Where is Helsinki?
Helsinki, the capital and largest city of Finland, is an amazing and distinctive place. Founded in 1550 by the King of Sweden, the city became the capital of Finland in 1812 and at about the same time began to rebuild like St. Petersburg. Today Helsinki is a modern European city with a lively business and cultural life, while preserving centuries-old traditions. Helsinki population is 1,268,296 people. Its convenient location in the south of Finland, not far from the Russian border, allows you to reach it relatively quickly.
How to get from Helsinki airport to the center
If you arrived by plane, you can get to the center of Helsinki from the airport by regular taxi for 30-40 euros or by train. A ticket for the Ring Rail Line costs 5.5 euros, and the train itself runs every 10-20 minutes, depending on the workload. It takes you to Helsinki in just half an hour.
The ticket is valid for 80 minutes and can also be used in public transport.
Where to stay in Helsinki . Hotels in Helsinki
Accommodation in Helsinki is not cheap, but it is compensated by high standards of service. A night in a hostel starts from 25 euros, and in a hotel from 80 euros.
In Helsinki, not only hotels, but also public transport are not cheap, so it is best to stay close to those city attractions that you plan to spend the most time on.
Hence a simple advice: if you want to explore the outskirts of the Finnish capital, settle near the central railway station; and if you are interested in the city itself and its sights, try to find a hotel closer to the center.
Public transport in Helsinki
Many sights of Helsinki are located quite compactly and, if desired, you can explore them, moving around the city on foot. But if you still need to use public transport in Helsinki, then in addition to taxis, there is a bus, tram, metro, suburban trains and even a ferry that will take you to one of the main attractions of Helsinki – the Suomenlinna fortress.
Tickets and passes in Helsinki are divided according to the validity period and according to the city districts in which they are applicable. You can buy a ticket from the bus driver or from a special machine, which is valid for an hour or a little more (depending on the type of transport), but if you plan to travel frequently by public transport, it is more profitable to buy an unlimited ticket for a period of 1 to 7 days. For comparison, a one-time Regional ticket purchased from the driver will cost 5.50 euros, and a one-day ticket for the same zone will cost 14 euros. According to the coverage area, depending on your plans, a Helsinki or Regional ticket is most likely suitable for you. But in order not to overpay and not receive a fine of 80 euros, determine the zone that suits you on the official website hsl.fi.
Subway in Helsinki
The Helsinki Subway is open from 5.30 am to 11 pm-23.30 pm depending on the station and the day of the week.
Ferry to Suomenlinna Fortress
The ferry to the island, where the famous fortress is located, is also part of the Helsinki public transport system. Therefore, if you have an unlimited ticket, then you will not have to pay extra.
The main thing is not to confuse it with tourist ferries that run on a similar route.
What to see in Helsinki. Helsinki Cathedral
Cathedral of St. Nicholas
I have already told you about Senate Square, the main square of Helsinki, which houses one of the most beautiful churches in the city – the Cathedral of St. Nicholas. A massive white building rises on the square and attracts the attention of tourists, thus, my attention was drawn to this cathedral. Now this snow-white building is a Lutheran church, but it was built under Nicholas I in the middle of the 19th century, when the Finnish principality was part of the Russian Empire. The cathedral is called St. Nicholas, because it was consecrated in his honor, and besides, St. Nicholas was the patron saint of Nicholas I. When Finland gained its independence, the cathedral was renamed the Great Church, but now the temple is simply called the Helsinki Cathedral.
Having seen the cathedral for the first time, as a resident of St. Petersburg, I simply could not help but find the similarity of this temple with St. Isaac’s Cathedral. It turns out that both cathedrals were built at about the same time. Now the white temple attracts crowds of tourists, so you do not pass by and be sure to go inside.
The next temple worthy of attention, I have already mentioned, is the Assumption Cathedral, a functioning Orthodox church. The temple was built in the neo-Byzantine style by the Russian architect A.M. Gornostaev. I want to say that this particular cathedral is my favorite in Helsinki.
Temple in the rock
The next church that I strongly advise you to visit is unique and unusual in its appearance, it is called the Temppeliaukio Church. Imagine, this temple is located in the rock, and the dome of the temple is glass. This church is Lutheran, it was built in 1969 by Finnish architects brothers Suomalainen. The brothers had an unusual idea: they decided that the preservation of nature is the most important task, so they decided to cut down a temple in the rock. Of course, there are no windows in the church, but thanks to the glass dome, the temple is perfectly consecrated. This unique place hosts not only divine services, but also concerts of organ music, because, as they say, the acoustics in this place are truly amazing. Unfortunately, this temple was left without my attention, but next time I will definitely visit this place.
One of the main attractions in Helsinki is the Suomenlinna sea fortress (also known as Sveaborg), built by the Swedes in the 18th century to defend against the Russian army. Today, the fortress, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, is open to the public. And since it is located on the islands, you can only get to it by water.
