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Helsinki

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide Europe Finland Helsinki

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Introduction

Helsinki

Helsinki

© All Rights Reserved Peter

Helsinki has been the capital of Finland since 1812 and is located on the southern coast of the country, directly across from Tallinn in Estonia, with only the Gulf of Finland separating the two. It is also Finland's biggest city, with a population of 584,420. Helsinki Metropolitan Area, which includes a number of other cities (Espoo, Vantaa, Kirkkonummi, Kauniainen, Sipoo, Tuusula, Kerava, Järvenpää, Nurmijärvi, Hyvinkää and Vihti), has a population of around 1 million.

Located halfway between Stockholm and St Petersburg and with a coastal location that makes it seem as if the city is surrounded by water, it's no surprise that the city was founded as a fishing village and harbour. Taking a boat tour is a great way to get a better feeling for the city. The city itself consists of wide, often cobbled, streets, lots of parks and squares and generally gives an impression as a spacious city. As is the case for most Nordic cities however, Helsinki is compact and therefore easy to explore on foot or using public transport.

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Sights and Activities

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

© All Rights Reserved Eleritz

Porvoo

Porvoo is a a beautiful old medieval city with the old town built on a small hill next to a river. This is one of the most popular destinations for a daytrip from Helsinki and you can get there by regular buses (50 kilometres, roughly 1 hour) or by steamship (although the steamship is very slow and only goes in summer!). Unfortunately, because it is very popular it is also crowded during the high season.

Seurasaari

Seurasaari is an open air museum to the northeast of the city centre on the small island of Seuransaarenselka, which is connect to Helsinki by a bridge. In the museum you can see a collection of buildings coming from all over the country. It gives an impression on how people lived in rural Finland in earlier times. Some buildings can be visited from the inside as well. The museum is opened between 15 May and 15 September.

Sibelius’s Home

Jean Sibelius was Finland ’s most important composer, and wrote pieces such as Finlandia. Nowadays his villa Ainola on the shore of Lake Tuusula is an excellent place to visit for a daytrip.

Suomenlinna (Sveaborg)

The building of Sveaborg started in 1748 under an order from the Swedish King Fredrik I. During that time the frontline between Sweden and Russia had moved close to from Helsinki. Sveaborg was to protect the shipping channels to Helsinki and act as a landing place for troops arriving from Sweden. After Finland's independence the Swedish name Sveaborg, was changed to Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nowadays the island is a popular getaway from the city, and can be reached by the ferry service which leave at the market square. If you have bought a day ticket for the public transport, the ferry is free of charge. On the island the Suomenlinna Museum tells you about the history of the place.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Kiasma Museum of Modern Art is an interesting, thought-provoking museum in Helsinki, with works from both local and international artists. The exhibitions change fairly frequently.
  • Ateneum Art Museum
  • Mannerheim Museum
  • Helsinki Zoo in Korkeasaari
  • Uspensky Cathedral is a great cathedral on the hill above senate square
  • Russian Orthodox Church
  • Temppeliaukio Church
  • Kauppatori
  • 1952 Olympic Stadium & Museum
  • Linnanmäki Amusement Park
  • The Sibelius Monument
  • The Olympic Stadium (1952)
  • The Market Square
  • Three public saunas
Sibelius Monument, Helsinki

Sibelius Monument, Helsinki

© All Rights Reserved Herr Bert

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Events and Festivals

  • World Village Festival - World Village Festival in Kaisaniemi Park.
  • Helsinki Festival - Helsinki Festival at the end of August is approximately a two-week season to celebrate Helsinki, and a great time to be in the city. Exhibitions, cinema (both national and global), poetry, music, dance and suchlike fill the museums, pubs, theatres and even streets, and there's plenty for the kids as well.

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Weather

Helsinki enjoys a slightly warmer climate than other places as far north, thanks to the influence of the Baltic Sea and Gulf Stream. During winter (December to March), temperatures are around zero or slightly lower on average during the day, though can plummit to -30 °C during some colder nights. Days are around 6 hours long due to the winter solstice. In summer (June to August), Helsinki has much longer days (up to 18 hours) and temperatures range between 18 °C and 22 °C, with nights around 10-15 °C. The absolute high and low are 32 °C and -34 °C to give an idea of what you might expect! Precipitation is around 650mm a year with most of it falling during the second half of summer and during autumn. Spring is fairly dry and snow is possible from November to early April. See the Finnish Meteorological Institute website for a Helsinki weather forecast.

