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Table of Contents
- Stopover in Helsinki
- Public Transport in Helsinki
- What to See in Helsinki?
- Where to Eat Finnish Food?
- Two Days Helsinki Sightseeing Plan
- Bottom Line
Stopover in Helsinki
Helsinki Airport has great connections to Asia and multiple routes to the United States. In addition, there is a wide network of domestic and intra-European routes. Together, these routes make Helsinki Airport an excellent transfer point while travelling in the northern hemisphere.
Flight routes from Helsinki to Asia are shorter compared to similar routes from Southern or Central Europe. Finnair as the national carrier of Finland has the best route network but there are many other airlines flying to Helsinki. A few to mention: Norwegian Air Shuttle, easyJet, Transavia and many other low-cost and traditional airlines.
Taking long-haul flights may be stressful and a stopover is a way to make the journey more comfortable. For example, Finnair is offering stopovers in Helsinki from 5 hours to 5 days. You can also create a manual stopover by having two different flight bookings. Having separate flight bookings makes it easy to fly with different airlines that may eventually result to lesser flight costs.
We remind that you need a valid passport and in some cases a Schengen visa to enter Finland and the EU. Be sure, that you have all the needed documents for the stopover.
We recommend to reserve at least 1 or 2 days for your stopover in Helsinki. In this article, we list practical Helsinki information and give you ideas what to do in Helsinki during the stopover.
Stopover or Layover - What's the Difference?
Layover means usually a short connection between flights. It's quite normal that you have a few hours between while connecting from a flight to another. Stopover is a more planned stop and it lasts often a few days. Finally, it's only a definition and as long as you have enough time between the flights, we recommend you to exit the airport and enjoy the city.
Public Transport in Helsinki
Since you will be staying in Helsinki only a short time, you do not want to spend too much time in transport. We described the easiest way to move around.
From Helsinki Airport to the City Centre
The easiest way to reach Helsinki centre from Helsinki Airport is to take a commuter train. The airport's train station is located under the airport terminals and there are 2 different train connections to Helsinki: The Train P and the Train I. You can take any of them. The journey time to the centre is about 30 minutes.
Having a taxi from the airport to the centre is not much faster. If you still prefer having a taxi, check out our Helsinki Airport Taxi Guide. The article gives also a clear overview of local taxi apps.
Public Transport Ticket
HSL operates the public transportation network in the Helsinki region. The best option is to buy an HSL day ticket. Actually, you can choose the ticket's validity from 1 to 7 days. The ticket must contain at least the zones ABC because Helsinki Airport is in the zone C and the city centre is in the zone A. One day ticket costs 11 euros and 2 days ticket 16.50 euros. The ticket is valid for local trains, trams, metros, buses and Suomenlinna ferries. Do not accidentally board a long-distance train because you need separate tickets for them. A simple way to recognize a commuter train is to check if they are named with a single letter. At the airport station, there are only commuter trains.
HSL has also a route planner but we recommend using Google Maps. Why to learn a new service when Google Maps is already working well in Helsinki.
Travelling without a valid ticket during a ticket inspection incurs a fine of 80 euros.
Buy your ticket before boarding a vehicle. The easiest way to buy a ticket is to use HSL app. Your mobile phone needs to have mobile roaming on in order to use important apps. You can buy a local SIM card from R-kioski at Helsinki Airport or use UniSIMcard's international roaming. With the previous link, you will get also 10 percent discount.
Overnight Stopover - Where to Sleep in Helsinki?
If you plan to stay more than 1 day in Helsinki, you need naturally a place to sleep. We recommend two differently equal options. You may stay close to the airport in an airport hotel. Accessing the centre is still fast. Or if you prefer staying in the centre, just book a central hotel. There is no much price differences between these options.
The best located hotels near the airport are Clarion Hotel Helsinki Airport, Hilton Helsinki Airport, Scandic Helsinki Airport, and Glo Hotel Airport. Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport is a little cheaper option than the previously mentioned hotels but not so well-located. If you choose a central location, we recommend you to compare hotel prices and find the best option for yourself. The downtown of Helsinki is not that big and with the public transport day ticket, you can move without extra costs.
Budget travellers may use Airbnb or hostels to stay more affordable.
What to See in Helsinki?
