Helsinki

Travel Guide Europe Finland Helsinki

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Introduction

J.L. Runeberg

J.L. Runeberg

© Herr Bert

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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History

As Finland became part of the Swedish kingdom in the 13th century with Turku as its regional capital, Helsinki was founded in AD 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden as a trading post to compete with Tallinn to the south in Estonia, which was Danish at that time. Helsinki was established about 5 km northeast of the current downtown, at the rapids where Vantaa river (at that time known as Helsinge river) flows into the Baltic Sea, which in turn gave the city its Swedish name Helsingfors. Never becoming the trading post Gustav Vasa envisioned and largely bypassed by the King's Road — the major road along the coast at that time — the village faced some hard times during its first centuries with fires and diseases and today there is but a few stones left of the original Helsinki. Eventually the city was moved further south to its current location and in the middle of 18th century Sveaborg (nowadays Suomenlinna in Finnish) Maritime Fortress was established in the front of Helsinki. The now world heritage-listed fortress archipelago features some of the oldest standing buildings in the city.

In 1809, Finland was annexed by Russia after the Finnish War (a part of the Napoleonic Wars), and the capital of Finland moved from Turku to Helsinki in 1812.The Czar felt the Grand Duchy of Finland needed a capital of grand proportions, and this was a major turning point in the history of Helsinki. The architects Johan Albrecht Ehrenström, a native Finn, and Carl Ludwig Engel, from Germany, were given the task of rebuilding the city in the Empire style. This can be seen today around the Lutheran Cathedral, which was completed in 1852. The same style, and even architects, is also a part of Saint Petersburg's history.

Growing steadily during the 19th century, with the population exceeding 100,000 by the turn of the century, Helsinki had established itself as the largest city and ad the political and cultural capital of the country. The city was a battleground in the Finnish Civil War 1917-18, and was bombed by the Soviets in the Second World War. Before the war Finland was largely an agricultural country but the industrialization and urbanization that happened during the following decades meant an influx of new inhabitants from the rural parts of the country and turned Helsinki into the metropolis it is today with suburbs, superhighways and even a small subway system. Architectonically a young city, many of the monumental buildings erected since the independence have a stark modernist style and the rest of the city's architecture is made up of National Romantic style buildings from the early 20th century and the aforementioned Empire style buildings in Central Helsinki. Though thoroughly a Nordic capital, Helsinki today reflects the influences gained from the Western and Eastern cultures.

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Neighbourhoods

The city of Helsinki forms the core of Finland's largest urban area, known in Finnish as the "capital area" (pääkaupunkiseutu). Helsinki is bordered by the Gulf of Finland to the south, while the posh suburban city of Espoo, with the embedded tiny enclave city of Kauniainen, is to the west. The more industrialized city of Vantaa is to the north and east. Beyond these three, the suburbs rapidly give way to small towns, farms and forests, most notably Nuuksio National Park at the intersection of Espoo, Vihti and Kirkkonummi.

Within Helsinki itself, the city center is on the southern peninsula at the end of the city's main thoroughfare Mannerheimintie (or just Mansku). Both the central railway station and the main bus terminal are in the city center. Shopping streets Aleksanterinkatu (or Aleksi for short) and Esplanadi (or Espa) connect to Senate Square (Senaatintori), the historical center of the city.

Central

Probably half of Helsinki's points of interest are located downtown. The Lutheran Cathedral with the surrounding buildings, dating from the early 19th century when Helsinki was made capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland, can be found here. Westwards there is what can be called the central business district with shopping and dining along the streets of Aleksanterinkatu and Mannerheimintie.

South

In the calm and affluent southern part of Helsinki you can enjoy the greenery of the parks and drop into a nice café for a cuppa coffee. And let's not forget about Suomenlinna, the fortress on an island which prides itself on being a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Kamppi and Southwest

For some great places for eating and drinking, head across Mannerheimintie and continue through Kamppi. Further west the former industrial part of the city, watched over by the cranes of the shipyard and industry chimneys you can nowadays glance over the modern architecture and out to the sea.

West

The western part of the city is a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city center. If you have the time, take a leisurely seaside stroll along the shores of Laajalahti bay, or if you're a sports buff, visit the great summer and winter sports venues which are concentrated in this part of the city. The list cultural and historical sights of western Helsinki isn't bad either - it hosts the National Opera, Hietalahti cemetery, the Church in the Rock, the museums of Natural History, Finland's National Museum and the home of the long-time president Urho Kekkonen.

