* Prices may differ from that shown
On 25 September 2013 I visited Helsinki, which was the first stop of my long travel journey. From the terminal 2 I took a bus to arrive the central railway station.
Brief information about Helsinki:
Helsinki is the capital and the largest city of Finland. It's located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. Helsinki is also called the Daughter of Baltic Sea. It was selected World Design Capital for 2012.
Things to see and do in Helsinki:
(1) Helsinki Central Railway Station
The railway station is a widely recognised landmark of Helsinki and is a most visited building in Finland due the number of uses by passengers. No matter where you are you can get the station by public transport.
(2) Parliament House
The Parliament House is about 10 minute walk from the railway station. It's the seat of the Parliament of Finland. Since 1931 it has been the scene of many key moments in the nation's political life.
(3) The National Museum of Finland
The National Museum of Finland is about 5 minute walk from the Parliament House. It presents finish history from the Stone Age to the present day. Finlandia Hall is the most famous building designed by architect Alvar Aalto.
(4) Temppeliaukio Church
Temppeliaukio Church is also known as Rock Church. It's quarried out of the natural bedrock and the church was designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. It's opened in 1969 and is one of Helsinki's most popular tourist attractions.
(5) Helsinki Cathedral
Helsinki Cathedral is an Iconic landmark of Helsinki. It's located in the Senate Square, 10 minute walk from the Central Railway Station. It was built in 1852 during the Russian rule as a tribute to Czar Nicholas. It's open from 9am and free.
(6) Sibelius Park
Sibelius Park is in the north of the Rock Church. It's free to enter. There is an impressive stainless steel monument dedicated to the world famous composer Jean Sibelius.
Suomenlinna is a sea fortress built on six islands in Helsinki. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built on the demand of the Swedish King to defend against Russian expansion in 1748. In 1808 the fortress surrendered to Russia. As a picturesque picnic site It's now a popular site with tourists and locals.
One of the advantages of having someone in the household with a bit of cash weighing on their mind in the form of a pension lump-sum, is that you only have to say 'We've never been to Helsinki, have we?' and said person goes quiet for half an hour on the PC in another room, only to re-appear announcing that four nights in Finland are duly booked!
I wonder if 'I've always wanted a Mini-Cooper S' would work too?
TO BOLDLY GO.......
Travelling there was simple enough, helped by the fact that my local public transport actually GOES to Heathrow, and not having heavy bags, taking the bus and/or Underground outside of the rush hour was no big deal.
Flying to the capital, Helsinki (aka Helsingfors in Swedish), takes nearly three hours as the flight is slightly over 1,000 miles, largely eastwards which is significant. Short-ish flight it might be, but time on arrival is a whopping two hours ahead, which, given that you've only got three hours in which to prepare for this difference leads to an unexpected amount of 'jet-lag' to get over.
Helsinki Airport has yet to get any kind of Metro or rail link, so Express Buses (or taxis) it has to be. Most of these go straight to the main railway station square in the heart of the city.
"That's easy for you to say!" - or not. It's actually the Finnish equivalent of No Entry, but I only know that because it headed up a list including Swedish, English and Russian!
Whilst most Finns tend to be tri-lingual (Finnish, Swedish and English), at least those in contact with the public are, most signs are only bi-lingual if you're lucky, so it was only by leaning on what I knew of Swedish (from a knowledge of railways AND German, to which, on paper at least, it bears a passing resemblance), that I could make out that we were indeed on the right bus. "Järnvägstorget" roughly translates as 'Iron-Way Square'....I think.
To be honest, there's seems little point in trying to learn Finnish, which seems to be largely unfathomable, coming from a tiny 'gene-pool' of languages that seems to include Magyar and very little else, unless of course you're marrying a Finn and want to know what your future mother-in-law is saying about you. I do however know that 'Kiitos' (pronounced kee-toss) is 'thank you' - oh yes, and that 'ei sisäänkäyntiä' is no entry!
Once safely arrived at the Railway Square, we merely had to track down a number 4 tram going in the right direction and get off right outside our hotel - here again the next stop names flash between Finnish and Swedish (thankfully). Having managed this feat within one hour of buying the Express bus ticket, there was no further charge.
To put it bluntly, I spent the entire long weekend in a Finnish jail - well OK, an EX-jail!
Hotel Katajanokka was indeed a prison up until as recently as 2002, reopening as a Best Western hotel in 2007. Rooms are now somewhat larger, although still not enormous, made by knocking two cells into one! Fortunately, slop-buckets have given way to proper en-suite toilet facilities plus all the usual expected fripperies, like a TV with bugger-all English-speaking channels and a mini-bar.
The old 'Pentonville-style' cruciform structure is largely intact, there being a central point on each floor where you can see all four wings. In the basement, you can even view an old isolation cell, kept on as part of the hotel's duty to act as a museum too - hopefully it's never pressed into service when the hotel is over-booked! We had very little to complain about at the hotel with the exception of nasty lumpy pillows which seemed to be filled with those cheap foam remnants, and thanks to the thick walls, we had to stand in the corridor to make the free wi-fi work!
The hotel uses this location to its advantage with quite a lot of wit. For example, their wedding packages are referred to as 'Starting Your Life Sentence' and you can buy souvenir tin mugs with karabiner attached for about £5 and stripy numbered 'convicts' t-shirts for something similar.
Our only other 'complaint' would have been the prices in the hotel's "Jailbird" restaurant (waiters dressed like warders from a US State 'Pen' and water served in tin mugs) had they not been NORMAL for Helsinki. As an introduction to Helsinki night life, we'd opted to eat at the hotel as we couldn't be sure of our arrival time but even we hardened Londoners baulked a bit at paying over twenty quid for a burger, and around £8.50 for a half litre of admittedly nice beer (Baltic Porter).
However, this was nothing compared to our later experiences. To be fair, food portions were generous, which cannot be said of my wife's wine, ordered by the glass in really mean amounts but still at high prices. It's no surprise that dining-out couples rarely order a whole bottle.
They say that in advance of any foreign travel, you should scrutinise what you've packed, throw out half of it and take twice as much money instead. In Finland's case, keep all your clothing in case the autumn weather turns nippy AND take twice as much money!
This is one of the few foreign breaks we've taken where I didn't put on any detectable weight!
Perhaps the new 5:2 Diet? Eat for five nights at home during the week and then spend the weekend in Helsinki!
For the rest of our eating out, we alternated between cheap snacks (well, cheap for Helsinki) at lunchtime and expensive dining out in the evenings. It naturally makes sense to stoke up on the unlimited buffet breakfast at the hotel. The harbour front is a good source of impromptu eateries, as there's a market there most days, ramping up to that most exciting of Sunday celebrations, the Herring Festival whilst we were there.
The 'Blackadder' phrase "the winter evenings must just fly by" comes to mind.
Our two main meals out were at a home-brew pub/restaurant and the decidedly un-Finnish-sounding 'Copas y Tapas' where we were served excellent locally-sourced small dishes, all with a narrative supplied by a Breton waiter who'd previously lived in East Grinstead - I'm still not quite sure why I found that funny, especially ending up speaking French to pay the bill. This being my wife's birthday, pushing the boat out a bit seemed in order (as long as she promised not to expect a present too!). Now I've seen my credit card bill, I think I got off quite lightly at £135 for the two of us.
Less good value and decidedly chilly inside was the brasserie. Unbeknown to us at the time of booking, they were scheduled to have a kind of mini-Oktoberfest complete with a new batch of wheat beer and an 'Oompah Band'. Fortunately, we'd gotten most of the way through our food order, approximately half a pig each, before the players arrived. I'm not a great fan of the 'genre' and after a couple of rousing choruses of 'Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit,' we paid our bill (about £80 IIRC) and left. Maybe they felt that the rowdier customers expected later would do the heating for them!
I GET AROUND
Helsinki has a tram system that British cities can only dream of. Of course, it helps that its streets are wide enough (and quiet enough) to allow the trams unhindered access to kerbs and centres of roads in equal amounts. It's fortunate that Helsinki seems to only have relatively light road traffic compared to British cities. All the trams are modern articulated jobs (mini-trains really) with digital displays of route end and next stop. There's a centre section with kerb level floors for loading prams, luggage, old gits etc. Other doors, whilst appearing to be at kerb level do require a 'leg-up' once inside. All trams negotiate a 'dog-bone' loop at line-ends so that you only loose the floor space to one set of doors on the right as with a bus. Likewise there's only one cab taking up precious passenger space as these trams never have to reverse (unlike those in Croydon and other UK locations)
Tram shelters give you a helpful ETA of the next tram. Day tickets really do last for 24-hours (i.e. they don't expire shortly after the last bus or tram of the day runs). At 8.50Euro, somewhat better value than my beer!
Talking of beer, there's actually a vivid red vintage tram operating as a pub, serving ales and sympathy as it negotiates a circular tour of the city centre.
There is one solitary Metro line but for our purposes we never felt moved to use it as it seems more of use to those living in northern suburbs.
The Helsinki harbour area also has an archipelago of small islands, some served by ferries, some even by car ferries. We took the Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) ferry, which was included on our day tickets. It's a 15-minute ride to a pretty and tranquil group of islands linked amongst themselves by bridges. There's a lot of military history here, and I was well impressed by Finland's only remaining submarine on static display. Finland had been stripped of its military navy after the Second Wold War, having been put in the unenviable position of defending itself against the Soviet Union, thereby by default, aligning itself with Germany.
