A day in Helsinki, Finland – Hai Finland!
Why did I choose Helsinki?
I wanted to go to Northern Finland to have the whole winter wonderland experience: dog sledding, northern lights, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and reindeer sightings. To get up north, we had the option to stop in Helsinki. Helsinki is the capital of Finland – it would be a missed opportunity to not take a day to explore what the city is all about.
Easy, since everyone speaks English
In Finland, we noticed how open-minded and non-judgmental everyone was. Everybody was open to helping out when we needed and no one was ever too pushy trying to get us to buy stuff. They help when needed and give you space when you don’t need help, regardless of where you’re from.
Check currency exchange site
My Travel Time
November (US Thanksgiving)
It was as cold as it was in NYC (maybe slightly colder). I wore my heavy coat and pants (without leggings) during my time in Helsinki. The holiday lights were already up, which is always makes me feel warm and cozy inside. Helsinki is a small city, but it was a nice change to be near more people, stores, and city buildings after a few days in a cabin up north.
Click here to check the weather
Click here to check when the sun rises and sets
My Flight Details
Airline: Finnair, JFK – HEL (~8-hour flight)
One of the reasons we chose to travel to Finland was because the flight prices were low. Round trip from JFK to HEL was around 400-450 USD and it was a direct flight, which is always a plus. November is a great time to travel to some of the cities in Europe since it’s sometimes known has the dead month where nothing is really happening. It’s cold with a lower chance of snow and it’s not Christmas yet.
Airport to/from city: We took public transportation, which was fairly easy to use! On the HSL rail, you can either take the I or the P train from the airport to Helsinki’s “Grand Central”, Helsingin paarautatieasema. The signs in the airport were very clear and easy to follow. We bought the tickets before we boarded via ticket machine – they were 5 Euro each.
My Hotel Details
Hotel Lilla Roberts
This hotel was so cozy and very hip. It kind of felt like a chic New York City hotel with its black and white color scheme. It’s near the Esplanadi Park, restaurants, grocery stores, and other attractions, making it a great location. There is breakfast available (our price didn’t include breakfast) and a restaurant/bar downstairs. A gym is also available. It’s not too big, but it’s got the necessities. I loved staying at this hotel!
We got a cheaper price on this hotel because we used Priceline Express Deals to book it. Here is a link on how to do so!
My Helsinki Trip Itinerary
~2 hr of walking
St. John’s Church: Largest stone church (Gothic revival style) in Finland located 5-minutes away from Hotel Lilla Roberts
Esplanadi: An urban park in downtown Helsinki with many restaurants and shops surrounding it
Market Square: Central square in Helsinki; there are stalls set up to sell snacks and little knickknacks near the Baltic sea. It is a small market, but worth the walk through.
Uspenski Cathedral: This cathedral reminded me of the many cathedrals in Russia when I first saw it. Little did I know, it was designed by a Russian architect! This cathedral sits on top of a hill and has a nice view of Helsinki as well.
Helsinki Cathedral: This cathedral is sitting on top a flight of stairs; the church was originally built as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland. I loved the simple coloring (green and mainly white).
Karl Fazer Café: Chocolate!!!!!! In addition to selling chocolate, they always have sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastries. We ordered hot chocolate (they provider other types of milk for those that are lactose intolerant) and a couple pastries.
Forum (Moomin Store): Forum, a modern indoor mall, is filled with shops. We came in here mainly for the Moomin store. Moomins are central characters of a popular series of books and comic strip by a Finnish illustrator. Dustin was really into Moomins and wanted to buy a souvenir from here.
Temppeliaukio Church: This was so cool and a definite must see. This might have been Dustin’s and my favorite sight of the day. It’s a church built directly in solid rock. The architecture is beautiful and is known as the “rock church”. There was live music playing when we went in making it even better!
Löyly: Saunas are extremely popular in Finland so we thought we had to do as the Finnish do! This sauna is unisex and everyone is required to wear swimsuits; it’s right on the waterfront and some people take a dip in the sea and then go in the sauna. To use the sauna, it is 19 Euro per person. There is also a restaurant here next to the saunas.
We only had one full day in Helsinki to sight see, but Helsinki was always our “home base”. We went to Estonia for a day trip and went back to Helsinki for dinner. We also arrived to Helsinki right before dinner from Ivalo after our few days in the Finnish Lapland. Although we only had one full day in Helsinki, we were able to have a lot of meals here and try a lot of delicious restaurants.
Pompier: This was my favorite restaurant that I ate at in Helsinki. They start every table off with a loaf of malt bread, which was so so delicious. We had a delicious pasta and mushroom dish, both vegetarian dishes.
Ravintola Aino: We both had salmon here – food was good.
Enso: We had been eating a lot of fish and Baskeri & Basso Bistro was fully booked, so we stopped by an italian place for something different. Pretty decent!
Baskeri & Basso Bistro: It was fully booked so we couldn’t get in, but looked like all of Helsinki wanted a table!
One of nice things about eating in Helsinki is that there were tons of vegan and vegetarian options wherever we went.