Inner East

If you, on the other hand, are interested in the more bohemian part of Helsinki and/or love to party you'd better head to the Inner East and districts like Kallio. The former working class part of the city is still today associated with counterculture and to some extent left-wing politics and is largely inhabited by students. Kallio is as close as one could come to a "red light district" in Helsinki. However, the Inner East part of the city also hosts the amusement park Linnanmäki and the old wooden neighborhoods of Vallila and Käpylä.

Eastern suburbs

The eastern parts of Helsinki is mostly residential and probably the most culturally diverse part of the city, as recent immigrants from many parts of the world live here. In this part of Helsinki you can find the Helsinki Zoo, the huge shopping complex Itis, Finland's tallest residential building in Vuosaari as well as the northernmost metro station in the world in Mellunmäki.

Northern suburbs and Vantaa

The northern parts of Helsinki consists of highways, shopping malls and residential buildings. It connects seamlessly to the next city north of Helsinki - Vantaa. While not as culturally interesting as the other parts of Helsinki it offers some natural attractions like the Central Park and Helsinki's highest point Malminkartanonhuippu. In Vantaa you can learn more about science in Heureka, watch old and new architecture and simply enjoy the nature. Actually, if you are arriving by plane you will be passing through this area whether you want it or not, as Finland's largest airport, Helsinki-Vantaa, is located in this area.

Espoo

In a way Finland's second largest city is "just" an extension of Helsinki. However, Espoo can pride itself on hosting Nuuksio national park (a great daytrip from Helsinki to experience the Finnish nature), Aalto University (formerly Helsinki University of Technology), two of Finland's largest shopping centers as well as some great museums and the Serena water park. Espoo also encircles the tiny city of Kauniainen.

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Sights and Activities

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

© 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

© 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

© 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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Eat

Helsinki has by far the best cosmopolitan restaurants in Finland, and is a good place to escape the usual diet of meat and potatoes... if you can foot the bill, that is. As usual in Finland the best time to eat out is lunch, when most restaurants offer lunch sets for around €6-10. Lunch sets are typically served from 10:30am to 2:00pm, but the times vary between venues. In the evening, only budget places are less than €10, while splurges cost well over €30 per head. Almost every place will have at least one vegetarian option.

A surprisingly large number of restaurants close down for a month or more in summer (July-August), so call ahead to avoid disappointment.

Budget choices are largely limited to fast food, although there are a couple of workaday Finnish eateries in the mix. In addition to McDonald's and its Finnish imitators Hesburger/Carrols, Helsinki is also full of pizza and kebab places, where a meal typically costs around €7-8 (sometimes as low as €4-5, especially in Kallio). A more healthy option is Unicafe, a chain of restaurants owned by the Helsinki University student union, which has around 10 outlets in central Helsinki and offers full meals from €5.70, including vegetarian options. There are also many other lunch restaurants for students that serve affordable food also for non-students. A good active listing of Helsinki's student restaurants and their menus as well as opening hours can be found at Lounasaika.net. During the lunch time, usually from 11AM to 3PM, most restaurants serves food for reasonable prices. Lunch restaurants and lists in Helsinki can be found at lounaat.info.

Two classes of fine dining stand out in Helsinki: fresh seafood and Russian. During the dark days of the Soviet Union, it was sometimes said that the best Russian restaurants in the world were across the border in Helsinki. For something authentically Finnish and uniquely Helsinki, try Vorschmack, an unusual but surprisingly tasty mix of minced lamb and herring, served with chopped pickles and sour cream (smetana).