WHAT TO SEE
Well, it might seem odd to kick off this section with a recommendation that you get the hell out of there, but Linda Line do actually operate a 'Fast-Cat' ferry service to Tallinn in Estonia, which takes about 90 minutes, so if you've a hankering to start checking off Baltic states from your list, now's your chance. We tried, but unfortunately, the sea was too rough and we got our money back, deciding to retrieve what we had set aside as a day out by taking the fast bus to a little town called Porvoo, which is about 35 miles north-east from Helsinki.
Transferring to an 'ordinary' ferry wasn't an option because:-
a) We'd missed it and
b) Being a lot slower, it takes too big a chunk out of the day.
As it happens, Porvoo has a charming old world clapper-board area with brightly-coloured houses, antique shops and cafés, with a peaceful riverside setting. The drive there is through mile upon mile of lake- and wet-land interspersed with deciduous forest. I couldn't help thinking how it would look during winter though, it being only early autumn when we were there, but already decidedly colder than back home.
I'll be honest and say that with only a long weekend in Finland, we didn't visit any of Helsinki's doubtless excellent art galleries and museums with the exception of (Suomenlinna) Sveaborg Island which is more or less a museum in its own right - eating out's more our thing.
Wandering around its wide boulevards and shopping streets, and especially the harbour front, with a view across to an Orthodox church gives an air of 'mini-St. Petersburg' to the place, which isn't that surprising I guess given that the latter isn't exactly a million miles away, Finland had most recently (up until the time of the Revolution) been a Duchy of the Russian empire, and a large part of it had to be rebuilt during the Russian period.
It's not a huge city, hence the fact that apart from shuttling to and from the hotel on a No.4 tram, we didn't really feel the need to use public transport or a taxi.
There are streets where houses vie for supremacy in some kind of "look how 'art nouveau' I am" competition; doorways you half expect Bilbo Baggins to emerge from. Shops built in the 1930s in a timeless style still look fresh today - I'm thinking of the famous Stockmann department store here. There are grand squares like the 'Senatstorget' in front of the Senate House. There are cobbled side streets - in fact take supportive footwear as a day on cobbles, which extend onto pavements can be hard on the feet.
And of course, there are hotels made from jails!
Yes, probably once my savings have recovered, and probably in better weather so that trip to Tallinn will be possible.
I recently went on a Royal Caribbean cruise with my family (review already posted) and we went to Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia and Finland. The cruise was the 12 night Scandinavia and Russia cruise with the brilliance of the seas sailing from Harwich and we went at the beginning of August this year. We have been on five royal Caribbean cruises, including this one, and I would definitely recommend Royal Caribbean.
- Brief history of the city
The city of Helsinki was founded by Sweden in 1550. Sweden 'owned' Finland for some time as Russia did in the 1700's and again in the 1800's. The city was used for trade and as a military centre. Helsinki only became the capital of Finland in the early 1800's which compared to other European capitals such as Rome and London is relatively young as a capital city. In 1917, the year of the Russian revolution, Finland declared its independence however this then turned to civil war and Mannerheim, a general, won. While in Helsinki we saw a statue of Mannerheim on his horse and also a number of streets are named after him in one way or another. After being occupied by Sweden, then Russia then followed by civil war it hasn't been easy for the people of Helsinki and Finland generally - this was made worse when the soviet union launched an attack on Finland at the start of the second world war but it didn't sustain a lot of damage as it didn't during the first and second world wars as Finland along with other northern European nations remained unoccupied by foreign forces and was neutral during the wars. Helsinki is the largest and most populated city in Finland and Finnish and Swedish are official languages - most people speech Finnish but our guide told us that it is very common for adults (and children) to speak at least two/three languages including Finnish, Swedish, English, German and Russian.
- Walking around the city (walking tour, Royal Caribbean) and the weather
Well before the ship docked it was raining like crazy off the coast of Finland - I have never been on a ship while it was raining, it looks quite strange and it didn't seem like it was going to be a great day - especially as we had a walking tour booked! When we got off the ship it was still raining really heavily and as we were at the coast it is really windy too, so not a great start and myself and my sister had to go back on the ship to get coats. There were people waiting for their coaches/guides under the small tent at the ramp to get on/off the ship and we still got wet - we waited in the fairly large store across from the ship which had loads of gorgeous souvenirs! The guide/RC staff had a coach ready because it was still raining and they weren't going to let us walk in that, although people who hadn't booked a tour had to. We got on the coach and finally out of the rain and the temperature outside, as indicted in the coach, was 17 degrees Celsius which is pretty chilly for the middle of august.
Our group of about 20 and our guide were driven by coach to the point where our walking tour would have started and by the time we got there the rain had stopped. And the rest of the day the weather was very nice, so my advice for outfits and packaging for Finland (and the other Scandinavian countries, as well as Russia) is to take a coat, umbrella and be prepared for the weather to change quickly. I always took a cardigan, sunglasses and an umbrella in my bag. Walking around the city was pretty easy, although there were some steep areas and our guide made us walk through a small construction area on the side of the road so I ended up with sand in my flats but anyway, the walking was not difficult and the weather was nice for the rest of the walk which was a relief.
- The rock church (Temppeliaukio Church)
We walked up a fairly steep street for a few minutes and across a road or two and we arrived at the rock church (there was a nice souvenir shop opposite) and this was our first stop on the tour. The rock church is a Lutheran church in Helsinki and it was opened in 1969. The church has been carved out of the rock, the walls are rock and the church has literally just been blown out of the rock that was there - it is really unique and even though I am not religious I do love architecture and it is pretty unique and it looks amazing. It isn't like any other church I have been in. The roof is copper and it gleams in the light, it is actually a copper colour as it has not oxidised but the outside part fo the dome is green due to oxidisation. There are slits in the roots at the edges which allow natural light to some though but even so on the day we went it was a bit dark inside and it was fairly busy too. The church is one of the most popular sights on Helsinki and about 500,000 people visit it every year. There is an organ and there are pews, along with an information desk with leaflets in numerous languages but apart from that it is really simple and basic, in my opinion. I would go to it again as there isn't that much to see if I am honest but I am glad I went as it is very different.
- Hesperia Park
From the rock church we went to the souvenir shop across the street and then we walked for around fifteen minutes or so to a small outdoor food market which was a nice little stop to see the local seasonal food and our guide told us about the Finnish lifestyle etc - she said that in Finland the winters are very cold and also very dark, the children see the news about English schools being closed and they want their schools to be closed but in Finland all schools are always open and they find it a bit strange/funny to an extent that our schools seem to be closed when there is a small amount of snow. The market was very empty, no people really and only a couple of stalls. From the market we walked to Hesperia park for our tea stop, the part is also called 'Hesperiaparken' in Swedish and it is one of many green areas in Helsinki - there are at least ten green areas/parks ranging in size in Helsinki which I think is great but a little but unusual for a capital city. The park is gorgeous and it is close to the city centre where the shops/departments stores are and it is also really close to finlandia hall. The park has what looks like a large lake in the middle but it is actually a bay - it is called 'Töölönlahti' and it is connected to the sea. There are birds in the park and also a nice waterfall like water feature that we passed too - there were mums and children in the park and the park seemed really nice and clean, if a little chilly. Our guide said that the middle of august is when fall/autumn starts in Finland. We arrived after about a ten minute walk or so at a gorgeous building in the middle of the park next to the bay which looked like a posh Scandinavian café but it is a restaurant where we had our tea stop.
The Töölönranta restaurant from the outside looks really expensive and quite Scandinavian and cosy - and the inside is even more cosy as they had sofas and plush cushions and also the fire was cracking away - it was so gorgeous and I imagine it would be wonderful light up at night or in the winter. We were offered an assortment of pastries to choose from and also tea/coffee/soft drinks which was nice - I didn't have anything but the rest of my family did. Being English my mum had tea and in all of the countries we went to the tea was as we know it, it is quite perfumed. Our guide was talking to us again about the Finnish lifestyle etc while we were there and it was really interesting - she said that students do not pay for university and they actually get given 650 euros per month from the government and the school system in Finland is quite different to everywhere else, as the children do not go to school until they are quite a bit older than the age children in England start school. She also said that people usually have a town house and a summer house and I was all for moving to Finland (especially because of the no uni fees, too bad I didn't know about this earlier!) but she also said that their taxes are fairly high as are medical fees if you need to go to hospital.
- Finlandia hall, Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral of St. Nicholas and souvenir shops
From the restaurant we walked through the rest of the park to finlandia hall, which is just outside the park parallel to mannerheimintie which is the most famous street in Helsinki and is named after Mannerheim the Finnish military leader. Finlandia hall is a concert building, it also has congress facilities. We didn't go inside, and from the outside it looks quite boring and uninteresting, in my opinion. We then walked along Mannerheimintie and past the national museum of Finland which looks like a church you would find in England but it is a museum. The main street wasn't that busy, there were some cars and buses and also trams but nothing like I thought it would be for a capital city. We carried of walking past the museum of modern art where outside is a statue of Mannerheim (next to his street) on a horse - he is quite important in Finnish history being a main figure in the Finnish military and also he was the president of Finland for two years. He was also important within Russian aristocrat circles at the time (being born into a aristoctic family) and he played a large role in the coronation ceremony of Tsar Nicholas II. At the statue you are pretty much in the city centre (just a very short walk to the shops), there are modern buildings with department stores and many shops. We didn't have time to shop because the tour is time restricted but using the royal Caribbean shuttle bus service you are told where the meeting point is and you can stay in the city centre and get a bus back (in some cities you didn't have to pay if you had been on a tour but in some cities, such as Tallinn, Estonia, you had to pay).
