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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in helsinki
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Helsinki (Finnish) or Helsingfors (Swedish) is Finland's capital and something of an international metropolis. Founded in 1550, it has been the Finnish capital since 1812. Helsinki's current population is about 560,000, but the Helsinki region with the neighboring suburban cities of Espoo and Vantaa has a population of about one million.
Helsinki's symbol, the Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko
Helsinki was founded in 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden as a trading post to compete with Tallinn to the south in Estonia, which was Danish at that time. In 1809, Finland was annexed to Russia during a war of that period and the capital of Finland moved from Turku to Helsinki in 1812. The Czar felt the Grand Duchy of Finland needed a capital of grand proportions. The architects Johan Albrecht Ehrenstrom, a native Finn, and Carl Ludwig Engel, from Germany, were given the task of rebuilding the city in Empire style. This can be seen today, for example, around the Lutheran Cathedral, which was completed in 1852.
Helsinki metropolitan area
The county of Helsinki forms the core of Finland's largest urban area, known in Finnish as the "capital area" (paakaupunkiseutu). The Gulf of Finland lies to the south, while the posh suburban municipality of Espoo with the embedded tiny enclave of Kauniainen is to the west and the more industrialized municipality of Vantaa is to the north. Beyond these three the suburbs rapidly give way to farms and forests, notably Nuuksio National Park at the intersection of Espoo, Vihti and Nurmijarvi.
Within Helsinki itself, the city center is on the southern peninsula at the end of the city's main thoroughfare Mannerheimintie (or just Mansku). Both the central railway station and the main bus terminal are here. Shopping streets Aleksanterinkatu (or Aleksi) and Esplanadi (or Espa) connect to Senate Square, the historical center of the city. See the Helsinki Guide Map (http://kartta.hel.fi/opas/main/index.xhtml?lang=en) for an interactive searchable map of the city.
All international and domestic flights land at the compact, modern and airy Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport (http://www.ilmailulaitos.fi/airport_helsinki-vantaa) (HEL), 15 kilometers to the north of the city. International and domestic terminals are separate but connected by a walkway.
The cheapest public transport option to the center is regional bus 615, which takes around 40 minutes and costs 3.40€ to the Central Railway Station in the heart of Helsinki. Finnair's own bus offers direct service to major hotels for 5€. Other options include bus 61 to Tikkurila (for train connections) and Itakeskus (for eastern parts of the city).
Taxis to the center cost 25€ and up, although the shared Airport Taxi (http://www.airporttaxi.fi/index_eng.html) (tel. 0600 555 555 for bookings) minivans for 1 to 4 people are only 18€.
For general aviation (small planes) the Helsinki-Malmi Airport (ICAO code EFHF) works nicely, with fuel and customs facilities available at the airport.
Copterline (http://www.copterline.com/) offers a surprisingly affordable (for a helicopter) express service to Tallinn, starting at 89? for the 18-minute hop. The flights use a dedicated heliport at Hernesaari, in the port area to the south of the city center.
All long-distance trains from throughout Finland and the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg terminate in the heart of the city at the Central Railway Station (Rautatieasema), which also provides easy interchange to the metro and tram lines.
Expressways connect Helsinki to Turku to the west, Tampere and Lahti to the north, and to Porvoo and towards St. Petersburg in the east.
Long-distance buses terminate at the new underground Central Bus Station (Linja-autoasema) in the Kamppi Center (http://www.kampinkeskus.fi/english/). The station is adjacent to Mannerheimintie, directly connected to the Kamppi metro station and within easy walking distance of the Central Railway Station.
Helsinki is well connected with ferry services to Stockholm (Sweden) and Tallinn (Estonia), and there are limited services to St. Petersburg (Russia) and northern Germany.
Ferries arrive at three different terminals, two of which are at the central South Harbor next to the Market Square. At time of writing, Viking Line uses the eastern Katajanokanlaituri (tram 4), while Silja Line uses Olympialaituri on the west side (tram 3). Some fast services to Tallinn also depart from these, but the larger ferries use the more inconvenient West Harbor (Lansisatama) terminal (bus 15 from M Ruoholahti). See the Port of Helsinki (http://www.hel.fi/port/english/matkustajaliikenne/index.html) for the latest details.
Helsinki tram map, with metro stations
All public transportation in the Helsinki metro area is operated under the aegis of HKL (http://www.hkl.fi/english.html). The following basic ticket types are available:
- Tram ticket (1,50€ prepaid, 1,80€ from the driver, travel card "0") — valid for one hour of tram trips, unlimited transfers
- City ticket (1,90€ by mobile phone, 2,00€ from the driver or in ticket machines, travel card "1") — valid for one hour within city limits, unlimited transfers
- Regional ticket (3,40€, travel card "2") — valid for 80 mins within Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, unlimited transfers
Fares can be paid by cash on boarding or by Travel Card (matkakortti), a reloadable smartcard sold at R-kiosks and HKL offices. The Travel Card costs 7€ (nonrefundable) and gives a 15% discount on fares. Using it is slightly cumbersome, as you must hold your card against the reader and simultaneously press the numbered button corresponding to the desired ticket type. Wave the card without pressing anything to see the remaining value or to register a transfer.
