Hey! So you’re in Helsinki for 24 hours and you want to absolutely have the best full 24 hours that is possible over there. Before I actually give you a decent itinerary on what to do, here is a bit of a preamble on my adventure here.
Lesson #1 … do NOT go in winter but rather sometime close to midsummer.
Don’t go for the actual midsummer week as there will be no one in Helsinki, as the Finns all end up with family and going to Lapland or some obscure lake type place. If you have tons of Finnish friends and you’re going along with them for drunken naked lake diving and drowning (yep, I wish I was kidding – it’s like a national sport for Finns to go out on a boat completely plastered and fall in) – then by all means, head up here for the midsummer week.
Where should you stay?
Once you’ve come into town, the only place you should consider staying would be the Hotel Kamp : Pohjoisesplanadi, 29 Helsinki,00100 : (358)(9) 576111. I have a fully comprehensive review of the suites at the hotel and the hotel is spectacular – you might even get one of the Presidential Suites, if you’re lucky. Additionally, by staying at the Hotel Kamp, you will make a lot of friends at bars because everyone will think that you know Hilary Clinton or Bono, as this is the swankiest place in town. Again … a huge shout out to Sheraton and the SPG Cash & Points program.
How do you get into town?
Getting from from Helsinki Airport to the Helsinki City Center can cost you a lot or it can be fairly cheap. You can do this one of three ways …
- Take the commuter bus … it’s cheap, but seriously a waste of time
- You can take a taxi and it’s about 40 Euros, which is a lot of money and will definitely take away from your drinking money here … you’ll need all you can save, unless you’re actually Bono!
- I highly recommend the Finnair bus service. It takes you from both terminals at Helsinki-Vantaa airport into the heart of Helsinki City Centre, terminating outside of the main railway station. The service has a limited number of stops – from the city centre to the airport, it stops only once behind the Scandic Continental and Crowne Plaza Hotels.
- Total journey time is around 35 to 40 minutes; the cost is 5,90€ each way.
- They accept cash and major credit cards (Visa, Master Card, American Express and Diners Club International)
- Check out the bus map attached (http://media.finnair.com/files/pdf/FINNAIR_CITY_BUS_TIMETABLE.pdf)
Should you get a Helsinki Card for 48 hours?
I bought the 72 hour Helsinki Card … it was a stupid decision and fraught with utter worthlessness – here is my comprehensive analysis, linked on here.
On to the itinerary
From 7am – 5pm
If you’re staying at the Hotel Kamp, then you should see the Esplanadi park (Esplanadinpuisto) outside your window.
Follow the park east towards the sea. Along the way stop at the tourist info at the corner of Pohjoisesplanadi and Unioninkatu to ask for help in booking a dinner cruise (see later). When you reach the eastern end of the park, turn north along Unioninkatu to reach the Senate Square (Senaatintori). There you can view the Lutheran Cathedral and the neoclassical old city centre. From the square, follow Aleksanterinkatu to the east turn south to Mariankatu. After one block you will see the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, which is worth visiting at this point. Then walk along the Pohjoisesplanadi street. Between the street and the sea lies the Market Square (Kauppatori), which is worth seeing during the market hours.
- Helsinki Senate Square (Senaatintori)
The Senate Square is one of the most popular places to visit in the city as it’s home to the stunning Helsinki Cathedral (Helsingin Tuomiokirkko), which is one of the top 10 attractions in Helsinki.
- Aleksanterinkatu Street
Aleksanterinkatu Street is one of the famous shopping streets in the city and it’s right next to the Hotel Kamp, you’ll be walking along this street everyday, if you’re staying downtown.
- Helsinki Market Square (Kauppatori)
You’ll end up booking a dinner cruise and probably get the best smoked salmon in your life from any of the fish vendors here. I highly recommend having lunch or a coffee here for at least an hour. The people watching along with the fountain is absolutely mesmerizing. The pictures show more of an evening scene after all the vendors have left but it definitely worth watching
- Greek Orthodox Cathedral
It’s pretty and after seeing the Cathedral, makes for a good contrast. You can do any of these 4 in any order you like, there is no set pattern to see – which means if you see any Japanese or Chinese tourist groups, then you can run to any other direction that they are not in.
- Esplanade Park
For me, staying at the Hotel Kamp offers you a couple hours, just walking up and down the park for great people watching. The park that sits between Pohjoisespalnadi (North Esplanade Street) and Etelaesplanadi (South Esplanade Street) is the heart of Helsinki. It runs from the Swedish theatre to Kauppatori (Market Square) by the sea. The park is lined on either side with shops, restaurants and cafes.
- Temppeliaukio Kirkko – the Rock ChurchThe architecture of this unconventional looking Lutheran church is simply awe-inspiring. The copper dome roof concaves inward to give a vaulted ceiling effect and complements the earthy-toned décor impeccably.
The main highlight is that it’s made entirely out of solid rock, which is what makes this church unique and unlike any other. And the texture of the rocks retains its original condition, so it gives a natural look and provides a very special atmosphere inside. It’s one of the foremost attractions of Helsinki.
You can even light a candle inside for good luck. It is closed during religious services and ceremonies, so you may want to call in advance to ensure its availability. Admission is free of charge.
- Walk through the heart of Central – Helsinki Casino, Central Rail Station
You can spend another 2 or 3 hours just hanging out at the
From 5pm – 10pm
- Suommelina Fortress:Off the harbor of Helsinki lies a block of sea fortress islands, Fortress of Suomenlinna (Caste of Finland), which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was originally called Sveaborg (Fortress of Svea), but the name was changed in the early 1900s for patriotic reasons. The original name is only used by Swedish-speakers now.If you are the daring and bold type, I recommend walking to the island as your mode of transportation! During the summer time, you can hop on one of the routine ferries and make your way over, but it is much more exciting to be able to walk over, which of course, is only possible during the winter months!
- Grab an Archipelago cruise
If you do the cruise with some fantastic dinner and the best smoked salmon of your life
Then you’ll be taking a lot of video during those couple of hours.
From 10pm – 7am
Finns are very curious people and are definitely willing to make friends quickly. If you walk around the town and happen to meet anyone of diversity, you’re probably going to make friends. Spend the next 7 hours bar hopping … the midnight sun is awesome at ensuring that you don’t require any sleep whatsoever. Be careful that people might ask for piggy back rides though. If you’ve had enough to drink, then the scene below will magically replicate itself – with the blurriness included.
With this overall plan in mind, you should have had an EPIC 24 hours in Helsinki! If you’ve enjoyed Helsinki, please drop me a line and let me know your progress.