Think ‘Helsinki’ and what pops up in your mind’s eye may be snow, ice and freezing temperatures, but the capital of the Republic of Finland is so much more than just a winter wonderland (though it is located all the way up in the deep north, making it the world’s northernmost urban area). At once a bustling, developed metropolis and a charming nordic city located just a stone’s throw away from some of Europe’s finest lakes and forests, Helsinki manages to surprise at every turn.
Start your nordic adventure at Finland’s main airport, Helsinki-Vantaa, located less than 20 kilometres from the heart of the city. The base of Finnish flag carrier Finnair, Helsinki Airport handles more than 15 million passengers annually and is considered one of the busiest of the Nordic airports. The airport boasts 2 terminals (which are connected by an indoor pedestrian walkway) as well as three runways, and is renowned as one of the best transfer airports for flights between Asia and Europe.
Numerous bus services are available to help tourists make the hop from Helsinki airport to the city – this includes the Finnair City Bus and Airport Bus, which shuttles passengers from the airport terminal to the railway station at Helsinki City Center. Otherwise, taxis are also readily available at the airport (the ride to the city should not take much longer than half an hour, with a fare of about 40-60 euros).
For those who prefer to helm their own vehicle, numerous car rental agencies can be found at the airport itself.
A new rail link between the airport and city – named the Ring Rail Line – is scheduled to become operational in the second half of 2015 (information valid as of April 2015).
What to see and do
No trip to Helsinki is complete without a visit to the city’s Suomenlinna, the largest maritime fortress in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This sea fortress, built on a collection of separate islands, had an important role to play in the country’s history and is, in part, responsible for its current prosperity. Built in the 18th century by the Swedes (as Finland was a part of Sweden back then), Suomenlinna was constructed to protect the city’s harbor and to serve as a base for the military forces stationed in Finland. Over time, ownership of this maritime fortress changed hands frequently - but it would come to be used in the defence of Sweden and Russia as well as Finland eventually in history.
Though no longer used for military purposes today Suomenlinna continues to show the world the beauty of ancient European military architecture, and has since also comfortably adapted to fulfil its new roles as a tourist attraction and amazing picnic spot.
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