Helsinki, Finland

The Finnish capital of Helsinki offers an ideal destination for a mini-break, or longer! The country’s financial, cultural, and political heart, Helsinki is a large city with a long history and a friendly small-town vibe. Many small islands and islets are scattered just off the coast, and there are many photogenic spots. An efficient and extensive public transportation system makes exploring Helsinki easy, and there are plenty of places to eat, drink, shop, and sleep.

Take a ferry across to Suomenlinna, a former mighty sea-fortress on several connected islands. With an enchanting olde-worlde atmosphere, great views, old defensive walls and cannons, interesting museums, charming cafes, and more, it offers a pleasant day out.

Stroll around Helsinki city centre and feast your eyes on marvellous architecture. Some particularly striking buildings include the Lutheran Cathedral, the Church in the Rock, Uspenski Cathedral, Kallio Church, Finlandia Hall, and the Train Station.

The city boasts excellent museums such as the Helsinki City Museum and Ateneum Art Museum. In sunny weather you can relax in pretty parks or on one of the ciy beaches. Sports fans will enjoy the Olympic Stadium, and classical music fans will enjoy seeing the unusual Sibelius Monument. Fun and laughter are all but guaranteed at Linnanmaki amusement park and Serena Water Amusement Park.

Get the lowdown on Helsinki and useful information to plan your trip from our reviews and recommendations, covering places to stay, activities, getting around, attractions, and more!

Tips for travelers: Things to know before visiting Helsinki, Finland

Trip101 has partnered with over 200 accredited and experienced tour guides from more than 50 countries to ensure you receive the most accurate and authentic travel information. These guides bring a wealth of local expertise, offering insights that go beyond the typical tourist experience. Trust the travel tips from experts who live and breathe their destinations to provide you with unparalleled local knowledge.

These insightful tips are shared by our accredited Helsinki tour guide(s), Anna

Getting Around In Helsinki
Getting Around In Helsinki

How far away is city center from the airport, and what's the easiest way to get there?

The most budget-friendly and convenient way to travel from the airport to the city center is by metro. The metro station is located right under the airport, making it easily accessible. The journey to the main train station takes less than 20 minutes by train, which is part of the metro network. From there, it's just a short walk to central hotels, making the total travel time around 20 minutes. Another option is to take a taxi or Uber, which may take longer due to traffic and cobblestone streets in the city center. However, some customers, especially seniors, prefer these options for their convenience. During the summer months, part of the metro line to the train station may be closed, adding about 10 minutes to the journey. Overall, travel time from the airport to the city center is typically around 30 minutes, with variations depending on the mode of transportation and any temporary closures.

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Local Food
Local Food

What are some of the best local food to try in Helsinki?

In our food tours, we often feature salmon soup as a main highlight. Alongside, we introduce traditional Karelian pies (traditional Finnish pies with a thin rye crust and rice filling). Exploring the candy section, lakritsa (licorice) is a popular choice among visitors. Additionally, we have saalmiakki (salted licorice), which might not be everyone's cup of tea outside of Finland, but it's a must-try for anyone visiting because it's a quintessential part of the local experience.

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Healthcare
Healthcare

What healthcare facilities are available for tourists/foreigners in Helsinki?

There are private hospitals located throughout the city center, offering various medical services. Typically, travelers have insurance that covers medical expenses, including visits to private facilities. As a guide, if any medical issue arises, I assist in organizing everything, from contacting hospitals to arranging transportation via taxi or Uber. I stay with the customer throughout the entire process. For those who prefer to handle it independently, they can search online for hospitals in downtown Helsinki. Some good private hospitals include Terveystalo, which has multiple locations in the city center. There are a few networks of private hospitals, each with several smaller hospitals scattered around. So, travelers have options to choose from based on their needs and preferences.

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Staying Connected
Staying Connected

Should travelers consider getting a local SIM card? If so, would it be cheaper to grab one at the airport upon arrival or wait and buy one at a local shop in the city?