After walking through the city centre, which is kind of busy, but not capital city busy - I have been really surprised this holiday as the capital cities we have been to such as Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki have not looked or felt like capital cities, they have not been really busy or congested - Gothenburg was a lot more busy than all of the other cities (although they were having a few festivals when we went). Anyway, we walked to one of the most famous and iconic buildings of Helsinki - Lutheran Cathedral of St. Nicholas which looks quite formal and grand, although not like a church really, in my opinion. The church is Lutheran again, Lutheran is the majority religion although our guide said that more and more people, especially younger generations, are not going to church as maybe it is becoming less traditional to do so or because in Finland they have a church tax which is between 1-2% but I am sure our guide said it can be up to 6% of your income. We didn't go inside the church, no one seemed to be going inside but there were people sat on the steps up to the church.
Overall, I am glad I have been able to visit Helsinki, it was one of the places I really wanted to go to and I loved the park and the people were really nice. Also the café was gorgeous, it is easy to walk around the city and apart from the morning rain, the weather for the rest of the day was gorgeous - also the souvenirs are so cute. Also it is not what I thought it would be and I have felt this way about some of the other cities I went to on this cruise - the capital cities such as Helsinki and Stockholm were not as I expected - they didn't seem like capital cities, they were fairly quiet and not really aimed at tourists like other capital cities I have been to such as London, Rome, Athens etc. Don't get me wrong I liked Helsinki but it just wasn't as I imagined it to be - I would definitely visit Finland again, maybe northern Finland though.
*Easy to get around the city
*Good amount of sites to see
*Souvenir shops around the main attractions and the souvenirs were so cute and reasonably priced
*Clean city, gorgeous green areas, cosy cafes
*Port - free wifi, souvenir shops (with food samples, beauty products, essentials) and a café
*Not as I excepted - fairly quiet (although I guess that is a positive for some people)
Thank you for reading my review - you can see more photographs from the rest of my holiday on my blog: ofbeautyandnothingness.blogspot.co.uk
*And through out the holiday there was not one mention of the vikings - it is a major topic within the history of scandinavia! very disappointing!*
My sister and I are really not into the whole beach holiday thing and the thought of going somewhere like Ibiza or Magaluf is our idea of hell. Not knowing where to go this year, we thought somewhere a little bit different would be fun so we picked Helsinki, Finland. (Also Tallinn, Estonia after a bit of a flight mess - see 'Getting There')
Getting to Helsinki was a bit of a nightmare for my sister and I. We had originally booked direct flights with a low cost airline who then decided that they were not going to fly to Finland at all anymore so we were left with a refund and finding another way to get there. After looking at different airlines, we realised that flying straight there would cost way too much. Flights from East Midlands or Manchester were roughly £500-£600 each and compared to our original £70, that was outrageous. In the end, we flew to Tallinn, Estonia and then got the ferry across to Helsinki. The ferry takes between 2 and 4 hours depending on which ferry you use (we had ones taking both lengths of time) and cost around £35 each for a return ticket. This was the cheapest available on each journey but there are a lot more options available.
Helsinki during the summer
My sister was the one who booked pretty much everything for our holiday this year and to be honest, I was quite happy to let her. She doesn't like extremely hot countries so thought Finland would be a nice temperature even at the beginning of July. Her guide books stated that temperatures would be mid 20s (Celsius) and that sounded perfect for us both. However, once we got there, we realised that the books lied and it was a lot hotter, reaching a minimum of 28 and the maximum it got was 34.
Due to getting the temperatures completely wrong, this is also the way our packing went. During the day time, we tried to wear light clothes and maxi dresses to keep us as cool as possible and even then we were still too hot at times. The night times are a little cooler though so I would recommend a very light jacket or cardigans/ shawls for the girls. At a few of the tourist attractions, we saw many people in bikinis and shorts laying out to sunbathe but as we didn't take these, we couldn't do any of that.
We stayed in a hotel in West Helsinki but found the transport to be extremely easy and quick to use. The city makes fantastic use of the bus, tram and metro systems, all of which seemed to run very regularly. The metro was the easiest for us as we knew exactly where it was taking us and where we needed to get on and off. Some of the buses were a little trickier though as we weren't sure of our location at times and felt really lost. Along the streets of the city, you will see many bus/ tram stops and as long as you research routes a little online beforehand, they are quite easy to figure out.
The train station is the easiest and quickest way to get to other neighbouring towns like Porvoo but we were quite tempted to take a trip to St. Petersburg at one point but ran out of time. The train station was always packed so is obviously a really popular mode of transport. Next to the train station is the main bus terminal which makes it possible to get anywhere else in the city quite quickly.
As for prices, we paid Euro24 for 7 days unlimited travel which covers bus, tram and metro. We were travelling quite a lot by metro, going back and forth each day so this was really a good price for how much we used it.
Some things to do
Helsinki zoo is actually on its own island which was something that amazed me. Including a 20 minute ferry ride from the market square and entrance to the zoo, an adult ticket is Euro16 which is extremely reasonable for a zoo I think. The zoo is home to a large range of animals and has one of the largest cat sections that I have ever seen in a zoo. The Cat Valley is home to animals such as the Asian lion, Amur leopard and the snow tiger. Unfortunately, not many of the cats wanted to come out and be seen while we were visiting. The zoo takes a good couple of hours to walk around mainly due to the fact that it is on a quite steep hill. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves here!
Suomenlinna is a (once working) sea fortress which is really easy to get to and provides a pretty cheap day out. For Euro7, you can get a return ferry ticket from the market square and this includes entrance to the fort although not all of the museums there. If you have a Helsinki Card, ferry, entrance and museums are all included. The ferry only takes about 15-20 minutes and gives lovely views on the way there. The land on the fort is large and spacious which provides lovely walks and picnic areas. There is a lot of historic items to see at Suomenlinna and it was all extremely interesting. Along with the ferry journey, I would say give at least 4 hours up for this trip.
As already mentioned, you can get to a lot of other places from here as there is a harbour and ferries departing regularly. The square is actually a working market though and a sight to see all by itself. The square is quite large and home to many stalls selling a range of things. Finnish delicacies can be found at the market, fish seeming like the most popular, as well as souvenirs, arts, crafts and jewellery amongst other things. The market was really a great place to visit as there were so many different things to see here. I loved looking around each stall and seeing what was on offer.
Night of the Arts
This event is held during late August and as part of Helsinki's festival, art related events are held all over the city. Events usually start around 6pm and can last until midnight sometimes. Due to the hours of these events, the museums, book stores etc where they are held end up staying open later than usual. If you are interested in art, this is a definite must!
Dragon Boat Racing
Another event held during August is dragon boat racing. The surrounding waters of Helsinki are filled with competitive Finns who all want to get to the other side first. Sounds pretty exciting right?!
Unfortunately, we didn't experiment too much while in Helsinki due to the fact my sister is vegetarian. Most restaurants we came across had menus full of meat dishes so finding somewhere for us both to each was quite a tricky thing. Luckily, Helsinki does have bar restaurants like everywhere else. In the city centre, not far from the train station is Memphis, your typical bar restaurant selling things like burgers and steaks. The food was very reasonably priced at around Euro15 a burger which includes a side order of potatoes.
My biggest recommendation food wise is to go to Vapiano, an Italian restaurant. I know I should probably be recommending more Finnish places but I don't care, I loved this place. Vapiano serves pasta, pizza and salads which are all cooked fresh to order and right infront of your eyes. The prices were extremely reasonable, with a pasta costing around Euro8 and the dish sizes are large. We visited Vapiano a couple of time during our stay because we loved it that much and wanted to try something else.
During the summer though, fresh fruit was a massive deal and we saw people walking around with massive trays of strawberries. At the market, I decided to try them for myself and they were absolutely delicious!
I loved Helsinki for many different reasons. There is so much to do and see there and I wasn't expecting that at all. Some of the museums are a little expensive to get into though for what they are but with days out like the sea fort and the zoo costing so little, I couldn't really complain. During the winter, Helsinki is really cold and has a lot of snow so I would definitely say that summer is the best time to go as you can really make the most out of the tourist attractions.
Our third port of call. Once again, it's not my first visit. The previous time was in November so I do expect it to be a bit warmer! It is, but there's still a chill wind that makes light summer clothing a little less than is needed.
I remember Helsinki less from an architectural point of view, where it is even more Stockholm than Stockholm, than for its people. Last time I was here was to give a presentation to an audience of Finns. I really do think that this should be officially classed by the UN as Cruel and Unusual Punishment. If you've ever tried to engage a Finnish audience you'll know exactly what I mean. Utterly unresponsive is an understatement.
We have been told that the Stone Church in Temppeliaukio (Temple Square) is worth a visit. It's about half a kilometre from where the coach drops us. We are guided by the SatNav on my Nokia 5230, to which I had had the foresight to download the city maps of all of our destinations, other than St Petersburg.
A more aptly named place it is hard to imagine. The initial view of it, as we walk up through a small garden that acts as a divider between the two sides of Fredrikinkatu, is of a sort of cave, with a very wide entrance. Outside are hundreds of what look like sailors. We are informed that they are actually graduates, having their graduation ceremony within. The church is unavailable for half an hour, until the service ends.
We retire to a souvenir shop across the road to wait. They're selling Christmas decorations! It's June FGS!!!! I'm guessing this is typical in Finland, where it's often hard to tell the difference. Of course, we have to buy a couple of knick-knacks for the tree, and some postcards for the family. The shop owner and her staff couldn't be more friendly and informative. I suppose what you get from the Finns depends upon whether you are salesman or customer!
The Stone Church is an amazing place. Circular in construction, it features a ceiling made entirely out of a flat coil of thick copper wire. The windows surround the church, just below ceiling level, and below, right down to floor level, is rough-hewn rock. To one side is a magnificent pipe organ. This is clearly a popular tourist attraction, as well as being a functioning church, judging by the number of visitors and non-Finnish tongues being spoken.
