allows plenty of time.

    These comfortable air-conditioned trains have a restaurant or bistro car, power sockets at all seats, the ICE3 has free WiFi.

Helsinki ► London

  • Day 1, transfer from Helsinki to the Vuosaari ferry terminal, some 16 km east of Helsinki.  You can take the metro from anywhere in central Helsinki to Vuosaari metro station, then bus 90B from Vuosaari station to the Vuosaari's Hansa ferry terminal.  Map of Helsinki showing Vuosaari.

  • Day 1, sail from Helsinki to Travemünde on the daily Finnlines ferry, see www.finnlines.com or the Direct Ferries website.

    Check in is between 13:30 & 16:30.  The ship sails at 17:30 (15:00 Sundays) and arrives at Travemünde at 21:30 the next day (day 2).  The ship is has all the essentials:  Comfortable cabins with private shower & toilet and free internet access (but not WiFi, so bring a network cable), restaurant, shop, bar, sundeck, and sauna.

  • Day 2, transfer by bus and local train to Hamburg Hbf.  Buses link the ferry terminal (Travemünde Skandinavienkai Terminal) with Lübeck ZOB bus station, it's a short walk to Lübeck station, then local trains run every 30-60 minutes to Hamburg Hbf.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Brussels by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £115 one-way, £199 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Brussels to Hamburg starts at €29.90 each way in 2nd class, €56.90 each way in 1st class.

  • Hamburg to Travemünde by local train & bus costs around €19 each way.

  • Travemünde to Helsinki by Finnlines ferry costs between €120 and €155 (£95-£120) each way in a reclining seat depending on the day and season.  However, I recommend a cabin.  The fare including a bed in a 3-bed shared inside cabin is between €200 and €287 each way.  The fare including a bed in a 2-bed outside cabin is between €279 and €413 each way.  Children under 6 go free, and there are reduced fares for children 6 to 12 and youth fares for children 13-17.  See the fares at www.finnlines.com or the Direct Ferries website.

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:

  • Step 1, book the Travemünde-Helsinki ferry at www.finnlines.com or the Direct Ferries website.

  • Step 2, book the London-Brussels Eurostar at www.eurostar.com.  If returning, book this as a round trip as Eurostar return fares are significantly cheaper than two one-ways.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your smartphone.

  • Step 3, book Brussels-Hamburg at the German Railways website www.bahn.de.  Booking usually opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone. 

  • Step 4, you can also buy a Hamburg-Travemünde ticket at www.bahn.de, or simply buy it at the station when you get to Hamburg.

How to buy tickets by phone...

  • Step 1, buy your ferry ticket:  Finnlines telesales number in Germany is 00 49 451 1507 443.

  • Step 2, buy your London-Hamburg train tickets:  You can buy tickets from Deutsche Bahn on 00 49 (0)30 311 68 29 04 (lines open 08:30-20:00 Monday-Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday UK time, 1.5% fee for phone bookings).

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large bullet pointTrain travel within Finland

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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 at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses) or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or for £9.67 at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

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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

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I use an annual policy myself.  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, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flagwww.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & covers you even if the FCDO advises against non-essential travel.

UK flag

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com.

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

 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 explainedExpressVPN 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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