Have you ever thought about visiting Helsinki? Of course you have, that’s why you are here reading this. Well, it is an amazing city to explore! Not only does it have beautiful bays, a diverse forest, and spectacular cityscapes, it also has a remarkable culture, with an interesting historical past. The capital city of Finland (since 1812) was originally established as a small trading town, in 1550. Since then it has undergone many transformations, as a result of surviving plagues, holding the 15th Summer Olympics (1952) and creating great advancements in technology. You can find out more at the National Finland Museum. It is free to enter on Fridays 4pm-6pm and with the Helsinki Card.
Fans of architecture love to visit Helsinki too, as the city offers a spectacular range of beautiful and diverse structures. Do you love to admire the fashion and styles of buildings when you explore a new city? If so the creations to visit in Helsinki include the 18th-century neo-classical builds by Carl Ludvig Engel and the Art Nouveau style central railway station, designed by Eliel Saarinen. Engel created Senate Square, the government palace and the cathedral, so add them to your ‘to do’ list.
Food lovers must plan a trip to the Market Square, as it has a vibrant atmosphere with lots to see and eat. Taste the classic meat pastry the Lihapiirakka and the Silli, a herring pie. Also, take a seat and enjoy Finland’s famous hot chocolate.
For restaurants, there are plenty of choices, for affordable eating. Roslund has amazing burgers, Restaurant Story has a seasonal menu, Fat Ramen offers a collection of tasty soups, ideal to keep you warm, and a local favourite,Restaurant Penny,serves delicious food in a cozy atmosphere.
Good news! Helsinki is very easy to navigate as the city is built on a grid design with many straight roads. Also, a lot of the city has been pedestrianised and the public transportation system is outstanding.
As previously mentioned, the Helsinki Card is a useful and cost effective way to explore Helsinki. This 1, 2 or 3-days exploration card includes free entry to many places and discounts available into many others. The card also includes free journeys on public transportation. You will have unlimited travel on buses, trams, the Metro and the Suomenlinna ferry. Plus, you can use the hop on hop off City Sightseeing Bus Tour. An adult ticket costs €48 - €68, depending on how many days you are staying in the city. The free and discounted admissions include, but not limited to, the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Rock Church and Skywheel.
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Helsinki is not the cheapest, in comparison to other European cities. Hotel prices start from 80€ per night and rocket up into the 100’s. The best places to stay are within the city centre, as this is where the most exciting experiences are happening like tourist attractions, nightlife and restaurants. Having said that, if you want an incredible view, being close to the harbour is also a great place to stay.
For an affordable hotel, less than €100 per night, consider Scandic Grand Marina, and Seurahuones Helsinki. For less than €50 per night, you will need to stay in a hostel. Some hostels offer private rooms, but they are pretty basic. HostelWorld is a great resource for cheap accommodation.
Helsinki has 19 hours of daylight during the summer and only 6 hours during the winter months. This is something to bear in mind when planning your visit. Obviously, summer is the best time to visit asthe temperatures are at their highest. Although July will still only reach 17°C (65°F).
Therefore, invest in a good eye mask for sleeping and practice using it before you arrive. Also, pack layers for summer, including a jacket, scarf, glovesand sunglasses. The temperature may seem ok, but the sea breeze is always going to be chilly. If you visit in the winter months you will need a long thick coat and possibly tights or long johns to wear under your trousers.
Do explore! The majority of Helsinki is based on the mainland but it also includes islands. Do venture off the mainland in order to experience all of this beautiful diverse city. Each island is different as eachhas a strong identity or attraction to define them. For example, the island of Korkeasaari is home to Finland’s largest zoo, Korkeasaari Zoo (€12 per adult).
Do get sweaty! Finland has a strong sauna society throughout the country. It has become a popular place to get rid of all the bodies toxins. We suggest visiting the traditional smoked sauna at Loyly. It costs €19 for a two-hour experience in their public sauna and includes your towel, seat liner and toiletries.
Don’t interrupt someone when they are speaking. Finnish culture asks that you listen to understand, opposed to listen and respond. So, wait for your turn to speak, otherwise, you will be seen as rude.
Don’t tip. There is no tipping culture in Finland.
Wrap a towel securely around your waist in the sauna.
If you travel as a couple don’t display too much affection on the streets of Helsinki, as the culture is modest and respectful.
Follow these simple do’s and don’ts and you are sure to have great fun in the beautiful city of Helsinki.