advertisement

Getting There

By Plane -- The Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (tel. 020/014-636; www.helsinki-vantaa.fi), which receives flights from more than 21 airports within Finland and from more than 30 airports worldwide, is 19km (12 miles) north of the center of town, about a 30-minute bus ride. Special buses to the airport leave from the City Terminal at Asemaukio 3, and stop at the Air Terminal at Töölönkatu 21 (near the Scandic Hotel Continental) at 20- to 30-minute intervals every day between 5am and midnight. Tickets cost 6€ ($9.60) each way. A slightly less expensive, but also less comfortable, option involves taking public bus no. 415, 451, or 615, which departs from the Central Railway Station two or three times an hour between 5:30am and 10:20pm. The price is 3.80€ ($6.10) each way.

A conventional taxi ride from the airport to the center of Helsinki costs about 28€ to 35€ ($45-$56) each way; you'll be assured of a private car shared only by members of your immediate party. A slightly cheaper alternative is to hire a special yellow taxi (tel. 600/555-555) at the airport terminal, which might be shared by up to four separate travelers; the cost is 25€ ($40) per person.

On your departure, note that the airport requires passengers on domestic flights within Finland to check in 30 minutes before flight time. Passengers on flights to other points in Europe usually must check in between 45 and 60 minutes before takeoff, and passengers bound for any of the former regions of the Soviet Union or anywhere in North America usually need to check in between 1 and 2 hours in advance.

By Train -- The Helsinki Railway Station is on Kaivokatu (tel. 06/0041-902 for train information). The station has luggage-storage lockers costing from 2€ to 5€ ($3.20-$8), depending on the size. The lost-luggage department is open daily from 6:30am to midnight.

By Bus -- Bus transit into and within Helsinki is divided into three separate terminals, the largest of which is the Kamppi Terminal, which occupies two floors of a six-story building in downtown Helsinki that's otherwise devoted to a shopping arcade. The Kamppi Terminal is the home base of bus nos. 102 to 205, and site of most of the suburban outbound buses headed in the direction of Espoo. Smaller and less visible, often used mainly by commuters, the Elielinaukio Terminal is home base of bus nos. 206 to 345, most of which head out at regular intervals in the direction of Espoo, and also bus nos. 360 to 474 going in the direction of Vantaa.

There's also the Railway Square Bus Terminal, home base of buses nos. 611 to 742 headed to Vantaa. For information about bus, tram, and subway routes within Helsinki, call tel. 0100/111 every Monday to Friday 7am to 7pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm. Alternatively, you can address questions in person at the upper level of the Rautatientori subway station, where maps, tickets, and Helsinki Cards are readily available, either free or for sale. If you're arriving from Stockholm, you can either ride a ferryboat all the way to Helsinki, or you can take a ferry aboard either the Viking or the Silja Line to Turku on the west coast of Finland, and then, at Turku, you can board one of about 20 daily buses that make the 2 1/2-hour run to Helsinki.

By Car -- Helsinki is connected by road to all Finnish cities. If you arrive at the port of Turku on a car ferry from Sweden, you can take the E-18 express highway east to Helsinki.

By Ferry -- Most of the terminals that service the dozens of ferryboats coming in and out of Helsinki's harbor arrive at and depart from terminals that line the perimeter of Helsinki's South Harbor (especially on the small island of Katajanokka), and to a lesser degree, selected areas of Helsinki West Harbor. Regardless of their exact location, most are within easy walking distance of the center, just a short walk from Market Square (Kauppatori), and accessible via tram nos. 2 and 4. In its role as a maritime force to be reckoned with, Helsinki offers access to dozens of sea routes to other points within Scandinavia and Europe. In addition, as many as 200 different cruise ships, some of them among the finest and most upscale in the world, drop anchor in Helsinki during the course of an average summer. For general information about the port of Helsinki and information about what specialized services you should contact, call the Port of Helsinki (tel. 09/310-1621; www.portofhelsinki.fi/english).

