Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finland: Helsinki

A short 2 day trip ...

Airport Transportation:

The 3 main ways of going from HEL to Helsinki downtown , which lies about 17 km from the city center (~ 10 mi) are:
  • regular bus (cheapest, about 4 €)
  • FinnAir Citi Bus ( a little more expensive but faster, about 6.2 €)
  • taxi (about 40 €)
All options take somebody to the destination, is matter of cost, comfort, and speed desired.  My experience with the FinnAir Citi Bus is very good, goes directly, very few people in the bus, very clean, and helpful drivers. Ask the driver , or download from the Web, a map with the stops. The last stop is by the central rail station, with access to bus, metro, tram, and in the core of Helsinki downtown. So in the worst case, if somebody gets asleep due to the jet lag, the worst case is waking up in the middle of downtown with access to everywhere (safe place as well).

Hotel Hilton Strand:

The hotel lies 2-3 blocks away  from a Bus / Tram / Metro station. Also, it is walking distance from downtown.

The hotel is nice and service good.  In the US I would give it a 3.5 star rating. The rooms are spacious and clean, with all amenities such as TV with English channels, Fridge, Safe Box in room, Wifi in room at 10 € for 24 hours, Free Wife on the 1st floor lobby. Sauna and swimming pool on the 8th floor, with a nice city view. Breakfast is excellent.

There is a small number of restaurants in a 5 block radius, but the area is much more quiet than downtown of course, and not too much to see. However, the church <name here> is at a walking distance (probably 10-15 minutes)

Although I like the hotel, it is farther away than other good hotels from the core of downtown (e.g., Kampi area). The Hilton was cheaper when I was looking for price, though. But check for prices, as having to take the public transport to the hotel ads 2.2 € for each way  (however, free if walking 10-15 blocks).


My impression is that Helsinki is a very safe place. I've been walking day until very late in the night, never felt unsafe or threatened.  Men and women are walking around at all times as well.

Free WiFi (WLAN):

WIFI is everywhere. I've been more successful in getting decent free WIFI at the shopping malls (e.g., Kampi, Citi Center, etc.), hotel lobby, and at the airport. But many restaruants (ravintola) and Cafe offer it as well. The subway (Metro) also provides Free Wifi but the signal is very weak (perhaps it is just the place I stood, perhaps is better somewhere else in the station)

Before accessing the web, it is necessary to open the Web browser, and sign up to a Welcome page (either click on a banner with an Ad or click on a Term Agreement button)


I walked a lot and checked at least 5 souvenir places, including Stockman.  The souvenirs are about the same everywhere, but found one place with lowest prices, and also providing a Tax Free form that allows getting back some € when leaving the airport (Only for non EU passports. Remember to take your passport when shopping).

The place where  I found lower prices (in some cases 5-10 € under other shops), is located about 1 block away from the stone church (walking distance from the downtown, but a bus or tram can be taken to go faster). I haven't taken note of the address, but got a (pretty bad) picture of the store front:

Bar and Restaurants:

When getting inside some bars and restaurants it called my attention that I was being asked to leave the jacket at the entrance. Somebody would keep it safe for a 2-3€ fee , which seems a little bit steep for just a jacket and in such a safe place such as Helsinki.

My City Tours:

The boat tour is very interesting and informative (audio in finish and english). I recommend it.

However, I don't recommend the red bus tour. My experience wasn't that good, since I paid for a 48hrs ticket (combination of ship+bus), but the next bus didn't come after I went down the first time, and I had continue walking :(   On the next, the time schedule had been removed from the stop. In general, the interesting stops from this bus, can be easily walked, or be done with tram/bus (get a day pass)

The Ship Tour

Depart from Helsinki Market Square:

Icebreaker ships on the shore:

Navigating inside Suomenlinna Fortress:

The walking Tour:


Stone Church (Temppeliaukio):

Helsinki Cathedral:

The Orthodox Church of Finland (Uspenski):

Hotel Hilton Airport

Very nice hotel, everything inside looks brand new. It is a 5-10 minute walk away from the gate.
Not a cheap hotel, but a great location to overnight and rest well before an early flight.
A cheaper option is to just sleep inside the airport.

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