Helsinki, as it turns out, is an unquestionably cool city, with excess to offer. In fact, I would say it’s a ‘live-in’ city, one whose real charm will need some weeks or months to entirely absorb. Cool restaurants which serve Halal food in Helsinki and museums add to the quirky richness of the city. And while my visit was short, I got an immense feel for the city – enough at least for me to crave a return very soon.
While Helsinki can appear as a younger sibling to the Scandinavian capitals, it’s the one that went to art school, disdainful of pop music and prides working in a cutting-edge studio. The design Vista here is one of the most exhilarating in the world today, with boutiques, workshops and galleries multiplying in the Design District, Helsinki’s thoroughfares and charming back streets. The city’s food scene is also prosperous, with hip eateries contributing to locally sourced tasteful menus and coffee shops. When you land in Finland, the first thing you should do is to get yourself a Helsinki Card which makes your travel to most of the touristy places a lot cheaper. If in case you are a voracious museum-goer, this card will make it worthwhile as well. If you are on a no There is a much cheaper alternative for transport, the ‘day ticket’ for public transport if you don’t want to buy a card.
The Helsinki Card: Your Sightseeing Pass to Helsinki
You can go free and easy and discover Helsinki independently with the Helsinki Card. The Helsinki Card comes with a whole travel guide of each and every included attraction and superb maps of the city. With your free travel on public transport (trams, metro, buses, train, boats to the islands) as well as free of charge entrance to all key sights and museums, the Helsinki card is a great way to travel around the city. The Helsinki Card also allows you great value discounts such as 30% discount on the Finnair airport bus, discounts on tours out of town, tours to Tallinn, restaurants, concerts, sports, sauna, rentals and much more. You can settle on a 24, 48- or 72-hour Helsinki Card which also consists of free travel on public transport in the entire metropolitan area and rail link between Helsinki city center and Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.
|HELSINKI ATTRACTIONS||NORMAL ADULT ENTRY COST|
|SUOMENLINNA SEA FORTRESS- MUSEUMS & TOUR||€37.00|
|PANORAMA SIGHTSEEING BUS TOUR||€32.00|
|BEAUTIFUL CANAL ROUTE TOUR||€25.00|
|SKYWHEEL (DISCOUNTED ENTRY)||€12.00|
|SEALIFE (DISCOUNTED ENTRY)||€16.50|
|CITY SIGHTSEEING HOP ON HOP OFF BUS TOUR||€28.00|
|ATENEUM ART MUSEUM||€15.00|
|AMOS ANDERSON ART MUSEUM||€14.00|
|MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART KIASMA||€14.00|
By visiting these 9 attractions without the Helsinki Card, you would be paying over €190, and that doesn’t even factor in public transport. A 3-day Helsinki Card is €66 and includes free travel so the savings are clear!
Transportation in Helsinki
Travel around Helsinki city by tram
Travelling by the local tram is a fantastic and exciting way to traverse the city like a local, among the locals. Each tram route is carefully designed to include stops at the popular tourist destination. Tram 2 (former 3T) is widely regarded as the best sightseeing tram route in Helsinki. For all those fascinated with architecture, route number 4 can particularly be recommended. People interested in design, art and culinary culture should hop on tram number 6. All the routes are easily accessible and most start from opposite to the Helsinki Central Railway Station.
Discover Helsinki with City Bikes
Helsinki’s brand-new city bikes are a well-liked and expedient way of getting around the city especially in the summer. City bikes are shared-use bicycles that can be rented for a fee by anyone in central Helsinki, residents and visitors alike. In the summer of 2017, there were 1400 bikes in 140 locations around the city.
To avail the use of the bikes, one can use their personal cyclist ID or HSL Travel Card and a PIN code for collecting your bike. Bikes can also be borrowed using a payment card without registration from five bike stations: Kaivopuisto, Unioninkatu, Rautatientori/East, Kiasma and Hakaniemi Metro Station. The bikes are available at the start of the summer season until 31 October.
Accommodation in Helsinki
Hotels in Helsinki are rather expensive, particularly throughout the summer season. From October through April prices are usually a bit cheaper, and some hotels become easy bargains. But be ready to negotiate really cold weather!
Budget Hotels: 70-125 EUR per night (Including free WiFi and all the standard amenities). During the summer, prices will be closer to 90-200 EUR per night.
Airbnb is a good budget option in the city, with joint accommodation starting as low as 25 EUR per night.
Entire Home or Apartment: 50 EUR (though prices usually average closer to 100 EUR).
Things to do Helsinki
Leap your head first into sightseeing.
Once in Helsinki, I went into full tourist mode, since this was my first visit to this beautiful country. You can explore this city by doing a panorama bus tour, which will give a quick overview of the place. But the city is easy to navigate on your own and good idea is to start with a stop in Senate Square, where a lot of Helsinki’s main attractions can be found, including the Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace and the University of Helsinki’s main building. The vertical stairway leading up to the cathedral will be a perfect spot to soak up some sunshine. Another appealing feature of Helsinki is that you will find lots of open green spaces to relax in. The Esplanadi, located close to the seaside Market Square, is a locals’ favorite and offers a quiet place to relax in the heart of the city. You can also browse through the museums: all have free entry and focus on a facet of the city’s past or present through permanent and temporary exhibitions. The must-see of the bunch is the main museum, just off Senaatintori. I stopped by some gems of architecture, my favorite of which was the Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church, which is built directly into/around a solid rock. Luminously lit by natural light, this place is also home to some of the best acoustics in town, making it a well-liked venue for concerts.
