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In this Destination Guide you will find information for : Helsinki

Essential Country Information:

Finland


♦Capital: Helsinki

♦Currency: Euro €

♦Zone: +2 GMT

♦Phone Code: +358


♦Best time to visit: May-September

♦Must eat: Vispipuuro (Porridge)

♦Must drink: Berry liqueurs

♦Don't miss: Finnish Sauna


Number of times visited: 1

Getting there and transportation:  Finland is the European country located furthest northeast of the European Union, making it's access ideal for those are visiting other northern European cities, the Baltic States and even Russia. Finland has also become much closer to many Asian destinations thanks to the shorter flights over the North Pole and the creation of many direct routes operated by the country's flag carrier, Finnair
Getting to Finland by plane is easy thanks to the many connections all over Europe, the national airline, Finnair  offers frequent and good timings to the main European capitals as well as it flies direct to Asia and the USA. In addition you will find many airlines in Europe flying direct to Helsinki, the capital, as well as airlines from Asia and America as well. Other airlines offering good services to Finland are Scandinavian Airlines  and Norwegian  (low cost). 
When travelling in the region, it's also possible to travel to Finland by ferry or by bus (if crossing over from north Sweden). The ferry service is popular to travel to Tallinn or Stockholm. Check Tallin Ferry  for more info. 
Travelling by air within the country is common, due to the vast long distance between one tip of the country to the other. Distances are long and adding the cold Winter's in the country it's the natural option. Some communities in the north rely exclusively on air travel.However during the warmer months (April to October) it's possible to travel by bus around the country and observe the beautiful scenery. Check this company for more information and prices, "matkahuolto". 
Also modern and fast train services are available connecting the main cities in Finland. Check the following link for more info. "vr.fi"

Weather and temperature: The main factor influencing Finland's climate is the country's geographical position characterised by warm summers and freezing winters. Within the country, the temperature varies considerably between the southern coastal regions and the north. 
If you are considering to visit Finland, then the best time of year is from May to October. The south is the best area for pleasant temperatures to walk around and enjoy the outside weather. June-August would be ideal for even a little warmer as some areas can reach up to 25C to 30C even, as Gulf winds bring in the warm weather. 
Winters are attractive tine to visit if you don't mind the cold, and want to see the snow cover everything from late November to April. Though in the south it's more from late December to late March. Temperatures can fall to nearly -30C in some inland areas, but in the cities you can expect an average of -10 to -18C. In northern Finland, particularly in Lapland, the winters are long and cold, temperatures can fall down to −45 °C Summers in the north are quite short, only two to three months, but can still see maximum daily temperatures above 20C at times.
As quarter of Finland's territory lies within the Arctic Circle and the midnight sun can be experienced for more days the farther north one travels. At Finland's northernmost point, the sun does not set for 73 consecutive days during summer, and does not rise at all for 51 days during winter.

The Finnish Sauna:  The origins of the sauna in Finland were rural, but it gradually became part of urban lifestyles too. Town saunas were first built in the yard outside the living area, then inside detached and terraced houses and blocks of flats, where they would be shared by all the families living in the building. In towns they also commonly had public saunas. Today the Finnish like to have their private saunas built in individual flats, even bed-sitters, with the bathroom serving as the washing room.

Finns cannot manage without a sauna. Whether an immigrant, a sportsman or an exporter, a Finn will take the sauna with him wherever he goes. 
The ancestors did not use their sauna only for bathing. It was needed for drying flax, preparing malts, curing meat and for many other agricultural or domestic chores.The sauna was also a place for performing magic, mostly to do with healing or love affairs. Sauna baths were also believed to be useful for improving virility. In the countryside women usually gave birth in the sauna. The sauna was also the place where the dead were prepared for their last journey. The sauna was part of Finnish people’s lives literally from cradle to grave.

