Top tips for visiting Finland

HelsinkiHaving known Finland for many years, I can certainly recommend it as a holiday destination with its magnificent lakes and forest, its wonderful coastline and fascinating towns and villages. 

A very good place to start any visit to the country is the capital city of Helsinki.

Top tips for visiting include finding yourself a hotel close to the harbour which is an extremely vibrant area. One in particular the Hotel F6 is just off the Main Street and minutes from the ferries, gardens and Helsinki Cathedral. The breakfast is free, it has a great atmosphere and when I was there it was full of young people.

Suomenlinna churchWhilst in the city, you should take the public ferry across to the island of Suomenlinna which is fascinating and full of historical buildings. A good idea if you are staying for any time is to buy a Helsinki Card which give you access to the excellent public transport system.

You can get out of the city very quickly and along the shoreline where you can try some of the traditional cafes and houses. There are also some excellent tram rides which will take you around the city including tram 2 and 3 which will take you on a circular tour.

The railway station in Helsinki is worth visiting. Here you will see trains on their way to Moscow and the north of Finland.

The food in Finland is very Scandinavian and you can expect to eat a lot of fish which is on the menu at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am a great fish person, so I really enjoy the variety of dishes that are on offer.   

Indoor market foodHelsinki has plenty of sights including the Cathedral and the Royal Palace as well as a wide selection of stores including Stockmann and one of my favourites, Sokos. Also don’t miss a trip to the indoor and outdoor markets by the harbour. You can catch overnight ferries to Sweden from Helsinki and services to Estonia and the delightful coastal city of Tallinn.

Away from the capital, you should make for the ancient town of Porvoo or the city of Tampere which can be reached by train or express coach. Both have plenty to see and do.

Finland has extensive forests and lakes so one very enjoyable treat is to rent a summer cottage. These can be found deep in the forest and on a lakeside. If you do decide on this, make sure you have plenty of insect repellent with you.

PorvooTaking a sauna is a part of Finnish life and you may find one attached to your summer cottage or in the hotel. Finns are very keen on saunas and take them regularly and so if you find that if you are sharing one with a local, then be prepared for it to get quite hot!

For lovers of stories and traditional tales a trip to Moominland is a must. Here you can experience the sights and sounds of the many magical creatures created by Tove Jansson. A great place to stay nearby is Naantali Spa Hotel & Resort.

If you have time, a visit to Lapland should also be considered. The city of Rovaniemi is a good starting point. Remember that in the summer daylight goes on and on and so going for a walk with your dog at 3 am is quite normal. Remember also that the opposite takes place in winter when the days are very dark and daylight is restricted to sometimes just a few hours. Also, it can be very cold so you will need thermals and warm clothing. Inside you will find triple glazing and central heating, but once outside the temperatures can drop well below freezing.

Finnish countrysideFinns really enjoy coffee with cakes or pastries so there are plenty of places to stop if you are in the mood for some refreshments. Finland is said to be one of the biggest consumers of coffee in the world!

A good tip is to learn a few basic Finnish words before you go. The language is very difficult to understand and whilst most people speak English, you will find Swedish is also spoken in southern parts.

The purchase of alcohol is restricted around the country and many of my Finnish friends drink non-alcoholic beer or juice made from forest berries.

If you have not considered Finland as a possible destination, then you should. Do not expect the weather to be boiling hot, however in the south it can get quite warm in summer but be prepared for very cold winters. However, if you take a variety of clothing and a good pair of walking shoes, I can guarantee that you will soon warm to this intriguing country with its fascinating history, folklore and spectacular scenery.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends these companies for travel to and holidays in Finland.

Photos by © Godfrey Hall

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Godfrey Hall

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