Thursday, March 10, 2011

Helsinki Speed Tourism

This one is for the three fantastic lady musketeers that are currently visiting Helsinki. Since you are in the same position as so many others when coming to Helsinki - that is you have only short time to explore the city - here are some tips & tricks how to get a feeling.

ATTN: At the same time I challenge my fellow country wo-/men to help out with your own favorites. On the other hand, this challenge also applies to the regular readers who have visited Helsinki.

It’s best to explore the city centre area by foot. Ask tips also from your hotel, friends or the Tourist Info at Esplanade Park, next to the Market Place (both worth visiting).

Here are for winter time some key tips that I picked from a longer list I have put together;
  • Market Place and Old Market Hall at the harbor, end of Esplanadi (this is a must on a summer day). You can also take one of the sightseeing boats from Market Place.
  • Temppeliaukio Church – an extraordinary architecture, built in a rock
  • Walk around Töölönlahti, Bay of Töölö, next to City Centre. ~1 hour walk via Linnunlaulu (Bird Sing) area with old villas, pass by Finlandia House(concert/conference) and Opera House.
  • Easy and cheap city tour ; Take a tram 3B or 3T that rides a circle around the city for ~1 hour. You can also take a sightseeing bus from the centre.
  • If possible, go to one of the 2.000.000 saunas in a country of 5.000.000 people, if at all possible a lakeside sauna in a summer cabin recommended!
  • Market Place and Old market hall at the end of Esplanade Park, or similar ones at Hakaniemi (walking distance or tram). Hakaniemi is more local while particularly in summer time there are quite many tourists around...
  • Department stores Stockmann and Sokos as well as Forum and Kamppi malls at Mannerheimintie.
  • Shops at Mannerheimintie (up to Kiasma art museum), Aleksanterinkatu and Esplanade Park.
  • Smaller shops in the city area south from the end of Mannerheimintie.
  • Old Market Halls at Hakaniemi and Hietaniemi (at the end of Lönnrotinkatu) market place have many small handicraft shops. You can walk back to Esplanad Park via Bulevardi street, passing by on the left side e.g. a modest Old Opera House and "Plague" Park, or walk back via Kaivopuisto, the larger park by the sea side (stop by for a coffee at Cafe Ursula or Carousel).
  • Female shoe lovers should check out Red Shoe at Fredrikinkatu nearby Kalevankatu corner.
Wining and Dining
It is not cheap to wine and dine in Finland, but you can find several great restaurants around the city. Here are few tips;
  • Ravintola Lappi (Lapland), Kalevankatu: Lappish cuisine and atmosphere in the city, 2 blocks from Stockmann’s
  • Mexican food in the City: Cantina West, Kasarminkatu 23 (next to Esplanade) or Santa Fé at Aleksanterinkatu
  • Zetor, Mannerheimintie: Finnish dishes, stop by for a beer and sit on a Zetor-tractor, see a moped hanging from the roof... Same designer as in Cantina West
  • Kappeli at Esplanade Park: Oldest restaurant still operating in Helsinki. Nice building, environment, terrace at summer… Pop in for a coffee, drink, lunch etc. Not the cheapest but nice!

    Hyvää ruokahalua!
If you have an extra day, I recommend to take a ferry over to Tallinn, Estonia. It takes only a few hours one way so you will have time to enjoy the city during the day. I've also earlier written about Tallinn.

For the ones with a bit more time and who wish to get some extreme, go up North to Lapland or get a visa and go to Leningrad --- sorry, St Petersburg in Russia. For Russia, prepare for the worst and wish for the best...

All and all, Helsinki has got a lot to offer, particularly in summer time but you can get a lot also in winter time.
What ever you decide to do, have fun!!!

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