A city with a difference
If you’ve never been to the capital of Finland before, you’re in for a treat. Whatever you look for in a great city, you’ll find it in Helsinki.
What’s more, you’ll soon realise that Helsinki is a city with a difference. It embraces islands, parks, beaches, entertainment, homes and businesses. And it does all this in its own inimitable way. After all, where else would you find concerts held in an underground church chiselled from rock (the Temppeliaukion kirrko), or drinks in a bar made entirely of ice (the Arctic Icebar)?
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One of the most striking differences about Helsinki, however, is its islands. The most famous is a group of them called Suomenlinna, just 15 minutes by ferry from the mainland. Suomenlinna was formerly the most impressive of the Baltic Sea fortresses. It is now a Unesco World Heritage Site and a popular spot for both locals and tourists.
When you go to the island, consider taking a picnic. There are plenty of places you can settle down to eat on the ramparts or in the surrounding fields. Alternatively, use one of the restaurants or cafes and while away the time enjoying the wonderful views.
There are plenty of other islands that make up the archipelago that stretches round the centre of Helsinki. Among them are Seurasaari, where you can visit the museum and take relaxing walks; Pihlajasaari, an island popular with Helsinki residents; and Korkeasaari, where you’ll find Helsinki Zoo. Please note that most ferries work only in the summer season, although some islands have access by road bridges.
Festivals and parks
Festivals, of course, are common throughout the world’s cities but those in Helsinki are especially worth seeing – and taking part in. Among them are Vappu (Walpurgis Night) on 30 April – 1 May; Helsinki-päivä (Helsinki Day) on 12 June, the city’s birthday; and Taiteiden Yö (Night of the Arts) towards the end of August.
Helsinki’s many parks offer less hectic entertainment. Esplanadin puisto, between the Swedish theatre and Kauppatori, hosts free concerts during the summer. Elsewhere, south of the city and overlooking the sea, is Kaivopuisto. But if you prefer your parks to be slightly wilder and less ornamental, try the 1,000 hectare Keskuspuisto north of the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.
Shopping in Helsinki is excellent. The main shopping area is Aleksanterinkatu. This starts at the Senate Square and continues on to Mannerheimintie.
To find something out of the ordinary, though, try the Hietalahden tori market hall. You’ll find a flea market here on summer evenings and weekends.
Most Helsinki residents can speak English. Staff at some of the major shops even wear badges with flags that indicate the languages they speak.
Public transport in Helsinki is very good. You have a choice of bus, train, tram, metro and ferry. A City Ticket covers most of these within the Helsinki limits and is valid for an hour at a time.
A great way of exploring Helsinki is by cycling. You can hire a bike from one of the numerous Citybike stands.
The Helsinki tourist information office is at the corner of Unioninkatu and Pohjoisesplanadi by the Market Square in the city centre.
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Whether you're looking for clothing, cool interiors or antiques - here you'll find it! Check out the Design District!
When you think of Finland, what's
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How bizarre can it get with
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Hämeentie 135, tram 6
Tel: +358 204 39 3507
The complete line of homeware
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history and the production
methos of the company.
Jes, air host
Bear Park Cafe
Tel: +358 445 76 06 79
This is my favorite outdoor
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take the 3B tram.
Tel: +358 9 638 873
Small but nice and always
busy, so make sure to book
well in advance.