A Finnish friend of mine once told me that the Helsinki–Stockholm ferry is known as the ‘party boat’ by locals.
She explained that it’s because the boats travel overnight and feature a dance club, so some youthful passengers forego the expense of a cabin and choose to spend their journey partying instead.
For those of us who don’t do so well on a night of lost sleep, it’s absolutely possible to take a Sweden to Finland ferry with a quiet room for the overnight sailing. I jumped on board in Stockholm, departing late afternoon, and spent my evening on the sun deck, admiring the scattering of tiny islands that extended throughout the archipelago while the sunset skies turned the sea into a soft hue of purple-blue.
Flying may be the quickest way to travel between Stockholm and Helsinki, but the boat offers views of the natural beauty of the Baltic region without the stress that comes with using airports and airplanes. If time is on your side, taking the slower option by sea will result in a much more comfortable journey between Nordic capitals.
The Stockholm to Helsinki ferry route is fairly straightforward. The ferries make one stop in Åland along the way, and take about 16–18 hours to complete the one-way trip. You can also opt to break up the journey and stay in Åland for a few days, or you can extend the trip to visit Turku (Finland) or Tallin (Estonia).
There are two major ferry lines, Viking Line and Tallink Silja, for the Helsinki to Stockholm ferry route. These cruise-like ships are equipped with onboard restaurants, bars, duty-free shops, and even spas for travelers who want to unwind and enjoy the voyage. I took both ferry lines while travelling between Sweden and Finland, and I preferred Viking over Tallink Silja as the boat was much more modern.
Your ferry selection will depend on your preferences and will probably be largely decided on what’s available for day that you want to book the sailing – Tallink Silja have more frequent departures (daily) than Viking (around 3 per week), though it’s worth checking both to compare pricing and availability. You can opt to go on as a foot passenger, or to take a bicycle or vehicle on board.
There are a range of cabin options to choose from, starting from a basic interior cabin with a fold-down bed to a luxurious suite with windows facing the view and space to relax. There are also family-sized cabins for those travelling with kids. On my trip, I stayed in one of the most basic cabins to myself and while it was small, it was perfectly adequate for sleeping overnight. If I were travelling with a partner or friend, I probably would have chosen a slightly larger cabin with a bit more space for two people.
One thing to consider is that you probably won’t be spending much time in the cabin anyway – it’s really just for sleeping and storing your luggage while you’re out exploring the rest of the boat.
The onboard food options will depend on the specific ship for your sailing, but most will have a buffet restaurant and an a la carte restaurant, plus some other casual or fine dining options. You can make a reservation for the restaurants at the time of booking, or grab casual fare at the cafe during the trip. You do not need to bring your own food to eat onboard, but that is also an option if you want to save a few $$.
There are a range of onboard activities to kill time while you’re at sea. Duty-free shopping is a popular activity as you cross international borders, or if relaxation is on your agenda, retreat to a cozy lounge with panoramic windows to gaze at the ever-changing scenery or head to the spa for a massage. Many ferries also feature evening entertainment such as live music, bars, dancing, and themed parties. If you’ll be travelling as a family then you can also utilise the kids club on board.
Other frequently asked questions:
Is traveling from Stockholm to Helsinki by boat a practical option? Absolutely. While air travel is quicker, taking a ferry offers a unique experience, allowing you to enjoy the Baltic Sea and stretch your legs while travelling between cities.
Do I need a visa to travel between Stockholm and Helsinki? This will depend on your passport. If you’re an EU/EEA citizen, you typically won’t need a visa for this journey. However, it’s essential to check the latest travel requirements and entry regulations before your trip, especially if you’re from a non-EU/EEA country.
How long in advance do I need to book tickets? Book ferry tickets online through the respective ferry company’s website or through third-party booking platforms. While you can book these trips at the last minute, it’s recommended that you book a few days to a few weeks in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
Is seasickness a concern on these ferries? The ferries are generally quite stable, but if you’re prone to seasickness, it’s a good idea to take precautions such as motion sickness medication or acupressure bands. The larger cruise-like ferries tend to offer smoother rides.
Are pets allowed on the ferries? Many ferry companies do allow pets on board, but there are usually specific guidelines and requirements. Make sure to check with the ferry company in advance if you plan to travel with your pet.
Can I use my mobile phone during the journey? Most ferries offer Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity, but there might be areas of weak signal, especially in the open sea. Check with the ferry company about their connectivity options.
Can I explore the cities during a layover? If your ferry has a layover at the port, you might have a few hours to explore the city. However, your layover time may be limited so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and prioritize your must-see attractions. Alternatively you can spend some time before or after your trip doing activities like a boat tour Stockholm or a Helsinki walking tour to enjoy these cities to their fullest.