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Helsinki

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Finland : Southern Finland : Helsinki
Revision as of 19:08, 15 July 2006 by 80.186.246.19 (Talk)

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Helsinki (Finnish) or Helsingfors (Swedish) [1] is Finland's capital and 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)

Understand

History

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 Ehrenström, 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.

Orientation

Helsinki metropolitan area

The county of Helsinki forms the core of Finland's largest urban area, known in Finnish as the "capital area" (pääkaupunkiseutu). 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 Nurmijärvi.

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 for an interactive searchable map of the city.

Culture

Helsinki is by far Finland's most cosmopolitan city and, while no London or New York, there is a fairly good selection of people from all around the world.

Around 90% of the residents in Helsinki are native Finnish speakers. There is also a significant Swedish speaking minority, and at many venues in centre you can also get service in Swedish. Staff at some stores like Stockmann carry name signs with flags on the sign representing what languages they speak. As usual in Finland, nearly everybody speaks English, and it is not unusual to meet people in Helsinki (especially among students) who speak 4 languages or more.

Get in

By plane

All international and domestic flights land at the compact, modern and airy Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport (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 3.60€ 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 (center of Vantaa, closest station for suburban and intercity train connections) and bus 519 to Itäkeskus (for biggest shopping mall in Finland and eastern parts of the city).

Taxis to the center cost 25€ and up, although the shared Airport Taxi (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.

By helicopter

Copterline 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. Buses 14B and 16 go regularly to there, with 14B you can get to Kamppi Metro station and shopping mall and with 16 you can get to Kauppatori market in the city centre and to Kulosaari. At Kulosaari you can take bus no 11 to go to the Helsinki Zoo.

By train

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.

By car

Expressways connect Helsinki to Turku to the west, Tampere and Lahti to the north, and to Porvoo and towards St. Petersburg in the east.

By bus

Long-distance buses terminate at the new underground Central Bus Station (Linja-autoasema) in the Kamppi Center. The station is adjacent to Mannerheimintie, directly connected to the Kamppi metro station and within easy walking distance of the Central Railway Station. At Dom Kino (probably the cinema) busses for SPB come and go. No clue about schedules, prices (one way) should be around 10 €.

By boat

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 Katajanokka Terminal (Katajanokan terminaali, tram 4T/bus 13), while Silja Line uses Olympic Terminal (Olympiaterminaali) on the west side (tram 1A, 3T/3B). Linda Line Express hydrofoils from Tallinn come to Makasiini Terminal (Makasiiniterminaali, tram 1A, 3T/3B), while larger ferries to Tallinn use the more inconvenient West Harbour (Länsisatama) terminal (bus 15 to Ruoholahti Metro, 15A to Central Railway Station). See the Port of Helsinki for the latest details.

Get around

Helsinki tram map, with metro stations

All public transportation in the Helsinki metro area is operated under the aegis of HKL. The following basic ticket types are available:

  • Tram ticket (1,80€ prepaid, 2,00€ from the driver, travel card "0") — valid for one hour of tram trips, unlimited transfers
  • City ticket (2,00€ by mobile phone or in ticket machines, 2,20€ from the driver, travel card "1") — valid for one hour within city limits, unlimited transfers
  • Regional ticket (3,60€, 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 8€ (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(Matkailijalippu) (1 day 6,00€, 3 days 12,00€ or 5 days 18,00€), 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 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.

By tram

Bar Tram
Of particular note is the SpåraKOFF 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, Linnanmäki, 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.

By bus

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).

By metro

Helsinki metro map

A metro line runs from the center to the eastern suburbs, but is of little use to most tourists. After Itäkeskus, the line splits in two, with one line going to Mellunmäki and the other to Vuosaari. Travelling between Ruoholahti and Mellunmäki or Vuosaari usually takes about 21-22 minutes.

On the moment, there are track repair works and metro runs only from Ruoholahti to Mellunmäki. There is a separate line from Vuosaari to Itäkeskus. Trains are driving with interval of 10 minutes instead of 5.

By train

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.

By ferry

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. HKL's Tourist Ticket and mobile-phone ticket are both valid also on Suomenlinna ferry.

