Helsinki - Finland

Finnish capital city Helsinki is becoming a mecca for style-conscious tourists looking for an alternative city break. Warm, friendly and super-cool all at the same time, it is little wonder that Finland and its capital are becoming increasingly prominent on the international tourist map. One of the major appeals is the proximity to neighbouring Tallinn, which can be reached via a 1.5 hour boat ride or 8 minute helicopter trip.

The only Scandinavian capital city where the Euro is the official currency, Helsinki was founded in 1550 but went through a major restyling after 1812 when it was given capital city status by the ruling Russian Tzar (after Finland was annexed). Nowadays, just over half a million people call Helsinki home - 90% of whom were born in Finland - with over a million living in the metropolitan area. As is typical in much of Scandinavia, the vast majority of residents speak excellent English (and often further languages too).

The city is styled on the grand architecture of St Petersburg and has often been used as a location for filming cold war movies. This said, there is some striking modern architecture in the city such as the Olympic Stadium constructed for the 1952 summer games.

Helsinki-Vantaa, Finland's main international airport is 40 minutes from the city centre.



Helsinki is spread across a number of islands. The inner city area occupies a southern peninsula and is the main tourist destination. The narrow, 10km long Helsinki Central Park stretches from the inner city to the northern border of Helsinki and is a popular recreational area for residents. There is less to see for tourists outside of the city centre; the outskirts consist mainly of post-war suburbs and patches of forest.


The National Museum of Finland is considered the most important gallery in Helsinki and displays a vast historical collection from prehistoric times to the 21st century. The building in which the collection is housed is a popular tourist attraction itself, a National Romantic style castle completed in 1910.

The Finnish National Gallery consists of three museums: Sinebrychoff Art Museum for classical European art, Ateneum Art Museum for classical Finnish art, and Kiasma Art Museum for modern art. The Ateneum, a 19th century neo-renaissance palace, is one of the city's major historical buildings.



Vappu (Walpurgis Night): Apr 30th - May 1st. Vappu started out as a European pagan carnival, but is now commonly associated in Finland with student revelry. At 6PM on 30th April, the statue of Havis Amanda at the Market Square is crowned with a student's cap and the celebrations start. As the evening draws on, is generally advisable to stick to bars and nightclubs as revellers on the streets can get exceptionally drunk.

The following morning, celebrations move to Kaivopuisto park for a champagne picnic, regardless of the weather. This has seen up to 70,000 attendees in the past – not a bad achievement considering the relatively modest size of Helsinki itself. In recent years, Vappu has become mixed with May Day celebrations, although the mood in Helsinki is not anarchic (or even especially socialist).
Vappu is a big deal in Finland and quite an experience for visitors to Helsinki.

Apart from Christmas (Joulu), the other big festival in Helsinki is Juhannus, which takes place on Friday between Jun 19th and Jun 25th. Midsummer celebrations are generally more restrained than Vappu, but then some of Freddie Mercury’s parties were probably more restrained than Vappu. June is a great time to be in Helsinki anyway as the long evenings and relatively warm weather present the city at its best.


European City Guides
Useful Resources


Helsinki has cold winters and cool summers. A couple of weeks each year see temperatures below −20 °C, while typical summer temperatures are around 20°C.

Because of the Northern Latitude, Helsinki sees very short daylight hours in the winter, but very long days around the summer solstice.

Useful Links

Helsinki Weather (BBC)

Helsinki Airport

Official Website