Our next destination is the Sibelius Memorial. This is about a kilometre away up Mechelingatan, an easy walk, and set in a park which is also named after this world-famous son of Finland. I am a huge fan of the music of Jean Sibelius; his Karelia Suite first turned me on to classical music back when I was very young.
Whereas the architecture is generally uninspiring, the parks in Helsinki are beautiful. The memorial is unique: constructed of a bunch of vertical steel pipes of uneven length and standing around two metres above the ground, you can walk under and around it. At the time of its erection in the 60s, it garnered much criticism and as a result a bust of the composer was added, alongside.
Now it's time for a drink and so we wander off behind the memorial to a small, beautifully decorated café (Regatta) set beside an expanse of water. Refreshed with tea, coffee and nibbles, we adjourn to the separate loo, which alone was worth the visit and the price of the refreshments: luxury not expected to be found in the middle of a public park!
Leaving, we walk back through Sibelius Park over to Mannerheimintie and head back in the direction of the city centre, passing along the way the Opera House and wandering through the park in which it is set, around the edge of the lake. This leads on past Finlandia Hall, to the Forum and the Central Railway Station. By now it's time for lunch so we enter the pedestrian area facing the station.
I say pedestrian but the rail lines in the pavement warn you that trams are a frequent hazard for the unwary. We are looking for a typically Finnish restaurant but fail to find one. I remember the last time I was here, we were taken [ironically, bearing in mind the history between the Russians and the Finns] to a Russian restaurant, said to be the best in Helsinki. I can't remember where it was but we don't really have time for more than a snack anyway.
We do find a restaurant which could probably be defined as Italian influenced; it's open and the prices are reasonable. It turns out to be a good choice; food and service are excellent.
Next we head for Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral (the one in the picture above), set atop a huge flight of steps off Alexandersgatan. A very impressive place but, sadly, not open for a visit inside. The views from the top of the steps is not as impressive as I had hoped it would be: the surrounding buildings are, themselves, quite high and so a clear view over their roofs is not possible. I would guess a view from the cathedral's dome would be more so.
What we do realise is that we are quite close to the port and so we venture over in that direction, opposite the steps. What we find on Kauppatori is an outdoor market selling everything under the sun, including fast food, which looks delicious, if only we hadn't already eaten! Had we known, we would have come here instead. A browse around the stalls and then it's time to go back to the ship.
From the market we wander back though the gardens between Norra and Sodra Esplanaden to where the coach will take us back to the ship and on to St Peterburg. We have greatly enjoyed our visit to Helsinki, despite the variable weather. Had we had the time there would have been still more to see I'm sure. But, for now...
I have been living in Helsinki for 4 years and I think its a very interesting place to go and visit for a short period. It is very compact, you can pretty much walk from any destination within city boundaries. All the major shops, clubs, pubs and entertainment are located within 15-20 minutes walk all around as well so you wont miss much really.
Helsinki to my opinion is a capital of alternative people, you would be amazed how many very interesting looking people on the streets you might meet. Of course it is not a novelty anywhere in the world nowadays, but trust me - Helsinki will still surprise you with goths, emos, punks etc. You will meet even newborn babies dressed up in gothic clothes and in gothic pushchair! how bizzare is that!
Music culture is great in Helsinki and you can expect to find live performances any day of the week if you search for right places.
Finally, even though I would not call Finns the most social people, they are definitely friendly enough to guide and direct you, plus they all speak great english, which is well done for the nation.
As disadvantages, be aware it is quite expensive place to go and especially drink. But then you get value for your money, so if you have enough to spend and get merry you ll definitely have fun. Dont forget about neighbour Sweden and Estonia worth checking and only couple of hours to reach by boat! ;)
I'm slightly reluctant to write this review if I'm honest, as I quite like the idea of keeping the wonders of Helsinki a secret.
What's so special about it? Everything. Well almost- I'm not quite into Finnish cuisine but then I'm a vegetarian so it's no wonder. Even then, most restaurants do a damn good pasta dish. To me, its the perfect place because its by no means too big and crowded like most European capitals but at the same time it has so much life buzzing in it, it's impossible to be bored. If you don't run by Finnish logic then it can be rather hard to navigate through the first few times but that's no big issue. I love how the history is a huge part of Helsinki's culture- its a fairly new city but its Swedish and Russian influences make it a work of art in itself. The buildings are wonderful and there are many statues, some reflecting the past and some just there for plain humour.
I have never experienced one day the same in Helsinki. For me, it just gives off an atmosphere where anything can happen. One minute you can be soaking the sun in one of the amazing parks, then shopping in the extensive range of shops, bumping into rockstars in the street, drinking on Sunday nights, the list goes on..
OK, so you have a week to spend in Helsinki. What can you do? Well first of all, you must ensure you visit the symbol of Helsinki- Helsingin tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral.) This spectacular building overlooks Helsinki and is most probably the main feature on the postcards. You have to be quite fit to be able to actually get up the stairs to it, but believe me, you'll be glad you did. Not just a pretty view, the Cathedral offers an atmosphere of complete peace and that's just on the outside. It's especially brilliant at night time, just don't choose a saturday night, as the steps outside are where the underage drinkers gather to party. I've never actually seen inside but as I'm not religious I prefer to admire it on the outside.
The Cathedral overlooks the historic (in Helsinki-terms anyway) Senate Square which features a tribute statue of Alexander II of Russia who helped to establish the Diet Of Finland. One of the University of Helsinki buildings is also situated here. Once you've seen the Cathedral, a few steps across the road directly in front of it and you come to a fantastic free museum, part of the Helsinki City museum which really gives you an insight into the tough times that the city and its people have had to endure in the past.
Other tourist attractions which you could visit are the Church In The Rock- Temppeliaukio (pretty, but if religion doesn't interest you, then this won't either) and The Sibelius monument which is situated in Sibelius park dedicated to Finland's most famous composer- again interesting but not spectacular. I personally loved the little cafe next to it, over looking the waterfront with amazing Finnish cinnamon buns. I'd also suggest walking along the coast line because, you wouldn't really think so, but Helsinki does have very nice beaches!
Actually, there are two must do 'Museums'- well museum parks anyway. Firstly, going to the docks by Market Square (an interesting visit in itself) and hop on the regular ferry to Suomenlinna- the historic fortress which has seen through the occupation of the Swedish and Russian forces before Finland finally gained independence in 1917. Not only does it give you the chance to be a 'kid' again and go exploring through the dark tunnels, some which you can crawl through but it has an interactive visitor centre which gives you the run down on its history in all different languages. The island itself is also great for a nice walk and a picnic on a sunny day. My favourite however was Seurasaari Open- Air museum, situated on an island to the west of Helsinki. Easily accessible by bus from the centre, this Island is dedicated to showing visitors just how the people have lived in Finland through history. Set amongst the forests, wooden houses have been constructed all laid out as it would have been and in most of them visitors can walk through each room. Its not just the scenery though, actors in traditional outfits roam the premises doing various things. If you're lucky enough you might stumble across a house where they play the accordion and other traditional instruments and singing in Finnish. It was fantastic.
Ok, so that's the main historic sights- well there are many more, but for that you can invest in the Lonely Planet guide ;) Now you want to have some real fun? Well if you're a big kid (like me) you'll love Linnanmaki Amusement park. Ok so it's not Alton Towers/ Thorpe Park but its great for a few laughs, especially try the Ferris wheel where you get awesome views of the city. You could also buy a tram ticket and hop on the 3T tram, its still a mystery to me where that goes but hey its good fun anyway! You could also hit the shops, the 'Forum' is quite a good shopping centre with one of my favourite shops in it, Sepalla, which does awesome colourful clothes (though quite expensive) and above the bus station there is a main shopping centre too which is brilliant.
Although drinking is ridiculously expensive, it is well worth doing in Helsinki- see my review on the 'Fever' Club. Helsinki is very big in the Rock/Alternative music scene (it's often referred to as Hell-sinki) with many clubs dedicated to it. There's always a rock show going on in the Tavastia or The Semi-Final (smaller club, right next door to it.) Although I've not yet been myself, the club 'On The Rocks' is very well known in the City and has many famous regulars.
There is so much more I could say on Helsinki, but in truth its better to experience it first hand and one person's experience in Helsinki is most likely to differ from the other. One last thing I would say though is that to really get the most out of your trip and to get the respect of the locals, it is a great idea to learn the basics of Finnish even if its just: "Hello" ('moi/hei'), "Thank you/ please" (Kiitos) and "Do you speak English?" (Puhutteko Englantia?) They really do appreciate it and certainly don't expect you to pronounce it right, it just impresses them as many foreigners don't make the effort. However, should you forget, the majority of Finns I met in Helsinki are more than happy to help a lost foreigner. One lovely couple even got on the bus with us and asked the bus driver to tell us when to get off.
That's why I love Helsinki; it really is the people that make the place.
I've visited Helsinki three times now and whilst the main purpose of each visit has been for a music event, I've also now had several extra days not filled by music to do the traditional tourist activities.
One of the first things mentioned to me as a must visit is the island fortress Suomenlinna. It's best to try and pick a nice day to visit it as not only is it likely to take the best part of the day, but also because you have to get a boat to get there! It costs about 5 Euros to get there and on the island there are a range of museums and exhibits, some free, some with additional entrance fees.
Another island attraction is Korkeasaari zoo; once again you are ferried there and it is mostly open air, so definitely choose a nicer day to visit it. They've a whole range of animals to wonder at, from lion, cheetahs and wildcats, to bears, mountain goats, emus and wallabies, not to mention all the creepy crawlies indoors! A fascinating day out, though it's advisable to invest in an island map to get the most out of your trip.