By taxi

You don't need to worry about being cheated or robbed by a taxi driver in Helsinki, they are already expensive enough. 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 (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.

See

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.

Islands

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, [2]. 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, [3]. 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.
  • Korkeasaari, [4]. Not very small island in the central Helsinki, connected to dry land. In Korkeasaari there is Helsinki City Zoo with lots of interesting animals. There is a ferry connection with Hakaniemi and with Kauppatori, and bus no. 11 goes there by schedule(More often in the summer).

Parks

  • 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. [5]. Said to be the northernmost zoo in the world hosting animals from all over the planet.
  • Töölö Bay (Töölönlahti). 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 Töölö Bay is partly in natural conditions, something which one very seldomly can see in any of the major European cities. Walking around Töölö Bay is a popular outdoor exercise among Helsinki citizens.

Churches

The altar of the Church in the Rock
  • Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko). Aleksanterinkatu, [6]. 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, [7]. 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.
  • St. John's Church (Johanneksenkirkko). Korkeavuorenkatu 12, +358 9-7092370. Mo-Fr 12-15PM. The largest church in Helsinki and a fine example of gothic revival architecture. 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), [8]. 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,[9]. 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, [10]. 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, [11]. 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, Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, [12]. 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.

Olympic sights

Helsinki is an olympic city, the host of the 1952 Olympic Games.

  • Olympic Stadium, [13]. Recently renovated for the 2005 World Athletic Championships, the stadium with his 72m high tower offers a great view over the city.

Other

  • Sibelius Monument, [14]. 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.

Do

  • 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).
  • Linnanmäki [15] amusement park is famous for its old wooden rollercoaster. The entrance to the park is free of charge. The Sea Life [16] aquarium at Tivolikuja 1 is open throughout the year. Tram 3T, 3B or 8 and bus 23.
  • Serena Water Amusement Park, Tornimäentie 10, Espoo (bus 339), tel. 09 88705555, [17].Features 2000 sq.m. of heated pools under a roof. The buildings have seen their best days, but kids love the water slides, and an extra 1000 sq.m. outdoors are open in the summer. Still, 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. All day pass €17, evening pass (from 4 PM) €13. Open 11 AM to 8 PM daily.

Learn

Most of Finland's exchange students end up in Helsinki's universities:

  • University of Helsinki. [18]. 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. [19]. "Finland's MIT", located in Otaniemi, Espoo, just across the municipality border.
  • University of Art and Design Helsinki. [20]. The biggest art university in Scandinavia. Has the highest rate of exchange students of all Finnish universities.
  • Helsinki School of Economics [21]
  • Sibelius Academy [22] The only music university in Finland and one of the largest in Europe.

Work

Buy

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), [23]. The largest bookstore in Finland, with extensive selections in English too. Part of Stockmann, and connected by an underground passage to it.
  • Itäkeskus. [24]. The largest shopping mall in Scandinavia with some 240 shops. Metro: Itäkeskus, some 16 minutes from the center.
  • Kamppi. [25] New shopping mall in the center of Helsinki. Plenty of international brands and restaurants.
  • Kämp Galleria. Between Mikonkatu and Kluuvikatu, [26]. Helsinki's fanciest shopping mall, with brands like Marimekko and a shop full of Moomin goods.
  • Stockmann. Corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Mannerheimintie, [27]. 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 Itäkeskus, Jumbo, Tapiola and the airport.
  • Sokos. A department store right next to the railway station.
  • In the suburban cities of Vantaa and Espoo you can also find big shopping malls. Vantaa has Jumbo[28] and Myyrmanni[29], while Espoo has the centers of Iso Omena[30] and Sello[31]. All of these are easily accessible by commuter transport or by car.

Design

There are high-end design stores around Aleksanterinkatu and Etelä-Esplanadi. Many of Helsinki's smaller design stores are located around Uudenmaankatu and Iso Roobertinkatu.