Alternatively, you can opt for the Helsinki Card (1 day 25€ to 3 days 45€) or HKL Tourist Ticket (1 day 5,40€, 3 days 10,80€ or 5 days 16,20€), both of which offer unlimited travel within the city. The Helsinki Card also offers free admission to a number of museums and attractions, but at a much steeper price.
Journey Planner (http://aikataulut.ytv.fi/reittiopas/en/) will get you from street address, place or sight to another by connecting the necessary public mass transit, giving you plenty of options. It covers metropolitan Helsinki (incl. Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen). Try Airport or Railway station for place names.
Getting around by night can be a bit tricky (or expensive), as most public transportation stops around midnight. There is a limited night bus network that charges approximately twice the price of a daytime ticket.
Of particular note is the SpåraKOFF (http://www.koff.net/sporakoff/) Bar Tram, a bright red tram converted into a pub on wheels. The tram runs during the summer only from Wednesday to Saturday, once an hour from 2 to 8 PM, with stops at the Railway Square, Linnanmaki, Opera House, Aleksanterinkatu and the Market Square. Price 7€, including one beer.
For tourists the most convenient (and scenic) means of travel is the extensive tram network, especially line 3T which does a figure-eight circuit around the city — you could say that the "T" stands for "tourist" and it usually stocks an informative leaflet listing attractions along the way. For a slightly offbeat experience, take the line 3B which is essentially 3T in the opposite direction.
Buses fill in the gaps not covered by trams. The main bus stations are on the square adjacent to the Central Railway Station (for points north and east) and underground in the Kamppi Center connected to the metro station of the same name (for points west).
A metro line runs from the center to the eastern suburbs, but is of little use to most tourists. After Itakeskus, the line splits in two, with one line going to Mellunmaki and the other to Vuosaari. Travelling between Ruoholahti and Mellunmaki or Vuosaari usually takes about 21-22 minutes.
VR's commuter railways run north from the Central Railway Station, branching out in three directions, none of them particularly interesting though. HKL tickets are valid within the metropolitan area limits.
The HKL ferry to Suomenlinna from the Market Square (Kauppatori) is a cheap and popular summer getaway. In addition, private operators provide ferries to Suomenlinna and various other islands during the summer; however, schedules can be sparse and HKL tickets are not valid on them.
You don't need to worry about being cheated or robbed by a taxi driver in Helsinki, BUT they are unreasonably expensive. Cab fares are regulated by the government's Ministry of Transport and Communications, so getting into a taxi costs you 4.30€ (6.60€ at night and on Sundays), and then the meter ticks at 1.10€/km — although the rate increases if there are over two people and there are surcharges for large bags or leaving from Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport. During weekend nights and some popular events or holidays it can be a bit difficult to get a ride. Local practice is to take a walk to the nearest taxi stand or try to book by phone, tel. 01000700. Although drivers are not requiered to pick-up a person hailing it's always worth a try.
The Helsinki Airport Taxi (http://www.yellowline.fi/) (Yellow Line) is a good, cost-effective option for getting from the airport to the city center. It's a typical sort of airport shuttle, where you share a minivan among up to seven or eight passengers, and the van stops at their destinations one by one. You can hook up with the shuttle at their bright yellow desks in arrivals lounges 1 and 2. The cost is 20€ shared among one or two passengers, and less per person if there are more people.
Surrounded by sea and a vast archipelago, Helsinki is at its best in the summer when the dialogue between the city and nature is ats its fullest. Classical Helsinki's sights are mostly of the low-key sort and can be divided into an eclectic set of churches and another slew of museums.
Suomenlinna fortress, seen from a passing ferry
A beautiful archipelago (saaristo) surrounds the Helsinki city center. In addition to the major islands listed below, there are scheduled services to many smaller islands, and you can also tour them by sightseeing cruise. Most of the cruises depart from the Western corner of the Market Square and last from one to several hours. Note most ferries and cruises operate only in the summer high season.
- Suomenlinna, 1 (http://www.suomenlinna.fi/index.php?lang=eng). The greatest sea fortress in Scandinavia, which ignominiously surrendered without a fight the one time it was about to see action, resulting the loss of Finland to Russia. Still living in its own time with only old buildings, few cars and loads of old fortifications, catacombs and cast iron cannons, today the sprawling complex houses a few restaurants, theatres, and museums and is a very popular place for a picnic on a fine summer day, watching the vast passenger ferries drift by on their way to Sweden. It was included in Unesco?s World Heritage List in 1991 as a unique monument to European military architecture. Accessible by ferry from Kauppatori market (the HKL ferry is the cheapest and most convenient).
- Seurasaari, 2 (http://www.nba.fi/en/seurasaari_openairmuseum). A pleasant little island to the north of the center, filled with walking trails and authentic old Finnish houses collected from all over the country. An excellent half-day trip, especially in the summer. Entry to the park free, entry into the museum buildings 5€. Take bus 24 from Erottaja (at the northern end of Esplanadi) to the terminus (20-30 minutes), then walk across the bridge.