The basic sauna ritual is the same as it always was: warming up, sweating, taking löyly vapour and whisking, washing and cooling off. Cooling off nowadays often includes swimming. Many people like to cool off in the open air, and there are also brave ones who want to roll in the snow or take a dip in the sea or lake through a hole in the ice.
Sauna bathing does not only clean the body but also purifies the mind. The bather’s frame of mind after a leisurely relaxed sauna ritual could be best described as euphoric. It is like a rebirth; all unpleasant feelings fall away and you feel at peace with the whole world. This is what Finns mean by the care of the soul received in the sauna.

Tip: Now you know the basics and the history about the sauna, don't forget to experience this enriching sensation and feel relaxed and reborn as described. One of the nation’s most popular sauna types, the smoked sauna, can be found at Yrjönkatu, the oldest swimming pool in the country, located at Yrjönkatu 21B in Helsinki. Precautions and advice for using the saunas:
  • It's a good idea to begin with a wash or shower; a seat towel for the hot room is also useful. 
  • The temperature should be 80-90°C; staying ten minutes at a time will be enough. Air humidity is regulated by ladling small doses of water onto the stove stones. Warming up and cooling off can be repeated as many times as feels good. Whisking adds to the pleasure. 
  • To finish off it's a good idea to take shower or a swim.
  • Heavy meals and alcohol should be avoided before sauna. Afterwards you will need a refreshing drink and possibly a snack.
  • Sauna bathing in moderation suits everyone. Those with health problems should nevertheless consult a doctor before trying it.

Private Sauna
What to eat and drink?  Seafood plays an essential role in Finnish cuisine. Salmon, herring and other fish are cooked fresh or served smoked and pickled in cold courses. Meat is second on the menu, it comes in various forms, including meatballs and HK Sininen Lenkki  sausage. Reindeer, elk and bear meat are served as delicacies. 
Specialities you can find include: Kalakukko, a thick rye loaf filled with lake fish. Karjalanpiirakka, a savoury pastry stuffed with rice pudding and eaten with egg butter.  Lihapullat, beef and egg meatballs, traditionally served with lingonberries and gherkins. Poronkäristys,  sautéed reindeer eaten by the Sámi. Pullat sweet cardamom-flavoured buns (a traditional accompaniment to coffee). Leipäjuusto, cow’s milk cheese oven-baked or fried leaving it brown on the outside with a squeaky interior. Vispipuuro, a cold whipped semolina porridge flavoured with berries. Silakat, breaded pickled herring seasoned with salt and fried. Perunarieska, a flatbread made from potato, often served with gravlax. Lakkakakku  ,a  cloudberry (a tart Arctic berry) cake. 
As for drinks, Finns drink more coffee than anyone else in the world and kahvilat (translated cafes,in singular kahvila) are found in every village and town square. They’re also into beer, vodka and wine. Some famous drinks are Koskenkorva,  a clear, distilled grain spirit usually served ice-cold and straight up. Berry liqueurs, try Mesimarja  (arctic bramble), Lakka  (cloudberry) and Polar karpalo  (Arctic cranberry). 
Source: Worldtravelguide.net
Salmon smoked on a wooden board

Author's Comment:

The trip was made to it's capital, Helsinki, where I enjoyed a relaxed holiday visiting the largest city in Finland. Helsinki offers to the visitor a modern and warm welcome right from the arrival to the airport, a good infrastructure, and a well prepared city for visitors. Going in July clearly made a different impression as going in Winter. It was nice to see lively streets full or markets and people, tourists enjoying tours of the city, open restaurants and terraces with plenty of things to do during the day before chilling in the evening or simply walking next to the shore enjoying the breeze of the sea. The city also impressed for it's large multicultural influence, not as big as London or Paris, but everybody seems to live well integrated, the social welfare is high and the quality of living is good. Generally it can seem an expensive at first but there's always places to find for every budget. Naturally the scenery and landscape, even from Helsinki can be appreciated and it's something to explore further on future trips. The wonders of the forests and the inland communities are waiting to be discovered and I am sure that they will not disappoint. Also a trip in Winter should be very interesting despite the subzero temperatures! 