It depends on the season what are the best sightseeing options. We list our recommendations for a short stopover.
In the summer, don't forget to visit Suomenlinna Island. Firstly, you need to reach the South Harbour of Helsinki and there you will find ferry connections to Suomenlinna about 3 times per hour. Be sure to take a public ferry (operated by HSL) because only they will accept your zone ticket. While waiting for the ferry, get familiar with the Market Square a few steps away from the port and enjoy a cup of Finnish coffee. Or buy (over-priced) souvenirs. The ferry ride to Suomenlinna takes 20 minutes and you need at least 2-3 hours time there to be able to explore the whole island.
The South Harbour is in the centre. You may use trams 2, 4 and 5 to reach the harbour quickly. Confirm the route from Google Maps because the trams routes are changing often.
Suomenlinna is a fortress, that has been under the control of Sweden and Russia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. During a sunny day, it is absolutely a beautiful place to relax and it has an interesting history. From this island, you can also spot the big ships of Viking Line, Eckerö Line and Silja Line passing passing through.
In the winter, we do not recommend Suomenlinna. The island is cold and dark.
There are many Lutheran churches in Helsinki but two of them are the most popular spots. The white Helsinki Cathedral at Senaatintori is familiar from Helsinki photos. Most likely, also you want to have a selfie with this symbolic church.
Another interesting option is to visit Temppelinaukio Church (Rock Church) in Töölö. The church has been built inside the rocks. Notice, that there is a small entrance fee because the church is really popular during summers.
Helsinki Cathedral is a few minutes walk away from the South Harbour. Temppelinaukio Church can be reached by the trams 1 and 2. A little walking is needed.
Helsinki has countless museums but during your stopover, you won't have time to see all of them. We picked up you three nice ideas. If you wish to concentrate on museums, just Google your favourites.
The National Museum of Finland is a great place to learn about Finnish history. The entrance is 14 euros. It is located in an old beautiful building.
Another but a little different option is to visit Kiasma. Kiasma is a contemporaneous art museum located close to the central station.
If you are interested more in technology, why not to visit the Museum of Technology in Old Helsinki. The nature around the museum is fascinating.
Kiasma is just next to the central railway station. The National Museum is five minutes walk away from Kiasma. To reach the tram museum you need to walk 10 minutes more.
Oodi - Public Library
Do not forget to take a look to the newest and biggest library in Helsinki, Oodi. You will be surprised because there are so many things to see and do inside the library in addition to traditional bookshelves. And the best part is that the library and its activities are totally free for anyone.
Oodi was chosen as the best new public library in the world 2019.
Amusement Park, Water Parks and Spas
Not all people are fans of historical sights and museums. If you prefer just to relax, for example a spa is more suitable option.
There is amusement park called Linnanmäki just in the centre of Helsinki. It is open only in the summer time. The area ticket costs about 40 euros and you are allowed to have as many rides as possible.
In the neighbour city of Helsinki, there is a water park called Serena. The park is located in Espoo city but it can be reached by buses. It is open also in the winter but the outdoor areas are closed then. We recommend visiting it during summers.
A bus ride to Serena takes long but your zone ticket ABC is enough. You will also need to connect a bus. Check Google Maps for the best route.
There is also an indoor water park and a spa just close to the Helsinki Airport called Flamingo Spa. It has a water park area open for all-aged people and the over-18 spa area for adults. The adult area is the best for relaxing because it is peaceful and you may enjoy snacks and drinks there.
You may take the bus 561 from Helsinki Airport to reach Jumbo shopping mall. Flamingo Entertainment Centre is connected to Jumbo. If you intend just to visit Jumbo and Flamingo, a zone ticket BC is enough.
Swimming in the sea is comfortable only in summer months but the water will still be quite cold, only about 19 degrees. If you still wish to visit a beach and swim in the Baltic Sea, we recommend you to try Hietaniemi beach close to the centre. It is crowded with young people during sunny summer days.
Do not forget to try an authentic Finnish Sauna. You may want to visit an old wooden sauna, Kotiharjun Sauna, located in a residential building in Kallio still in the centre. Kotiharjun Sauna costs about 14 euros. You are allowed to take your own drinks with. The sauna is popular among travellers but there are always local people too.