- Kaivopuisto. A beautiful park by the sea in the south-most end of the city center. Housing surrounding this area is the most expensive in Helsinki, but in summer you might want to invest in a coffee at the seaside cafes for some good people-watching.
- Korkeasaari Zoo. 3 (http://www.hel.fi/zoo/index_eng.html). Said to be the northernmost zoo in the world hosting animals from all over the planet.
- Toolo Bay (Toolonlahti). Located North-West from the main railway station, this is a bay surrounded by a nice park, dotted with attractions like the Finlandia Concert Hall and the Opera House. The coast line of Toolo Bay is partly in natural conditions, something which one very seldomly can see in any of the major European cities. Walking around Toolo Bay is a popular outdoor exercise among Helsinki citizens.
The altar of the Church in the Rock
- Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko). Aleksanterinkatu, 4 (http://www.senaatintori.fi/tekstisivu8.htm). The unofficial symbol of the city, this striking white cathedral dominates the central Senate Square. Based on designs by Carl Ludvig Engel and completed in 1852, the cathedral has recently been refurbished and looks better than ever, with the 12 apostles on the roof once again looking down at the world below. Open daily 9-18, free entry.
- The Church in the Rock (Temppeliaukion kirkko, literally "temple square church"). Lutherinkatu 3 (tram 3B/T), +358 9-494698. 10AM-5PM every day. An atmospheric if minimalistic church literally dug out of solid rock, that rather resembles a crash landed UFO from above. The roof is made of 22 kilometers of copper strips. Completed in 1969, this has become one of Helsinki's most popular attractions; concerts are often held here thanks to the excellent acoustics. Free.
- Uspenski Cathedral. Kanavakatu 1, +358 9-634267, 5 (http://www.ort.fi/helsinki/fin/usp-ind.htm). T-Fr 9:30AM-4PM, Sa 9:30AM-2PM, Su noon-3PM. May-Sep MWeSa 9:30AM-4PM, Tu 9:30AM-6PM, Su noon-3PM. Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. Free.
- Church of Kallio (Kallion kirkko). On top of the hill at the end of Siltasaarenkatu. The church is built of grey granite (1912) and its massive looks dominates the view from Hakaniemi. It was designed by a famous finnish architect Lars Sonck. The church has excellent both baroque and french romantic organs and concerts are organized frequently. Open T-Fr 12AM-6PM, Sa-Su 10AM-6PM. Free.
Museums and galleries
Senate Square on a snowy December morning
Many of Helsinki's museums are as interesting from the outside as from the inside. Architecture buffs will get a kick out of Helsinki's Neo-Classical center, centered around Senate Square (Senaatintori). Aleksanterinkatu and the Railway Station square also have some beautiful neo-classical buildings — look out for the Romantic Kalevala-esque themes on many — but unfortunately these areas also have many concrete monstrosities mixed in.
- Ateneum Art Museum, Kaivokatu 2, tel. +358 9 173361 (+358 9 17336228 for tickets), 6 (http://www.ateneum.fi/). Open Tue and Fri 9am - 6pm, Wed and Thu 9am - 8pm, Sat and Sun 11am - 5pm, Mondays closed. Ateneum has the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in Finland. Particularly notable is the collection of works by major Finnish artists. Entrance fee 5,5/4 €, or during special exhibitions 7,5/6,5 €. Free admission for visitors under 18. Wednesdays from 5pm to 8pm free admission.
- Design Museum. Korkeavuorenkatu 23, +358 9 622 0540,7 (http://www.designmuseum.fi/main.asp?sid=2). Exhibitions of modern commercial and industrial design and modern art. The permanent exhibit in the basement showcases the history of consumer-goods design over the course of the 20th century, with a particular focus on the contributions of Finnish designers. Entrance is 7 € for adults, 3 € for students, and free for children. Open Tuesday 11am to 8pm, Wednesday through Sunday 11am to 6pm, and closed Monday.
- Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. Mannerheiminaukio 2, tel. +358 9 1733 6501, 8 (http://www.kiasma.fi/www/index.php?lang=en). Open from Wed to Sun 10am - 8.30pm, Tue 9am - 5pm, Mondays closed. Located near Ateneum, Kiasma is everything Ateneum isn't. The collections mostly include works by contemporary Finnish artists and artists from nearby countries. In addition to this, there are also periodical exhibitions. The building itself is arguably a work of art. Entrance fee 5,5/4?, groups (with at least 10 people) 4 € per person. Under 18 year-olds free. Fridays from 5pm to 8.30pm free admission.
- National Museum of Finland (Kansallismuseo), Mannerheimintie 34, 9 (http://www.nba.fi/en/nmf). Musty old museum recently given a much-needed makeover. For history buffs. Admission 5,50?, open 11 AM to 6 PM daily except Monday.