Helsinki Tourism Information: 

The capital of Finland is full of interesting activities, culture and history in which to submerge into. The harbour and the pedestrian walkways in the city make it ideal to explore the city by foot and take a boat ride to see the many bays and islands which surround the city. The atmosphere in Helsinki is very laid back, people are friendly, patient and kind. It's easy to communicate as everyone is fluent in English, it's like a natural language for them. Also it's very common to find translations in English and Swedish so no reason to get lost! 
The city offers a lot of green space, open parks and sanctuaries where to sit, relax and enjoy the beautiful landscape. But its a city full of life where to go out, party and enjoy drinks in good company with friends at the open terraces and restaurants in the city centre, specially in the warm Summer months. 
Transportation:  Arriving at Helsinki Vantaa Airport is easy thanks to a good ground transportation network of busses and trains. The cheapest option is to get the train which leaves both Terminal 1 and 2 and takes you direct to the main train station in the city centre. The ticket costs €5.50 and takes 30 minutes. It's a good idea to also get the train if you're travelling to other cities in Finland as you can buy a connection ticket and link from the main station. Alternatively you can take the Finnair Bus which leaves every 20 minutes and takes you to the city centre (Train Station) for a cost of €6.30 one way. 
Once in the city, Helsinki has a modern infrastructure of ground transportation, a network of busses, metro and trams cover most of the city so it's very easy and practical to move around it. There is only one metro line in the city, so most people use the trams to travel around. The Helsinki region has an integrated public transport ticket system: HSL’s tickets are valid on public transport services in Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, Vantaa, Kerava Kirkkonummi and Sipoo. The same tickets can be used for travelling on busses, trams, the Metro, commuter trains and the ferry to Suomenlinna. You can also transfer from one vehicle to another with the same ticket.
There are day tickets which is the best way in getting around the Helsinki metropolitan area. The tickets available on single-charge cards allow you to travel easily and at low-cost from 1 to 7 days. It's also the best way to discover the region of Helsinki. If you wish to buy single tickets, they are available from ticket machines, bus and tram drivers as well as conductors on commuter trains.
Below you will find a guide to sightseeing in Helsinki using public transport as well as the transport maps of the city to download. 
 
 
 
Helsinki Metro Map
Helsinki Metro
What to see and do?  The city of Helsinki has many interesting features to see, despite it's modern and rejuvenated look, the city encloses an old historic quarter where to admire some beautiful architecture and classic buildings, both governmental and private. There are many parks where to relax, churches of different faiths and many museums, galleries and expositions for those interested in the arts and culture. However Helsinki can appeal to all ages and within the city you can find plenty of entertainment options, including cafes, clubs, bowling alleys, cinemas and even a casino.
Helsinki is also great for sport lovers, thanks to the many open spaces and parks, it's great for hiring a bike, footing or swimming in the many pools in the city. As well not to forget the traditional Finnish sauna! A must do thing if you are in Finland!
The main sights to see in Helsinki are:
  • Helsinki Cathedral, built between 1830-1852, towering over Market Square. It is a major landmark with a steep set of stairs, the church is modelled after Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. There are statues of the Apostles made of zinc on the roof, and they are the biggest unique set of zinc sculptures in the world.
  • Market Square, probably one of the first things to see when arriving in the old town of Helsinki. This port area is one of the epicentres of life and commerce in the town, and a veritable landmark of Helsinki as a whole. It’s here that the locals gather their best products, presenting fresh fish and Finnish specialities like reindeer horns, hand-made jewellery, souvenirs, and clothing. From here you can also get the tour boats to see the island archipelago or the canal boat ride. See below.
  • Aleksanterinkatu Street is one of the famous shopping streets in the city, It is the central commercial street of Helsinki. Shops, cafes, restaurants and the Stockmann department store are all present in one convenient location.

  • Ateneum Art Museum also known as the National Museum of Art, is home to the most loved classic works of Finnish art and it contains the most extensive finest art collections of Finland. with more than 20,000 works: paintings, graphics, drawings and sculptures from the 17th-18th-19th centuries. Among works by foreign masters are Rembrandt’s Monk Reading and Vincent van Gogh’s Street in Auvers-sur-Oise. Entry is free at certain times, so check their website in advance.