Another option is to try more modern sauna, Löyly in Hernesaari. Two-hour usage costs 19 euros. There are a bar/cafe and a restaurant.
Löyly is a few kilometres away from the centre. However, it can still be reached fast by public transport.
Finnish people do shopping often in big malls. There is a practical reason for that. The weather in the winter is not always good, so rainy streets. That is the reason why there are so many malls compared to the population.
The closest mall to Helsinki Airport is called Jumbo. If you have just a quick visit in Helsinki, we recommend you to head to this mall.
In Helsinki Centre, there are multiple malls. One of them is called Kamppi that is also the main bus station. The newest one is called Tripla that is connected to the big Pasila Railway Station. Other big options are Redi and Itis.
The all malls are quite similar so actually it does not matter which one of them you choose. Maybe you should try Tripla that is the newest one. It can be reached in 5 minutes from Helsinki centre by a commuter train.
If you prefer traditional shopping, you may walk on Espladi and Aleksanterinkatu in the Helsinki downtown. There you will find many small design stores. They sell famous Finnish brands but prepare to pay a little more. You must have heard also about Moomins. Moomin Store can be found in Forum shopping mall.
Where to Eat Finnish Food?
Helsinki centre is full of restaurants but they are often serving more international food than traditional Finnish meals. We advise you to walk around the market square to find authentic Finnish restaurants.
The food in Finland is pricey. We understand that maybe you are not willing to try expensive authentic Finnish food but you just prefer more affordable simple food. While the schedule is busy, fast food makes also sense.
You can try Finnish hamburger chain Hesburger. In shopping malls, there are food courts where you can get a meal with 10 euros. Helsinki centre is also full of Turkish, Chinese and Nepalese restaurants that are offering tasty food from 10 to 15 euros.
Ask for the tap water, not bottled one. Tap water is of good quality and people drink it also in restaurants. It is often free or it may cost 50 cents.
Drinks in Helsinki
Having a glass of wine or a local beer makes an evening perfect. We recommend three different bars to have drinks: Loiste, Torni and Clarion Hotel Helsinki. All of these have great views over Helsinki. A beer costs about 10 euros.
Officially, it is forbidden to have your own drinks in public areas in Helsinki. If the weather is nice, having your own beer in a park does not cause any problem for you.
Tipping is not necessary in Finland. Service fees are always included in the bill.
Two Days Helsinki Sightseeing Plan
To make things easier, we made a simple stopover itinerary for you.
After arriving to Helsinki Airport, buy a zone ticket ABC for 2-3 days with the HSL app and head to the city centre.
Stay in Sokos Hotel Vaakuna next to the railway station. The hotel is of good quality but still not too expensive.
During the first day, visit Suomenlinna Island. Take a tram 2 to the South Harbour and from there a public ferry to Suomenlinna. Hike 3 hours in Suomenlinna and have a lunch on the island in Suomenlinna Panimo. They are brewing their own local beer.
After you are back from Suomenlinna, walk to Helsinki Cathedral to take a few photos. Continue with the tram number 2 to the Rock Church.
End your day by visiting Kotiharjun Sauna. Buy a few drinks with and enjoy authentic old-style wooden sauna and chat with Finnish people. In Finland, a sauna is a place to have small talk. After the sauna visit, you may have a drink over the Helsinki roof's in the restaurant Loiste.
During the second day, visit a few of Helsinki's multiple museums. If you are not a fan of museums, head to Linnanmäki Amusement Park. Later you may do shopping in one of the big malls of Helsinki.
For easier sightseeing, buy a few tours from GetYourGuide.
A Bonus Day
There is no old town in Helsinki but Porvoo Old Town can be reached fast. If you stay more than 2 days in Helsinki, why not to make a day trip to Porvoo. A bus ride from Helsinki bus station to Porvoo bus station takes only 1 hour.
Check out also our article, A Day Trip to Porvoo.
Next time when you fly via Helsinki Airport, consider having a few days stopover. It will make your journey smoother and we bet you will find something interesting to do in Helsinki. Summers are the best time for a stopover but visiting Helsinki during the Christmas is another good option. Winter makes Helsinki dark but the snow with lights keeps Helsinki still alive. Not to forget the authentic Finnish sauna experience!
Read our review of Aspire Lounge.
Have you been to Helsinki? What are your tips?
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