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Getting There and Away

By Plane

The major airport in Helsinki is the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (IATA: HEL; ICAO: EFHK), located about 20 kilometres from Finland's capital. The main airlines that fly in and out of Helsinki are Finnair, Scandinavian Airlines, and Blue1. Quite a few other regional airlines and budget airlines also have service to Helsinki airport, which makes it possible to travel to many places in the world to and from Helsinki with relative ease. Also note that there might be more affordable flights to nearby airports in Turku and Lappeenranta.

To/from the airport

  • From the airport, there are buses to the city centre. The cheapest is the regional bus 615, which costs €4, takes about 40 minutes, and arrives at the Central Railway Station.
  • More expensive and just a little quicker is the bus service operated by Finnair, which does the trip in about half an hour.
  • A connection from the airport to the Tikkurila train station provides access to commuter trains as well as to long-distance trains in the directions of Tampere and Lahti, including lines to Saint Petersburg and Moscow. The construction of the Kehärata rail link to the airport was started in May 2009, with an opening scheduled for 2013.
  • Taxis are expensive and cost an average of €40 for the trip to downtown Helsinki.
  • Car rental companies include Hertz and Avis.

By Train

There are several daily connections from Helsinki to all major cities within Finland. The only direct international trains are the ones to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia. Between Helsinki and Moscow, there are direct daily overnight trains with 'The Tolstoi', taking roughly 13 hours to cover the routes. Trains are fast and comfortable. There are two daily trains ('The Sibelius' and 'The Repin') between Helsinki and St. Petersburg, both travelling during the day and evening. One train is Russian, the other one is Finnish. Both trains take about 6 hours to cover the route. Trains also stop in Lahti, Kouvola and Vainikkala in Finland and in Vyborg in Russia. Since 2011 there is a fast train that covers the route between Helsinki and St. Petersburg in about 3.5 hours!

By Car

Driving to Helsinki from other European countries is a long trip, and you need to either drive around the Baltic sea, or drive through Russia. The other option is to get on one of the ferries to Helsinki or Hanko, or if you cross the sea from Sweden, one of the ferries to Turku.

By Bus

Eurolines provides services to and from Russian cities like St. Petersburg, connecting with Helsinki. Two daily buses provide services to Vyborg and St Petersburg from Helsinki, one of which originates in Turku. Check Matkahuolto for more information about prices and schedules.

By Boat

Ferry to Stockholm leaving Helsinki Harbour

Ferry to Stockholm leaving Helsinki Harbour

© All Rights Reserved filipve

Helsinki has well established boat connections to nearby capitals Stockholm (Sweden) and Tallinn (Estonia). Nearby Hanko is the arrival place of many of the ferries from for example Germany and Poland among other countries.

Aland

Estonia

  • Nordic Jet has boats running between Helsinki and Tallinn, 1 about every 2 hours starting at 8:00am and ending at 7:30 pm. A one way super economy ticket is €28 but you have to book your tickets online.
  • Tallink Silja also has regular service between Helsinki and Tallinn starting at 7:30am. It also offers services to several other Scandinavian cities.
  • Viking Line has a boat that makes its first or last stop in Tallinn before going to Helsinki and then on to Sweden.

Sweden

Germany

  • Silja Line between Rostock and Helsinki.
  • Finn Lines between Travemunde and Helsinki.
  • Superfast Ferries between Rostock and Hanko, about 90 minutes from Helsinki.

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Getting Around

By Car

Helsinki is relatively small and easy to get around, but finding a parking place can sometimes be a nightmare and does not come cheap.

By Public Transport

Helsinki has one metroline running from east to west (partly) under the city. For visitors this line can be ignored. Trams and buses run across the city, making it a good way to get around town. Tramline 3T and 3B are circular lines, linking most of the sights in Helsinki.

By Foot

The city centre is compact enough to explore by foot. Because the city has plenty of parks it is very enjoyable to walk in through Helsinki. You can explore most of Helsinki by foot in about 2 days, 1 if you rush it and only stick to the highlights.

By Boat

Some of the sights (like Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and the zoo, called Korkeasaari) can be visited by boat. If you buy a ticket for public transport that lasts multiple days, trips by boat can be included in the ticket. There are also special daytickets for Suomenlinna only which cost about €5. Nearby Porvoo and Loviisa can also be visited by boat. The J.L. Runeberg travels between Helsinki and Porvoo several times a week in the summertime.