  • Kamppi Chapel of Silence, located in the City Centre, it's a sanctuary of quietude in the midst of Helsinki’s lively urban life. The 300-meter-square space is warm and calm, and offers a fine retreat, boasting thick wooden walls made of Nordic spruce that work to enhance the depth of the silence inside. The church can be accessed through three main doors. The building is constructed in an amazing circular shape that represents the height of architectural innovation in true Scandinavian style. Located at Simonsgatan 7.

  • Helsinki City Museum, it displays a big range of exhibitions from traditional Finnish costumes of both women and men dating from hundreds of years ago, to displays of 19thcentury home décor, complete with early prototypes of refrigerators and irons. The centre also takes a look at the cultural life of the city and the incredible female presence in the political and economic environment of the last century. Located at, Sofiankatu 4.

  • Finnish National Gallery, comprises three museum units: the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The Gallery is the largest art museum organisation in Finland and a national cultural institution.

  • Helsinki University Botanical Gardens is an exuberant oasis of life right in the centre of the city. Its history does not go without mentioning, it is the oldest scientific garden in all of Finland, inaugurated in 1678 (finally being transferred to the care of Helsinki University in 1829 as a result of a major fire). The garden is home to 800 species of plants. Located at Unionsgatan 44.

  • Temppeliaukio Church, built in 1969, it is the most popular architectural sight in Finland. The underground Rock Church is built inside of a massive block of natural granite in the middle of an ordinary residential square. It has a breathtaking copper roof that shines with natural light that brightens the inside through 180 glasses between the dome and the wall. The church is often used for concerts, because of the excellent acoustics.
  • Suomenlinna, also knows as “Fortress of Finland”, it'd located on an island just 20 minutes away from Helsinki’s harbors. It is a fine example of a military fortified structure, listed by UNESCO for its cultural magnitude. It represented a major strategic point that was important for control of the city as a whole. Don’t miss the impressive dry dock, a real technological feat of engineering. There are also lots of green spaces on the island. Address: Suomenlinna C 74.
  • Design District, With an impressive accumulation of boutiques, workplaces, antique shops, galleries and restaurants, there are plenty of opportunities to discover the unmistakable simplicity of minimalistic Finnish design here.
  • Hietaniemi Beach, good for the summer, Helsinki offers over 310 islands and a coastline close to 100 km (62 miles) long. Hietaniemi is the most popular beach in the city and and often called ‘The Copacabana of Helsinki’
 
Helsinki Cathedral
 
Finnish National gallery
 
Market Square (Harbour market)
Suggestion.  Take a river boat tour: Whilst in Market Square you will see it's the terminal for all boat-tour services, including the canal boasts.The tours operate daily and cost from around €25 per adult. There are many different tours available so make sure you are early to book your trip. (it's also possible to book online now at "Stromma.fi". You will be able to see the most beautiful shorelines of Helsinki, see the historic Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki Zoo on Korkeasaari Island, the impressive fleet of icebreakers and the other pearls of the Eastern archipelago. Departures are from Market Square, behind the Old Market Hall. 
 
Boat Tour Companies
 
Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
Accommodation:  The capital of Helsinki is expensive due to the high quality of life in the country so naturally Hotels and apartments are on the rise as the city is a favourable place for immigration and relocation. Tourists can expect to pay high prices for Hotels in the city centre. Prices can be anything from €50 per night. However if you look around there are many options which make the price drop. Airbnb is a good option for private or shared accommodation. Make sure you are close to a tram stop for transportation or ease of walk. Also you will notice how the difference in price can drop 25% in the Winter months, naturally as the cold weather holds tourists back from visiting. 
Recommended duration:  The city is divided in many districts which each have something different to offer. It's also worth doing some tours and visits to the outskirts of the city to see the scenery. Helsinki is relatively small and can be seen in a couple of days. But the activities and the options are large if you are prepared to pay for them and extend your stay a few days more. A more realistic 3 to 5 nights would be enough to take in all the city has to offer and relax at the same time.

Helsinki Photo Gallery: