In light of the current economic climate I had decided to holiday within Europe. I settled on Finland because I wanted to go somewhere a bit different from my usual Mediterranean haunts and Helsinki stood out since I knew absolutely nothing about it other than it was the capital of Finland. Oh, and Finland tends to be cold.
By checking out the Fodors website and reading a couple of trip reports (especially rhkkmk’s – thank you!) I realised that Helsinki was the place to go to for a week, with a side trip to Tallinn.
I booked flights with KLM and Sokos Hotel Aleksanteri via Expedia and was able to get a reasonable rate despite it being the height of the tourist season. I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough. Although it is a little walk away from the main tourist hub, it is located in a beautifully peaceful area with many delightful cafes, restaurants and galleries. The staff were amazingly efficient and friendly and I would not hesitate to go back there again. Also, there is a supermarket directly opposite the hotel, so it was cheap and convenient to stock up on drinks and snacks.
I’d heard that Helsinki can be a massive black-hole when it comes to money so I had decided to only eat out in modest restaurants and only pay for the attractions I was genuinely interested in. Having said that, I do not feel as though I missed out on anything.
General tourist information on Helsinki and Tallinn:
Tallinn side trip:
I arrived in Helsinki late on Monday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised to be out of the airport with my checked luggage within 15 minutes of landing. This was probably the most super-efficient airport I had ever known! The Finnair bus cost €5.90 and I was speedily transported into the city with a handful of other passengers. It was reassuring to know that English was commonly used, though I enjoyed listening to the gargling Finnish language too. I was deposited at the railway station; using the a guidebook I’d picked up from the tourist information counter at the airport, I was able to navigate my way along Mannerheimintie towards Albertinkatu. I’d advise all visitors to get a copy of ‘Helsinki This Week’ because it contains up-to-date listings of restaurants, cafes, activities and all the sights along with opening times and costs. There are excellent maps also. The back cover had a picture of George Clooney flogging a particular brand of watch, which was fine by me, though he could have lost the accessories and shirt, perhaps...
Checking into the hotel was quick and I was pleased to see that my request for a quiet room was fulfilled. The room was fantastically peaceful even though it overlooked the central courtyard area. Dinner was at nearby Rivoletto (Albertinkatu 38), which had a relaxed atmosphere and delicious pizzas and pasta dishes. I managed to dine for less than €15 and then retired to my room to get well acquainted with my shower/wet-room and reconfigure the air conditioning unit.
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