This year I had the great luck of being able to attend as a guest blogger at the Finland Tourism Fair MATKA. It was held in Helsinki on January 16 and 17 and I attended as a representative of Globellers, Logbook and Travel Keys. Before the conferences and events that were held during the fair, I had the opportunity to make a blogtrip to Turku and Stockholm and then another to the lake region in Kainuu, as part of the so-called NordicBloggerExperience. In this post I summarize everything I experienced those nine days in Finland and, in passing, I will give practical advice for travel to Finland in January. And the experience is a degree.
Photographed by @Visit Stockholm
Flights to Finland
The flight to Helsinki was not included in the program and in January there are hardly any direct flights from Spain. Only FinnAir offers flights and the fare is usually quite expensive. To find the flight I used the search engine of Liligo.com, a website that searches for the best price by tracking dozens of websites, which I use a lot lately. So I found a flight Barcelona - Amsterdam - Helsinki with KLM for € 180. When you book a European flight with KLM, it is advisable to be a member of SkyTeam. Becoming a member is free and offers you free billing for a 23 kilos suitcase. Otherwise, if you hire the cheapest fare for a European flight, you have to pay the billing. Another detail, this time more positive, is that KLM offers a free sandwich and soft drinks during the flight.
How to get from Helsinki airport to downtown
Bus 615 (or 620 at night) connects Helsinki airport with the train station, which is in the center. The price is € 5 and the driver is paid. The bus usually announces on a screen the stops in Finnish and Swedish, so it is advisable to write down the name of the stop where you have to get off. You can find more information about Helsinki public transport on the HSL website.
Dragging the suitcase in Helsinki
Where to sleep in Helsinki
In Helsinki I stayed in two hotels: the ScandicPaasi and the Radison Blue Seaside.
He hotel Scandic Paasi It is about 15 minutes walk from the main train station and rather less by tram. This design hotel has a very colorful and theatrical decoration, and each room is decorated with a different theme. The hotel includes a small gym and a sauna that can be reserved for parties. The hotel breakfast is served on the ground floor and is very complete. In short, it is a hotel that I recommend for its location and the quality of the rooms.
He Radisson Blu Seaside hotel It is a little further from the main train station, about 25 minutes walk, but it is very well connected by tram and has spectacular views of the sea. I stayed in one of the Business rooms, which had two floors and a huge window With beautiful views. On the upper floor was the bed and on the lower floor was the bathroom and a work area with sofa, desk and Nespresso coffee machine. On the other hand, the bathroom was very small and, in addition, to reach it from the bed you had to go down the stairs. The hotel breakfast is very complete and the hotel has an area of spa and sauna.
How to go to Turku and what to visit in Turku in one day
You can go to the coastal town of Turku by train from Helsinki station. The train takes about two hours and the Turku station is not far from the center. The ticket price starts at € 9.80 and it is advisable to buy in advance at the Web to get this price so cheap. In Turku you can not miss the castle, since it is the emblem of the city and dates from 1280. Near the castle is the marina of Turku, where we can find anchored the frigate Suomen Joutsen. Bordering the river we can reach the Cathedral, which is another of the points of interest in Turku, and very close is the market area, which is full of shops.
Near a shopping center is the Flowpark, an adventure park built in the treetops. It's about touring a circuit bypassing all kinds of tests and moving from one area to another by throwing yourself in a zip line. It is very fun and suitable for the whole family, although if it is very cold you have to wear appropriate gloves or there comes a point where you do not feel your fingers. The price is € 22 and you can check the schedules on the web.
From Turku we can explore the area of the archipelago and go to Naantali, a beautiful town twenty minutes from Turku where the Moomin World amusement park is.
How to go to Stockholm from Turku and what to see in Stockholm in one day
Viking line have a ferry It leaves at 20.55 from Turku and arrives in Helsinki at 6.30 in the morning. I recommend that you travel on the MS Viking Grace ferry because it is the newest ship in the fleet and has incredible facilities, such as the spa or thermal baths. The price of the cabin for four people is € 80 and is a very good way to visit Stockholm for a day without having to stay there.
In the MS Viking Grace SPA
However, Stockholm is a city that is well worth spending several days. The essential visits are the old City, the neighborhood trendy from Sodermalm (SOFO for friends), the neighborhood of Östermalms and eat at your market, visit the Vasa Museum, unique in its subject, and the ABBA Museum, which I personally loved.
How to get from Stockholm to Helsinki and what to see in Helsinki in one day
Viking Line has a ferry Night that links Stockholm with Helsinki: it leaves at 4.30pm and arrives in Helsinki at 10 in the morning. The ferry that links these cities is not so modern nor has such good facilities, but it is a very good way to travel between the two capitals.
Visit Helsinki in winter it only has one catch: it is very cold. Obvious, right? The day I visited the city, this obvious hit me with a temperature of -15 degrees and I didn't feel like wandering the street. In fact, at that temperature it doesn't take long to walk as much as I want, so every two by three I took refuge in a store or cafe. The ideal would have been to go with him hop-on, hop-off bus, which is making stops around the city and you can get on and off at points of interest, but of course, in winter it doesn't work. On the other hand, the Panorama tourist bus leaves every day at 11 am, but makes a panoramic visit without stops of the city for two hours worth € 30.
In Helsinki I visited Cathedral, which is an imposing building and an essential visit, although the interior is not as ostentatious as one can imagine. I also recommend walking through Mariankatu Street and the surroundings, where you can find many cool design stores. In this street is the Qulma, a cafeteria that offers a soup buffet for € 9.90. The price includes water with ice cubes (!!!), bread and coffee or tea. Another emblematic cafe is the Karl Fazer, which is on Kluuvikatu street, with its famous hot chocolate with whipped cream (€ 4.30), although I warn you that it will disappoint you a lot, because the chocolate in Finland is prepared with hot water, so it looks more like a Cola -Water cao. A little further is the monument to Sibelius, located in the middle of a park by the sea. It's a pretty spectacular area to see if it's all snowy, with the white-covered pier and the frozen water. To protect yourself from the cold, you can stop at the Regatta Coffee. On the outside, this cafe looks like a traditional Finnish house and the interior is very eclectic. Finally, I recommend visiting the Hakaniemi market. It is a few meters from the ScandicPaasi hotel and on the main floor we can find the typical shops of a food market, some with food service to take away or to take there. However, what I liked most about the market was its upper floor, which is full of clothing stores and cute things. In addition, there is a small cafe in the middle of all the little shops.
Cafe Regatta in Helsinki
The sauna: an essential ritual
For Finns, the sauna is not only a healthy habit, but a religion. In Helsinki I had the good fortune of being invited to the premises of the Sauna Society, which is on the outskirts of the city. In this center they have several saunas, some of smoke and other electric. The temperature of the saunas varied from 70 to 140 degrees and in the saunas one talks slowly while one relaxes. Before entering the sauna, you have to take a shower and, once it comes out, you have to take a cold shower to let the heat out of the body ... or run outside directly and dive into the icy sea as we did. Experts say that the contrast of heat with cold causes circulation to be activated and the more you do this process, the faster the body becomes accustomed and the benefits become more noticeable. Of course, for those who are not accustomed it is not easy. The advice they gave us: "do it, don't think about it". Mental power and collective emotion help end up in the icy water.