Land of the Thousand Lakes

Finland has about 188,000 lakes and 179,500 islands which gave rise to its nickname “Land of the Thousand Lakes”.

Finland is beautiful all year round, and it is breathtaking in the spring (end of May/ Early June), as flowers are in bloom, the weather isn’t gloom, and tourism is in boom… Haha sometimes I silly rhyme but hey, silly is my thing.

Temperatures are around 13 degrees Celsius with highs of 16 and lows of 9. It is a bit chilly and windy so a wind breaker and sweater are still necessary. Keep an umbrella close by in case it rains too as this is often the case especially in May.

Visiting Helsinki is much better than I expected. There’s an amazing display of cultural diversity and people look really happy. Helsinki is clean, loads of healthy food, excellent transportation system and a good variety of things to do.

I am spending 3 days in Helsinki and to help me get around, I have purchased the 72 hours Helsinki card. Trust me, this option is way more reasonable and expense friendly as it gives you access to all public transportation as well as free entry into a lot of the tourist attractions including The Suomenlinna ferry, the boat canal tour, the hop on hop off buses and a lot of museums.

Something I notice in Helsinki is the tap water. It is the best tasting tap water I have drank in the 25 European countries I have been to and it is very refreshing.

Getting around Helsinki is real easy, like I said, the transportation system is efficient and google map helps you with locating bus stops, tram platforms and stations if you are terrible with paper maps just like me. For about €4.90 you will get a single ticket from the airport to the city center.

Today I am sharing picture stories of some of the places I visited in Helsinki and what I enjoyed most.

One and maybe the only downside to Helsinki is that it is expensive. A bottle of water cost about €2.50 and a sandwich will set you back around €6. A decent lunch cost around €12-€30 depending on what you decide to settle for and accommodation in the hotels are about €100 in the city center. This could also be due to the season as spring/summer months have really good weather and more visitors.

I am staying at the Holiday Inn city center and it is a great choice. The staff are friendly and I have the option of purchasing a Helsinki card from the reception. The rooms are nice as well, very functional and the Internet works perfectly. Of course there are other hotels around the city center but the holiday inn is beside the central railway station and right outside are the local buses, the metro and tram. There is also a 24h supermarket as well as a number of restaurants.

Central Railway Station

The city center mall is 3 minutes walk from the Holiday inn hotel and in there you have a variety of restaurants to choose from. One of my favorites is the Ramen House Mokotoko. The Donburi is amazing and the staff are really friendly and the service is quick.

The city center is a great location because it is a walking distance to a lot of tourist attractions and it’s also nice to just walk around the vicinity and take in the city, the people and the food.

1. The Market Square

The Market Square is a central square and adjacent to it is the Presidential palace and the Helsinki city hall. At the market square you can find Finnish street food, souvenir vendors, cafes and ferries taking tours around the city and into various Islands around Helsinki. You will also have a swarm of seagulls trying to snatch your food if possible so beware of this if you are afraid of birds.

Market Square

South Harbor

The HSL provides a ferry link from Market Square to Suomenlinna all year round and it is also free with the Helsinki card.

2. Temppeliaukio Church

Opened in 1969, this Lutheran church is an architectural work of art, built directly into solid rock. It is also known as the Rock church.

3. The Helsinki Cathedral and the Senate Square.

Also known as St Nicholas Church, it was first built in the 1800’s as a tribute to then Grand duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

The senate square and its surroundings make up the oldest part of central Helsinki.

4. Sibelius Monument at Sibelius Park.

The Sibelius monument is a master sculpture by the Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen, titled Passio Musicae dedicated to the Finnish composer Jéan Sibelius. It consists of more than 600 steel pipes forming a wave-like shape in the representation of music. Legend has it that when it is very windy, the pipes howl a sad melodious sound.

Sibelius park is a seaside park with benches, walking path and a pond. It is lovely to sit out here, watch the sun and the peaceful scenery while reading a book or just listening to soft music.

5. Espoo

Espoo is easily reached by train from the central station in Helsinki and is the second largest city in Finland. Two very interesting things I am seeing in Espoo are the Nuuksio park and the Haltia.

Haltia is the Finnish nature exhibition center where you can find all information about nature from all over Finland including animals, weather, seasons, etc.

The Nuuksio park has me getting my fitness on as I am hiking 3km around lovely tall green trees and lakes. This national park is pine filled and the air is very fresh. I hike up to the reindeer park as well where you can feed reindeer with Lichen and roast bread on a stick over open fire. Along the trails you will find other hikers and joggers so it is pretty safe.

6. Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is an 18th century sea fortress and a UNESCO world heritage site. There are many activities to do on this island including seeing the Submarine Vesikko, the church, the library, the Kings Gate, drydock shipyard, etc.

Tours of Suomenlinna are available at the information center on the Island. The Helsinki pass also gives you a free ride and tour of Suomenlinna.

7. Ekberg

Ekberg is the oldest bakery, cafe and patisserie in Finland. They have been in existence since 1852 and are still baking amazing dessert till date. It is a 10 minutes walk from the hotel and only 3 mins on the tram.

8. Helsinki Art Museum

The HAM has over 9,000 art collections belonging to the people of Helsinki. Most of these works of art are on display in the streets, health centers, schools, etc and they are said to draw attention to modern art.

9. Food

There are a variety of cuisines in Helsinki and you will be spoiled for choice. From Finnish, to Asian, to American and other European dishes, I doubt you will be hungry and not find something yum to fill you up. If you are into eating healthy, you have nothing to worry about, Helsinki serves healthy salads in delis, cafes and restaurants. There are also vegetarian choices, Indian cuisine, Thai, Korean, etc and everyone will certainly find something they are used to.

10. Countries around Finland

You can take a 2 hour ferry from Helsinki to Tallin, Estonia for either a day trip or you can stay over at Tallin.

You can also take the cruise ferry from Helsinki to St Peterburg and if you are staying less than 72 hours, it is visa free provided you do not exceed 72 hours. It is a good opportunity to explore St Petersburg for 48 hours.

There are also cruises available from Helsinki to Stockholm on the Silja Lines and it is about 17.5 hours. I am taking one of the ferries to Stockholm in a few days. The cruise leaves Helsinki at 17:00 and arrives Stockholm at 09:30 am. There are loads of activities on the ship and you can find shops, bars, cafes and restaurants or you can book a cabin and sleep all night. Make sure to download movies on your mobile devices if you do not have company as some cabins may not come with TV or satellite.

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading about my trip to Helsinki. There’s a lot more to do if you are staying longer and I recommend you check out google or get your guide online to see what tours are available and more tips on enjoying Helsinki.

See you in Tallin, until next time.

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