  • Design District Helsinki. An area around Uudenmaankatu and Iso Roobertinkatu, full of design and antique shops, fashion stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants and showrooms. Here you can find the most interesting names, classics, trend-setters and so much more. Visit Design Forum Finland [32] in Erottajankatu 7 to get a map of shops and galleries, or download it here.
  • Iittala Shop. Pohjoisesplanadi 25, [33]. An airy concept store for the Iittala brand of Finnish glassware, pans, kitchen utensil et al. Personal service by the friendly staff. Open Mon-Fri 10am to 7pm, Sat 10am to 4pm.
  • Arabia Factory Shop. Hämeentie 135 (Tram 6 terminus, [34]. Factory outlet for Arabia ceramics and Iittala glassware, best known for selling slightly defective goods at steeply discounted prices. Open 10am to 8pm weekdays, 10am to 4pm weekends.
  • Ivana Helsinki, Uudenmaankatu 15, tel +358-9-6224422 [35]. Internationally recognized designer clothes, handmade in Finland.
  • Myymälä2, Uudenmaankatu 23, [36]. Gallery and shop for young designers, artists and musicians. And while you are there, also check out Lux shop on the opposite side of the street.
  • Aero, Yrjönkatu 8, [37]. New and vintage design furniture, lighting, textiles, jewellery, glass. Finnish designers represented include Eero Aarnio, Alvar Aalto, Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Sarpaneva and Ilmari Tapiovaara. Not for a budget traveller.

Markets

  • Market Square (Kauppatori). 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). [38]. 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!
  • Hietalahti Antique and Art Hall, Hietalahdentori (tram 6), tel. +358-9-670145, [39]. Here you can find many antique shops in one place, just few kilometers west from the city centre. Open Mon-Fri 10 AM-5 PM, Sat 10 AM-3 PM.
  • Hietalahti Open Air Flea market. Next to Hietalahti Antique and Art Hall, there is the most popular flea market in Helsinki. Open only during the summer.

Eat

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 30€ per head.

Budget

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 7-8 €. See for example [40] for addresses and ratings of Helsinki kebab joints.

  • Golden Rax, Forum 2F, Mannerheimintie 20, Mikonkatu 8, [41]. All-you-can-eat pizza buffet, including pasta, salad and drinks. Greasy but filling. 7.99€ per person.ved to 21.00.
  • VPK, Albertinkatu 29, [42]. 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, [43]. A chain of restaurants owned by the Helsinki University student union, with around 10 outlets in central Helsinki. 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, [44]. 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.

Mid-range

Finnish

  • Keittiö & Bar Juuri, Korkeavuorenkatu 27, +358 9 635 732, [45]. Special Finnish entrées called sapakset with roots in Finnish food tradition. All sapakset 2,5€, main dishes 17€.
  • Konstan Möljä, Hietalahdenkatu 14, +358 9 694 7504, [46]. Traditional Finnish food. Lunch buffet 7.90€, main dishes 15+€.
  • Lappi, Annankatu 22, +358 9 645 550, [47]. Traditional Finnish (and especially Lapp) dishes, frequented more by tourists than Finns. Main dishes 12-27€.
  • Manala, Dagmarinkatu 2, +358 9 5807 7707, [48]. Tasty, no-nonsense Finnish food from noon till 4 am. Main dishes 10-18€.
  • Messenius, Messeniuksenkatu 7, tel. +358-9-2414950, [49]. This fine neighbourhood place outside the city centre is famed for the "catch of the day", often caught by the fishing enthusiast owners themselves. Also fairly good steaks for the carnivores amongst us.
  • Sea Horse, Kapteeninkatu 11, +358 9 628 169, [50]. 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, [51]. 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, [52]. Tourist restaurant with lots of character and great quality Finnish food. Plenty of old tractors and Finnish memorabilia. Main meals between 10-20€.

