Helsinki is the meeting point between East and West, which is often counted as part of Scandinavia, though really it's not - Helsinki is something unique that can't be categorized.
The city is all about summer and sea - green parks in the heart of the city and the Baltic Sea surrounding it. Helsinki city center is clean and easy to explore by foot. You have a very well working public transport system for reaching sites outside the city center, such as the Nuuksio National Park.
The city of Helsinki has has put a lot of effort in sustainability and design - a good example of that is the 2018 opened, peculiarly designed, art museum Amos Rex.
How to get from Helsinki Airport
By train: The local train lines I and P take you from Helsinki Airport to the central railway station of Helsinki (picture 13.). The journey takes about 30 minutes. You will find the train terminal between terminals 1 and 2 in the arrival hall level. There are clear signs at the airport how to find the station. Schedules: hsl.fi.
Ticket cost around 4-5 euros, when bought in advance. Remember that ticket can’t be bought in the train. The mobile ticket is the easiest and the cheapest way to buy your ticket (instructions hsl.fi). You can buy the ticket also from the ticket automate that is located in the airport terminal building, next to the train station escalators.
You can take the bus 615, that takes you from Helsinki Airport to the railway station. The cost is the same than on the train. The bus journey takes around 45 minutes to the railway station from the airport. You can plan your route with the Helsinki region travel planner: reittiopas.fi.
Finnair City Bus takes about 40 minutes to the center and the final stop is next to the railway station. The one-way ticket costs 6,60 euros. The route is somewhat different than with the 615 bus. If you’re staying in Töölö area, then this bus line might come into consideration. You can check the stops at: pohjolanliikenne.fi
You will find a taxi stop in front of the terminals 1 and 2. The journey time into the city center takes around 30 minutes and costs around 45-50 euros.
Things to do in Helsinki
Everyone knows that Finland is famous for sauna, and yes, you have chance to go to a public sauna right in the city center, but there are plenty of other things to do in Helsinki. The architect Carl Ludvig Engel and the designer Alvar Aalto are the persons to thank for how Helsinki looks like today. Helsinki is beautiful when observed from the sea - the archipelago cruise and a trip to the island fortress Suomenlinna are must-do experiences.
Translated as the Castle of Finland, Suomenlinna is located a 15-minute ferry ride away from the Market Square. The construction of the fortress started in 1648, when Finland was still under Swedish reign.
Suomenlinna is built on 4 different islands that are connected to each other by bridges. There are 6 museums on the island where you can deepen your knowledge. You will find plenty of restaurant services on the island, though traditionally the locals come to Suomenlinna to spend a sunny day with a picnic basket. There is one food shop on the main island where to do your shopping. The shop is often very crowded and the selection is scarce, so it’s better to bring your picnic food from the shore.
How to get: The ferries depart from the Market Square pier.
1.) HSL, which is the Public Tranport of Helsinki, departs by the Presidential Palace. The journey costs 3,20 euros, which is the price of the regular Helsinki region single journey ticket and takes 15 minutes. The mobile ticket costs 2,20 euros, so yet again, that’s the cheapest and easiest option.
2.) JT Line has smaller water buses and they depart from the Market Square. The journey time is 15-20 min and the cost one way is 4,50€ and a return ticket costs 7€. JT Line departs from the corner of Eteläranta and Pohjoisesplanadi streets, right next to Kolera-allas.
Market Square & Presidential Palace
The Market Square is probably the most photographed image of Helsinki. The market is buzzing in the summer time of food & souvenir vendors. The souvenirs are often kitschy and lack authentic products to Helsinki, but instead you will find reindeer fells, magnets or bottle openers. Many stalls sell Finnish meat pastries called Lihapiirakka. They are a donut-like pockets with minced meat and rice filling.
The Presidential Palace is located on the north side of the Market Square. The neoclassical building was re-designed by Carl Ludig Engel in 1845. It served as the Imperial Palace for the Russian Tsars, when Finland was still part of Russia. Nowadays, it is the official residence of the Finnish President.
How to get: If stay anywhere in the city center, you can reach the Market Square easily by walking. Trams 2 and 2H stop at Kauppatori.
