A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland

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A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland

We’ve crafted this travel guide to Helsinki with a mission to help all who plan on visiting Helsinki, Finland, and are looking for detailed yet crisp information. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea and read on.

Before You Plan a Trip to Helsinki

  • Know if you need a visa for Helsinki. The holders of uniform visa (C) for two or multiple entries, valid for all Schengen Area Member States don’t need to apply for a separate visa for Finland. Read our complete guide to Schengen Visa.
  • Make sure to have a guidebook before you set foot in Helsinki. That makes getting around the city easy.
  • As Helsinki is designed for strolling, you need comfortable and super light walking shoes. I wear Skechers while hubby loves Adidas and mini-me has got Adidas too. Read our guides to the best shoes for women and the best shoes for kids for your European family vacation.

Visiting Helsinki Travel Guide

Helsinki, fondly known as Daughter of the Baltic is full of life. Helsinki stuns its visitors with its simple yet beautiful charm.

You can’t help but awe at magnificent design and architecture as you walk the streets and squares of Helsinki. Finnish cuisine is as famous as Finnish design.

From strolling its historic lanes to hopping its islands to chilling at its beaches to hiking in its forests to stretching a leg in its urban parks and gardens to cozying up in its world-class sauna – You gotta fall in love with the city, one step at a time.

Here’s a guide to get you started in this uber-cool city!

Where is Helsinki in Finland?

The largest city and the capital of Finland, Helsinki is located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. The most northerly of the capitals of Europe, Helsinki is often referred to as the white city of the north as most of its buildings are crafted using light-colored granite.

A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland

Best Time to Visit Helsinki

Spring (May and June) and Autumn (September and October) are the best times to visit Helsinki. Summer (July and August) is good but crowded.

The plus point of traveling in summer months is the great weather and long, mild, and warm days. We visited in July and enjoyed the long summer days. I mean, summer days just don’t end here. You can explore all day long. Isn’t it amazing?

How to Get to Helsinki

The capital and the largest city of Finland, Helsinki sits in Europe’s northernmost corner squeezed between Sweden and Russia.

You can fly or sail or drive into Helsinki depending upon where you’re coming from.

By Air

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is served by all major international airlines to and from major cities around the world.

For a classic Finnish experience, fly with Finnair. We loved flying with them.

We recommend Kiwi.com for the best flight deals.

By Ferry

You can sail via the Baltic Sea from Sweden (Stockholm), Russia (St. Petersburg), (Tallin) Estonia, and even Germany.

The major ferry companies include Tallink Silja Line, Viking Line, Linda Line, Eckero Line, Finnliness, and St. Peter Line.

A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland

By Car

Finland has a good road network. It’s easy to rent a car and drive into Helsinki from the other cities in Finland and from Russia.

You can also plan a road trip to Finland from other Nordic countries but that’ll include a ferry.

The major routes include E18, E12, E75, and E63.

We recommend Auto Europe and RentalCars.com for all your car rental needs in Europe.

By Train

Helsinki Central Railway Station in Kluuvi has excellent train connections from all the major cities in Finland and from Moscow and St. Petersberg in Russia.

By Bus

Helsinki’s Central Bus Station in Kamppi has regular bus service to and from all the large cities in Finland.

How to Get to the City Center from the Airport

I and P trains from the airport take about 30 minutes to the city center.

Alternatively, you can board Finnair City Bus or Airport Bus 615 from the airport to the city center. The night bus service (415N) is also available.

Taking a taxi is the easiest and fastest option but then it costs much higher.

A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland

How to Get Around Helsinki

Walking is the best way to explore the attractions in and around the city center. You can take a self-guided tour or a guided walking tour to explore the center.

Biking is the second-best way to get around the city. Check out the cycling routes in Helsinki.

Helsinki has a vast public transport network of bus, metro, tram, train, and ferry services.

The city has a zoned public transport system.

Choose a ticket that best fits your needs. If you’re sticking to the city center, you should buy a ticket for the main zone (AB) or for the Airport-Downtown (ABC) but if you’re planning a day-trip from Helsinki, you’d need a different ticket. Click here to know how to use a public transport system in Helsinki.

You can buy a ticket from HSL ticket machines, train stations, R-Kioski (convenience stores in Finland), or HSL Mobile Ticket app.

I’d suggest you buy a Helsinki Travel Card that allows unlimited travel for the duration (24, 48, or 72 hours) on all the modes of transportation – trams, buses, the metro, trains, and Suomenlinna ferry.

Helsinki Card is another awesome option. It not only allows free, unlimited travel on all the modes of public transportation but also gives free access to a ton of attractions and museums in Helsinki.

Trams are the best and most beautiful way to explore the center of Helsinki.

A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland

Public buses are also an efficient way to travel from one location to another in Helsinki but not helpful in the center of the city. Trams make sense there.

A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki’s metro system is the world’s northernmost and has two lines – M1 (Matinkylä–Vuosaari) and M2 (Tapiola–Mellunmäki) that serve about 25 stations.

Helsinki Commuter VR Trains form an important part of Helsinki’s public transport system.

A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland

What to do in Helsinki

There are some beautiful places to visit in Helsinki. We have a complete post about the best things to do in Helsinki, Finland for you.

Walking (tip: take a guided walking tour) the center of the city is mandatory, you see. You can also ride the sightseeing tram to get pally with the city. Island hopping and café hopping remain the quintessential things to do in Helsinki.

Take a dip in the Finnish sauna to get off the tiredness of the sightseeing before you dine in at delicious Finnish cusine.

And, how can you not check out the impressive Finnish design and architecture? You must plan a visit to the Design District Helsinki.

Where to Stay in Helsinki

We stayed in this spacious 50s house with a wood-heated sauna in Lintuvaara, Espoo, and loved every bit of it. Our host Marko and his family were welcoming and helpful.

It’s away from the center but the bus stop is just a few meters away from the house. We boarded a bus that dropped us at Sello mall and then a train from Leppävaara train station to the Central Railway Station to reach the center of the city.

If you want to stay near the city center, check out these best hotels right in the heart of Helsinki.

For those who wanna luxe it up, we recommend Hotel F6, Hotel St. George Helsinki, and Lapland Hotels Bulevardi.

If you prefer living like a local like us, there are a ton of lovely apartment options, like this Apartment Hotel Aallonkoti in the heart of the city, this stylish studio in Ullanlinna, this artist apartment in Kallio, or this cozy, super-cute apartment in Vironkatu.

What and Where to Eat in Helsinki

  • Restaurant Savotta: Traditional Finnish Cuisine
  • Juurisapas
  • Konditoria HopiaKarelian pies or Karjalanpiirakka
  • Savoy
  • Robert’s Coffee Gelato FactoryGelato
  • Lappi RavintolaPoronkäristys
  • Cafe RegattaKorvapuusti  and Finnish Coffee
  • Mumin KaffeBerry tea
  • A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Helsinki, Finland


Travel Melodies
Last Updated : Apr 30,2021
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