The Sibelius Monument is located a little way out of Helsinki city centre in a park near a rather large lake, it is truly an impressive structure to look and marvel at and when you're done staring, you've got the surrounding landscape to enjoy.
The Olympic Stadium, situated about a 20 minute walk from the city centre has an impressive tower which is open to the public most days (the exception being when events are taking place at the Stadium). For Euro2 for adults and Euro1 for children, you can climb up the tower and get an outstanding view of Helsinki from above.
For those on a tighter budget however, there is Torni Tower, situated in Torni hotel, you can go up this tower for nothing, with a bar at the top and an alternative view of Helsinki from above in the city centre.
Kamppi shopping centre is just one of many shopping areas in the city centre, though I've found that this centre has the greatest variety of shops, with The Forum shopping centre pretty much next door, there's plenty of places to do some holiday shopping.
The market square in the south harbour is also excellent to catch as you can find all sorts of treats and wonders there, from local novelties to fresh fruit it's certainly worth a browse.
Helsinki Cathedral is stands out proudly in the city skyline, meaning you do find yourself having to climb many stairs to get up to it (though there is a lift in the crypt for those in wheelchairs). Inside, being a Lutheran church it is not crowded by decoration yet is still impressive and you will likely find yourself staring in awe for longer than you'd expect. It's also part of the impressive Senate Square, which also features the University of Helsinki's main building and the National Library of Finland. For those interested in the architecture of the area, this is definitely a place to go, along with Helsinki's central railway station.
I decided to give Helsinki City Museum a go as it was free and indoors - ideal for those on a tight budget (as I was) or for poor weather. Focusing on the development of Helsinki over time, it was quite an interesting way to pass about an hour, but no more than that. Another museum worth a peak would be the National Museum of Finland, although this one isn't free, Euro7 for adults, Euro4 for students and pensioners and free for children, it is an excellent narration of the countries history and well worth a look.
Tram 3T is an excellent way to see the sights, arm yourself with a guide beforehand though so you don't miss any! Though if you'd rather have a guided tour, there are also bus tours available, departing from the Olympia Terminal by the south harbour.
Other family attractions available include the Sea Life Centre featuring all sorts of tropical fish and a transparent tunnel to walk through and next door there is also the Linnanmäki Amusement Park with a whole range of rides catering for those of all different ride tolerance levels!
Personally, due to how cold it can get in the winter, I would definitely advise going to Helsinki in the summer, as there is much more open and available to do. The biggest downside at the moment to visiting Helsinki is the cost. It certainly isn't the cheapest European city to visit and with the Euro exchange rate as it currently is, you may find some prices seem very high for what you get.
I visited Helsinki for the first time in early 2009, and was impressed at the city and its accessibility. Prices were generally very reasonable, despite the poor exchange rate against the Euro that we currently have. Historically the city is relatively new, experiencing its more rapid growth in the nineteenth century. Its history has led to a very unique mix of Russian, Swedish and home-grown styles in terms of architecture, character and general way of life.
It's inevitably hard to give a guide to an entire city in a review such as this, but I've featured some of the more important areas and subjects which might be of interest to other readers.
I found public transport to be superb in Finland. For 6 Euros (or 15 Euros for three days) you can buy a travel card at kiosks which allow you free travel on trains, subway (Finland's only subway service), trams, buses and the ferry in the centre of Helsinki. These services are frequent and well managed, with lots of signing to make sure that you don't get too confused easily (something which I easily am!).
The one downside is that we arrived by car and used the park and ride system, which wasn't signed brilliantly, and we ended up further out in Helsinki's suburbs that we had hoped for. We got on the train, as the ticket office wasn't open and found the process for buying tickets confusing. However, once in Helsinki station, there is a tourist information office which helps with the purchase of the tickets.
However, overall the cards offer superb value for money. The coverage of public transport of the central area is nearly total, so you should have no problems navigating your way around.
This is a sea fortress which we visited, based on an island just outside of Helsinki. You can use the ferry to get there, which is included in the public transport ticket you can get for six pounds. The ferries are frequent, every 30 minutes when we were using the service.
The fortress itself is an amazing construction, with a long history behind it. Essentially it was built as a fortress to defend the city of Helsinki, and the country, but allegiances have changed over the centuries, and its history is complex, although the fort has rarely been under attack.
On the site are fortifications throughout the island, and a number of museums. There is Finland's only submarine (the country was banned from having submarines following its brief intervention against the allies in World war Two), a toy museum, a museum of the fort and numerous other constructions, such as a church converted by the Russians following their takeover of Finland from Sweden.
We were only able to spend a few hours here, but with lots to see on the island, this could easily be a day long visit for anyone interested in the history of the country and the area. Or just to visit the numerous cafes on the island!
Much to my delight, there are a range of second-hand bookshops near the harbour, and many antique shops. Fortunately for me there were large English sections, and the prices were very reasonable. There are many antiques, very many of Russian origin, which were interesting, and again, the prices seemed very reasonable.
Helsinki averages around 15 degrees celsius in the summer, but is much colder in winter, so wrap up warm. Expect temperatures a little colder than the very north of Scotland and you won't go far wrong! You are likely to see many frozen lakes if you go in winter-time, or glorious blue lakes if you go in summertime. Given the long winter nights in the late autumn and winter, Finland can appear to be a very different place depending on when you travel. It is always however a fascinating country.
FOOD AND DRINK:
There is a wide choice of food and drink in Helsinki. There are some traditional indoor markets, with a large range of different types of food, both traditional and some not so traditional. These can be a little expensive, but offer a good choice. There are numerous restaurants of course, ranging from the expensive near the City's Parliament buildings, through to the common McDonalds, Subways and Hesburgers which are seen throughout Finland.
Food in the city is very varied and cosmopolitan, but there is a specialism in fish meals from what I saw, and an opportunity exists to try the local delicacy of reindeer should you be so tempted!
All in all, I greatly enjoyed my time in Helsinki. It wasn't an obvious location for me to visit, and was suggested by a friend. I got there by flying Ryanair from London Stansted to Tampere, which is around 100 miles north of Helsinki. We then rented a car for the period, but you can also get to the city directly at the international airport, although this can be more expensive than the cheaper Ryanair option!
I found the local people to be friendly and helpful, and very usefully very many of the population speak English - as well as Swedish, Russian and of course Finnish. As a different sort of holiday, I'd certainly recommend Helsinki!
Helsinki was not my choice. My partner had for a long time wanted to visit Finlands capital (he collects capital cities) and so I treated him for his 40th birthday. I wasnt against the idea, I just didnt really know anything about the place. We did buy a Lonely Planet well in advance of the trip but since we were also planning to visit Estonia my mind was focused more on my beloved Eastern Europe than on Finland. All I set out with was my pre-conceived idea of a very modern and forward-thinking city in the Scandinavian model; I did not expect much in the way of history, certainly not in the capital though I knew that Helsinki is a city with a strong maritime background.
There is a band called Architecture in Helsinki; I dont know much about them other than that I have often thought it a good name. Having now seen much of Helsinkis architecture I appreciate that it is a fabulous name for a band. It is impossible to visit Helsinki and not comment on the architecture to your traveling companion at least several times a day. It is not just the buildings as a whole but little architectural details that demand you have your camera in your hand all the time; in the end I stopped putting the camera back in its case. No two apartment buildings look the same; they might differ in colour or the style of the wrought iron balconies at the windows or the superb art nouveau carvings on the front doors.
Indeed, art nouveau is the most common style of Helsinki architecture; it can be found in all areas of the city and it lend a distinct air of culture to the city. Yes, there is the striking Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral built in the Russian style with its gleaming gold finials and cupolas or the imposing white neo-classical cathedral with its stately domes but they are just fleeting moments of grandeur and glamour among the art nouveau. So great is the contrast that, alas, the two cathedrals that face each other in an ecclesiastical stand-off between east and west look out of place in the city a momentary lapse of taste on the part of the city planners if you like. In any other city these beautiful churches would sit comfortably but here in Helsinki a city almost entirely of two dominant styles art nouveau and functionalist they stick out like a sore thumb.
Eliel Saarinen was the architect responsible for many of Helsinkis most celebrated art nouveau buildings, most notably the main railway station with its verdigris accoutrements but the best way to enjoy the diversity of the art nouveau style is to stroll around Katajanokka, an island connected to the south of Helsinki by a bridge accessed from the main market place (the Kauppatori).
The other prevalent style is functionalism, a style associated with the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, a controversial figure in Finland; people seem either to love or hate his work. The Finlandia Hall the citys chief concert hall is one of his works and it is one I rather like though I am less keen on another building near the Kauppatori which is being renovated to become a hotel. For my money the best examples of functionalist design in Helsinki are by architects other than Aalto. My favourite is the Olympic Stadium complete with its viewing tower. It was built for the 1940 games that were postponed due to the war but eventually used for the 1952 games which explains why the style does not seem quite right for the 1950s. The clean lines and simplicity of style work well with the white stone it is constructed from and it is well worth the tram ride north of the centre to visit. A ride to the top of the tower is a bargain at Euro 1.50, not least because it is a great way to get your bearings in a city that can seem quite confusing.
It may not help you much on the ground but at least you can work out where youve come from and where certain recognizable sights are in relation to each other. It also helps you appreciate not only how watery but how green Helsinki is. There are plenty of well-kept grassy squares breathing oxygen into the heart of a city where the car reigns supreme but the real lungs of the city is the Central Park which, at 10 kilometres long is pretty special.