The art museum Amost Rex is an archaeological divergent where arts meet urban culture. The temporary collections, that are exhibited in the museum's underground premises, combine the past, the present and the future, in an exhilarating way that celebrates life.
Allas Sea Pool
On the east side of the Market Square, you will find the newly built sea pools blending into the Baltic sea, where you can take dip into two different swimming pools and try the Finnish Sauna in a beautiful setting. The experience is even more powerful in the wintertime, when the freezing air around you is biting your skin, while you're quickly sprinting from the sauna to the heated swimming pool. The most adventurous ones can even try dipping into the cold sea water pool, where the water temperature is close to zero degrees in the wintertime.
In the very heart of Helsinki, the green Esplanadi Park starts from the Swedish Theater and ends to the Market Square. The finest hotels, designer shops and traditional cafés are to be found around the park. You see locals and tourists having a picnic and business men reading newspapers on the benches. In the summertime, Esplanadi hosts often small concerts and events.
Senate Square & Cathedral
The Senate Square is located just behind the Market Square in the very central Helsinki. It was build during the Russian era. The first building around it was the Government Palace on the Eastern side of the square and it was finished in 1882. Later, the senate of Finland was working in the same building that is designed by Carl Ludvig Engel. Today it is the cabinet of the Finnish Prime Minister.
The Helsinki Cathedral is located on the North side of the square. It’s also known as the St. Nicholas church, coming from the Tsar Nicholas I, the Grand Duke of Finland, to whom the church was honored to. The construction was finished in 1852.
How to get: Trams 2, 4, 5, 7 and 7H stop at Senaatintori
Sea cruises in Helsinki archipelago
Taking a cruise on the archipelago is a great way to explore Helsinki’s shores and canals on a warm summer day. There are various companies that organize cruises and their routes are very similar. The cruises last 1,5 hours and they can be combined with a lunch or dinner on board.
Sea cruise websites:
Helsinki Rock Church
The 1960’s build Rock Church is located in the central Helsinki is of the most unique churches in Europe - it’s excavated into a solid rock. The rock gives excellent acoustics to the church and concerts are held there frequently.
How to get: It’s in a walking distance if you’re in the city center. The trams 1 and 2 stop at Sammonkatu, which located is right next to the church.
Ateneum is THE art museum in Helsinki, located on the Eastern side of the railway station square. The collections of Ateneum include art all the way from 18th-century rococo portraiture to the experimental art movements of the 20th century. The collections also include some 650 international works of art, one of the most famous one pieces is Vincent van Gogh's Street in Auvers-sur-Oise.
How to get: Trams 3, 3H, 5, 6, 6H, 6T, 7, 7H, 9 and 9H stop at Rautatieasema (Railway station).
Prices in Helsinki
The prices of restaurant and hotels services in Finland are above the average level in the European Union. The hotel prices in Helsinki are steady throughout the year.
Below, there are some examples of restaurant and hotel prices in Helsinki. Costs of hotel rooms are median prices at Booking.com.
Pizza in restaurant
Steak in restaurant
33 cl beer in restaurant
Hotel room, 3-4* (April)
Hotel room, 3-4* (July)
Weather in Helsinki
Winter: The winter months are cold in Helsinki and the breeze from the sea makes the coldness to go even deeper in your bones. The temperature in December goes on both sides of 0°C. December is often slushy and rainy. January and February are drier months and the snow falls are more frequent. The temperature varies on both sides of 0°C but the temperature can drop even to -15°C, so it's better to observe the weather forecast.
Spring: March can still be snowy and temperatures are are close to 0°C. In April the sunshine is more frequent and the snow starts to melt, as the temperature goes over 0°C. May is still mild with temperatures around 10-15 degrees.
Summer: June, July and August are the sunniest and warmest months in Helsinki and ideal time for a visit. July and August are warmer in average than June. The temperature is at 20°C and over. During the hottest days, the temperature gets even to 30°C, however the weather is very volatile and the temperature can be as well around 10°C.
Autumn: The rains are frequent in September and the temperature drops back to 10-15 degrees. In October the temperature can already go to 0°C and even snow might fall though it melts away. November alike October is slush season when it rains a lot and occasional snow falls are possible and the temperature is close to 0°C during the day time.