Chilli (Mikonkatu 8). Cheap kebab, shawarma, and falafel. Large portions, though be warned that this isn't your traditional Middle Eastern fare. Pitas come with something akin to spaghetti sauce inside. Filling choice, especially on a budget.
La Famiglia, Keskuskatu 3, ☏ +358 9 85685680. 11AM-midnight daily. Unpretentious Italian food even for under €10, although the most of the items on the menu should be listed under the Mid-price section. The weekday lunch buffet of soup, salad and two kinds of pasta (€7–10) is still a particularly good value. edit
Sodexo, Multiple places, ☏ +358 41 783 9069. M-F 8:00-15:00, Lunch: 10:30–13:30. Around €9.6 for lunch.
Unicafe Ylioppilasaukio, Mannerheimintie 3 B. Open M–F 11AM-7PM, Sa 11AM–5PM. The biggest and most centrally located student restaurant and cafeteria is only a two-minute walk away from the main railway station. The standard lunch price (including drink, bread and salad buffet) is €8, there is also a "light" option (soup and salad) for €7 and "special" course for €9,50. Discounts apply if you happen to own a Finnish student card.
Kappeli, Eteläesplanadi 1. Traditional Finnish dishes - reindeer, fish, etc. Some of the prices are on the high end of mid-range, but you should get polite service and well-prepared food with a lovely presentation. Cozy, relaxed, relatively quiet atmosphere (although the restaurant is apparently well-known and therefore might be more crowded during late evenings & tourist season). The roasted lamb with garlic potatoes is a good choice, as is their take on Finnish-style blueberry pie. They also offer a cheaper self-service café on the left side of the restaurant, along with a bar (opened in 1867) in the middle of the building. Main lunch dishes €14-18, main dinner dishes about €15-36.
Zetor, Kaivopiha, Mannerheimintie 3–5, ☏ +358 9 666 966. Tourist restaurant with lots of character and great quality Finnish food. Plenty of old tractors and Finnish memorabilia. At night time Zetor functions as a popular and trendy night club with various funky music both from Finland and abroad, with plenty of young people attending. The kitchen stays open until closing time. Note that at night time, there tend to be long queues to get into Zetor in the first place. Main meals €10–20..
Tony's Deli, Bulevardi 7, ☏ +358 20 7424268. This small Italian place serves traditional Finnish lunch including salad, rye bread, meatballs and smashed potatoes, soup and coffee and tea for a reasonable price. A la carte is also available, but not Finnish cuisine. Lunch buffet for 10.30€.
Bangkok 9, Kaivokatu 8, ☏ +358 50 463 3833. 12 PM to 8 PM mostly. A Thai cuisine restaurant in the City-Center complex in central Helsinki, just opposite the central railway station. Offers authentic spicy Thai cuisine. Interesting decor. Usually a bit crowded. Main courses 16 to 20 €.
Belge, Kluuvikatu 5 (Kauppakeskus Kluuvi), ☏ +358 9 622-9620. A reasonable selection of Belgian beers, a nice range of bistro fare, and a good location for people watching. The dining room upstairs is non-smoking. The menus in the dining rooms are served inside Tintin comic books in Finnish, so you can read them while deciding what to order. Main dishes €12–17.
Brasserie Kämp, Pohjoisesplanadi 29, ☏ +358 9 5840-9530, ✉ kamp_cafe@hotelkamp.fi. M–W 11:30AM–midnight, Th-F 11:30AM–1PM, Sa noon–1PM, Su noon–midnight.
Classic Pizza, Aleksanterinkatu 52, ☏ +358 9 121-3838. A classy, fashionable pizzeria with a wide variety of pizzas on the menu. Some of the toppings might be rather unusual, such as grilled chicken, pickled cucumbers, beetroot, crayfish, bratwurst, coconut milk, or Finnish leipäjuusto cheese. But the end result is a tasty culinary treat anyway. For dessert, there's a pizza with ice cream and fresh fruit. The restaurant has several locations around the Helsinki capital area and elsewhere in Finland, but the most central one is in the Stockmann department store, on the basement floor. The restaurant is rather self-consciously a pizzeria. Although many other pizzerias in Helsinki also serve kebab, there are only pizzas on the menu here, and even the staff wear shirts saying "Sorry, no kebab". €14–17.
Everest, Luotsikatu 12 A, ☏ +358 9 694-2563. A well-known "Nepalese" (north Indian) restaurant. Main dishes €10–20.