Not far from the Olympic Stadium is the Sibelius Monument, one of Helsinkis most famous sights. Its frequently condemned as a poor piece of art but try telling that to the hordes of tourists who pull up next to it and get out of the sightseeing coaches to take photographs. How many of them do you think would recognize a piece by Sibelius anyway? Of course I went I dont only get excited by functionalist architecture, you know! If the truth be told it is a bit kitsch but it does provide some interesting opportunities for keen photographers; there is a smaller sculpture which is a portrait of Sibelius but the main part is a collection of pipes of differing sizes like a church organ.
What I really liked about Helsinki was the good mix between the natural and the manmade environment. There is no better place to demonstrate this than Suomenlinna, a maritime fortress just off the southern tip of the city. Its a collection of small islands linked by bridges and reached by ferry from the Kauppatori. There are numerous museums and a modern visitor centre as well as coffee shops, a restaurant with a microbrewery and even a youth hostel but visitors should be aware that, other than the visitor centre, opening hours are very limited in the off season which begins in mid-September. This did not worry us; ther place is perfect for walkers and the nooks and crannies of the fortress walls are begging to be explored. Even with thirty boisterous school children running around Suomenlinna is a haven of tranquility and its easy to forget youre in a capital city. (For more details on Suomenlinna and its attraction see duncantorrs great account)
The other islands are worth visiting too. Korkeasaari is home to Helsinki Zoo; 10 Euro covers your admission and the return ferry trip from the Kauppatori. Not only is there a small but interesting collection of animals (mostly native to northern Europe/Russia) but the grounds are magnificent and the colours of the changing leaves were superb in late September. Another island, Seurasaari is home to a series of interesting museums including an open air one that illustrates how Finns used to live.
My favourite area of the city is Kallio, slightly to the north of the centre and just past one of the citys main lakes. Here youll find an alternative Helsinki with more unusual bars (marketed more towards the younger, studenty crowd) and shops. As well as a couple of general second hand shops we found a real treasure chest of 1950s, 60s and 70s Finnish design focusing mainly on kitchenware made by the Arabia company who are still based just up the road. This distinctive brand is typified by naive floral designs and bright cheerful colours and is highly sought after by collectors; I could have spent hundreds on it but had no means of getting the stuff home.
If youve heard that visiting a Scandinavian city is expensive I am sorry to say I cannot tell you otherwise. Compared to other European capitals, with possibly the exception of Rome, it is expensive. There are ways of cutting costs however.
You can buy a Helsinki Card for 24, 48 or 72 hours. They arent cheap, however, so its worth doing a little research in advance to find out how much you might need it. We didnt buy one because we just couldnt make it pay. Unless you intend to visit a whole array of museums in one day it doesnt reduce your costs much at all although it does give free travel within the city.
We bought 24 hour travel tickets directly from the tram driver and this served us well and was good value at 6 Euro each; individual tickets are valid for one hour and cost 2 Euro. The trams are easy to use and cover the city well but the tickets are also valid for buses and local ferries too. (This does not include the Zoo ferry but does include the ferry to Suomenlinna).
Another way to save money is to take advantage of lunch menus in restaurants, look at for the signs outside or in the window offering lounas for anything from 5 Euro upwards. Some restaurants exist only as lunch restaurants, others offer a selection of main courses until around 2 or 3 oclock. You get a buffet salad, your main course, a jug of water and sometimes even a pudding in the price. Afterwards you can help your self to unlimited coffee, which Ill come onto in a moment.
Ignore the comments of Jacques Chirac and Silvio Berlusconi Finnish food is delicious! Perhaps not so great for vegetarians but if you eat meat or fish you will find a host of interesting and tasty dishes. Salad bars often include a variety of herring dishes and pickles as well as conventional salad ingredients. A buffet is a good way to sample a selection of traditional main course dishes; we found one little restaurant that had a splendid evening buffet where we sampled reindeer along with delicious beef stew, cabbage leaves stuffed with pork and a beetroot gratin that makes my stomach rumble just to think about it. In the evening the prices are more expensive but when you see a main course price it will include a salad starter, any accompaniments (rice, potatoes, vegetables, etc) and coffee to finish.
Coffee shops abound in Helsinki, hardly surprising when you learn that Finland is, along with Norway, the worlds greatest consumer of coffee. Many sell fancy cream cakes and elaborate gateaux but the traditional accompaniment is a pulla a cinnamon bun topped with little pieces of rock sugar that look like snow crystals. My problem was that the coffee is not freshly made and unless you ask for a latte or a cappuccino, you will be told to help yourself from a slightly warm percolated jug. When was it made? Who knows? At least in most places (except the really swanky ones of the kind Im unlikely to frequent anyway) you can have unlimited top-ups in the way common in the America.
Street food can be fun: we ate at a little stall at the Kauppatori and had reindeer sausage with vegetable rice and a little serving of lingonberries (this is a traditional accompaniment for reindeer but is god with other meat too). If you dont mind the enormous seagulls prowling around this is a delicious and quite reasonably priced lunch. Other bargains can be had in the kauppahaali. The kauppahaali is situated next to the kauapptori and is an upmarket indoor food market with a few eating places here and there. Its a good place to buy souvenirs and presents such as tinned reindeer meat, cloudberry sauce and speciality liquorice.
Helsinki has plenty of places to stop for a drink and, as in many other parts of Europe, its as acceptable to ask for a coffee as for a beer. Popular Finnish brands include Koff (my favourite) and Lapin Kulta but the best places are the microbreweries that tend to offer a choice from lager, pils and a darker beer all made on the premises. Vodka drinking is popular but for a taste of Finland you should try salmiakka - a schnapps into which a liquorice sweet has been dropped and left to dissolve. The resulting drink is thick and black and quite salty I loved it! A large beer will cost about 4 Euro in the centre of Helsinki and out in Kallio its only 2 Euro.
I have hardly scratched the surface of Helsinki. The more I read and the more I saw of it, the more I wanted to see. Even for a capital city it seems a very cultured city; the adverts in the trams were for Paul Coelhos latest book, something that struck me as quite different to the usual sort of public transport advertising and I saw no end of music venues and concert halls. Its a very arty city with not only large well known institutions such as the Kiasma Cnetre for Comtemporary Art but smaller galleries among the shops showcasing the work of minor artists. Home to alternative bands such as the Rasmus, HIM, Nightwish and Hanoi Rocks, Helsinki has a strong homegrown music scene and more goths per square mile than Ive ever seen. If you are into rock/alternative music Helsinki will delight you with the best selection of bars Ive ever come across.
Helsinki reminded me a little of Liverpool, no doubt because of the maritime influence but also in some part due to the heavy leaning towards the arts and music. Maybe its also something to do with those two cathedrals built in dramatically different styles. Liverpool, too, I find hard to navigate with its maze of docks and small village-like quarters.
It took me a while to really like Helsinki; when I arrived it wasnt what I had imagined and so I went across the Baltic to Estonia where I instantly fell in love with Tallinn. Returning to Helsinki two weeks later I saw the city in a new light, and a favourable one at that. Full of diversions and yet tranquil and fresh, Helsinki is a destination I would not hesitate to recommend.
In Helsinki there is more then just the Tennispalatsi, Kinopalatsi, and Lasipalatsi. In fact my favorite place to go was the Kaivopuisto Park. This seashore park features hundreds of coastal cafes and hours of leisure activity. This was the first park I had seen that was actually on the beach and neighbor to the Ocean. If you are lost this huge park is at the Southern End of Helsinki. Esplanadi Park has the infamous Kappeli cafe. This is much smaller then Kaivopuisto Park but has newer but no less famous cafes and meeting places. I spent some time here but not nearly as much as I did at Kaivopuisto Park. If you are into music as I am there are plenty of places to visit. There first is the Old Student House. This place features bands for smaller crowds (usually). If you are there when some huge super star is performing you may have to watch them at the Ice Stadium, Hartwall Arena or the Olympic Stadium. The clubs are great in Helsinki but much better in Uudenmaankatu, or so I hear. I am not much of a club person so I stayed away from them. I only have heard from the people around Helsinki that they are great fun and a great place to meet people. As you read before the shopping in Helsinki is plentiful. They are huge shopping malls as well as low key stores. One place where an early start helps is the flea markets. The early you go the better deals you can get and the more stuff there is to buy. I found some interesting deals there that I couldn't pass up. Just make sure you have your bargaining hat on.