- Museum of Cultures (Kulttuurien museo), Tennispalatsi 2nd floor, Etelainen Rautatiekatu 8, 10 (http://www.nba.fi/en/museum_of_cultures). One of Helsinki's quirkier museums, concentrates on changing exhibitions of cultures outside Finland. Admission 5 ?, open 11 AM to 6 PM daily except Monday.
- Sibelius Monument, 11 (http://www.hel.fi/tourism/html/english/artikkelit/artikkelit/sibelius.html). Every tourist in Helsinki is bussed out to see this somewhat bizarre artwork sitting in the middle of a park, consisting of metallic organ pipes welded together in no obvious shape and serving no obvious function.
- Parliament House (Eduskunta). Tours on Saturday at 11 and 12 and Sunday at 12 and 1 in Finnish, Swedish and English.
- Hietaniemi Beach, Hietaniemenkatu. It's safe to say that most people don't come to Helsinki for the beaches, but if it's a hot summer day, good old Hietsu is the place to see Finns unpeel their winter coats. Beach volleyball, swimming and various festivals are popular. Bus 55A from Kamppi/Rautatientori, or just walk (15-20 min from the center).
- Linnanmaki 12 (http://www.linnanmaki.fi) amusement park and Sea Life 13 (http://www.sealifehelsinki.fi) aquarium at Tivolikuja 1.
- Serena Water Amusement Park, Tornimaentie 10, Espoo (bus 339), tel. 09 88705555, 14 (http://www.serena.fi/english/index.htm). Featuring 2000 sq.m. of heated pools under a roof, this is best experienced in winter when you can kick back in a jacuzzi and watch people skiing on the other side of the glass windows. Kids will love the water slides, and an extra 1000 sq.m. outdoors are open in the summer. All day pass €17, evening pass (from 4 PM) €13. Open 11 AM to 8 PM daily.
Most of Finland's exchange students end up in Helsinki's universities:
- University of Helsinki. 15 (http://www.helsinki.fi/university/). With over 40,000 students, this is Finland's largest university and its alumni include Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux.
- Helsinki University of Technology. 16 (http://www.hut.fi/English/). "Finland's MIT", located in Otaniemi, Espoo, just across the municipality border.
- University of Art and Design Helsinki. 17 (http://www.uiah.fi/frontpage.asp?path=1866). The biggest art university in Scandinavia. Has the highest rate of exchange students of all Finnish universities.
- Helsinki School of Economics 18 (http://www.hkkk.fi/english/default.asp)
- Sibelius Academy 19 (http://www.siba.fi/eng/) The only music university in Finland and one of the largest in Europe.
Shopping in Helsinki is generally expensive, but fans of Scandinavian design will find plenty of things of interest. As in the rest of Finland, note that most shops close by 6 PM on Saturday and are closed entirely on Sunday (except in summer and before Christmas). A notable exception are the shops located in the central railway station's underground Asematunneli complex, which are open until the late evening almost every day on the year.
Department stores and shopping malls
Helsinki's main shopping drag is Aleksanterinkatu (Aleksi), which runs from Senate Square to Mannerheimintie and is packed with large stores. The parallel Esplanadi boulevards have specialist (and generally very expensive) boutiques. Access to the area is easy, as trams 3B/3T, 4/4T and 7A/7B all run down Aleksanterinkatu.
- Academic Bookstore (Akateeminen Kirjakauppa). Keskuskatu (opposite Stockmann), 20 (http://www.akateeminen.com/). The largest bookstore in Finland, with extensive selections in English too. Part of Stockmann, and connected by an underground passage to it.
- Itakeskus. 21 (http://www.itakeskuskauppakeskus.fi/). The largest shopping mall in Scandinavia with some 240 shops. Metro: Itakeskus, some 16 minutes from the center.
- Kamp Galleria. Between Mikonkatu and Kluuvikatu, 22 (http://www.kampgalleria.fi/fi/index.asp). Helsinki's fanciest shopping mall, with brands like Marimekko and a shop full of Moomin goods.
- Stockmann. Corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Mannerheimintie, 23 (http://www.stockmann.fi/portal/english). Helsinki's (and Finland's) premier department store. When Helsinkians meet "under the clock" (kellon alla), they mean the one rotating under the main entrance to Stockmann. Large selection of souvenirs on the 4th floor, and the Herkku supermarket in the basement offers an amazing range of gourmet food from all over Europe. There are also smaller branches of Stockmann at Itakeskus, Tapiola and the airport.
In addition to the high-end design stores around Aleksanterinkatu, many of Helsinki's smaller design stores are located around Uudenmaankatu and Iso Robertinkatu - see the map 24 (http://kartta.hel.fi/opas/_noframe/bigmap.asp?SearchOp=katunumero_pks_e&Desc=UUDENMAANKATU%2013%20HELSINKI%20&XValue=52416&YValue=72946).
- Arabia Factory Shop. Hameentie 135 (Tram 6 terminus), 25 (http://www.arabia.fi). Factory outlet for Arabia ceramics and Iittala glassware, best known for selling slightly defective goods at steeply discounted prices. Open 10 AM to 8 PM weekdays, 10 AM to 4 PM weekends.