International

  • Belge Kluuvikatu 5, +358 9 6229620, [53]. 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, Yrjönkatu 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, [54]. 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.
  • La Famiglia, Keskuskatu 3, tel. 85685680, [55]. Unpretentious Italian food even for under 10€, 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.
  • Limón, Rikhardinkatu 4, +358 9 6225992, [56]. A cozy place serving both tapas and normal dishes. Main dishes 12 - 16 €.
  • Mai Thai, Annankatu 31-33, +358 9 685 6850, [57]. One of the best Thai restaurants in Helsinki - simply incredible! Make sure to reserve a table in advance.
  • Mandarin Court, Lönnrotinkatu 2, +358 9 278 2700. One of the best Chinese restaurants in Helsinki. Has a nice selection of dim sum. Main dishes 11-15 €.
  • New Bamboo Center, Annankatu 29, 00100 Helsinki. Well known and popular downtown Malaysian-Chinese restaurant. Cheap lunch/dinner.
  • Mt. Everest, Lapinlahdenkatu 17, +358 9 6831 5450, [58]. Good Nepalese food. Main dishes 10-20 €.
  • 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€.

Vegetarian

  • Silvoplee, Toinen linja 3, +358 9 726 0900, [59]. Vegetarian restaurant specializing in living and raw foods but also serves warm dishes. Buffet, pay per weight. Closed on Sundays.

Splurge

Two classes of fine dining stand out in Helsinki: fresh seafood and Russian. During the dark days of the Soviet Union, it was sometimes said that the best Russian restaurants in the world were across the border in Helsinki.

Finnish

  • Carelia, Mannerheimintie 56, tel. +358-9-27090976. Finnish-Italian with a strong fish and seafood emphasis. Oysters and other seafood in Winter, local fish in the Summer season.
  • Chez Dominique. Rikhardinkatu 4, tel. +358 9 612 7393, [60]. Finland's only Michelin two-star restaurant, run by famed Finnish chef Hans Välimäki. Set dinner courses of innovative French food with fresh Finnish ingredients and modern twists start at 79€ per head, not including drinks. Reservations essential. Moving to new address, closed until Sept 2006.
  • Havis, Eteläranta 16, tel. +358-9-68695660. The successor of the legendary Havis Amanda ("Daughter of the Baltic") and still the best upscale seafood restaurant in town.
  • Karljohan, Yrjönkatu 21, tel. +358-9-6121121. Very nice restaurant opposite the Hotel Torni with Swedish and Finnish traditional cooking and keeping high standards. It's worthwhile to try the Scandinavian mushy pea soup (and pancake dessert) at Thursday lunches.
  • Kosmos. Kalevankatu 3, +358 9 647 255, [61]. 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€.
  • Rivoli, Albertinkatu 38, tel. +358-9-643455. Traditional fine dining restaurant quite close to the SAS Royal and Scandic Simonkentta hotels. Specialities include oysters, shellfish and mussels in season (this was the first place to import them at all) and Zander in a onion and cream sauce traditional style.
  • Savoy, Eteläesplanadi 14, +358-9-684 4020, tel. [62]. 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.

International

  • Bellevue, Rahapajankatu 3, tel. +358-9-179560. The oldest Russian restaurant in Helsinki was founded by emigrants from the Rodina in the turbulent year of 1917. Fitting location in the shadow of the Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral and a professional kitchen dishing out Russian traditional favorites with a French twist.
  • Galleria Hariton, Kasarmikatu 44, tel. +358-9-6221717. Interestingly enough the owner is an Orthodox monk leading a double life as respected chef, who has built a small monastery west of Helsinki. The kitchen is well aware of seasonal food and the Byzantine church calendar so be prepared for some pleasant surprises.
  • Kabuki, Lapinlahdenkatu 12, 00180 Helsinki, +358 9 694 9446, [63]. Best Japanese restaurant in Helsinki! No chance without reservation. Closed saturdays.
  • Wellamo, Vyökatu 9, tel. +358-9-663139. Not strictly Russian, but a longtime favorite of both bohemians and the Orthodox community from nearby Uspensky Cathedral. Apart from the wonderful Russian dishes lighter Mediterranean fare is also available.

Drink

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. 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 Sörnäinen).

