The smart guide to travelling to Helsinki.

Reindeer in Finland.
Reindeer in Finland.

Wow!

I cannot underestimate how being a British person in Berlin is a marvellous thing.

Last week, I was practically everywhere!

Remember when I told you that I met a producer from the rbb TV station, and how they saw my blog and the film interview with Travel Massive,  that you can also find on my Writing & Film page! Anyway, they weren’t joking and last Tuesday, we actually started filming!

German people don’t mess around LOL!

Never in my dreams had I been expecting this so I speedily put out an appeal for a voluntary PA on my Facebook page, and a professional photographer that I had met at the Berlin Music Video Awards – Pascale Scerbo Sarro – offered to take official photographs. Before you knew it, I was strolling down the street and the cameras were strolling with me. I wanted to watch a cultural production at the English Theatre Berlin, and they came along and watched it with me!

OMG! Don't I just look like a city babe © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
OMG! Don’t I just look like a city babe
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

It was a little strange having a camera and a huge fluffy microphone thing hanging around, but I soon got used to it LOL!

The next day, I went to meet the editor of the rbb Inforadio station. I thought we were going to talk about future projects, it turned out that she had her microphone and recording device with her, so we did an interview right there and then!

We continue filming the documentary next week at a Scottish pub called Das Gift and on the first day that Queen Elizabeth actually arrives Berlin on June 23rd, I will also be participating in a Live TV show and drinking tea at The English Garden!

I might even have some haggis!

I couldn’t be more pleased!

All the rbb TV team are here! © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
All the rbb TV team are here!
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

I’ll let you know when the programmes go out next week. They did actually tell me, but in all the excitement, I forgot!

For now, it’s time to go back to the last destination on our Spring trip to the Baltics.

Yep, to Helsinki. In Finland!

Here we go!

Finland.

I’ve spoken at length about the three Baltics States that we previously went to, but if you’re landing here for this first time, here’s the info:

Lithuania: I survived a 26 hour coach-bus adventure and I didn’t die and we had a pig’s ear in Lithuania and it was chewy!

Latvia: Gosh! Riga in Latvia is gorgeous: 10 reasons to go there right now and the magic drink of Latvia is Balsam and I drank it!

Estonia: How I went to Tallinn in Estonia, a Medieval Old Town surrounded by Danish Castles. How utterly charming and a simple guide to Estonian food and Russian beer!

Pick your poison on the Lux Express!
Pick your poison on the Lux Express!

We travelled to the Baltics by coach-bus and via our part-sponsor – Lux Express. My German husband – The Music Producer – panicked a bit at the thought but I have to tell you that it really wasn’t that bad at all.

From Berlin to Vilnius in Lithuania, we travelled with the Simple Express part of the company and it was just like any other coach-bus journey but with nifty individual flat screens and personal entertainment! From Vilnius onwards however, we travelled exclusively via Lux Express and the journey was rather impressive. I couldn’t believe how coach-bus journeys had changed and that so many people were also doing the Baltic Route. In fact, we met a French fellow in Vilnius and met him again in Riga. It was that popular!

I mean, with nice clean wide seats, free WiFi, individual flat screens for films and shows, free headphones which you helped yourself to, and free hot drinks like tea, coffee and hot chocolate, I’m thinking, yes please!

Travelling to Finland was another kettle of fish because this time around we travelled to Helsinki by mini-cruise and we sailed across to Finland, on a sponsorship deal with TALLINK SLJA LINE.

WHY GO TO FINLAND?

Wooden houses in Finland.
Wooden houses in Finland.

I’ve said it before, living in Berlin means that Continental Europe is right on your doorstep. Basically, if you’re an expat living in Europe and you don’t use the opportunities to check out the neighbouring countries, then you’re a fool!

There. I said it.

A fool!

I decided to go to Finland because it wasn’t far from Estonia and once we were going to be in the region anyway, I thought well, why not?

So many people know of Finland, Lapland, reindeer, and Father Christmas, but how many people have really been there?

Have you?

I didn’t think so!

Finland, is not really a Baltic country but a Nordic one. It’s often lumped together with the Baltic States because of the relative ease and physical closeness. In reality, Finland is bordered by Sweden, Norway, and Russia!

Ice Church. @VisitFinland
Ice Church.
@VisitFinland

Finland is full of interesting contrast such as the Midnight Sun and days full of darkness in Winter. Over two-thirds of the world’s people who experience the Midnight Sun, actually live in Finland itself!

In fact, in the most Northern part of Finland, the sunlight can be present for a consecutive number of over 70 days!

In land mass, Finland is the 8th largest country in Europe but with one of the lowest populations. It has just 5.4 million people, 37 national parks, 70% of the country covered with trees, and 15.8 inhabitants per every km2.

