If you’re flying with Finnair to Europe, you’ll be travelling via Helsinki. The efficiency of Helsinki Airport makes it one of the best in Europe. In fact, Helsinki Airport’s Minimum Connect Times range from just 20 minutes for intra-Schengen connections, to 40 minutes when connecting from a long-haul international flight to any destination within Europe. Unlike in Sydney, these short connection times are realistically achievable, too.
If you’re passing through Helsinki, why not stop over for a few days? Most Finnair tickets will let you add a stopover for free, and it’s a great way to check out the winter wonderland that is the Finnish capital.
Whether you’re just in transit or staying for a few nights, this AFF guide will help you to make the most of your Helsinki stopover!
How to get from Helsinki Airport to the city
Apart from taxis, there are two main ways to get from Helsinki Airport to the city. Trains are the most efficient and comfortable option, but buses are also available. The train trip takes around 30 minutes and there are two train lines (I and P) that both run to Helsinki’s central railway station in a loop. OATAK writes…
We tried the Finnair City Bus and found it was great at quiet times, but very slow to the city in peak times (eg morning rush hour). Next time it was the HSL train service which was very efficient and no delays. However, the train can be quite crowded in the peak periods, and finding a spot to sit with your cases can be difficult if you leave it late to join the train on the way out to the airport, although we had no trouble on the way in to the city. The nice thing about the train is that it is a loop, and arrives/departs on both sides of Helsinki Central Station, so if you take note of which side you arrive on you can take the return from the other side, and get a different view.
What to do in Helsinki
If you’ve arrived early in the morning and can’t yet check in to your hotel, ozmatt recommends a jetlag-busting visit to the Löyly sauna complex.
Arriving early morning from longhaul flights via Asia, it can be an issue checking into a hotel that early. In the past I have headed straight from the airport to Loyly which is a sauna complex on the harbour. You can sauna, swim and shower to your heart’s content. It is a fantastic way to start the day.
There are plenty of sights to see during your Helsinki stopover, including the Helsinki and Uspenski Cathedrals. If you have at least a few hours to spare, consider taking a ferry to Suomenlinna Island or a bus to Porvoo old town.
If you’re visiting for the first time, consider joining a free walking tour to get your bearings. These tours work on a tips-based model, and you’ll also learn some of the city’s history over 2-3 hours.
Where to eat in Helsinki
No Helsinki stopover would be complete without sampling some of the wonderful Finnish food! Here are some AFF member recommendations…
OATEK recommends Café Ekburg:
Great Finnish food can be found at Cafe Ekburg which faces the Senate Square and the Cathedral.
burmans likes Ravintola Kuu:
Food in Finland can be extremely expensive but we found Ravintola Kuu very good value and great food for lunch fixed price. Its also on the circle line tram which we found a really good way to see Helsinki.
Isochronous speaks highly of Ravintola Juuri:
I would strongly recommend Ravintola Juuri for food – the lunch set menu is especially good value.
And if you’ve had enough Finnish food, opusman has some recommendations for pizza and burgers. (This member also has a bonus tip for getting some laundry done in Helsinki.)
Great pizza: Pizzeria Via Tribunali
Great burgers: Naughty Brgr
There’s a serviced laundry in Stockmann (department store) on level 7 that will do same day wash and dry service.
Where to stay in Helsinki
There are plenty of hotels in Helsinki, and the trip from the airport to the city is fast and easy. But if you want to stay close to the airport, kermatu recommends the Hilton Helsinki Airport. It’s located a very short walk from the airport terminal. There are also various (and cheaper) hotels nearby that offer shuttle services to and from the airport.
The best Helsinki Airport lounges
If you’re flying Finnair, and have a Business Class ticket or Oneworld status, you’ll have access to one of the Finnair lounges during your Helsinki stopover. There are separate lounges available in the Schengen area of the terminal (for departures to most destinations within Europe) and the non-Schengen area (for flights to destinations outside of Europe, including the UK). These lounges are spacious with good food and drink options, as well as showers. The Finnair lounges are open daily from 5.30am until midnight, and are arguably the best lounges at Helsinki Airport.
There is an SAS Lounge in Helsinki for Star Alliance flyers. There are also two Priority Pass lounges – the Aspire Lounge in the Schengen Area, as well as the (better) Almost@Home lounge in the non-Schengen terminal.
Do you have a great Helsinki stopover tip to share? Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Helsinki (HEL) Stopover Tips