Day 1 in Helsinki
Trip Start Sep 09, 2013
9Trip End Nov 08, 2013
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Where I stayed
Scandic Paasi Helsinki
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
So as it happened I found myself travelling down from Jyvaskyla to Helsinki one Friday evening on the train for a 48 hour whirlwind tour of the Finnish capital. I don't want to say too much about the journey but our train companies could do with taking a leaf out of the nationalized Finnish system. Free WiFi for EVERYONE, trains bang on time, friendly staff, electronic ticketing and the ability to cope with comfortably sub-zero temperatures are just some of the delights of the system.
Helsinki itself seems pretty typical of European capitals. It is cosmopolitan, vibrant and full of things to do. It is staggeringly clean due to the Finnish obsession with recycling and the people are accommodating and friendly too.
The main reason for Helsinki's location was its strategic and trade value as a port throughout the Middle Ages and through into more modern times. It is naturally quite defensible and its no surprise that the Swedish defended it keenly, whilst their enemies saw it as a vital capture whenever warfare was rife.
The main port nowadays has ferries departing primarily to Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Stockholm (though there are others) whilst the tram will take you pretty much everywhere you need to go. On that note, buy a Helsinki Card - not only does it give you unlimited public transport but it also gets you discounts all over the place and a free Panoramic Tour which is 29€ on its own!!
Day 1 was spent exploring a few museums and places of interest - the weather was foul and I decided to put off the trip to Suomenlinna (the Sea Fortress) till it had improved (see tomorrow's entry for how well that went!). Its an interesting city and I'd heartily recommend getting around on the tram, above ground allows you to see so much more of the place
Things I did
Panorama Bus Tour - B
As mentioned, this is free a Helsinki Card but 29€ on its own
Helsinki City Museum (http://www.hel.fi/hki/museo/en/etusivu) - A-
I really enjoyed this free little museum near to the Senate Square. There is only enough to keep you entertained for 30-45 minutes but the exhibitions about the people and places of the town are intriguing and well presented. Plus it was dry and the people very friendly indeed!
National Museum of Finland (http://www.nba.fi/en/nationalmuseum) - A
On a significantly smaller scale than the British Museum but composed of a similar wealth of information. Tracing Finland's history (and the history of the local area) all the way back to the Stone and Iron Ages this museum kept me entertained for 3-4 hours
Yrjonkatu Swimming Hall (http://www.visithelsinki.fi/en/sights-and-attractions/yrjonkatu-swimming-hall) - A-
A spontaneous decision, and a very pleasant surprise. Although (a) the entrance is tucked away round the back and feels more than a bit dodgy (b) its single sex on alternating days (c) bathing shorts are nowhere to be found, this is an absolute gem. Wood-fired saunas, relaxing Roman-style old baths and even table service if you want a beer or coffee between swims/saunas. The oldest baths in the city and definitely something everyone should try.
My Review Of The Place I Stayed