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Helsinki


Helsinki is probably the nicest of the Scandinavian capitals to visit by small boat. There are a number of accessible marinas, all close to the center of town, and its possible to get in them even at high season.

The center of Helsinki is small enough to walk around, with the center of attraction being the tree lined Esplanade At the harbour end of this is the bustling market, selling craft items, fast food, and fruit and veg. While we were there it was the height of the pea season, and the big thing was buying a big bag of peas, and eating them straight from the pod. And yes - the locals were doing it too....

The ferries to Tallinn dock right next to the harbour, as do some of the cruise ships, but most dock away from the shops on the other side of town.

Shopping

Helsinki's claim to fame is the huge Stockmann department store - reputedly the largest in Europe. If you cant find it here, you not much likely to find it anywhere. There is an excellent supermarket over two floors in the basement. Over the road is the associated Academy Book shop, where you can get European newspapers.

Most of the better shops are along Esplanade including an Iittala porcelain and glass store. In practice, Stockmann has the same stuff at better prices, although you can take the No 6 tram out to Arabia where there is a huge factory outlet and 'seconds' at around half price. Considering how expensive their excellent stainless steel cookware is, this is a good option.

Alongside the harbour, housed in the old fishmarket (kauppahalli) are some specialty food stores.

Sights

Helsinki is famous for its cathedrals. Right next to the harbour, with a commanding position on a hill, is the Russian Orthodox (Uspenski) cathedral . We found the setting rather grander than the cathedral itself, which can also be said of Helsinki's other main attraction - the Lutheran cathedral (Tuomiokirkko). This huge white building is located two streets from the harbour and is often ringed by tourist coaches.

In our view, the true gem is rather further away on the other side of town. The Temppeliaukio kirkko is an architectural masterpiece. Almost invisible from the outside, this is built into the actual granite on which the city sits, so it is almost underground, but the light streaming through the copper roof creates the most wonderful effect. If you want to get married, this is THE romantic place to get hitched.

The other major attraction is the fortress of Suomenlinna, on an island (actually five islands) at the entrance to Helsinki harbour.They claim you can easily spend a day here. Ferries leave regularly from the Esplanade, or you can moor in the marina on the island itself - although it tends to be busy.

Marinas

There are about six visitor marinas to choose from. Most Brits stay at the NJK which is based on an island in the middle of the harbour. Apart from race weeks, when it can get very busy, it is said to be very good (although somewhat subject to ferry wash). We chose to stay at the new city run marina, a mile and a half away on the north side of Katajanokka. Here you can either tie up to (secure) pontoons, or moor along the quay. The advantage of this marina is that its only 5 mins walk from the market, and 10 from the shops. In contrast to some of the guides, we didn't find the nearby road intrusive.

Charts and Chandlers

Most of these are located on the western side of town. A 21V bus from the central station will get you out to Lauttasaari. There are three large chandlers here, the best of which we think is Oy Maritim. The excellent Troil Marin chart shop is nearby. The nearby Vatunokka marina will give you a mooring for a few days if you need to be nearby.

Useful Resources

Helsinki City Website Helsinki City Website

Journey Planner

Helsinki Journey Planner

Helsinki Tourism Website Helsinki Tourism Site
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