Located in the region of Uusimaa, Finland’s largest city boasts a metropolitan population of 1.4 million, making it a major political, cultural and economic hub in the Nordic region. It’s therefore a popular choice for holidaymakers, famed for its impressive architecture and breathtaking landscapes.
The city was chosen as the World Design Capital in 2012, and in 2011 was crowned the world’s most liveable city by Monocle magazine. What’s more, with great transport links and the whole city covered by free WiFi, the Finnish capital has plenty on offer for holidaymakers.
The gay scene in Finland has grown in recent years, partially thanks to increasing rights for LGBT persons. With same-sex marriage coming into effect in 2017, Helsinki is likely to become more prominent in Europe as a tolerant, gay-friendly city.
Although smaller than some European capitals, Helsinki’s gay scene is still active and open to all, stretching across from the city centre to the Kallio district. There are several bars and restaurants, along with a cruise club and a sauna.
You’ll find most of the locals to be very tolerant, with the clubs attracting a mixed crowd of men and women.
Helsinki Airport is ranked as one of the world’s best airports, connecting to major European and international cities. It takes roughly 30 minutes to get to the city centre from the airport.
You can take the new Ring Rail Line on trains I and P for as little as €5.50. The Finnair City Bus or local bus 615 are alternative affordable options for getting you into the capital, roughly taking the same amount of time.
The Central Railway Station in Helsinki is one of the top tourist landmarks, and connect the Finnish capital to cities all across Finland, as well as to the snowy resort of Lapland.
A daily train service also runs to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia.
Buses to and from Finnish cities also run from the central bus station in Helsinki.
Daily ferry services operate between Helsinki and European countries including Estonia, Sweden, Germany and Poland.
Public transport in Helsinki has a great reputation, with tickets being accepted on trams, buses, metro and even the ferry. If you’re staying for a few days then buy a a day ticket from Helsinki City Transport. One day costs €8.00, but it costs less the more days you stay.
Trams are a popular way to explore the city – hop on Tram 2 for the best sightseeing expedition of the city, and Tram 4 is great for those that want to get up close to Helsinki’s famous architecture.
Like most Scandinavian countries, cycling is beloved by most of the population. It’s a fun, healthy way to explore Helsinki. You can hire a bike from companies including Bicyclean Helsinki and eBike Shack.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Helsinki, from chic apartments to eco-friendly hotels.
For gay guests, we’d recommend staying near the central station, in either the Kamppi or Kluuvi districts. This is also handy for visiting museums and other star attractions.
For hotel bookings and savings up to 75% off, book here.
Helsinki Cathedral – the iconic, culturally-significant Evangelic Lutheran is one of the city’s best landmarks. Designed by the renowned architect Card Ludwig Engel, this 19th century cathedral was completed in 1852.
It’s a symbol of the old Empire era, and its neoclassical design is of important architectural merit internationally.
Festivals and markets often take place in the Senate Square in front of the cathedral, including the annual gay pride parade. You can find out more about this year’s pride event here.
Esplanade Park – green, open spaces are beloved in Helsinki, and this park is perhaps the best. Situated in the heart of the city centre, either relax and unwind amongst the trees or talk to some of the friendly locals.
Various events, from fashion shows to jazz concerts take place here.
Ateneum Art Musem – art lovers will adore Finland’s biggest collection of art works, with over 20,000 paintings and exhibits on display, spanning from the 1700s to present day. Ticket price – €13.
Kampii Chapel of Silence – this spectacular modern chapel is located near the main shopping centre, and is a great place for people to take a moment of silence and meet each other. It’s also used as an exhibition centre.
Market Square – located near the Esplanade Park, this is the best place to experience authentic Finnish life. It’s home to the country’s best market, selling fresh produce and crafts, as well as plenty of delicious coffee shops. Great views of the harbour can be found here too.
National Museum of Finland – if it’s Finnish history you’re after then you’ll find everything you need to know here, from amazing archaeological finds to major collections on numismatics. The third floor is an interactive exhibition – perfect for families.
SkyWheel Helsinki – if you want to view the city from up high, hop on the impressive SkyWheel. At 40-metres high, the panorama from here is just magical. Tickets cost €12.
Like most Nordic countries, it can get pretty cold here in winter, which means the summer months are often more busy, where average temperatures are 17C. You’re likely to pay more for hotels during this time, when maritime attractions and city festivals take centre stage.
Despite the chill, winter in Helsinki is a beautiful experience. The Helsinki Christmas Market and the Light Festival draw big crowds each year. Beware, average temperatures during this time are -3.5C!
Other popular times to visit include during the autumn, when the acclaimed Helsinki Festival and Design Week take place.
Spring is the cheapest time to visit – temperatures still cool but the colours are breathtaking!
Finland is within the European Schengen visa area. If travelling from outside Europe, check to see if you require a Schengen visa.
Finland is a member of the Eurozone. Cash dispensers are widely available. You may be asked for photo ID if paying with a credit or debit card in a shop.
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