By Bike

Helsinki has a free-bike plan. At some points in the city you can grab a bike, pedal around, and place the bike back at one off the other points. Although these bikes are available, it can be hard to find one.

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Drink

The bar and club scene is great in Helsinki but comes with a high price tag. Many people just drink on the street during the long summer nights in order to save money.

  • Roskapankki - Helsinginkatu 20

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Sleep

Budget

  • Academica Summer Hostel - Academica Summer Hostel (email: hostel.academica@hyy.fi) is part of the HYY Group and nice summer hostel. It has an excellent location in the dorms of a downtown University. Remember to book ahead during the busy times of the year. There are single, doubles, tripples and quads available. Address: Hietaniemenkatu 14, FI-00100, Phone: +358 (0)9 1311 4334, Price: A dorm bed is €23 a night

More budget accommodation with travellers ratings:

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Academica Summer HostelHietaniemenkatu 14Hostel82
Airport Hotel Bonus InnElannontie 9Hotel81
EurohostelLinnankatu 9Hostel80
Hostel StadionOlympic StadiumHostel77
Hotel AnnaAnnankatu 1Hotel81
Travellers HomeLönnrotinkatu 16DApartment-
Hostel SuomenlinnaSuomenlinna C 9HOSTEL82
Hämeenkylän KartanoJuustenintie 1 VantaaHOTEL-
Hotel FinnKalevankatu 3 bHotel79
CheapSleep HelsinkiSturenkatu 27HOSTEL78
Hostel ErottajanpuistoUudenmaankatu 9HOSTEL84
KongressikotiSnellmaninkatu 15 A 10Hostel84

Mid-Range

  • Helsinki Holiday Inn - Helsinki Holiday Inn in the city centre is a chain hotel which offers a warm comfortable sleep while you explore the city during the days. It is located right mext to the main railway station and bus terminal - which is convenient to get to and from the airport by bus. Address: ELIELINAUKIO 5, HELSINKI, FI-00100, Phone: Tel: +358 (0)9 5425 5000

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is usually always broadband and fast. Most libraries have a free internet connection, so look for a sign "kirjasto" for a library. Internet cafes are not hugely popular, as most Finns have internet at home. Wifi hotspots are also increasingly common. 4G networks cover the capital region and major cities. You'll find wifi in many restaurants, cafes and in stations and on public transport.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The general emergency number is 112. Finland's country code is +358. The prefix for international calls (from local land lines) is 00, as in the rest of EU.

As you'd expect from Nokia's home country, mobile phones are ubiquitous in Finland. GSM and WCDMA (3G) networks blanket all of the country, although it's still possible to find wilderness areas with poor signal, typically in Lapland and the outer archipelago. The largest operators are Sonera and Elisa, a Vodafone partner, but travellers who want a local number may wish to opt for DNA's Prepaid package, which can cost as little as €6. Ask at any convenience store for a list of prices and special offers.

Public telephones are close to extinction in Finland, although a few can still be found at airports, major train/bus stations and the like. It's best to bring along a phone or buy one. A simple GSM model can cost less than €40.

Post

Post is fast and reliable in Finland. You can receive mail simply by marking it Poste Restante, and the postal code of the town (check with the particular post office). First class stamps can be bought from machines or inside the office, and the fare is the same anywhere in the world up to 20 grams, so your postcards will be fine. The current rate for a stamp is €0.75. Heavier letters and postcards have different prices though, you can check them online at the Posti Website. There is also a 'track and trace' system available. Stamps are widely available and sold with the postcards, in kiosks, stationary shops and souvinier shops. Parcels abroad are expensive. You can buy all the packing from the post office, including boxes, tapes etc. For sending parcels internationally, you can also check companies like FedEx, TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Quick Facts

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Population
584,420
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 60.17116
  • Longitude: 24.93258

Contributors

as well as Herr Bert (12%), Lavafalls (10%), Sam I Am (4%), harria (3%), Peter (2%), meerola (2%), Alice-K (1%), Sander (1%), dr.pepper (1%), StephenJen (1%)

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Helsinki Travel Helpers

This is version 72. Last edited at 13:54 on Feb 21, 14 by Utrecht. 95 articles link to this page.

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