Wow!

Helsinki Central Railway Station. @VisitFinland.
Helsinki Central Railway Station.
@VisitFinland.

Here’s some history:

The country’s official name is the Republic of Finland also known as Finland, Suomi or Suomen Tasavalta.

Finland was once part of Sweden and as a result of this, the official language in Finland is both Swedish and Finnish! 91% speak Finnish, 54% speak Swedish and 1,700 indigenous people who live in Northern Lapland, speak Sámi. Finland was also a part of the Russian Empire and briefly became an independent republic in 1917 until WWII. It joined the UN in 1955, became a neutral nation, joined the EU in 1995, and has the Euro as its official currency.

HELSINKI

Helsinki Monument, Finland. @VisitFinland
Helsinki Monument, Finland.
@VisitFinland

I would like to go to Lapland one of these days, but for this journey, we went to the very cultural city of Helsinki which is the capital, and also has a 100 km long shoreline and around 300 islands!

Helsinki as the capital of Finland, was founded in 1550 and has a little over half a million people living there. It’s a modern European city famous for its culture, design, high technology, and its own unique cultural space. It is traditional but modern and is internationally renowned for its strong Finnish design, bold and innovative culinary suave, and it’s hip urban nuances, in a backdrop of sea and forest!

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Sailing away! Photo @AS Tallink Grupp
Sailing away!
Photo @AS Tallink Grupp

You can of course fly.  There is an international airport in Helsinki called Helsinki-Vantaa Airport serving all the major airlines. You can also take the train if you’re coming from Russia. Trains tend to come from ex-USSR States but no-one really recommends them as they’re far too old, far too slow and far too unreliable.

Pretty much everyone we met was travelling by ship, and so were we!

We crossed the sea with the help of a sponsorship deal from TALLINK SLJA LINE. In fact, the E-commerce Manger offered us a complimentary sailing to Sweden but on this trip, I had already fixed the itinerary and moreover, I wanted to travel mainly overland. However, watch this space for a future visit to Sweden, Finland, Latvia, and Estonia!

It’s going to be quite a trip!

Thank you so much!

Cruising to Helsinki, Finland.

TALLINK is an Estonian shipping company currently operating Baltic Sea cruise ferries and ships from Estonia to Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Germany. They are part of the AS Tallink Grupp and is a leading provider of high quality mini-cruise and passenger transport services in the Baltic Sea Region. We booked to sail with them from Estonia to Finland and back to Estonia.

There are a variety of various fares and ferries, but many travellers and tourists, as well as Estonian and Finnish people, regularly take day trips across the water, as the ships travel from Tallinn to Helsinki, from Stockholm to Helsinki, or from Stockholm to the Aland Islands in Finland. We wanted to spend a little longer and decided to spend 2 nights in Helsinki.

It was such a shame that we didn’t have the time to nip into St. Petersburg too as there is a legal way that you can go to Russia for 24 or 72 hours visa-free, as long as you arrive by ship, and pre-organise your hotel or sight-seeing activities!

The next time I’m in Finland or Estonia, I’m going to do just that, as I’m desperate to go to Russia. Even for a day but hopefully, for much longer LOL!

Tallinn-Helsinki mini cruise.

If you’re travelling from Tallinn then most likely you would be sailing with either the Tallink M/S Star or the M/S Superstar cruises across the Baltic Sea.

It’s really quite convenient as there are 6 daily departures and you can travel from either Tallinn or Helsinki in just two (2) hours.

All year round!

I recommend checking in at least one (1) hour prior to setting off, as there’s a small off licence, lobby and “bar.” Considering the amount of tourists drinking beer and snacks at 09:20, you would be in good company as refreshments, ranged from €1.20 a piece!

We took the 10:30 cruises out on a Wednesday morning and the cruise itself was nice and clean and similar to those crossing Calais and Dover. From Tallinn, the cruise was not crowded at all and pretty quiet. There were no kids or people rushing about and 80% of the passengers were elderly Japanese tourists.

There were also lots of small sofas and tables to read, write and relax on. WiFi was free and  worked very well, and the WiFi connection code was under the bar code of your ticket, so don’t lose it!  However, I searched and walked around for quite some time trying to find a power outlet to plug in my laptop. There were hardly any at all!

Comfort Class - I bet they had power outlets here LOL! @AS Tallink Grupp
Comfort Class – I bet they had power outlets here LOL! @AS Tallink Grupp

The cruise had plenty of cafes and restaurants and prices were very reasonable. They also had a mini-game room for big and little kids. Places are free-seating so you can choose where and how you spend your time while sailing.

There is a comfort class ticket which included a light buffet, non-alcoholic drinks, newspapers and power outlets! Sadly, our ticket was “Star” rather than “Comfort” but for a two hour ride manageable and not really worth the surcharge.