- Ivana Helsinki, Uudenmaankatu 15, tel +358-9-6224422 26 (http://www.ivanahelsinki.com/). Internationally recognized design clothes, all made in Finland.
- Market Square (Kauppatori)
Kauppatori location map with tram lines.
. At the end of Esplanadi facing the sea, this open-air market sells fresh fish and produce from all over Finland. Open all year around but busiest in summer, although the Christmas Market in December is also worth a look. One section of the market is devoted to souvenirs, but best buys here are the fresh berries and other produce: try the sweet green peas (herne
), just pop open the pod and eat as is.
- Hakaniemi Market Hall (Hakaniemen kauppahalli). A busy market frequented by locals, this is where you can find specialities at affordable prices. The first floor is largely food, head to the second floor for handicrafts and souvenirs. Metro: Hakaniemi. Tram: 1, 3B/3T, 6, 7.
- Old Market Hall (Vanha kauppahalli). 27 (http://www.wanhakauppahalli.com/eng/). Right next to Market Square, this old brick building houses Finland's best collection of gourmet food boutiques. Try to find the stall which sells beaver sausage!
Helsinki has by far the best cosmopolitan restaurants in Finland, and is a good place to escape the usual diet of meat and potatoes... if you can foot the bill, that is. As usual in Finland the best time to eat out is lunch, when most restaurants offer lunch sets for around 6-10€. Lunch sets are typically served from 10.30 to 14.00, but the times vary between venues. In the evening, only budget places are less than 10€, while splurges cost well over 20€ per head.
Budget choices are largely limited to fast food. In addition to McDonalds (around 30 outlets) and its Finnish imitators Hesburger/Carrols (around 50 outlets), Helsinki is also full of pizza and kebab places (many of them 'ethnic', i.e. owned by immigrants), where a meal typically costs around 5 €. See for example 28 (http://www.kebabille.com/arvostelut/kunta.php?kid=44) for addresses and ratings of Helsinki kebab joints.
- Golden Rax, Forum 2F, Mannerheimintie 20, Mikonkatu 8, 29 (http://www.rax.fi/). All-you-can-eat pizza buffet, including pasta, salad and drinks. Greasy but filling. 7.99? per person.
- La Famiglia, Keskuskatu 3, tel. 85685680, 30 (http://www.ravintolaopas.net/lafamiglia/index.asp?companyId=26164&lang=en). Unpretentious Italian food for under 10€, but prepare to wait for your food a long time. The weekday lunch buffet of soup, salad and two kinds of pasta (7-10€) is particularly good value. Open daily from 11 AM to midnight.
- New Bamboo Center, Annankatu 29, 00100 Helsinki. Well known and popular downtown Malaysian-Chinese restaurant. Cheap lunch/dinner served to 21.00.
- VPK, Albertinkatu 29, 31 (http://www.ravintolavpk.com/). Run by the Volunteer Fire Brigade, this restaurant serves a daily changing buffet of hearty Finnish fare in a cafeteria straight from the 1950s, complete with grim portraits of moustached Hosemasters staring down at you. Pea soup and pancakes on Thursday are particularly popular. 7.70€ per head, open weekdays from 11 AM to 3 PM only.
- Unicafe, 32 (http://www.unicafe.fi/). A chain of restaurants owned by the Helsinki University student union, with around 10 outlets in central Helsinki (see map (http://www.unicafe.fi/main.site?action=siteupdate/view&id=9)). Self-service, generally good meals although nothing special. Usually 4-7 dishes to choose from, including vegetarian meals. Quality/price ratio is very good. Prices from 5.20 ? for a full meal (from 2.10 ? for the uni students).
- Unicafe Ylioppilasaukio, Mannerheimintie 3 B, 33 (http://www.unicafe.fi/main.site?action=app/event/note_week&id=13). The biggest and most centrally located Unicafe, a couple of minutes' walk from the main railway station . Open from 11 am to 7 pm on weekdays, 11 am to 5 pm on Saturdays.
- Keittio & Bar Juuri, Korkeavuorenkatu 27, +358 9 635 732, 34 (http://www.juuri.fi/). Special Finnish entrées called sapakset with roots in Finnish food tradition. All sapakset 2,5?, main dishes 17?.
- Konstan Molja, Hietalahdenkatu 14, +358 9 694 7504, 35 (http://www.kolumbus.fi/konstanmolja/). Traditional Finnish food. Lunch buffet 7.40?, main dishes 15+?.
- Lappi, Annankatu 22, +358 9 645 550, 36 (http://www.lappires.com/). Traditional Finnish (and especially Lapp) dishes, frequented more by tourists than Finns. Main dishes 12-27?.
- Manala, Dagmarinkatu 2, +358 9 5807 7707, 37 (http://www.botta.fi/manala). Tasty, no-nonsense Finnish food from noon till 4 am. Main dishes 10-18?.
- Sea Horse, Kapteeninkatu 11, +358 9 628 169, 38 (http://www.seahorse.fi/home.htm). Established in 1933 and the functional interior and the menu have been preserved from that time. Try the famous herring dishes. Meals between 10-30?.
