If you are a savvy traveler, you know that there is more to Europe than just the major western cities like London, Paris and Rome, so why not include one of the more exotic European capitals in your next Euro trip? Helsinki – the capital of Finland -should have a top ranking on this list.
There is plenty here to explore and to be enamored by, even though the city is only a fraction of the size of Paris or Berlin!
Lucky for travelers, most of Helsinki’s locals speak English well enough, or you could try to master the language in a multi-year course. Unlike a trip to France or Germany, picking up catchy phrases from a guide book during your flight could be challenging without an audio sample player. Fun fact: Finnish is one of the top ten most difficult languages in the world to learn!
Street names and words with seven “i”s will make you look into your guidebook with a silly look on your face as you try seven different pronunciations in your head. This makes a taxi ride as exotic as one in Japan for most Americans. Before you know it, you’ll be fluent in talking with your hands. Speaking of taxis; the basic starting fare when you board a taxi at Helsinki’s Vantaa airport to the city center can set you back nearly EUR 50,00.
A trip to Helsinki is about capturing the story of the city and of Finland as a whole: What the people are like, what the culture is, what is the latest fashion, what to do for a day trip, what food to sample, etc.
What to Do and Where to Stay in Helsinki:
Hotel KämpPopular stops nearby:
- The Senate Square with its neo-classical Cathedral
- Esplanade Park with elegant shops
- The “Rock” church (Temppeliaukio Church) with modern architecture, quarried out of the natural bedrock with excellent acoustics for concerts
- Uspenski Cathedral, the orthodox church with its golden cupolas showing the Russian impact of former times
During a summer trip you can take advantage of the long days of sunlight with a 20 minute ferry ride to Suomenlinna, an island with a maritime fortress and beautiful views of different sides of the city.
If you travel in wintertime, you should not miss a visit to your hotel’s sauna (you may pay to visit other hotel spas) or even better: To Yrjönkatu, an amazingly restored swimming hall from the 1920s.
A cheap and fun way to see different neighborhoods is to jump on a tram. One of the most interesting neighborhoods you will see is the Design District which has many shops, galleries, and the Design Forum of Finland showing most of the country’s well-known names in design and art. You will find top brands and trend-setting designers for clothes and furniture, among many other things.
Many find their favorite thing to do in Helsinki is checking out local restaurants. There has been great development and improvement in Helsinki’s restaurant scene that brings very creative chefs from all around the world into this city’s kitchens. The food is very fresh and of high quality, the meals are creative, and restaurants offer a multitude of different types of atmospheres.