Helsinki has many picturesque parks: Alppipuisto with its cherry trees blooming in spring, the Esplanade Park, which is often compared to the Parisian Champs Elysees, or the Park of Jan Sibelius, which has a monument to this composer, which is a set of connected organ pipes.
Many museums and exhibitions will impress art lovers. You can get acquainted with the history of the country in the National Museum of Finland, stylized as a medieval castle. The Ateneum Museum, named after the ancient Greek goddess Athena, houses the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in Finland. And although the collection is based on the works of Finnish masters, nevertheless, in the museum you can find works by Francisco Goya, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne. For lovers of contemporary art, the Kiasma Museum opens its doors.
What to eat and drink in Helsinki. Helsinki Restaurants
In the first place in the national cuisine of Finland – lake and sea fish cooked in a variety of ways.
Venison is popular. The peculiarity of the local cuisine is that the Finns hardly use frying, but prefer to stew, boil and bake dishes. Here are a few dishes and drinks that you should definitely try if you are visiting Helsinki.
Graavilochi is a raw fish of valuable species that is marinated in a mixture of salt, pepper, sugar and dill for several days and served raw as a cold snack.
Kalakukko is a national Finnish pie made from fish, lard and rye flour.
Poronpaisti is a roast venison with cranberry sauce. Often served with mashed potatoes.
Liqueur Minttu is a famous Finnish liqueur with a pronounced menthol flavor. It is consumed in small glasses, and also added to cocktails, hot chocolate or coffee. It is a strong (40 degrees), yet surprisingly soft drink with different flavors. If you haven’t tried it yet, we recommend starting with chocolate!
Vodka Finlandia is also a world-famous drink. This is a very high quality vodka with a strength of 40 degrees in a beautiful bottle. It is made from alcohol of six-row barley, which is diluted with glacier melt water. In addition to the classic flavor, there are raspberry, lime, mango, grapefruit and many others.
Cider is a low-alcohol carbonated drink traditionally popular in Finland. Several varieties of apples are used for its preparation. It is drunk warmed up for a good mood, and chilled cider is great for relieving hangovers.
In addition, the local vodka Koskenkorva, or Kossu, with a strength of 38 degrees is considered a national drink. Also, be sure to try, especially if you go in winter, a non-alcoholic analogue of mulled wine – Glögi, which is made from fruits or berries, spices and raisins with almonds. The “adult” version of the drink implies the addition of strong alcohol, such as vodka or rum.
Finnish liqueurs with the aroma of northern wild berries deserve special attention: Puolukkalikoori (lingonberry), Karpalolikoori (cranberry), Lakkalikoori (cloudberry) and Mesimarijalikoori (arctic kumanika).
Please note that low-alcohol drinks (weak beer, cider, light wines) can be purchased in ordinary supermarkets, but spirits (over 4.7 degrees) can be bought only in special Alko stores. They are open until 20:00 on weekdays and until 18:00 on Saturday, while Alko stores are closed on Sunday and holidays.
Coffee is also the most popular drink in Finland. Here they love it and know how to cook it – for its consumption Finland occupies one of the first places in the world.
Festivals and events in Helsinki. Helsinki things to do
Ruisrock is the oldest annual Finnish rock festival, which attracts a huge number of rock music fans from all over Europe.
The festival is famous for the so-called heavy-karaoke, which allows you to sing hits along with the performers.
It is held not in Helsinki, but in Turku, on the island of Ruissalo, however, it is not difficult to get there: from Helsinki by bus for 2 hours or by train in 2 hours
Time – early July, duration – 3 days.
Prices in Helsinki
With the currency in Helsinki, everything is very simple – it’s the euro. Bank cards are accepted everywhere, and there are many ATMs for withdrawing cash in the city, so there will be no difficulty in paying with cash and cards. It should be noted that often in exchangers they may ask for a passport, be prepared for this.
What to bring from Helsinki
If you want to bring a gift to a man, then a “finca” will do – this is a Finnish knife from a huge assortment with a rich history, good blades and handles made by hand from precious woods or even animal horns. Do not forget to transport it in your luggage so that you do not have to part with the gift right at the airport. In addition to the knife, sauna connoisseurs can bring a good Finnish sauna set. I will definitely like it.
Friends can bring kuksu – these are decorative wooden Finnish mugs. Stupid, but memorable. In addition to the mug, buy them a few packs of Salmiakki – these are liquorice-flavored candies and those who try it for the first time are usually surprised.
Children will appreciate the Moomin figurines, which are usually very naturalistic and funny.
And the most versatile gift (though not for children) is a bottle of licorice liqueur, for example, Salmiakki Koskenkorva. Unusual taste and high spirits are guaranteed.