- Weeruska, Porvoonkatu 18, +358 20 7424 270, 39 (http://www.weeruska.com). Serves simple, but tasty home-made style food. The clientele at lunch time is mostly blue-collar workers and the portions are sized accordingly. Meals between 8-17?.
- Zetor, Kaivopiha, Mannerheimintie 3-5, +358 9 666 966, 40 (http://www.zetor.net/). Tourist restaurant with lots of character and great quality Finnish food. Plenty of old tractors and Finnish memorabilia. Main meals between 10-20?.
- Belge Kluuvikatu 5, +358 9 6229620, 41 (http://www.hok.fi/ravintolat/belge/index.html). A reasonable selection of Belgian beers, a nice range of bistro fare, and a good location for people watching. The dining room upstairs is non-smoking. Main dishes 12-17 ?.
- Gastone, Korkeavuorenkatu 45, +358 9 666116. Nice restaurant with an Italian flavor.
- Farouge, Yrjonkatu 6, +358 9 6123455. Probably the only Lebanese restaurant in Finland. Friendly service and excellent food. Main dishes 14-38 ?. Lunch 11-15 on workdays. Closed on Sundays. Will be closed for renovation and expansion from end of May to August 2005.
- Kynsilaukka restaurant Garlic, Fredrikinkatu 22, +358 9 651939, 42 (http://www.kynsilaukka.com/garlic/index-e.asp). Good Finnish-influenced food from people truly dedicated to garlic. From the wonderfully intense garlic butter served with the bread to the sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle overtones in most of the dishes, this place is a delight for the garlic lover. Portion sizes are large, so if you're saving room for dessert (and you should), either skip the starters or else order the smaller size of both starter and main dish. The cinnamon pie dessert is particularly recommended. Main dishes 12-20 ?. Open Monday through Friday, 11am to 11pm, and weekends, 1pm to 11pm.
- Limón, Rikhardinkatu 4, +358 9 6225992, 43 (http://www.limon.fi/). A cozy place serving both tapas and normal dishes. Main dishes 12 - 16 ?.
- Mai Thai, Annankatu 31-33, +358 9 685 6850, 44 (http://www.ravintolaopas.net/maithai/). One of the best Thai restaurants in Helsinki - simply incredible! Make sure to reserve a table in advance.
- Mandarin Court, Lonnrotinkatu 2, +358 9 278 2700. One of the best Chinese restaurants in Helsinki. Has a nice selection of dim sum. Main dishes 11-15 ?.
- Mt. Everest, Lapinlahdenkatu 17, +358 9 6831 5450, and Everest, Luotsikatu 12 A, +358 9 6942563. Good Nepalese food. Main dishes 10-20 ?.
- Sawat Dee, Alppikatu 5, +358 9 773 2745. Serves very tasty Thai food in a milieu resembling backwoods gas station bar. Main dishes 10-12?, lunch set 7,5?.
- Silvoplee, Toinen linja 3, +358 9 726 0900, 45 (http://www.silvoplee.com/). Vegetarian restaurant specializing in living and raw foods but also serves warm dishes. Buffet, pay per weight. Closed on Sundays.
- Chez Dominique. Ludviginkatu 3-5, tel. +358 9 6124 4220, 46 (http://www.chezdominique.fi). Finland's only Michelin two-star restaurant, run by famed Finnish chef Hans Valimaki. Set dinner courses of innovative French food with fresh Finnish ingredients and modern twists start at 79€ per head, not including drinks. Reservations essential.
- Kabuki, Lapinlahdenkatu 12, 00180 Helsinki, +358 9 694 9446, 47 (http://www.kabuki.fi/). Best Japanese restaurant in Helsinki! No chance without reservation. Closed saturdays.
- Kosmos. Kalevankatu 3, +358 9 647 255, 48 (http://www.ravintolakosmos.fi/englanti/englanti.htm). A Helsinki institution dating to 1924, proudly serving "Helsinkian" food — a melange of Russian, French and Swedish influences. Try one of the three classics: Vorschmack with duchess potatoes, the Sylvester Sandwich au Gratin and Baltic herrings with mashed potatoes. Mains 15-25€.
- Savoy, Etelaesplanadi 14, +358-9-684 4020, tel. 49 (http://www.royalravintolat.com/savoy/). A luxurious restaurant with a magnificent view of downtown Helsinki's rooftops. Savoy is decorated just as Alvar Aalto designed it in the 30's, and they still serve some of the dishes that Field Marshal Mannerheim used to order, such as the famous Vorschmack. Mains from €40, while the opulent "Menu Savoy" will set you back €102.
Chilling out at the Arctic Icebar
Helsinki has plenty of hip places for a drink, but they are uniformly expensive. If intent on getting plastered, follow the Finns and drink up a good "base" at home (or hotel) before going out on town.
