“Helsinki: The Capital City” (part 1). After an incredible journey started in Canada we moved on to Finland and already had a chance to discover some of its eastern part. We have seen some towns in Finland and some of the festivals taking place. So now, it is time to have our next “chapter of the journey” in the capital of Finland, the city of Helsinki.
Where: Helsinki, Finland
What: “Travel Smart” series
In this “chapter”, we are going to focus mainly on some tips on transportation and an overall idea of what Helsinki really is. In our next chapter in this city, we are going to take a closer look at some sightseeing and places to go.
First of all, Helsinki is a big city, but it is part of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area or, the way it is often called, Greater Helsinki. So, this area basically comprises the city of Helsinki itself, Vantaa and Espoo. There are other smaller towns, which are also considered as part of the area, however, they are not in the reach of the major area. By this I simply mean that even plans on subway line extension include only Espoo and Vantaa, other towns are mostly considered as nearest towns, although, the train connection is perfect in most of the areas.
As it was mentioned before in the previous article, Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish; just like in Canada with English and French. Therefore, most of the cities and towns often have two official names in both languages; sometimes they do not seem too different, however, in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area you can feel it much better. You can see both names at every station and official buildings, for example, post office, which is called “posti” in Finnish, is “posten” in Swedish, so you see both names in Helsinki, whereas in other towns and cities it is often only the Finnish way. For instance, the town of Mikkeli has its second (Swedish) name, which is St. Michel. What comes to Helsinki, do not get confused by the name “Helsingfors”, it is just the Swedish way for Helsinki. The same applies when you see Espoo, which becomes Esbo, and Vantaa, which becomes Vanda. It is good to know such an unusual aspect in order not to get confused by familiar but unknown signs. However, remember that most of Finns do not really like Swedish language due to some historical reasons, so do not make much emphasis on the second language while speaking.
Helsinki has a lot to offer and people come to this city because of many different reasons. Recently due to a huge number of immigrants from the outside of Europe, the city has changed its face. Nowadays it is more international. Whether it is good or bad, well, it is up to everyone to judge. I will not share my opinion but it is obvious that changes are seen. Helsinki (as part of its Metropolitan Area) has a good advantage mainly thanks to its Helsinki Vantaa International Airport, but we will focus on it in our forthcoming chapters. Lots of Russian tourists, especially from Saint Petersburg, fly to their destinations via this airport; it is much more convenient nowadays to travel this way. However, not all of the flights go through Helsinki, some of them are conducted through Lappeenranta or Tampere.
As you might know, there is a rapid train connection between Saint Petersburg and Helsinki. It was a great idea to create this train. There are lots of trains going between these two destinations, but I am willing to concentrate now on this specific rapid train, which is called “Allegro”. It is a little more expensive than the regular one, but it is very comfortable and rapid. Visa and passport control takes place right inside of the train while you are moving to your destination.
Leaving Saint Petersburg the Allegro train only stops in Vyborg, Vainikkala, Kouvola, Lahti, Tikkurila, Pasila and Helsinki. As you know, Vyborg is a town in Russia, which is used to be Finnish/Swedish. Vainikkala is a very small town and station right after the border (in Finland). Kouvola is quite a big town or a small city. It is very important because all the trains coming from such destinations as Joensuu, or Kajaani (and lots of other stations in between and some further stations in the north after Kajaani) arrive to Kouvola. From Kouvola there is a railroad to Lahti, which is a big city (in size of Finland). Tikkurila is part of Vantaa, and Pasila is part of Helsinki. Some of the abovementioned stations, towns and cities will be covered in the following “chapters of the journey”; as for now, it is time to concentrate on transport.
|Trains operating in Finland (Railway statio|
It is logical to continue with the topic of trains, therefore, I am going to give you some ideas of Helsinki public transport. If you need to purchase a ticket for a domestic train, you will need to go to the railroad station (right in the city center of Helsinki) or go to the website of the company, which operates in Finland, VR. It even has an option in Russian for Russian tourists. You can check the destination, schedule and price for the train you need as well as to see if there are any “change-train” stations. If such change takes place, it is usually in Kouvola (if you go to the eastern part of Finland). If you choose short-distance trains, you need to purchase a ticket right at the station, which is easily done. All the trains are comfortable and they are a little different in their look, so you can enjoy your trip.