Myself on the M/S Star Tallink mini cruise from Tallinn to Helsinki.
It was rather windy…!

There were cabins on deck and surprisingly, we had the best weather in Finland, as everywhere else had either snow or rain!

The sunroof was brilliant for taking photos and the backdrop of the sea, and there were loads of friendly people helping each other to take photos, with not a selfie-stick in sight LOL!

The return cruise from Helsinki to Tallinn was super crowded with many day-trippers and lots of children. I guess it was because it was a Friday so take note.

So now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty:

The Smart Guide to Travelling to Helsinki.

  • If you’re short on cash, or pushed for time, just take the day-return cruise instead.
  • Finland isn’t really a budget destination so if you’re looking for the lovely treasures of Lithuania or Latvia, then you’re probably in the wrong country!
  • Hostels might not always be the cheapest option in Helsinki and depending on the season, you might actually be better off in a small hotel or B&B after all!
  • If you want to spend a bit of time in Helsinki, then remember, there’s no such thing as “cheap!” Finland is not your typical Baltic State but is Nordic, and with that comes Nordic prices!

At the Old Market Hall or Vanha Kauppahalli in Helsinki, Finland.

  • If you’re making your own meals there are supermarkets aplenty and we were able to buy small snacks and drinks to make our own sandwiches without breaking the bank. Roughly, €9.00 each.
  • Helsinki is famous for it’s culture, and strong Finnish modern design. Take advantage of the Art, Fashion & Design Districts, and marvel at everything you see.
  • Helsinki is quite small in the grand scheme of things and has an efficient public transport system. I recommend using the tram or walking as much as possible.
At the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, Finland.
At the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, Finland.
  • The museums are fantastic and are reasonably priced such as the Finnish Museum of Natural History. We were so excited that we didn’t know where to start, and had a brilliant time there. Highly recommended and we only paid €5.00 each!
  • The exhibition Mad about Helsinki at the Helsinki City Museum was really interesting and absolutely free.
  • We arrived during the week and weren’t able to join the free walking tour that takes place every weekend but if you’re in Helsinki on either Saturday or Sunday, contact them here.

Art Nouveau in Helsinki, Finland.

  • Helsinki isn’t Riga but it has a pretty impressive Art Nouveau history of it’s own!
  • Free WiFi pretty much everywhere in the city centre.
  • Watch out for taxi prices especially if you’ve just come from the Baltic States. We took a taxi back to the ferry for what was pretty much a four (4) minute ride and to say that the €20.00 surchage shocked me was an under-statement. I was in fact quite horrified, especially as we had walked around there the night before and it had taken us just ten (10) minutes! Why was I so lazy? Why?!

Design District Helsinki, Finland.

  • For fantastic local food go to the Old Market Hall or the Vanha Kauppahalli where you can buy such fare as cheese, seafood, vegetables, fruit and cake and which has been serving customers since 1889!
  • Restaurant prices are ridiculous as they are so high and with a growing lad….Gulp! I had visions of us starving to death! I discovered however, another way to get around this and still have the option of dining out. We ate sushi! Yep! We found that this was rather bizarrely, the cheapest option. We found a Japanese restaurant in the hip Design District where we were staying called Sushi-Ravintola Yamato. The food was fresh and interesting and the staff were lovely and friendly. The evening buffet was just €13.70 each including non-alcoholic drinks. We were stuffed and delighted!
  • Eat as much fish and seafood as you can manage. It’s Finland after all and we’re extremely close to the sea LOL!
Helsinki Hakaniemi Market @Elina Sirparanta
Helsinki Hakaniemi Market @Elina Sirparanta

That’s all this week but there’s just so much that I want to share with you about Helsinki, so next week I’ll be telling you about the Art Design District and how we tried and tested Helsinki’s food culture.

Food Helsinki?

Hel Yeah!!

For more information about mini-cruises around the Baltic Sea, please contact: TALLINK SLJA LINE.

For more information about coach-bus transport in the Baltic States, please contact Lux Express.

For more information about Finland’s capital city, please contact Visit Helsinki.

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and TALLINK SLJA LINE but all opinions and the delightful sushi we thoroughly enjoyed, are my very own!

Stay tuned!

A Finland stamp.

The Queen will be visiting Berlin from 23.06.15 – 26.06.15 and I will be doing a documentary, a radio interview and also as an expert panel of Brits on a Live TV show!

I’ll be at the Discover New Artists (DNA) event which is a forum to discover new local and international artists in Berlin, both musically and visually, on 11.06.15.

The 23rd Lesbian and Gay City Festival is taking place between 20.06.15 – 21.06.15.

