This was our first trip to Scandinavia. And our first stop Helsinki in Finland, which is also nicknamed the ‘White City of the North’ since many of its buildings are constructed with local light colored granite and because of it being the most northerly of continental European capitals.
Helsinki lies in the far south of the country on a peninsula that is bordered by fine natural harbors which protrude into the Gulf of Finland. It is a delight for travelers with its sea-facing landscape, diverse architecture, world-famous designs and mouth watering Nordic cuisine. Finland’s capital is compact enough and a lot can be explored on foot. And as we experienced over the next few days, it’s a beautiful city to be in and easy to move around.
It’s always so pleasing when your flight lands on time at the destination after a longish journey, that too with a flight change in between. Our flight did and that certainly brought a smile on our face. The immigration was smoother than we had expected and as we reached the luggage belt we saw ours passing by us as I made a dash to retrieve them. Soon we were off towards the train station at the airport, after a short stop at the information and ticket counter to purchase our 72 hour local transport pass. You also have ample vending machines around where you can purchase these tickets.
To reach Helsinki from the airport you could avail the bus 615, which leaves every half an hour from outside the terminal for Rautatientori, the Helsinki Railway Square which is to the east of Helsinki Central railway station. If you have purchased a 24, 48 or a 72 hour ticket you do not have to pay anything extra for the bus. But we availed the Airport train as both the P & I trains available inside the airport terminal and heading for Helsinki Central Station have a much better frequency. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes. But to avail the train you need to shell out Euro 5 per person which we did not mind, as we wished to reach our accommodation as early as possible with activities lined up for the day.
The closest metro station near Helsinki Central station is just a two minutes walk away and we were soon there at Rautatientori, en route to our accommodation at Herttoniemi which was a ten minutes ride.
Herttoniemi is one of the best known districts in eastern Helsinki and our hotel was a five minute walk from the metro station there. We still had around half an hour before we could check in and since we were feeling hungry too, we decided to check out this nice cafe nearby for some bite and coffee.
After a satisfying brunch we set off towards the hotel where I had booked our accommodation. This hotel though was a little different where you have to pay in advance and you are sent a key code on your mobile for entry to the premise and your room exactly at the check in time, as there is no reception for checking in.
Aparthotel Forenom was a nice, modern and convenient accommodation with easy access to Helsinki city center. The nearest metro station was only 500 m away. To satisfy your hunger there is a sushi restaurant downstairs and if you like to stay active, there’s a gym inside.
In every room you will find the amenities necessary to properly enjoy some rest and relaxation, and even to prepare small meals. For a more homelike experience, you can also select a room with an electric stove top or a kitchenette. The Aparthotel’s shared spaces are free for you to use. You can access the kitchen to prepare meals around the clock using your key code. The shared spaces also include a sauna, with reserved turns for men and women. Overall it was a nice experience, although we had opted for a room without a kitchenette. Come have a look.
After freshening up we were back at the metro station to head towards Helsinki city center to get a feel of the city and visit Suomenlinna Fortress, a big attraction of the city.
Suomenlinna is an islet that’s accessible by a 15-minute ferry ride from Helsinki’s Kauppatori (Market Square). It’s where you get to visit the mid 18th century fortress which now is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as learn about Finland’s military history at several museums. Come let’s start the journey.
As we explore, here is a bit of history. The Swedish crown commenced the construction of the fortress in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. During the Finnish War, Sweden surrendered the fortress to Russia in May 1808, paving the way for the occupation of Finland by Russian forces in 1809 and the eventual cession of Finland to Russia at the conclusion of the war. Russia held the fortress until Finnish independence in 1918. Finland then managed Suomenlinna through the Defense Department until turning most of it over to civilian control in 1973.
This pink-plastered Jetty Barracks is the main gateway to the fortress and is located on the northern shoreline of Suomenlinna. It is the first building that we see as we arrive here. The barracks, built in 1868–70 in Russian era, was designed to accommodate 250 soldiers.