The central railroad station in Helsinki is big and comfortable, it has different cafés, small shops (even souvenirs), and so on. Basically you can go anywhere from here. You can descend to the metro station “Rautatientori” and go to elsewhere or you can simply walk out and get to the square full of buses. If you need long-distance buses, you need to get to Kamppi station. You have many options: by subway, just one station, by bus, or the simplest and best, to walk there. It is really near. Kamppi station has its bus terminals and ticket office. For long-distance buses, you can visit the website or just walk in. And here is the website for local buses in Helsinki, Vantaa and Espoo. The company is called “HSL”.
Helsinki is located at the shore of the Baltic Sea. It means that Helsinki has lots of sea routes to different destinations, but the most popular ones are Tallinn in Estonia, Stockholm in Sweden, and Saint Petersburg in Russia. You can also find a ferry to Åland Islands, which belong to Finland but there is mainly Swedish language spoken there. There are various companies operating in that area, the most well-known ones are Viking Line, Tallink and Tallink & Silja Line. It takes about only 2 hours to get to Tallinn and a night to get to either St. Petersburg or Stockholm. Visitors often come to enjoy the trip by ferry as well as Finns. It is quite exciting and enjoyable. However, remember that if you travel by ferry and take your car with you (onto the ferry) it costs more and you need to make sure there is an available space there (even to Tallinn). Helsinki is not the only city from which ferries depart. You can also go to the city of Turku, which is in the south-west of Finland.
A lot of ferries depart to Stockholm and Åland Islands from that city. It is logical due to its location proximity. But if you go from Helsinki, you are going to need to get to one of the terminals. You can walk, because it is not really far, or you can take a bus or tram. The Olympia Terminal is where Silja Line and Tallink ferries depart from. From Kauppatori, famous square in the harbor, you need to go down on Eteläranta to Laivasillankatu and you will see the terminal. It takes about 5-10 minutes to walk there. If you need to go to Viking Line, you have to go from the same Kauppatori on Esplanadin Puisto and then turn right on the first turn (to the island). This street is called Katajanokanlaituri. There you just have to go straight and you get to the terminal. It also takes about 5-10 minutes.
All in all, the city of Helsinki is quite big and quite small at the same time; you can walk from one place to another and basically you do not require transport for that. During a good season and good weather try to enjoy walking and you will manage to see more than you would do sitting behind the window of a bus, tram or train. Logically, the city center of Helsinki is concentrated in one area and it is quite enjoyable to see it all. If you walk back to the railroad station but through the Senate Square you will see a lovely cathedral, Helsinki Cathedral. In the wintertime, you can see a Christmas market on the square, which is called “Joulutori”. You can find a lot of hand-made things, souvenirs, jams, and so on. Just take this chance to see it and bring back some memory.
We are going to continue our “journey” with various destinations, therefore, get ready to Travel Smart!
Kirill “Traveler” Malyutin
About Travel Smart series:
“Travel Smart” is a section, narrating about different countries and good travel tips, advised by the author, Kirill Malyutin. The series contains recommendations, including selected places to visit, character accommodation, and reasonable shopping. Simply get inspiration!All stories of the series →
О серии «Travel Smart»:
«Travel Smart» – раздел, в котором автор Кирилл Малютин рассказывает о разных странах и дает необходимые в путешествии советы. Серия включает в себя рекомендации по посещенным автором местам, характерным средствам размещения, а также разумному шопингу. Вдохновитесь приключением!Все выпуски серии →