Helsinki is a modern city with over half a million residents and is situated on the Baltic Sea. With a history stretching back to its foundation in 1550, it has been the capital of Finland since 1812.
The summer in Helsinki is bright. The days are at their longest in the second half of June, when the sun stays above the horizon for 19 hours. The evenings grow cool towards the end of September, and the days grow noticeably shorter as winter approaches. The coldest time of the year is usually at the end of January, when the temperature can fall to below -15°C and the ground is covered by snow. The sea usually freezes over in the heart of winter.
Arriving in Helsinki
The modern airport is located about 60 minutes outside the city centre. Making the transfer is easy with options to travel by train, bus or taxi.
Local trains I and P operate between Helsinki Airport and the city centre on the Ring Rail Line, taking about 30 minutes. A regional ticket costs around €5.50 and can be purchased from Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) ticket machines and onboard trains from a ticket sales carriage.
The Finnair City Bus operates between the airport and city centre (Elielinaukio) every 20 minutes and takes around 40 minutes. A single ticket costs about €6.20 when purchased online in advance or about 10 cent more if purchased from the driver.
Bus 615 (“Lentoasema-Rautatientori”) is operated by Helsinki Region Transport (HSL). A regional ticket costs around €5.50 and can be purchased from Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) ticket machines or from the driver with cash. At night you can also take the 415N night bus.
A taxi between the airport and the city centre will cost around €45 each way.
During summer season (June – August) the Helsinki Helpers – easily identified by their green vests – patrol the inner city and cruise harbours providing tips on interesting sights, events, restaurants, shopping venues and various travel services. They also serve visitors at the Info Container, situated on Keskuskatu next to Ateneum Art Museum and close to the Central Railway Station. In addition to brochures and maps, the Helsinki Helpers hand out the Helsinki Help coupon booklet, which includes discounts for various shops, museums and restaurants in the city centre.
Things to See and Do
Helsinki is a compact city where most sights and attractions are within walking distance and getting around town is easy. The city centre, especially around Senate Square, forms a unique and cohesive example of Neoclassical architecture. The square is dominated by four buildings: Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the main building of the University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland. A statue of Alexander II (1894) stands in the middle of the Senate Square.
Helsinki Cathedral is arguably Finland’s most famous and photographed building; it celebrates its 165th anniversary in 2017. The oldest stone building in Helsinki is the Sederholm House located on the southeast corner of the square. Today the building hosts the Helsinki City Museum. The Esplanade park and the Market Square are just a block away.
The Senate Square also hosts a sound installation called the Sound of the Senate Square. It is a modern version of the European glockenspiel and can be heard every day at 17:49 as it travels from one building to the next. The composition runs for 5 minutes 18 seconds.
In Winter, Senate Square plays host to a wonderful traditional Christmas Market.
Finnish cuisine is based on fresh and natural ingredients that vary according to the season. The easiest way to enjoy the local flavours is to visit the lively market places and atmospheric market halls where you can taste berries, Karelian pasties or salmon soup! Helsinki also has a large variety of restaurants to choose from. Try Finnish seasonal delicacies at participating HelsinkiMenu restaurants, dine in style at one of Helsinki’s fine dining restaurants or discover food culture outside the city centre at the lively centre for food culture, Abattoir (Teurastamo) which is a tram ride away from the centre. Full details are available in the Food Helsinki Brochure available from Tourist Information.
Helsinki features as a destination in several of Project Travel’s escorted group tours in Summer 2019, including the popular 4-night Helsinki and St Petersburg tour.