It might make sense for people outside of the EU. For travelers from within the EU, accessing mobile data is typically straightforward and often free or at minimal cost due to agreements between network providers within the EU. However, for those coming from outside the EU, accessing mobile data might be a bit more expensive. Nonetheless, with the widespread use of messaging apps like WhatsApp, travelers often rely on Wi-Fi from hotels or other establishments when outside and communicate through apps rather than using mobile data extensively. You can buy prepaid SIM cards from R-Kioski.

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Money Matters
Money Matters

Where can you usually find the best exchange rate in the city?

In the center, there are three main places: the train station, Alexander Street (Aleksanterinkatu), and Esplanade (Esplanaadi), which is a central street in the park. People often complain about the exchange rates in these areas, describing them as a rip-off due to the high commission fees. Therefore, it's advisable for customers to withdraw money from an ATM machine, as this tends to be more budget-friendly.

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Important Travel Info
Important Travel Info

Are there any medications or items travelers should avoid bringing into the country?

Bringing prescribed medication without a valid prescription is illegal. Travelers should ensure they have the necessary prescriptions with them when traveling, especially when crossing airport security. Additionally, marijuana is not legal in Finland. As for liquids, travelers should be aware of airport regulations regarding the transportation of liquids, including alcohol. For a full and updated list of restricted items, refer to this link from Finnish Customs: https://tulli.fi/en/restrictions/foods

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Attractions
Attractions

Are there any dress codes to follow when visiting religious sites or monuments in Helsinki?

In the summertime, tourists wear shorts and freely explore cathedrals and other attractions. So, the main advice would be to avoid being too exposed.

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What To Buy
What To Buy

Where are the best places to find souvenirs in Helsinki?

People can buy souvenirs at the main market, and in the center, there are several souvenir shops as well as local designer shops. For example, there is one called Craft Corner, where I have previously exhibited and sold my own products, including vases. Craft Corner is actually more of a designer shop than a souvenir shop because it features items made by local artisans. While the market offers more cliché souvenirs like magnets, Craft Corner showcases unique, handmade items crafted by local people. Another noteworthy shop is a year-round Christmas store located on Esplanade Street---Kankurintupa. Even in summertime, they sell Christmas-themed items. This shop is a hidden gem, situated on the same street where people can withdraw money from ATMs or exchange currency. While it may initially appear like a typical souvenir store from the outside, visitors are surprised when they enter and discover a hidden staircase leading to the magical world of Christmas.

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Climate Tips
Climate Tips

What's the best time to travel to Helsinki weather-wise?

It really depends on what people are looking for. In the winter, I've had many visitors from India who are seeking something very different from what they experience at home. They enjoy the cold weather and seeing snow, and some even venture up to Lapland. On the other hand, visitors from regions like Spain, France, Greece, and South America tend to prefer visiting in the summer. The weather here is cooler compared to their hot summers back home, but it's not as different culturally, so they're not as interested in experiencing winter. For those from Asian cultures, winter is often appealing because it offers a radically different experience. However, some people find traveling with kids in winter challenging due to the need for thermal clothing and other preparations, so they prefer visiting in the summer when they can enjoy the warmth and feed squirrels in the parks. Summer is usually from June to August.

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Area Guide
Area Guide

Which neighborhoods in Helsinki have the best nightlife scene and events?

Nightclubs in the city center offer a vibrant atmosphere and a range of music genres to cater to different tastes. Additionally, the area called Kallio is known for its lively nightlife, with numerous bars, pubs, and clubs. It's worth doing some research to discover the current hotspots and trends in the city's nightlife scene. While I don't have specific information on individual nightclubs, online travel forums or local guides can provide up-to-date recommendations and reviews.

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Local Events
Local Events

Are there any annual festivals or special events in Helsinki or nearby cities that tourists shouldn't miss?

During summertime, Helsinki hosts several events and festivals that might interest travelers. There's the annual street food festival, drawing thousands of people, although it's more geared towards business networking and might not be relevant for all travelers due to its expense. The Helsinki Light Festival, held at the end of summer, transforms the city center with projected images on building facades, creating a beautiful and unique atmosphere. Additionally, there's the Biennale art event on an island in August, offering an immersive art experience. Helsinki Week also features various art events, but travelers would need to check the program for specific activities that suit their interests. Lastly, the Samba festival, held annually, is a significant cultural event worth experiencing.

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