Korea House, Mariankatu 19 (Tram 1, 1A, 7A,7B), ☏ +358 9 135-7158. Mon–Fri 11AM–11PM, Sat non–11PM. The only Korean restaurant in Helsinki. A cozy place with friendly staff and even frequented by Korean travellers! You can try all sorts of delicious Korean food here. Superb value for the price at lunchtime (11AM–2PM) when dishes cost about half of what they otherwise do. Mains around 20€, lunch around 10€.
Meze Point, Mikonkatu 8, ☏ +358 9 622-2625. Mediterranean meze plates, several vegetarian dishes. Excellent vegetarian moussaka. Main dishes €15–20.
Rymy-Eetu, Erottaja 15, ☏ +358 40-358-0585, ✉ ravintola@rymy-eetu.fi. 5 PM to 3 AM mostly. A German restaurant inspired by the famous Hofbräuhaus am Platzl in Munich. Spacious, with premises on two floors. Authentic-looking Bavarian-style decor reminiscent of the original Hofbräuhaus. Tasty Bavarian cuisine dishes with copious amounts of meat, but vegetarian options also available. One of the few places in Finland to serve Austro-Bavarian schnitzels of veal rather than pork. A good variety of German beers on tap. Note that the restaurant only opens in the evening, so it's not a good choice for lunch. Main courses €13–30.
Zinnkeller, Meritullinkatu 25, ☏ +358 9 135-4148, ✉ zinnkeller@kolumbus.fi. 11 AM to 11 PM mostly. An authentic German restaurant in the middle of Helsinki, owned by a German immigrant family. Claims to be "the only German restaurant in Finland". Spacious with German-style decor. The menu is full of traditional German food with copious amounts of steaks, sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut. A wide variety of German beers and wines available. The staff are fluent in Finnish, German and English. Main courses €12–22.
Bellevue, Rahapajankatu 3, ☏ +358 9 179560. The oldest Russian restaurant in Helsinki was founded by emigrants from the Rodina in the turbulent year of 1917. Fitting location in the shadow of the Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral and a professional kitchen dishing out Russian traditional favourites with a French twist.
FishMarket, Pohjoisesplanadi 17, ☏ +358 9 6128 5250, ✉ sales@royalravintolat.com. M-F 11:30-23, Sa 17-23. High quality seafood restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. Although on the expensive side, you can eat lunch there at more moderate prices. FishMarket is located in the corner of the Kauppatori market place, easy to reach by Trams 1 and 1A.
Harald, Aleksanterinkatu 21, ☏ +358 44 766 8010, ✉ helsinki@ravintolaharald.fi. 11 AM to 10 PM mostly. A Viking-themed restaurant that tries to keep its cuisine as close to the authentic Viking cuisine as possible, but still keeping in with today's tastes. In practice, the food is extremely tasty, but a bit overpriced. The decor is Viking-themed, the staff dress up in Viking-themed costumes, and even the menu contains Viking-era descriptions. The menu is obviously very meat-oriented, but there are some vegetarian options available. Try the duck or beef dishes, they're very tasty. The restaurant servers its own beer, it's worth trying. Main courses 18 € to 35 €.
Hard Rock Café, Aleksanterinkatu 21, ☏ +358 9 4282 6888. 11 AM to 11 PM mostly. The only Hard Rock Café in Finland, so far. The restaurant pretty much rides on its famous image. The food is very tasty, but a bit overpriced even by Finnish standards. Stylish interior containing rock'n'roll memorabilia. Extremely friendly staff, but for some reason very few, if any, of them speak Finnish even though the restaurant is in Finland. Main courses 20 € to 33 €.
1Vltava, Elielinaukio 2, ☏ +358 10 76 63650, ✉ ravintolavltava@sok.fi. 11 AM to 11 PM mostly. The best Czech restaurant in Helsinki. Located very centrally right next door from the central railway station. Very difficult to miss as it takes up the entire building. Several floors on the premises, the ground floor consisting of a bar, the upper ones of a restaurant. Several Czech beers on tap, and the menu is based on Czech cuisine with copious amounts of sausages and sauerkraut. Main courses €20–32.
Wellamo, Vyökatu 9, ☏ +358 9 663139. Not strictly Russian, but a longtime favorite of both bohemians and the Orthodox community from nearby Uspensky Cathedral. Apart from the wonderful Russian dishes, lighter Mediterranean fare is also available.

