Post written by Laura
Date visited: July 2006
The third and final post of my back-in-the-day mini Baltic backpacking adventure. Unfortunately I only had one day to explore Helsinki having taken an early morning ferry from Tallinn and returned back later the same evening. These are the 3 posts in this short series:
Had I realised before booking the flights I would have changed the itinerary, stayed for a couple of nights in Helsinki and taken a flight back from there. But at the time when I booked flights into Riga and home from Tallinn I hadn’t realised that Helsinki was so close to Tallinn and reachable by ferry!
Helsinki is the capital city of Finland and according to Visit Finland is well-known for its innovative art, culture and architecture!
My companion and I arrived in Helsinki and got in a taxi. We asked the driver to take us to the town centre and fortunately he was a really friendly chatty driver who laughed and joked with us, pointed out some places of interest along the way and dropped us off at the market on the seafront where there was also various different boat trips available.
We walked through the market to ‘Sun Lines’ which were offering ‘Beautiful Canal Route’ trips around the harbor and islands and booked a trip for 10.30. We had about half an hour so went and got an ice-cream then boarded the boat.
We found seats at the top and from some initial cloud we were pleased to see the sun start to appear.
The boat set off at exactly 10.30. As we moved away from the harbor, the skyline of Helsinki revealed a large white domed building that we hadn’t noticed before.
We sailed around many of the small islands and attractions, including a sea fortress, canal, a zoo located on an island, the Finnish ice-breakers and cruise ships. It was sunny for the entire journey but the weather was not as warm as it has been in Riga or Tallinn.
The boat trip lasted for an hour and a half. Following the boat trip we walked to the red brick Uspenski Cathedral which is the largest orthodox church in western Europe.
From the Uspenski Cathedral we walked to the the ‘white’ church or officially the Helsinki Cathedral. This was very impressive with the white of the building making a great contrast against the brilliant blue sky, which fortunately stayed this way all day with barely a cloud in the sky.
We had a look in the cathedral then nearby we found a ‘Russian Tea Room’ café where we sampled Russian tea. It was served with slices of lemon and tasted quite refreshing. With cold temperatures Russian tea is an integral part of Russian culture. Tea is often served after dinner with dessert and enjoyed throughout the day.
With Finland being next door to Russia it wasn’t surprising to see a small piece of Russian influence!
Next we walked towards the park in the centre of Helsinki which was full of people hanging around and chilling out.
After a bit of searching we found an interesting looking place for lunch but unfortunately I didn’t write down the name at the time. I did note it had a relaxing atmosphere and the food was tasty too. I had a salad with a glass of wine.
In the afternoon neither of us fancied going to the zoo or a museum. We had a look in a department store but didn’t stay in there for long as neither of us were very keen on shopping.
As we were wandering the streets near the white cathedral we came across an open topped sight seeing bus! When we enquired we were delighted to be told that the last tour of the day was about to start however this would mean we wouldn’t be able to hop off and hop back on again however we half price (10 euros each). Done!
We subsequently ‘hopped on’ and sat upstairs. The bus took us around Helsinki and we were able to see all of the main sights that we would have otherwise missed, including the Sibelius monument and the Olympic Stadium.
The Sibelius Monument was unveiled in 1967 and resembled organ pipes! It is made of steel and is named after the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
One hour and 15 minutes later and we were dropped off back at the Cathedral so we made our way towards the market and harbour area, through the park where there was a jazz band playing in the band stand.
We had a glass of wine in a café near the harbour and discussed some ideas for the final hour or so. There was an old food hall located at the harbour which had been selling food for over 100 years but unfortunately that had just closed.
By now it was getting on for 7 pm and with our ferry departing at 8 pm we set off in search of a taxi. We soon found a taxi rank with taxi’s so 10 mins later arrived at the ferry terminal ready to sail back to Tallinn.
Helsinki is a small walkable city and as such I would suggest a day to be enough to see the main sights. Had we stayed longer there are several day trip options to explore further afield. This was my first and so far only visit to Finland.