If you're not interested in the more trendy downtown nightclubs/bars, or are on a budget, you might want to head over to Kallio district that has heaps of bars with relatively cheap beer and an offbeat atmosphere. Popular places include Stellar pub, Roskapankki and Tauko but there are lots more to choose from. For a virtual tour of Kallio bars with addresses and beer price info, see baarikierros.com. The sometimes "decadent" bar culture here might not be everyone's cup of tea, though. You can reach Kallio from the center by walking, by tram (lines 1, 3B, 6 and 7) or by metro (get off at Hakaniemi or Sornainen).
- Ateljee Baari, Hotel Torni (14th floor), Kalevankatu 5. Despite the name it's more like cafe located on top of Hotel Torni, Finland's first high-rise. Excellent view over Helsinki downtown. Highly recommended. Find the elevator close to lobby to get there.
- Cafe Engel, Aleksanterinkatu 26 (opposite the Lutheran cathedral). Where the locals go for tea and snacks. Very relaxed, lovely courtyard out the back with films late into summer evenings.
- Cafe Success, Korkeavuorenkatu 2, tel. 09 633414. Traditional cafe serves excellent delicacies. Famous for their cinnamon rolls ("Korvapuusti", also available in Cafe Esplanad).
- Kipsari, Hameentie 135 E, 50 (http://www.kipsari.com/). Student cafe at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Arabia. Relaxed atmosphere with music at times. Nice students.
Bars and pubs
- Baarikarpanen, On The Rocks and Eatz are all bars/nightclubs on Mikonkatu, next to the Helsinki railway station. Baarikarpanen offers RnB and top40 hits in a nice lounge-type bar with big comfortable sofas and a dance floor. On The Rocks is a rock oriented bar with occasional live bands and stand up comedy acts. Eatz sports a restaurant and a small bar/dancefloor section playing varying music depending on the night.
- Baker's Pub, Mannerheimintie 12, 51 (http://www.ravintolabakers.com/pub.asp). Next door to Baker's Restaurant. A good place to hang if you like rock music. Friendly bar staff. Drinks 4-6€.
- Onnela, Fredrikinkatu 48, 52 (http://www.ravintolaonnela.fi/). Just around the corner from the Helsinki bus station (Kamppi) features Finnish table-dancing, large Disco area and also a metal section. Very popular because a membership card of €5 gives you €1 beers from 23-01 most days. Cover charge on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Mbar, Lasipalatsi, Mannerheimintie 22-24, tel. 358-9-6124542. A pleasant and popular living room-ish space in the heart of the city with local Dj's playing Drum'n Base, House and Chilly beats. Many computers and a WiFi for laptop owners. Drinks 4-5€. 53 (http://www.mbar.fi)
- Vinyl, Yliopistonkatu 8, 54 (http://www.vinyl.fi). An interesting combination of cocktail bar and DJ record store. Drinks are prepared from fresh fruits and juices as well as from herbs and berries. Records played by DJ's vary from downtempo to house. Drinks 6.5€.
- The Club, Simonkatu 6. A very popular venue offering three separate bar/club areas with a varying theme. The Club tries to profile itself as a upscale nightclub for trendy crowd. Music varies from Finnish-hits to RnB and House, depending on the area.
- DTM, Iso Roobertinkatu 28, 55 (http://dtm.fi/infot/english.htm). Formerly "Don't Tell Mama", along the years DTM has grown to be what it is today: the largest combination of gay cafe, bar, disco and night club in Scandinavia. Open 9 AM to 4 AM daily (Sundays from noon), entrance 5€ (Saturdays from 10 PM only).
- Fever, Annankatu 32. One of the newer nightclubs in Helsinki. Mostly popular with 20-something crowd this club plays the current top-40 list. As a rather unusual feature in the Helsinki scene, this club is open every day of the week.
- Helsinki Club, Yliopistonkatu 8. An old party venue that keeps discovering itself again and again. Hesari has offered its services for party goes since 1971 and still hosts some of the hottest parties in Helsinki even today.
- Lost & Found, Annankatu 6, 56 (http://www.lostandfound.fi/). Formerly a hetero-friendly gay club and nowadays more likely vice-versa, this nightclub is open every day till 4 AM. Mysteriously popular despite the sweaty atmosphere in the somewhat cheesy disco downstairs, there's always action here on late nights even on weekdays.
- Teatteri, Pohjoisesplanadi 2, 57 (http://www.teatteri.fi). A complex featuring a deli, a restaurant, a bar and a night club, all of them trendy and popular. Check out the aptly named Clock Bar (Kellobaari) downstairs. Closed Sundays.
- UNIQ, Yliopistonkatu 5, 58 (http://www.uniq.fi/). A nightclub home to the Arctic Icebar, essentially a giant walk-in freezer where you can sample Finlandia vodka-based cocktails at a temperature of -5°C all year around. Loan parkas, moon boots and gloves provided. Open Wed-Sat 10 PM to 4 AM. Cover 7€ on weekends, drinks in the Icebar a steep 10€ (buy coupons in advance at the other bar counters).
- Rosegarden, Iso-roobertinkatu 10,. A litterally underground spot with a maze-like setup. Probably the best drum and bass and house music in town. Action takes place mainly on thursday, friday and saturday. Don't show up before 12.