To Stockholm: Over the years, some of the options for maritime transits between Helsinki and Stockholm have grown in numbers and degrees of luxuriousness. The Viking and Silja Lines carry the highest volume of passengers and operate the greatest number of ships. For information in Helsinki, contact Silja Line (tel. 09/18-041; www.silja.com) or Viking Line (tel. 600/15-700; www.vikingline.fi).

To Germany: There's maritime transit at least once a day between Helsinki and Lübeck/Travemünde aboard Finnlines (tel. 09/251-0200; www.ferrycenter.fi). Transit requires 36 hours each way. There's also daily service between Hanko, a port that is within a 90-minute drive from Helsinki, and Rostock, a Baltic port within what used to be known as East Germany, aboard Superfast Ferries (tel. 09/2535-0640; www.superfast.com).

To Estonia: Between May and September, there are as many as 38 ferryboat departures per day from these terminals to Tallinn, capital of Estonia, a waterborne journey that, depending on the boat, takes between 1 and 4 hours. The fastest boats, hydrofoils, operate only on relatively calm seas and only between April and November. The largest of the lines servicing Tallinn include Eckerö Line (tel. 09/228-8544; www.eckeroline.fi), the Linda Line (tel. 09/228-8544; www.lindaliini.ee), and Tallink (tel. 09/649-808; www.tallink.fi). Note: Don't think you can jump on a ferryboat for a spontaneous excursion to Estonia. At press time, despite the fact that Estonia is a semiautonomous nation, visas were mandatory and required applications submitted days or even weeks in advance, preferably from the Estonian embassy or consulate in your home nation.

Helsinki has an efficient transportation network, which includes buses, trams, a subway (metro), ferries, and taxis.

Visitor Information

The Helsinki City Tourist Office, Pohjoisesplanadi 19, FIN-00100 Helsinki (tel. 09/3101-3300; www.VisitHelsinki.fi), is open from May 2 to September 30, Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 6pm; off season, Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm and Saturday from 10am to 4pm. TourShop-Helsinki, a service at the Helsinki tourist office, is your best bet for booking tours once you reach the city. The tourist office sells event, air, bus, and cruise tickets, and the money-saving Helsinki Card. Hotel packages and guide bookings are also available here.

City Layout

Main Arteries & Streets -- Helsinki is a peninsula, skirted by islands and skerries. The main artery is the wide and handsome Mannerheimintie, named in honor of the former field marshal. East of Mannerheimintie, opening onto Kaivokatu, is the Helsinki Railway Station. Toward the harbor is Senaatintori, crowned by the landmark cathedral. Designed by Carl Ludwig Engel, this "Senate Square" also includes the government and university buildings.

Continuing east is a bridge crossing over a tiny island -- Katajanokka -- dominated by the Eastern Orthodox cathedral. Back across the bridge, sticking close to the harbor, past the President's Palace, is the most colorful square in Helsinki, the Kauppatori (Market Square) -- see it early in the morning when it's most lively. From the pier here, it's possible to catch boats for Suomenlinna, fortified islands that guard the sea lanes to Helsinki. The sea fortress celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1998.

The great promenade street of Helsinki -- Esplanadi (Esplanade; which is divided into two parallel avenues, the Etaläesplanadi [south] and the Pohjoisesplanadi [north], separated with a statue-and flower-dotted green strip in the middle) -- begins west of Market Square. Directly north of the Esplanade and running parallel to it is Aleksanterinkatu, the principal shopping street.

Finding an Address -- Street numbers always begin at the south end of north-south streets and at the eastern end of streets running east-west. All odd numbers are on one side of the street and all even numbers on the opposite side. In some cases, where a large building houses several establishments, there might be an A or B attached to the number.

Maps -- The best city maps of Helsinki contain a highly detailed and alphabetized street index, and can easily be carried in your pocket. Such maps are sold at nearly all bookstores and many news kiosks in the central city, including Helsinki's major bookstore, Academic Book Store, Keskuskatu 1 (at the corner of the Pohjoisesplanadi; tel. 09/121-41).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.