Cafes

  • 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 – even from the (famous) toilets. Highly recommended. Find the elevator close to lobby to get there, but prepare for expensive drinks.
  • 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, Hämeentie 135 E, [64]. Student cafe at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Arabia. Relaxed atmosphere with music at times. Nice students.
  • Strindberg, Pohjoisesplanadi 33. One of the oldest and historical cafés of Helsinki. Great terrace on the posh Pohjoisesplanadi with views to the Esplanadi park. Very popular among helsinkians.
  • Fazer, Kluuvikatu 3. This 110-year café has been an institution since it's birth. The Fazer Café is famous for it's decor, architecture (There's a huge round room topped with a dome. People believe that if you tell secrets here, the other customers will hear them across the room.) ice-creams, pastries and coffees. There's also the Fazer Bakery's shop next to the café.

Bars and pubs

  • Baarikärpänen, Mikonkatu. Offers RnB and Top 40 hits in a nice lounge-type bar with big comfortable sofas and a dance floor.
  • On The Rocks, Mikonkatu, next to the Helsinki railway station. A rock oriented bar with occasional live bands and stand up comedy acts.
  • Onnela, Fredrikinkatu 48, [65]. Just around the corner from the Helsinki bus station (Kamppi) features Finnish table-dancing, large Disco area and also a small metal/rock section. Cover charge on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Mbar, Lasipalatsi, Mannerheimintie 22-24, [66]. A pleasant and popular living room-ish space in the heart of the city with local Dj's playing Drum&Bass, House and Chilly beats. Computers with Internet access and wi-fi for laptop owners (subject to fee). Drinks 4-5€.
  • Åbo / Oujee, Uudenmaankatu 28, tel. +358-9-6121012. Åbo is a relaxed bar with a campy interior and a young artistic crowd. Open daily from 6pm to 2am (Sun-Thu) or 3am (Fri-Sat). Oujee next door is a tiny bar/club which often gets very packed. Live dj's playing electro, house and indie pop. Open from 8pm to 2am (Wed-Thu, Sun) or 3am (Fri-Sat).
  • Vinyl, Yliopistonkatu 8, [67]. 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€.
  • Sports Academy, Kaivokatu 8, [68]. One of the best sports bars in Helsinki, and definitely the place for you if you are keen of some soccer game. A two-story building just opposite the railway station, full of TV sets, and several giant projectors. Aa small variety of food also served.

Nightclubs

The Clock Bar, Teatteri
  • Kuudes linja, Hämeentie 13, [69]. A live music oriented nightclub for the somewhat arty crowd. Located a 10 min tram/bus ride away in the Kallio district, Kuudes linja usually offers more experimental/alternative music than the mainstream downtown clubs. Arrive early to avoid queues -- admittance is not guaranteed.
  • 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 an upscale nightclub for trendy young crowd. Music varies from Finnish to mainstream hits and RnB, depending on the area.
  • DTM, Iso Roobertinkatu 28, [70]. Formerly "Don't Tell Mama", DTM has grown to be 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).
  • Eatz, Kaisaniemenkatu 2, [71]. One of the most popular clubs in Helsinki. At the day time it serves as bar and restaurant with variety of international dish types from Japanese conveyor belt sushi to Latin American dishes. At the night time Eatz features Cuban beats at the street level and a more upbeat Aussie bar area on the second floor.
  • 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 goers since 1971 and still hosts some of the hottest parties in Helsinki even today.
  • Lost & Found, Annankatu 6, [72]. 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. Sundays especially good.
  • Teatteri, Pohjoisesplanadi 2, [73]. A complex featuring a deli, a restaurant, a bar and a night club, all of them trendy and popular among the well-dressed crowd. Check out the aptly named Clock Bar (Kellobaari) downstairs. Closed Sundays.
  • UNIQ, Yliopistonkatu 5, [74]. 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). Some people would call it a tourist trap though.
  • Rose Garden, Iso Roobertinkatu 10, [75]. Entrance to this literally underground spot is easy to miss as it is hidden in an inner court. With a maze-like setup, Rose Garden offers some of the best drum&bass and house clubs in town. Action takes place mainly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Don't show up before midnight.
  • Tavastia/Semifinal, Urho Kekkosenkatu 4-6, [76]. A rock club with a cool ambience and lots of live bands. Semifinal has smaller indie/alternative bands for a young crowd.

