I’ve just returned from a short visit to Helsinki. It was a business trip, but I went over a day early so that I could have a look around. The weather, at the end of October, was not that different than in the U.K – chilly, but not sub-zero. I was lucky in that during my sightseeing it it was very sunny, although it clouded over later in the afternoon. Apparently, last year it had already snowed before the end of October, so perhaps I was lucky. The snow will no doubt arrive soon, but everyone I spoke too said it doesn’t present a problem as the Finns are well equipped to deal with it.
I enjoyed my brief visit and would like to go back again (in the summer!) to have a proper look around.
These were my impressions
- A small, compact city centre. Fairly flat and very walkable.
- Set out on a grid pattern so very easy to find your way around
- Trees everywhere – all showing beautiful autumn colours while I was there. The leaves will be gone soon, though.
- Plenty of things to see – one day sightseeing was nowhere near enough
- Extremely good and efficient public transport system – trams, buses, ferries and Metro.
- Very easy to get from the airport to the city on the Finnair bus which runs every 20 minutes from immediately outside Terminal 2 (just cross over the road to the bus stop)
- Shops open quite late – at least on some evenings. One evening when I was out for a meal shops were still open well after 8 p.m.
- Everyone spoke very fluent English.
- Everyone seemed friendly enough when I spoke to them – although the Finns appear to like to keep themselves to themselves.
- Plenty of reasonably priced cafes and restaurants.
- I only ate out a couple of times but the food was good.
- Alcohol is expensive – good job I don’t drink it.
- It’s a relatively new city with the majority of buildings from the late 19th Century onwards.
- A large number of Jugendstil (“Art Nouveau”) buildings. They were everywhere.
- An interesting Russian Orthodox cathedral – one of the few in Western Europe.
- Other major buildings mainly neo-Classical, often with a Nordic twist.
Museums and Galleries
- Plenty of museums and galleries dotted around the city. Unfortunately due to my limited time there I didn’t have chance to visit any.
- At least some of the galleries/museums stay open late on some evenings. (Why do they have to always shut at 5 o’clock in Britain?)