The Finnish capital is made up of the Vironniemi peninsula and 315 islands. Its origins go back to 1550, when King Gustav I of Sweden established a trading town to rival modern-day Tallinn. It has close historical ties not only with Tallinn but also with Stockholm and St. Petersburg. Also called Pearl of the Baltic Dea, nowadays, it’s the center of Finnland’s cultural, political, and economic life.
Here’s what you need to know for planning a hassle-free trip to Helsinki:
Good ol’ Euro = €
ARRIVING in Helsinki
Realistically, on a short trip from most of Europe, you’ll arrive in Helsinki by plane or train. But you could certainly also reach it by train+ferry, cruise, bus or car.
Helsinki is served by Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasema (HEL), or simply, Helsinki Airport. Keep in mind that alternative airports are at least 100km away, so they are not practical for short trips.
Arriving at Helsinki Airport (HEL)
HEL is located 20km from the city center and it’s undoubtedly the easiest option to visit the Finnish capital. For this article, we are settling on Kauppatori (Market Square) as the reference point.
The easiest way to reach the city center is from with a direct rail connection from the Arrivals floor (Zone C) to Helsingin Päärautatieasema (Helsinki Central Station). The trains (lines P and I) run at 10 minutes intervals during peak hours, with a journey time of 30 minutes
You will need a ticket or pass covering Zones A–C or covering Zones A–B plus a zone extension ticket. See more details on the ‘Getting Around‘ section below.
There is also the regular bus line 615, directly to the Central Station. I never recommend buses when you have an easy and reliable rail connection, but you might need them if you arrive too early or late, as they run 24 hours a day, at 30min intervals.
Finally, there are the taxis, but unless you are carrying loads of weight, it would still be money wasted. In any case, there are no fixed prices and you can expect to pay around €50, with a journey time of approx. 30–40 minutes.
Helsinki Central Station is called Helsingin Päärautatieasema. It’s just a 1km walk or 4 tram stops from the Kauppatori (Market Square). It has several connections, sometimes a combination of rail + ferry, to domestic and international destinations.
Although it doesn’t really fit with the idea of fast travel from most departure points, it can be practical if your journey starts at select cities in neighboring countries.
When you reach Helsinki by sea, you’ll arrive at one of the 6 piers:
- Hernesaari and West Harbor, for large cruise ships: there is a regular shuttle bus, as it’s located in an industrial area far from the center. The drop-off point is Esplanadi, right next to Kauppatori (Market Square);
- South Harbor, Katajanokka and Olympia Cruise Quay: walking distance to the city center.
There are several bus international routes connecting Helsinki to Europe. The main coach station is integrated into the Kamppi Center, with local and long-distance buses and subway connections. You can easily walk (1.2km) to Kauppatori (Market Square), or take the tram line 2 for 5 stops.
GETTING AROUND Helsinki
The public transport system is operated by Helsingin seudun liikenne (HSL) and the same ticket is valid on the metro, trams, buses, local trains and ferry services, within the covered zones.
Although the historic center is very walkable, you will want to use the transport to cover other parts of the city too. For short-term visitors, the best cost/benefit is the Day-Ticket. You can choose any number between 1 and 13 days, for each of the zone combinations. As there are no one-zone tickets for zones A, B, and C, as a tourist, your choices will be between AB, ABC, or ABCD tickets or passes.
Considering that the airport is in Zone C, find below some options for short-time visitors:
Note: There is an option to purchase a Zone Extension ticket, so if you need to go into Zone C only for the airport, get the AB pass and add the extensions as needed.
You can buy tickets or passes from automatic vending machines at the airport, metro, and rail stations, as well as through the app [iOS/Android].
You can find the most updated maps here.
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