Sleep

Accommodation is generally quite expensive, but of a high standard. Hotels are usually cheaper on weekends when usual clientele of businessmen are away.

Budget

There are quite a few budget hotels in Helsinki, the cheapest being youth hostels. The Finnish Youth Hostel Association can provide further information.

  • Eurohostel, Linnankatu 9 (tram 2, 4), [77]. Helsinki's best-located hostel. €19.50 (IYHF members) .
  • Rastila Camping, Vuosaari (M Rastila), [78]. The only camping site inside Helsinki borders. 17 min metro ride from the Central Railway Station.
  • Stadion Hostel, Pohjoinen Stadiontie 3 B, [79]. In the Olympic Stadium building to the north of the center, but easily accessed by tram. Dorms from 15 €.
  • Hostel Erottajanpuisto, Uudenmaankatu 9, [80] 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), [81]. Reasonably priced and a great location, but prepare to queue for the showers. €19.00 (no membership required), open June-August only.

Mid-range

  • 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 hotelli.finn@kolumbus.fi, [82]. 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), [83]. A dependable old standby within walking distance of the city center. Prices generally around 100€.

Splurge

  • Klaus K, Bulevardi 2, tel. +358-20-7704700, [84]. Helsinki's first boutique hotel, although they prefer the term "personal contemporary hotel". Rooms range from the small Passion & Mystical types to the aptly named Envy Plus. Central location, funky styling and reasonable prices make this a winner. Rooms from 115€.
  • Hotel Kämp, Pohjoisesplanadi 29, tel. +358-9-576-111, [85]. 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, [86]. 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€.

Contact

Internet cafes are rather few and far between in Helsinki, as most people have Internet access at home. If you have your own laptop, wi-fi (or wlan as it is called in Finland) is available in some cafes and most Hesburger hamburger joints too, the major operators being Sonera Homerun and DNA.

  • Open Espa. Open wi-fi network called Open Espa covers the Esplanadi park and Kauppatori market square.
  • Shopping Ruoholahti. Public wi-fi at the shopping mall next to metro stop Ruoholahti.
  • Library 10, Elielinaukio 2 G, [87]. 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 Internet for free for 30 minutes on the library's computers, but you're going to have to queue. Also wi-fi, but you need a library card to access the network.
  • Meetingpoint, [88] 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 wi-fi network is offered as a public service at Meetingpoint.
  • Mbar. Lasipalatsi, Mannerheimintie 22-24, tel. 09 6124542, [89]. A pleasant and popular living room-ish space in the heart of the city. Computers with Internet access and wi-fi for laptop owners (subject to fee). Drinks 4-5€.
  • Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Mannerheiminaukio 2. Cafe of the museum has public wi-fi.
  • Teerenpeli, Vuorikatu 16, tel. 0424 925 200, [90]. A cozy bar with free wi-fi.
  • Soihtu, Aurorankatu 13 B 16, [91]. A small youth-friendly café, evenings volunteer-run, free wi-fi and customers may borrow GNU/Linux laptops.
  • Sanomatalo, the large glass cube close to Kiasma museum, has an open and free wi-fi hotspot.
  • Korjaamo, Töölönkatu 51 b, [92]. A trendy wine bar/café with free wi-fi. Also hosts a gallery and different culture events.

Stay safe

The crime rate in Finland is low compared to other developed countries; however, there has been a recent increase in the categories of drug-related, juvenile and some forms of racially motivated crimes. Minor instances of residential vandalism occur in all parts of Helsinki, although incidents of burglaries, robbery, or theft are seldom. Almost all homicides typically involve cases of domestic violence and heavy use of alcohol, especially during holiday periods. Tourists are seldom the victims of criminal acts, but visitors should pay attention to their personal safety by being aware of their surroundings and by protecting their valuables. In particular, drunken fights on weekends and holidays are all too common.

Get out

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.

A complete list of ferry companies operating can be found at the web pages of the Port of Helsinki. Be aware that on weekends, booking in advance might be necessary to get free a seat on some ferry.



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