Helsinki (Finland): An 18-Hour Layover Diary

Thursday. 1st of February 2018. 12:30 PM. Sants station. Barcelona.
Destination: Helsinki. 

Although I don’t really know if I should consider it as such, the first day of my trip to Finland started relatively late. We decided to meet at Sants station by midday and head from there to the airport of Barcelona. Our flight with Norwegian was taking off at 14:40 PM from Terminal 2 and our first stop was Helsinki.

The flight was really entertained. Most of Norwegian‘s flights count with onboard entertainment and free Wi-Fi. I was highly surprised by the quality of the service of Norwegian, especially in a moment where the majority of the low-cost airlines are cutting services.

INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP:

There are many airlines conecting Helsinki-Vantaa (the main Finnish airport) with the main capitals of Europe. Among them, the ones with more connections are Norwegian and Finnair.

The round-ticket to Helsinki (go on Thursday/return on Tuesday) costed us 104€/person.

Barcelona-Helsinki connection | Helsinki, Finland (2018)

Day 1: Getting to Helsinki

When we landed in Vantaa, we rapidly headed to the train stop. It was easy to find but buying the ticket was a bit more complicated. Once we had the ticket, we only had to wait for some minutes before boarding the train. It took us to the city center in only 30 minutes.

INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP:

The train ticket to the city is 5,50€. It will leave you at the Central Sation of Helsinki, in the middle of the city center. Once there, you will be close to the main stops of the tram. It’s the main transportation mean in Helsinki and it connects most of the city areas. 

This is the map with all the urban connections (tram, metro, and bus). You can find more information and incidence status in this link.

Once we made it to the center of Helsinki, I was in real shock. I was super surprised to see that the city was perfectly functioning despite the amount of snow. Something really weird for me since I come from Barcelona, where it barely snows in a whole year.

Where to stay in Helsinki?

When we finally realized where we were and where we had to go, we headed to our hostel. Since Helsinki was only a stop in the way, we decided to stay in a hostel and save money for fancier nights in Lapland. That’s why we stayed at the EUROHOSTEL for 52,60€/night (in a double bedroom with two individual beds and shared bathroom).

Double-bed bedroom at EUROHOSTEL. Picture property of Booking.com.

INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP:

Despite 52,60€/night in a hostel might not look like a lot of saving to you, the average price of double bedroom (from Friday to Saturday) in a 3-star hotel in the city center of Helsinki is 110-130€/night. 

If you are thinking of booking a hotel through Booking.com, you might be interested in saving 15€ from your booking by using this link. With your booking, I will also save 15€ and both of us will be able to travel cheaper. 

Regarding the hotel, the arrival at the room was a bit creepy. You get to rooms’ floor a “lift truck” and, once there, everything is really dark and the door rooms are steel doors. It seems you just got into prison but, since we wanted to save some money, we knew it was the best option for a decent price.

On the other hand, the stuff was pretty kind. They informed us about an urban transport strike that would take place on the following day, which was really useful to know since we had very little time in the morning to explore before heading to the airport.


Day 2: Exploring Helsinki

Friday, 2nd of February. Helsinki, Finland. Four hours to see the city and take a train to the airport. 

The morning started pretty quietly. We got out of the hotel with a pretty defined plan of what to see and where to had breakfast. We were going to head to the train station by walk and, on the way there, we would stop in two main sights of the city: the Orthodox cathedral of Uspenski and Helsinki’s cathedral.

Helsinki Cathedral (or Tuomiokirkko)

Located north to Senate Square (or Senaatintori), the Lutheran cathedral of the city rises up beautifully and magnificent. Mixing the spotless white of the building with the bottle green domes, this neoclassical-styled cathedral can make everyone fall in love. 

Enjoying an early morning in Helsinki’s Lutheran cathedral. | Helsinki, Finland (2018)

In its origin, the cathedral was surrounded by the Senate, the Library and the main building of Helsinki’s University. It pretended to be an allegory to the politics, the religion, the science and the business.

INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP:

Free access.
Openning times:
09:00-18:00 (from September to June)

                                 09:00-24:00 (from July to August)
Location:
Senate Square, 00170 Helsinki, Finland.

Uspenski Cathedral (or Uspenskin Katedraali):

With its red tones, this cathedral could easily remind you to the Moscovite cathedral of Saint Basil. That’s because the Russian architect Alexey Gornostaev (1808-1862) designed it. Unfortunately, he never got to see the construction completed.

Uspenski Cathedral in the heart of Helsinki | Helsinki, Finland (2018)

INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP:

Free access.
Openning times:
09:30-16:00 (from Tuesday to Friday)

                                 10:00-15:00 (Saturday)
12:00-15:00 (Sunday)

Location: Kanavakatu 1, 00160 Helsinki, Finland.

Which one to see if you don’t have time?

Both cathedrals are beautiful from the outside. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you much about the inside since I didn’t get to see them on the inside due to lack of time. What I can tell you is that apparently and for what I read, the interior of the Uspenski cathedral might be a bit more interesting.

There is an interesting iconostasis with images of the evangelists, the Last Supper, and the Ascension inside that you might want to check out. Also, there are beautiful chorus and candles on Saturdays at 18:00 and on Sundays at 10:00. Therefore, if I had to choose, I would probably choose to visit the Uspenski cathedral.

Where to eat in Helsinki?

Although our stop was brief, I found a lot of places that I would have liked to try if I had more time in the city only checking @helsinkirestaurants profile on IG.

Since this time I only had time for breakfast, I wanted to visit the cafeteria #Citypie – Fast Slow Food. We looked for the cafeteria before heading to the train station but we found out it was closed. Because Google Maps and Tripadvisor said it was open, I still don’t know if something punctual happened that morning or if the schedule was not updated. Therefore, I highly recommend you to give it a call before making all the way there.

Finally, I ended up eating bagels with tomato, cheese cream and lettuce in one of the many Espresso House of the city. With the stomach filled, we headed to the airport where we took a flight to the North Pole… but that’s part of another post!

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