Accommodation is generally quite expensive, but of a high standard. Hotels are usually cheaper on weekends when usual clientele of businessmen are away.
There are quite a few budget hotels in Helsinki, the cheapest being youth hostels. The Finnish Youth Hostel Association (http://www.srm.fi) can provide further information.
- Eurohostel, Linnankatu 9 (tram 2, 4), 59 (http://www.eurohostel.fi/). Helsinki's best-located hostel. €19.50 (IYHF members) .
- Rastila Camping, Vuosaari (M Rastila), 60 (http://www.hel.fi/liv/rastila/rastilaenglish.html). The only camping site inside Helsinki borders. 17 min metro ride from the Central Railway Station.
- Stadion Hostel, Pohjoinen Stadiontie 3 B, 61 (http://www.stadionhostel.com/). In the Olympic Stadium building to the north of the center, but easily accessed by tram. Dorms from 15 €.
- Hostel Erottajanpuisto, Uudenmaankatu 9, 62 (http://www.erottajanpuisto.com/) Uudenmaankatu 9. A small, clean, and friendly hostel with a central location. 22.5 Euros for a dorm bed.
- Summer Hostel Satakuntatalo, Lapinrinne 1 A (M Kamppi), 63 (http://www.srmnet.org/esittelyt/englsatakunta.html). Reasonably priced and a great location, but prepare to queue for the showers. €19.00 (no membership required), open June-August only.
- Cumulus Kaisa, Kaisaniemenkatu 7 (M Kaisaniemi). A centrally located but minimally equipped business hotel. Prices from 83€ for a double in the low season.
- Hotelli Finn, Kalevankatu 3B, tel. +358-9-6844360, fax. +358-9-68443610, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, 64 (http://www.hotellifinn.fi/). A clean hotel near the main railway station. Even though the rooms are small and fairly no-frills, the hotel is comfortable and cheap. There are 27 rooms, and can accommodate from one to four people per room. Rooms include telephone and TV. €55-€115 (single - room for four).
- Hotel Helka, Pohjoinen rautatiekatu 23 (near M Kamppi), 65 (http://www.helka.fi). A dependable old standby within walking distance of the city center. Prices generally around 100€.
- Hotel Kamp, Pohjoisesplanadi 29, tel. +358-9-576-111, 66 (http://www.kamp.fi/). This historic hotel claims to be the only true 5-star in Scandinavia, with prices to match: the 8-room Mannerheim Suite can be yours for a mere 2000€ per night.
- Radisson SAS Plaza, Mikonkatu 23, tel. +358-20-123-4700, 67 (http://www.radisson.com/helsinkifi_plaza). Classy newly opened hotel in a protected 1917 building, well located near the railway station within easy walking distance of Aleksanterinkatu. Excellent breakfast buffet. Rooms from 150€.
Internet cafes are rather thin on the ground in Helsinki, as most people have net connections at home. If you have your own laptop, WLAN is available in some cafes and most Hesburger joints too, the major operators being Sonera Homerun (http://www.sonera.fi/artikkeli/0,3842,h-10806,00.html) and DNA (http://www.dnafinland.fi/wlan/).
- Library 10, Elielinaukio 2 G, 68 (http://www.lib.hel.fi/page.asp?_item_id=5932&_lang_id=EN). A public internet and music library located in the main post office building at the western side of the main railway station. You can surf the net for free for 30 minutes, but you're going to have to queue.
- Meetingpoint, 69 (http://www.lasipalatsi.fi/vuokralaiset/kohtaamispaikka_en.html) upstairs of Lasipalatsi is another project of the Helsinki City Library and a load of collaborators. A branch called Kirjakaapeli, or Cable Book Library used to be here, but evolved to Library 10 across the street. Open WLAN is offered as a public service at Meetingpoint.
- Mbar. Lasipalatsi, Mannerheimintie 22-24, tel. 09 6124542, 70 (http://www.mbar.fi/). A pleasant and popular living room-ish space in the heart of the city. Many computers and a WiFi for laptop owners. Drinks 4-5€.
- Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Mannerheiminaukio 2. Cafe of the museum has public WLAN.
In general, Finland is a fairly safe country, and Helsinki is no exception. There are no exceptional crime problems or health hazards. Unfortunately, as the city grows larger, petty crime will likely increase as well. Still, this should not be a visitor's biggest worry. Probably the only situation in which to watch your back, as in all bigger cities, might be if you find yourself waiting for your turn in a queue for a hot dog at 4 AM after the local club has stopped serving drinks. In March 2005 Helsinki was found in a study to be the second safest city in the world (Baghdad scored worst).
In Finland itself the following make good day trips:
- Nuuksio National Park, a piece of untamed wilderness within easy striking distance
- Porvoo, a charming old town of wooden houses is just 60 km away
As a coastal city, Helsinki has good connections to some fine international destinations nearby:
- In Russia, St. Petersburg, "the Venice of the North", is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
- Stockholm, the Swedish capital, is like Helsinki, only bigger.
- Tallinn in Estonia is known for its medieval city center and is easily accessible even as a day trip.