Apologies in advance. - I really didn't realise the length of the op. . .good job I didn't go for a fortnight ;-) ~~~Flight~~~ I went to Helsinki, Finland at the back end of March this year (2001). I suppose like a lot of people 2 weeks release from work and I automatically think fly South, never North. I'd always fancied having a look around Scandinavia and when cheap flights were offered by Buzz, I thought why not, even if it is only for 3 days. It's always worth bearing in mind when you see these cheapo flights for sale in the popular press that the small print can usually double the £30.00 enticing banner - as was nearly the case on this occasion. I booked 2 flights at £35.00 but when the booking fee was added, tax for this and tax for that, the total price shot to £105.00. Then again, can't complain at that really. In the weeks before the flight, Buzz changed the departure time on 3 occasions and twice for the return flight, not by much but enough to have to keep checking it. The flights were OK, a little cramped but it is a budget airline. Food and drinks are available for a price but take something from home, especially if you have kids. 2 and 3 quarter hours later we were safely ensconced in Helsinki. The airport terminal is a wonderful piece of architecture and worth a second look. We'll come back to the airport and services on our way home. Straight off the flight we were asked to walk through disinfectant in order not to pass on Foot and Mouth. Embarrassing for the English but a necessary and commendable action on behalf of the Finnish people. Out of the airport the temperature didn't seem that much different from what we had left back home, a little fresher but not colder. The bus that takes you to Helsinki central can be picked up from just outside the terminal building. Come straight out of the main doors, over the small crossing and you'll find Stand 1A, this is what yo
u are looking for. Have a couple of quid in Finnish currency for the driver. I'd felt cooped-up on the flight so we jumped in a taxi instead. I'd already done my research and knew the ride should cost no more than a tenner. This one cost £15. Then again, I could swear we went round the park twice. . . But maybe not as the return journey cost the same. 20 minutes later we arrived at the SAS Hesperia (see hotels in Helsinki for details). Not a lot to do so late on a Tuesday evening so it was dinner and bed - the whistle stop 3 day tour would have to begin the following day. ~~~Boat Trip~~~ Up and out by 11.00am we headed for the harbour which is within blowing distance of the city centre. Not having enough time to take a trip over to Estonia we jumped on a ferry that was nipping over to the tiny island of Suomenlinna some 20 minutes away and of which houses the ruins of the once mighty fortress, along with several museums, restaurants and shops. 10 markka (£1) to the multi-lingual crew and we were off, sheets of ice as big as a carport and half as thick as a mattress were pushed out of the way. . .and then the breeze hit. Think ice down your jumper and that's the feeling of the wind through the clothes, wind straight off the Baltic Sea. Talk about waking up with a bolt. We skimmed past huge Liners docked on both sides and the ever present squawk of the seagulls overhead. Having previously decided not to disembark at the island with time already getting on, we simply dropped off the passengers going and collected those coming. If you don't get off the ferry there is no return charge. 50p each way. Bargain! ~~~Shopping~~~ Using the map collected from the tourist office (located facing the harbour) and the numerous information booklets supplied by the very helpful and courteous staff it was definitely time for a snack. Map in hand we found the street running through the city, Mannerhelminti
e (find this and you're sorted). A quick look at some of the street cafes or more importantly the prices (and further delay) we opted for a take-away sandwich from Stockmann's, situated just off the main avenue - you can't miss it. Stockmann's is a huge department store that has absolutely everything. The largest store in Helsinki and probably Finland, complete with fully stocked supermarket! Buy your beers from here to replace the mini-bar, that is if you can beat the maid. Local beer works out about 70p for a 36cl bottle; ciggies £2.30 (local brand) and a bottle of Chardonnay around a fiver. Oh Yeah! and the cheese sarnie £3.00. Comparable pricing to back home really, in fact everything in Helsinki price-wise is more or less on a par with London. You'll hear a lot about Stockmann's while you're in Helsinki. If you want a hotel, to book a concert, to travel to. . .to. . .to. . .the cry is the same: "Stockmann's!" ~~~Transport~~~ Refreshed and recovered after paying 90p for a postcard, not to mention the overpriced stuff in the shops generally, it was time to find out how those trams worked. The guide book picked up at the tourist office 'Helsinki this week' is indispensable, (covering everything: restaurant, bars, events, concerts - you name it) stated that a single journey costs a pound. Strange that the driver only charged us 80p. We were ruminating about this while on the tram until yet another friendly Finn put us straight: "It's [80p] 8 markka for a single journey if you don't change trams; [£1] 10 Markka if you do." She then proceeded to explain all the various options about travel cards and prices (missing her stop in the meantime), before pointing to the 'Helsinki this week' booklet in my lap explaining "Everything is in there. Goodbye." Such a nice and helpful woman. For the benefit of you reading this, here
39;s a quick run down. The Helsinki card allows unlimited travel on public transport, some ferries, zoo and reductions on other touristy sights. Where can you buy it from? Stockmann's, of course - as well as most hotels, tourist office, railway station (in the city centre) and others. Choice of 1,2 or 3 days passes, expiring in 24 hour multiples from first use (not purchase). Adult one day £13.50 child £5.50; and then £29.40 & £10.40 for 2 days with a 3 day pass setting you back £34.50 & £12.70. Do your maths before you purchase these cards as their financial viability will depend on your plans. The trams run all over the greater Helsinki area, are frequent, clean and cheap. For more farther afield travelling try the metro or the railway system. Again, it would depend on your overall plans. If like me you're a little bit lazy (and become bored very easily, taxi's are the same price as over here. Just flag one down, there's plenty). For a quick and cheap way to take a cursory glance at some of Helsinki's sights, just take tram 3T. This goes past quite a few of the more memorable buildings and takes about an hour. If you get lost, as we did on several occasions, just ask someone. Most people speak English and are more than willing to help and will quite happily spend time chatting away. Very pleasant. You'll find a list of the major sites in the same booklet I've been telling you about. ~~~On foot~~~ For those of you a little more energetic, preferring your sightseeing on foot, pick up a copy of 'Helsinki - On foot' from the tourist office or your hotel's reception area. You get the maps and suggested walks, along with lots of information about special events. Probably more for the warmer summer months than the arctic winter or slushy spring. Anyway, we had our sandwiches, purchased from Stockmann's, did a little more touring of the shops - wal
let firmly clamped shut - and toddled off for a drink at the hotel before deciding which restaurant to go to. ~~~Eating out~~~ A quick gander through our trusted booklet and lo and behold, hundreds of listings covering every cuisine, Russian, Lappish, Thai, Traditional, Finnish, Chinese (Yum), etc., etc. complete with a handy little code, explaining whether moderately priced, inexpensive or exclusive. But hold on just a minute, what was this about some restaurants closing at 10, others not even having a liquor licence? Watch out for that. Eventually deciding on the Chinese we had come across that day, Tram 10 took us to the centre. We had taken a look around a few Chinese restaurants earlier that day: Dragon Inn (Address: Iso Roobertinkatt), Hong Kong (Address: Sallinkatu 3), Long Wall (Address: Annankatu 26) and Nanking (Kalevankatu 28) but unfortunately they all appeared dirty or run down, not just from the outside but also from inside. So we stuck with our original decision of Li Jing located almost on the harbour front. This turned out to be a mistake. It wasn't the overpowering wishy aqua paint or the delay in service or the smallness of the restaurant or the mediocrity of the food, it was when, at the stroke of ten, the unhelpful waiter told us we had to pay the bill and leave immediately. The restaurant was shut! To emphasise his point he even brought two take-away plastic cups for us to pour the wine and beer in. We didn't take him up on the plastic ware, simply paid the £42 bill and left. Too add insult to injury the two course meal and couple of drinks that has set us back £40 odd quid also had a 22% service charge. Wow! Missed that one. The warning bells should have gone off when we realised we had been the first and second customers out of a total of 3 all evening. Still, we'd had a good time in Helsinki so far and wasn't going to let this little setback deter us from our enjoyment.
~~~Pubs/Clubs~~~ Off we went in search of a pub or club and a walk through central Helsinki. During the day the centre did appear a little severe, sharp colourless buildings that were more than a little austere, no doubt compounded by the slush covering the ground but the evening neon found in any European city soon put the warmth back into it. (Helsinki does have lots of beautiful architecture and well worth seeking out). Just off the main street we came across a restaurant/pub/club called the Lost and Found (Address: Annankatu 6). It looked inviting and friendly and had some sort of cabaret on. We had a pleasant couple of hours in there chatting away with people - all speaking perfect English and having a good time. We didn't bother going downstairs to the night-club, instead going back to the hotel's own. We later learned that the Lost and Found is a mixed-bar, both gay and straight. Back at our hotel, the Hesperia (opposite the park of the same name) we had free access to the club, open 'til 4am Wed-Sat. This is supposed to be the 'place' to be but we learned that it used to be before it was usurped by the Hotel Helsinki, some five minutes away. Being a business hotel, the club reflected this in its clientele. 5 bars and a dance floor and at three pound odd for a beer, a little pricey, but then again, that's Helsinki. ~~~Sights~~~ More sightseeing the following morning (once the hangover had eased a little. The local beer is not so strong but can cause a dry, thumping after-effect. You have been warned). We got a little confused with the trams until yet another very friendly Helsinkian pointed us in the right direction. Off to the Rock Church, the Parliament House, the Museum of Finland, Helsinki Cathedral (Tram 3T) but didn't have enough time to go to the zoo. And I was so looking forward to that, especially seeing animals from the Tundra (Get there by ferry from the Market Square or bu
s 11 from the Metro Centre). In no time at all the visit was done. £15.00 taxi from the city centre and we were back at the airport. ~~~Airport~~~ Now, remember, I said I would come back to the airport? Well, a word of warning: don't eat there. The prices are coronary inducing. £12 for a chicken burger and fries; £6 for soup - and it was awful! Gunk! Plenty of shops to walk around, though, and very clean. Not much to keep the kids entertained unfortunately. Duty free shops (not applicable to EU citizens) were nothing spectacular but helped to pass an hour or so. And then there was the 2 and three-quarter hours of that cramped Buzz flight to endure. Ne'er mind though, Helsinki was definitely worth it! Recap The people of Helsinki are extremely friendly and helpful. At first glance they may appear a little shoulders back and chest out, but appearances are deceiving. From the girl at the supermarket check-out, to the taxi driver - and everyone in-between (don't mention that restaurant) everyone was friendly and accommodating. Weather March/April the snow is melting, making the ground slippery and thus dangerous and leaving a grey feel over the city. Daylight - Lasts until about 8pm at this time of year but gradually increases up to the Midnight Sun. Northern Lights - The Lights can be seen on average 20 times a year in the south, increasing to 200 further north. Restaurants Over 700 in Greater Helsinki, covering every taste and budget. Remember those various closing times and check whether they have a liquor licence. Pubs / Bars / Clubs Again, a vast array covering every taste and budget. Prices Generally comparable to London across the board. They were much higher a decade ago, when Finland was deemed the most expensive country in the world. Tipping Not expected in Helsinki, unless the service has bee
