Landed in Helsinki from Stockholm around 3pm. I think the airport was too small for the number of passengers that needed to be handled. You just have to keep moving. Lucky for me, I only travelled with my cabin luggage.
( 2.5 days visit, Reading time : 5 mins, expenses at the bottom of the article, more pictures of my trips on my fb page : wanderingfadz link: https://www.facebook.com/pg/wanderingfadz/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1838500896373839 )
It was equally busy outside the arrivals. Weather was windy and a bit cold for summer. I needed to figure out how to get to the city. Being a backpacker, I certainly look for the cheapest (and preferably convenient) way of getting to the city. In terms of buses, you have the option of going with the public bus or the Finnair City Buses (costs just a little bit extra).
Looking at the queue for the Finnair bus, I decided to take the public bus. I spent almost 1 hour looking for the right bus using my phone. I had to use the airport free wifi which meant I couldn’t wander to far away from the terminal building if I wanted to stay connected. Didn’t help that some of the public transport information was either in Finnish or Swedish. Had to guess from the limited Swedish that I picked up while in Sweden.
To go to the city, you want to take a bus that goes to Rautatientori. The Airport is outside the Helsinki Region hence why it costs €5.50 to get to the city. I bought a 2 day pass from my hostel.
The journey took around 30 mins to get to my hostel (The Park by Cheap Sleep). My hostel was around 10-15 mins from the central bus station in the city centre (the bus station is also near to the central train station). Based on that, it should take almost 40-50 minutes to get to the city from the airport. I was only going to stay in Helsinki for 2.5 days before taking the ferry to Tallinn.
The Park by Cheap Sleep was not the best place to stay but it was ok especially when hostels in the city were hovering around €35 (it was summer and booked last minute) a night while mine was a bit outside and it was around €29 a night. Either you walk to the city or take a tram/bus (buy a day tix). Even if I stayed in the city, I still needed to get a day pass anyway.
Hostel just opened when I stayed so there were a lot of improvements to be done. Recent reviews shown that they have made it better.
Since it was a rushed trip, I didn’t manage to see a lot. The city centre itself is not big so you might be able to see what needs to be seen in 2-3 days. Here are the list of places that I went.
Basically a square where a lot of bus lines stop. It’s also close to the central train station where you can even catch the train to St Petersburg. Trams also pass by this square.
The square hosts public events and is surrounded by old european architecture. When I was there, there was a Russia tourism fair going on.
2. Strolling around the CBD
Just close to Rautatientori, you will surrounded by a few shopping streets.
The main commercial areas are Keskuskatu and Aleksanterinkatu. Mannerheimmintie is also a commercial area with a lot of bars/pub and Hard Rock Cafe ( I buy souvenirs for my friends so I have to look out for it when I travel).
3. Chilling at Esplanadi
A strip of green belt in the CBD. It can be quite busy with a lot of locals as well as tourists visiting or relaxing on the benches and green grass. There are stalls selling coffee and light snacks.
You can watch people go along with their business while listening to buskers playing music or watch some public performances.
A statue in the middle of the long park/esplanade seems to be the focal point for selfies / photos amongst tourists (unfortunately, that included myself too).
4. Senaatintori (Senate Square)
It’s another square to the East of the Aleksanterinkatu. The square is surrounded by yellow coloured government offices / museums and is where one of the top tourists attractions of the city, the Helsinki Cathedral is located.
The cathedral is painted in white and has green domes. The cathedral has a more cheery atmosphere because lighting from outside easily penetrates the building (in summer at least).
The square is full of tourists hence photo opportunities can be hard to get. Try to arrive early before the tourist buses get there. I passed by the square at around 6.30am on a weekend to get to my ferry and there was literally no one in the square but the church was closed too. But it works if you only want a photo from the outside.
5. Market Square
To the south of Senaatintori around a 5-10 mins walk is the market square. It also functions as the harbour where ferry leaves from the piers. Since it was summer when I visited, there were vendors selling fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and more. €5 for half a litre of these fruits is not a bad deal I say.
There’s the old market Hall to the south west of the harbour. Looking out to the sea, it will be on your right hand side behind a parking lot. The interior has old architecture and free toilets too (since the word free and toilet don’t really mix together in Europe).
The city council is also nearby this area which you can visit. There was a small museum/exhibition going on when I went there and it was free to enter.
Walk a bit more the to the east of market square, you can see the Uspenski Cathedral that towers over this part of the city. The design is Russian influenced with red bricks, pointy domes and gold coloured crosses on top of them (compared with round domes of the Helsinki Cathedral).
Just like Senaatintori, this cathedral is also full of tourists. You are allowed to walk on certain parts of the church once inside. Can be a problem managing the crowds during peak hours.
For a half day trip, you can visit the island/ a few islands connected by bridges just a 20 min ferry ride from Market Square. Ferry trips are quite frequent in summer. Make sure you board the public ferry. It was included in my 2 day transport pass ( €12) so I didn’t have to buy tickets from the ticketing machines by the pier.
The ferry drops you just in front of the island’s information centre where you can book tours, use the free wifi and toilets.
You can walk around the island or use bikes. On the island, you can visit the cathedral, museums, old forts and a few villages. If you take your time, you might spend at least 2-3 hours on the island.
I met one of my old university friends in Helsinki and he brought me around other parts of the city but it was mostly in the residential areas near the city centre.
I left for Tallinn, Estonia via an early morning ferry ride with the Tallinn Silja Cruise company.
I didn’t go to any of the museums mostly because I didn’t have the money and it did not interest me. Since I was also walking around town, some of the museums were closing by the time I wanted to visit.
My expenses for my visit to Helsinki were as follows :
The Park by Cheap Sleep Hostel (2 Nights, 4 bunk bed room) : €58
Airport to City public bus : €5.50 (the airport is located outside of the Helsinki region)
2 day transport pass : €12 (Helsinki region – bought from my hostel)
Helsinki to Tallinn (return) ferry : €14 (weird pricing where it was cheaper to buy a return than a single ticket)
Groceries, snacks and fastfood : ~ €35 (mostly pre cooked meals you just need to put in the microwave, fruits at the market and pastries)
Flag pin souvenir : €4.50
Stockholm – Helsinki Flight : 34.40 (Norwegian Air)
Total expenses for 2.5 days : ~ €165
I have uploaded some extra pictures into my Facebook page : wanderingfadz
This is the link to the album :
My 2.5 days short trip to Helsinki in 7-9 July 2016#helsinki #finland #europe #eurotrip Finland Helsinki
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