Timings for Museums: 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, Thu till 7 pm, Sat & Sun 11am-5pm
Devote few hours to the Suomenlinna Fortress.
Suomenlinna Fortress, spread over 6 islands is home to several museums, past bunkers and fortress walls, as well as Finland’s only remaining WWII submarine. It ensures a fascinating place to get lost in the magic of the past.
It is a great place to spend the afternoon and make sure you take a picnic basket with you. At around 5.15pm it’s worth discovering a spot to watch the enormous Baltic ferries pass through the narrow gap between islands. Suomenlinna is one of the coolest places in the city, largely due to its assorted landscapes and opportunities for exploration.
Price: Ferries: (single/return €2.80/5, 15 minutes, three times hourly, fewer in winter ) depart from the passenger quay at Helsinki’s Kauppatori.
Prices: JT-Line runs a waterbus at least hourly from the Kauppatori, making three stops on Suomenlinna (one way/return €4.50/7, 20 minutes, 8 am to 10 pm May to mid-September).
Absorb Helsinki culture through museum hopping.
Helsinki has a rich past and is in the midst of an exciting future and hence it is no surprise that it is home to dozens of museums, with something for everyone, from art and design fiends to the science and tech-obsessed. The Ateneum is abode to Finland’s major art collection (that is over 20,000 Finnish paintings, sculptures, drawings and more).
The Kiasma is a contemporary art museum, identified easily in Helsinki by its conspicuous glass architecture and extensive collection of modern art. With explanations on each piece, it’s easy to grasp the connotation and intentions behind each piece of work, which makes the overall visit much more enjoyable.
Go full-on nerd mode at Helsinki’s prettiest libraries.
There’s just something so enticing to be smack in the middle of heaps of books, gorgeous architecture and a cozy ambiance. This is why I feel Helsinki’s libraries merit a mention of their own. The National Library of Finland is a stunning place to visit for a classic take on store goodness, while the Helsinki University main library puts a new modern slant on things. Anyway, both are beautiful and worth a visit.
Indulge in Helsinki’s coffee culture
This is a little-known fact, but Finns are amongst the top global list for coffee consumption. Coffee culture is alive and happening in Helsinki. Visit the world-famous Regatta Cafe which is well- known not only for their coffee excellence (which is just okay) but for their charismatically quaint charms as well. Situated in a tiny red wooden house, the cafe has plenty of patio space and even a crackling fireplace. For extra quirk points, this is the first place that will give you money back when you get a refill. Each refill will give you back 5 cents… imagine that!
Visit Seurasaaren Ulkomuseo
Situated 5.5km northwest of the city center, this excellent island-set museum has a collection of historic wooden buildings transferred here from around Finland. There’s everything from haylofts to a mansion, parsonage, and church, as well as the beautiful giant rowboats used to transport church-going communities. If you are there at particular timings you can find guides in traditional costume demonstrate folk dancing and crafts. Otherwise, you’re free to roam the picturesque wooded island, where there are several cafes.
There are guided tours in English at 3 pm from June to August. The island is also the venue for Helsinki’s biggest Midsummer bonfires and a popular area for picnicking. From central Helsinki, take bus 24.
Where to Eat Halal food in Helsinki
Finland is not exactly halal-friendly when it comes to food, but thankfully Helsinki is not that bad. You can find ethnic restaurants, such as those serving middle eastern food that is halal. A good place would be Ravintola Habibi Restaurant serve halal food in Helsinki which is located at Malminrinne, Kampi Central, Helsinki.
If you are in Helsinki for at least a couple of days, then we would suggest you take a trip down to Kastelholmantie where you will find supermarkets like Alanya Oriental Market sells halal food in Helsinki which you can stock up on for cooking your own food in your accommodation!
You can also find Halal and Indian rice items at first floor of Helsinki Islamic center. The nearest metro station is Pasila you train in every 15 min from Helsinki central station. A 5 min walk to the Islamic center. For directions, you can also call +358 45 1282818
You can also find ethnic Vegetarian restaurants that serve Nepalese and Indian cuisine. Govindam Vegetarian Restaurant serves vegetarian food and is located at Malmi. It uses Finnish seasonal food products and when mixed with Indian exotic spices, can be quite enjoyable! You can also try Date + Keli which is a fresh little deli restaurant at Kortteli on the 5th floor of the Kamppi Shopping Centre. Everything they serve is vegetarian, organic, healthy, gluten free; milk free and, above all, delicious and beautiful. Omnam Restaurant is another option which serves many kinds of vegetarian dishes inspired by cuisines from all over the world.
For foodies and gourmets, a visit to the Old Market Hall is a must. I’m a big fan of markets (if only just to sample goods and admire the pretty displays) and with dozens of stalls showcasing fresh meats, produce and baked goods, this little indoor market does not disappoint.
It will just take three days for Helsinki to steal your heart. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that this visit definitely won’t be my last. I can’t wait to go back soon to Helsinki.