Fête de la Musique an open-air street music performance day, will take place all around Berlin, on 21.06.14.

Berlin’s Mardi Gras (the 36th) – CSD – Christopher Street Day Gay Pride festivity, will be on 27.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin, where the hell are you?

June is thrilling & the Queen’s coming!

Watch this space!

@VisitFinland
@VisitFinland

Have you ever had been to Finland? Do you think these tips about being smart in Helsinki are useful? Are you a fan of sushi?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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34 thoughts on “The smart guide to travelling to Helsinki.

  1. I would love to go to Finland! I’m a little bit afraid of the expenses though, it may take me a couple of months to save up before I can head there! And Russia? Yeah..would love to do that too, if I can get a visa for more than 72 hrs why not..when I was in Latvia..a guy in the hostel said, Russia is just next door you should get there!! So yeah..in a couple of months, or probably next year..as I don’t fancy cold weather and I have other plans for summer. I love fish so Finland would be great for me!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’d loved it africanagirl! Yes, it’s a more expensive destination but it can be done using my tips LOL! As for Russia, it’s notoriously difficult to get a visa and super expensive so if you get the chance, just go for it. When I went to Vietnam I travelled there via Aeroflot and they were so nice. I went to their office in Berlin and they really couldn’t do enough for me, and ofered to sort out a visa to Moscow for me as I had a 10 hour stop-over. But you know, in those days I was younger and stupid and turned this wonderful opportunity down ‘cos the visa was €50! If only I had known…and I’ve been banging my head against the wall ever since. My motto since then – Never look a gifthorse in the mouth, and always say YES!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, you guessed it- I have never been to Finland! I would love to though 🙂 Totally agree as well about making the most of travelling to neighbouring countries in Europe. Oh how I miss the cheap cheap cheap Easy Jet flights (once I got £13 tickets return London to Barcelona and back!) and all the lovely train travel! I like taking the train here in China and we have the high speed train- but this country is just way too big so it is expensive as you have to travel so far and it takes such a long time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tell me about it Joella! I’m no longer a fan of budget airlines except for my darling Easyjet as I got horribly burned while going to Spain. On both ways. Ouch! However, train and bus travel – Lemme at ’em!
      China must be amazing though. Speeding through the mountains and stuff. Does the train speed through the mountains or through the countryside? Tell me more!

      Like

  3. The capital of Finland is also the country’s cultural, financial and economic centre. On the one hand, the city exudes an atmosphere that is tranquil, reserved and nostalgic. The streets are clean and safe and trams weave across cobblestoned avenues. Street musicians play Bach. On the other hand, Helsinki is sleek, efficient and modern, with trendy nightclubs and the highest rate of Internet perpetration in the world. Finnish design has been leading the way for decades; and now the capital’s stylish new bars and cutting-edge restaurants make it a hot weekend destination.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed I did. Indeed I did. 🙂 I’m looking to go again as I think it’s more fun with a bunch of happy go-lucky people. One of my girlfriends’ is half Finish & half German and has a summer house somewhere in the wilds of Finland. Come to think of it. I have another German girlfriend who also has a summer hut in Finland. I should take them out for a drink…..!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d love to visit Finland, but the price tag is definitely a huge turn off for me! I’m so glad that—barring that taxi ride!—you were able to keep your costs down… definitely no easy feat! It’s also great to hear that the food was so enjoyable; I’m definitely interested in seeing your next post about Helsinki’s food culture! Did you try the salty black licorice that Fins seem to be obsessed with?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Steph! The Nordic countries can be over-whelming but if you’re going to go, you just go and try not to thing about it….:) It wasn’t easy and the prices almost turned my hair grey, but I managed it LOL!

      I didn’t have the time to really investigate, so I didn’t have the salmiakki as we only had 2 days and we had had 3 or 4 days in the other countries. This visit was more a taster! I really hope that I can go again, but this time with a group of people. Much more fun LOL!

      Like

  5. What restaurant in Helsinki would you recommend for healthy eaters like me? I am planning to visit Helsinki soon and I am making a list of affordable place to dine out. P.S. You look absolutely stunning, love!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you my dear.
      You’ll love Helsinki and there really is a whole range of food. I’m not a vegetarian or vegan but I can recommend any of the market halls such as The Old Market Hall or Vanha Kauppahalli where we went, the Hakaniemi Market Square and Hall, the Hietalahti Market Square and Hall or any street food or cafe in the historical or design or art area. To keep to your budget, I’d go to the markets as they’re cheaper. Here’s a pdf link to a food map so that you can choose: http://www.visithelsinki.fi/en/sites/visithelsinki.fi/files/files/Liitteet/food_helsinki_hel_yeah_a4_map.pdf

      Have fun my sweet!

      Like

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