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Drink

Finland is the largest coffee consuming nation per capita and coffee breaks are written into law. However, in Finland most coffee is filter-brewed from a light, more caffeinated, roast that is quite different to what the rest of the world drinks. Finns often enjoy a bun (pulla) or cinnamon bun (korvapuusti) with their coffee.

In Finland commonly espressos and lattes are called "special coffees" and a large number of establishments that make such coffees have popped up all over town ever since the nineties when they arrived. One which will give any Italian cafeteria a go for their money is La Torrefazione next to Stockmann. In the more common cafeterias the normal light brew coffee is sold by self-service at the counter even at some more expensive cafeterias (there is only a handful of cafeterias serving to the table in Helsinki - this shows how commonplace coffee drinking is considered).

Helsinki has plenty of hip places for a drink. The main nightlife districts, all in the city center within crawling distance of each other, are around Iso-Roobertinkatu, the Central Railway Station and Kamppi. Helsinki's busy gay nightlife is centered mostly around Iso-Roobertinkatu and Eerikinkatu and surrounding streets.

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.

Butterfly (previously Baarikärpänen) (Located in Mikonkatu, right next to the Central Railway Station.). Offers R & B and Top 40 hits in a nice lounge-type bar with big comfortable sofas and a dance floor. Reasonably cheap.
Molly Malone's, Kaisaniemenkatu 1. An Irish pub/nightclub near the Central Railway Station. Popular among Finns and tourists alike. Live music every night, superb English-language cover bands most nights, sometimes a DJ later. If you happen to be in Helsinki at St.Patrick's day (March 17th) this is definitely where you should go. Avoid the blackjack table unless you're fond of losing money (the proceeds do go to charity).
Old Hat, Mannerheimintie 3, ☏ +358 10 76 64396. 10AM to 12AM mostly. Popularly known as Hattu ("The hat"), this is a very spacious and comfortable pub with no extra frills. Central and accessible location only a short walk away from the central railway station. A good selection of beers and ciders. Beer from about 6 €.
On The Rocks, Mikonkatu 15 (near Central Railway Station). Located next to Baarikärpänen and Texas, this is a rock-oriented bar with occasional live bands and stand up comedy acts. Minimum age 23.
Sports Academy, Kaivokatu 8, ☏ +358 10 76 64300. 11 AM to 11 PM mostly. One of the best sports bars in Helsinki, and definitely the place for you if you are keen about football (soccer) or ice-hockey. A two-story building just opposite the railway station, filled to the rim with TV sets and several giant projectors. Both stories are furnished with sports memorabilia and have live TV coverage of major sports events both in Finland and abroad. A variety of pub food also served, though the menu is very meat-oriented, with little vegetarian options. Patrons have recommended the Classic Burger, the crayfish pasta, the ribs or for light dining, the hot wings, but be warned - the hottest sauces available are absolutely scorching hot. There can be long queues before popular events - get in early! Main courses 13 € - 32 €.
Vanha ylioppilastalo ((usually just Vanha)), Mannerheimintie 3. A bar/café just opposite Stockmann, owned by University of Helsinki's filthy rich students' union. Not very special in the winter, but the rooftop patio in the summer is nice. In the evenings, the club attracts a slightly-over-18 audience.

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Sleep

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

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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

Eurohostel, Linnankatu 9 (Tram 4). Helsinki's largest hostel, very close to the dock for the Viking Line ferry and the Uspenski Cathedral. Dorms from €24.10, single rooms from €45 (plus €2.50/person for non-HI members).
Best Western Premier Hotel Katajanokka, Vyökatu 1, ☏ +358 9 686 450. Housed in what was the Nokka prison until 2002, this classy hotel has retained the original exterior and the internal corridor, but the rooms themselves, built by combining two to three cells, retain no trace of their past. Walking distance to city center. From €99.
Best Western Hotel Carlton, Kaisaniemenkatu 3, ☏ +358 9 684 1320, fax: +358 9 660 112, ✉ carlton.booking@carlton.fi. Best Western Hotel Carlton is a personal, 19 room hotel in the very center of Helsinki, only 100 metres from Helsinki Central Railway Station.
Cumulus Kaisaniemi, Kaisaniemenkatu 7 (M Kaisaniemi). A centrally located but minimally equipped business hotel. From €83 for a double in the low season.
Hotel GLO, Kluuvikatu 4, ☏ +358 9 5840 9540, ✉ glo@palacekamp.fi. Hotel GLO is situated in the centre of Helsinki, between Aleksanterinkatu and Pohjoisesplanadi.The hotel has a direct entrance to the shopping centre Kämp Galleria. The Palace Kämp Day Spa is located on the top floor of the hotel. Glo clearly lives of being the slightly cheaper alternative next door to Kämp, but is not quite able to match the quality of service of a true luxury hotel either.
Scandic Grand Marina, Katajanokanlaituri 7 (grandmarina@scandichotels.com), ☏ +358 9 16661, fax: +358 9 1666 500.
Hotel Arthur, Vuorikatu 19, ☏ +358 9 173 441.
Hotel Kämp, Pohjoisesplanadi 29, ☏ +358 9 576111. Opened 1887, this historic hotel claims to be the only true 5-star in Scandinavia, with doormen in top hats, yacht charters and prices to match: the eight-room Mannerheim Suite can be yours for only €3300 per night. Part of Starwood's Luxury Collection. Rooms from €120.
Radisson Blu Plaza, Mikonkatu 23, ☏ +358 20 123 4700. Classy hotel in a protected and carefully renovated, Kalevala-inspired 1917 building, located near the railway station within easy walking distance of Aleksanterinkatu. Excellent breakfast buffet. From €150.
Sokos Hotel Helsinki, Kluuvikatu 8, ☏ +358 20 1234 601, fax: +358 9 176 014, ✉ hotelhelsinki.helsinki@sokoshotels.fi.
Sokos Hotel Vaakuna, Asema-Aukio 2, ☏ +358 20 1234 610, fax: +358 9 4337 7100, ✉ vaakuna.helsinki@sokoshotels.fi.

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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

Accommodation in Helsinki

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Helsinki searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

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Helsinki Travel Helpers

This is version 81. Last edited at 11:33 on Nov 26, 19 by Utrecht. 103 articles link to this page.

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