n exceptional. Service charge included in bill. But I always think good service = good tip. Travel The trams in Helsinki are without doubt the fastest and cheapest mode of transport. They are clean, not too crowded (probably are in summer) and frequent. Taxi prices same as home. Accommodation Prices to suit each budget and family, details from the Tourist Office or web page. (Details below). Things to do Plenty for all the family. You're more likely to run out of time than things to do. Further Information Currency: Markka, 10 Markka to the £ at last week's conversion. Change in hotel, Thomas Cook in the airport or across from the railway station in the centre. Plus others. Time GMT +2 Population 500,000 in Helsinki 1 million in Greater Helsinki Finland Bordered by Russia to the east, Norway to the north and Sweden to the north-west. Duty Free Not available to EU Citizens. Cigarettes cheaper but limited choice. Once you have paid the tax in one EU member country, you may bring back as many as you like for personal consumption. Customs and Excise suggest 800, or more if you can prove they are for you. Obviously you can't prove it just as they cannot disprove it. Just remind them if you are stopped that you have paid tax in one member country and are therefore not liable for tax in the UK as well. This information is available from HM Customs and Excise. If we had more time. . . Day trip to Tallin in Estonia £58 per person Train ride to St Petersburg (Russia). Need Visa. Helicopter flight to Tallin. £100 each way. Longer cruise around the ice-packed sea. Concert at the Finlandia (In the Hesperia Park) Opera (Give anything a try once) The zoo Hot air balloon ride (Full details on any of the above are available from the Tourist Office). Contacts <br>Helsinki Tourist Office www.finland-tourism.com www.lonelyplanet.com www.hotelsfinland.com Tourist office open 9 -5 Mon - Fri! Any questions, please leave a comment or e.mail me (see profile) Well done for getting through this ;-)
I've been to Helsinki twice during the last year and hopefully will be returning in the next couple of months. Helsinki is an unbelievably cool place. I must admit that I went there firstly here because of a conference but after going there once I'm hooked. Getting to Helsinki is very easy if you live in London as you can get some cheap flights out here. As I actually live in Sheffield, it's a bit more tricky and costs more as well! From Manchester, the main airlines to fly out to Helsinki are Finnair and Scandinavian airlines. Finnair fly direct but you generally have to change in Stockholm or Copenhagen with Scandinavian. I have only flown with Scandinavian, they managed to hook me with their points scheme for free flights and they are a very good airline. However, if you do go with them make sure that it's not an operator of theirs your flying with as Air Botnia are horrible. Once you get to Helsinki airport take a moment to appreciate the fantastic architecture, it's definitely a 21st century airport. The Finnair bus to town is quite good to get into the city centre with, it's leaves from just outside the arrivals gate and costs about £2. It stops at Toolonkatu first, which is just outside the city centre and where one of the Scandic hotels is and also the Radisson Hesperia. It's a lovely area with the Finlandia concert hall and a beautiful park along here. There is also a square near Hesperiagatan just behind this bus stop which has both expensive and cheap good restaurants. Central Helsinki is very compact and the Finnair bus stops near to the Railway station which is at the bottom edge of the city. Near to here is Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Arts which is a definite highlight of a trip to Helsinki. The city centre is really pleasant to walk in and there are lots of interesting shops and places of interest. The main square in Helsinki is fantastic and has some great examples
of Russian architecture, there are also 2 churches in this style. The square is also quite near to the port which has the usual touristy type cruises, though you may just as well get the ferry to Suommelenia (world heritage site) which is far cheaper and more interesting. Tourist information is very helpful and much more informative. You can get a good city map from them. Much better than Lonely Planets appalling cartography. There are also listings magazines in most hotels in English We stayed in the Radisson Hesperia and the Radisson Plaza which were both really nice 4* hotels but most of that was paid for by a conference fund. However, in summer the 4* hotels were quite reasonable. I booked with radisson over the internet and their internet/ summer offer was about £50 a night for 2 people (including an extensive breakfast) so it although expensive if you're on a budget it's not exorbitant. Alcohol is quite expensive here and you can only buy beer in the supermarket. All other alcohol is sold in state shops, innovatively called Alko (they've got a red shop sign)We particularly enjoyed buying lots of Koff beer (very cheap) and taking it back to the hotel and storing it in the minibar. It's not the cheapest place to eat out either and it's not great for vegetarian options. But the food is really good. If you are on a budget I recommend Hesburger, which is like McDonalds, but nicer, cheaper and less evil. The only downside I found was that you tend to get stared out if you look anything out of the ordinary. That being blond haired and blue eyed. You may find this a bit intimidating. Also, you do see a lot of really drunk people in the street from about 8 or 9pm. Apparently, this can be a problem if you are a bloke as people can be quite aggresive (especially after drinking a litre of vodka). Still, if you are aware of this then everything should be fine and we certainly had no trouble at all. I als
o have to recommend a day trip to Tallinn (Estonia). It's about £20 on a day return trip on a fast ferry. Tallinn is a beautiful city and also you can get some very cheap duty free. Finlandia Vodka being about £5 for a litre and Absolut Citron/ Mandarin/ Kurrant being about £10. Cigarettes are also very cheap. I think it works out at about 70p for 20 Malborough Lights. A website from which you can also book is http://www.tallink.fi/ If you want to travel to other places in Finland, then the intercity is the best way to go. They have great 2 storey trains and they run on time which is all very novel. The people are really friendly and helpful despite what tourist books may say. Lots of people speak English which is helpful. I had a great time and can't wait to go back
I live at the moment in England. I'm studying here, and I must say that I love England with my hole heart, but still I can't help thinking about my homecountry. That's Finland! I come from a small town, situated 500 kilometres away Helsinki. And I think Helsinki is amazing town. It's hip and fashionlable, not too big not too small, full of life and things happening all the time. International starts are visiting this city, tourists are going there more and more each year. It's a party town and has many changes for sightseeing. My relatives live there and I miss them a bit. But I still must to say London beats Helsinki but this is probably because I'm a crazy finn.
Looking at some of the other DooYoo reviews of Helsinki prompted me to write this opinion. I've lived out in Finland for over a year and its actually quite nice to see some good reviews of something Finnish from foreigners (the Finns ae unbelievably modest). Helsinki is a great place to visit, even more now with the introduction of Buzz flights to Helsinki from London Stanstead for around £120 return. The city is great in the summertime, with long, long sunny days (the sun doesn't set until around 11 in the night in June). Ideal for sitting outside on the terracess of the bars and restaurants enjoying a pint or two. The city itself is small enough to see the majority of tourist sites in two days at a slowish pace and the trams that operate around the city are really efficient (they would put London transport to shame- not that it needs much help). It can be said that the bars and restaurants can be expensive (around £2.60 ish for a pint) but as I came from London it seemed about the same price, besides the best clubs in Helsinki are way cheaper than the ones in London. The most I've paid has been around the equivalent of £10 as opposed to £20 for a decent nght in London. If you've got a hangover take the 3t or 3b tram to Linnanmäki amusement park (open until September) where you can go on one of the scariest rollercoasters in the world, its not scary in a 'fast turn, sharp drop' type way, its scary because its about 100 years old, made of wood and sounds like its going to die any day. Great fun. The main park (Kaivopuisto) is also very nice as you can chill out during the day and then go to the nightclub situated smack bang in the middle of the park. The club's a bit of a meat market, but its quite good fun, and cheap too. Be warned- this place gets PACKED during the summer (get there early), but it does tend to be less popular in the winter. Don't worry if you can't speak Finnish b
ecause everyone speaks English and they WANT to speak it too, so don't be surprised if you get surrounded by Finns all wanting your attention... it can be quite nice though especially considering how pretty the Finnish girls are! The main problem about Helsinki is that it does tend to slow down during the winter months, with many tourist places closing for the winter. But, there's still lots to do, with plenty of shops and a great Christmas market: Christmas actually starts in December here... not in September as in the UK! and its nowhere near as commercialised either. Hi, the following is an update: I've been living here now for over two years and i'm still here and still loving it. Not much has changed during that time- an underground heating system on Aleksanterinkatu is being put in (so that it doesn't ice up and get slippery during the winter- novel idea eh?), also a few new bars and clubs have opened up-I'm gonna be writing about them in the 'bars' section (unsurprisingly). Anyway, I've had a few requests for accomodation info- the usual hotels are availabe and they're all pretty good (don't touch the mini-bars though-pretty harsh prices), but one place that hasn't been mentioned is the 'Eurohostel' situated in Katajanokka (Linnankatu 9 00160 phone +358 9-6220470 Fax +358 9-655044 www.eurohostel.fi). Its a 20min walk/10 min tram ride (no.4) from Stockmanns heading towards the Ferry terminals. (Remember-the centre of Helsinki is very small for a capital city. A few friends of mine stayed there when they visited me (there was no room in my apartment) and they said that it was a really good place to stay if you're looking for cheap no-frills accomodation. There is no meals included but there is a restaurant downstairs and each floor has kitchen facilities. The problem with this place is the fact that it is very close to a conference centre and it does get busy when something
is on, so phone for availability.
"Helsinki (in Finnish; Helsingfors) is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is located in the southern part of Finland on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, at 60°10′N 24°56′E by the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is 564,908 (31 January 2007). The Helsinki urban region contains the neighboring cities of Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, which are together called the Capital Region. This area has a total population of approximately 998,535 citizens. The Greater Helsinki area contains several more neighboring cities and has a population of approximately 1,293,093, which means that one out of every four Finns lives in the Greater Helsinki area."