Thirty-SIx-Hour Transit: Helsinki, Finland

UNESCO site Suomenlinna Fortress across the Bay in Helsinki


By Tim Skeet
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The waterfront city of Helsinki can be explored for days, but with only 36 hours, use the efficient public transit. The ABC-zone includes the airport and a two-day ticket is €16.50. It can be used on any bus, boat or train within the zones. Buy your tickets with the HSL app and use the interactive map to plan your day.

A stay at the Hotel Katajanokka offers a unique experience in the heart of the city. Originally opened as the Helsinki County Prison in 1837, it housed its original tenants up until 2002. Stylishly refinished with Nordic luxury, it retains many features from the jail. Breakfast is delicious!

The next morning, take a 20-minute HSL ferry (a short walk from the hotel) to the Island Fortress of Suomenlinna. Three hours should be ample to walk the islands and see the highlights.

Once you get back to the market square, the harbour front stalls are opened up and ready to offer lunch options. Just around the corner is the covered Old Market Hall. Try the salmon soup with ruisleipä bread.

Nourished and ready to walk, map your way to the Senate Square. The Helsinki Catherdral is to the north and the National Library of Finland to the west. Both are architecturally interesting inside and out, but push on to visit the Museum of Helsinki’s History and Culture to the south for an hour. This is a quick visit!

Grab a coffee and cake at the historical Fazer Café on Kluuvikatu 3 and then make your way to the Temppeliaukion (Rock) Church. This award-winning architectural marvel with incredible acoustics is built into a rock quarry with a copper dome. Walk back through the Esplanade to find a dining experience along the park.

The next day, before you set off on the rest of your trip through Finland, take an hour-long bus (€10 RT) east to Porvoo, the second oldest town in Finland. Known for the Old Wooden Town, it is filled with charming cafes and red-ochre painted riverside storehouses. It’s so beautiful here, you may want to stay longer.