Travel to Helsinki?
Due to the cultural influence of neighbouring Russia, Helsinki has
a quite different character from other Scandinavian capitals.
It contains some radiant architecture, excellent museums, scenic
waterways, and has a lively, cheerful atmosphere - especially in
The cleanliness, compact centre and plethora of open spaces make
it a terrific walking or biking city.
• Never cheap, especially eating and drinking
- though due to the recession you can find some of the cheapest
deals among Scandinavian holiday packages.
• Local drunks can be offensive and the main train station at night
is not a good place for foreigners to be.
• It can be chilly even in summer time.
Best: June-September, especially June for very long sunny days, or August
for cultural festivals.
Christmas is also special, because Finland is, of course, the home of Santa
Worst: January, February, very cold, deep snow, short dark days.
Things to Do
***Kauppatori (market square, picture top right), a famous
fish market on south harbour's quay, is colourful, lively and fun
to stroll. Do not miss a mermaid statue called Amanda, the
symbol of Helsinki.
***Senaatintori (Senate Square), the heart of the city, with
elegant 19C buildings including the Government Palace (Senate
House), the University, and Tuomiokirkko (Lutheran Cathedral),
which is worth climbing for a view of the city.
***Temppeliaukio Kirkko (the Rock Church), a weird looking
church, it's built inside natural rock, with a copper dome, not
unlike a UFO. It hosts classical concerts as well as services.
**Uspenski Cathedral, an imposing red-brick cathedral, designed
by a Russian architect, is Europe's biggest Orthodox cathedral.
It is on Katajanokka Island.
and rollerblading are popular activities. Hire is available. Try
to get a free bike/skate city map from tourist office.
The city offers several swimming pools. The best one is the Itakeskus
underground swimming hall, with a gym, saunas as well as several
pools. Finns have passion for saunas, so you should try one.
Nude bathing is commonly accepted and there are nudist area on some
island beaches. e.g. the western edge of Seurasaari.
***Suomenlinna (Suomenlinna Sea Fortress), a great Swedish castle
on the Suomenlinna island group, 20 minutes by ferry. A UNESCO World
There are several not very interesting museums too.
***Porvoo medieval town, an easy 50kms by bus or summer
**Seurasaari Open-air Museum, a folk museum, which offers
an experience of traditional Finnish life, on nature lover's Seurasaari
Island, 15 minutes by tram/bus. It's a good place to be for Midsummer's
* Korkeasaari Zoo (Helsinki Zoo), one of the world's oldest
zoos, on Korkeasaari Island.
It is reachable by boat from the fish market.
Apr- May, **Yuppu, an lively May Day celebration, particularly
June, *Helsinki Day, to celebrate the city's anniversary held at
late Aug- early Sept, ***Helsinki Festival, an arts festival including
concerts, performance arts, parties and children's events.
August, *Art Goes Kapakka, a fun summer event when dancers, musicians
and performers get together in pubs and bars.
early Oct, **Baltic Herring Market, a 200-year-old tradition of
fishermen gathering in the market square,
mid Dec, ***Christmas Market, the Lucia parade, special crafts offerings,
etc... mainly at Esplanade Park.
some precise dates or more information see: European
Festivals or Arts
***Museum of Contemporary Art (Kiasma), a superb collection of Finnish
and international art from the 50s to the 90s. Also performance
art, dance, music and films, as well as experimental visual arts.
**National Gallery at Ateneum Museum, contains a fine collection
of Finnish art as well as foreign old masters.
Helsinki has an active cultural scene throughout a year, with all
the usual things but especially live music.
National Opera is also of a high standard. August is the best time
for outdoor concerts and other entertainment in the city's parks.
Try Finland's best department store called Stockmann, shops along
Mannerheimintie street, or Mikonkaku, a pedestrian street.
Also shopping malls such as KampGalleria, Itakeskus.
Typical souvenirs are ceramic and glassware ('Arabia' is a good
name), crafts made from reindeer skin, and liqueurs made from local
berries includes arctic brambleberries.
Finnish restaurants offer a typical Scandinavian smorgasbord (buffet)
with herring, eggs, hot and cold meats, potato dishes, salad, cheese,
You can find a wide range of international cuisine, but it is a
great place to try Russian food. In fact some say that
the world's best Russian restaurants can be found in Helsinki.
Kauppahalli (the Old Market Hall), next to Kauppatori, is an ideal
place for snacks.
There's no shortage of mid-range to first-class hotels, and
they are not as expensive as they used be.
For good deals try business hotels in July-Aug, or on weekends;
always check discount deals and book ahead. Basic hotels and hostels
fill up quickly in peak summer time, so book ahead.
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