Advance Planning

Three months before Book your hotel, especially if you'll be visiting at peak times or during festivals.

Two months before Check entertainment calendars to see what's on and buy tickets for anything that looks appealing.

Two weeks before Make dinner reservations at your must-eat restaurants.

One week before Reserve boat cruises and/or guided walking or cycling tours.

Resources

Visit Helsinki (www.visithelsinki.fi) Excellent tourist-board website full of information.

City of Helsinki (www.hel.fi) Helsinki City website, with links to copious information.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/finland) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

HSL/HRT (www.hsl.fi) Public-transport information and journey planner.

Top Tips

  • Sightsee on foot – many of the city's key sights are concentrated in a compact area and the predominantly flat terrain makes walking easy in amenable weather. It's quick, free and you'll discover hidden lanes and shops you might otherwise miss. Just be sure to bring comfortable shoes.
  • In wet, cold or snowy conditions, a DIY tram tour aboard a local tram is a great alternative.
  • To reduce costs, make lunch the main meal of your day. Numerous cafes and restaurants offer an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet with soup, salad and various hot daily specials for a fixed price that's far cheaper than dining à la carte.
  • If you'll be visiting a lot of museums, purchase a Helsinki Card, which includes free city transport and entry into many major attractions. The Helsinki Region Card also includes airport transport.

What to Take

  • Swimsuit – visiting a sauna is a quintessential Finnish experience. Nudity is common, but if you prefer modesty, some saunas allow swimwear
  • Umbrella and/or waterproof jacket – rain (or snow) is common
  • Electrical adapter – if you need one for the two-pronged European power sockets

What to Wear

Helsinki is stylish but relaxed, so smart-casual clothes work in most settings. Bring smarter threads if you plan on dining in high-end restaurants or attending the opera, ballet or similarly lavish event.

The big swing between the seasons in Helsinki means that preparing for a trip depends greatly on when you want to go. Pack decent thermals and a warm top layer for winter visits, when temperatures can easily be minus 20ºC, or less. A cosy hat and proper gloves, and eyewear if you’re going out in the snow, are essential. If you wear glasses, bring a case to carry them in safely when they freeze up. Good footwear with grip for the icy ground is also a must.

Pre-Departure Checklist

  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months past your arrival date
  • Check the airline baggage restrictions
  • Inform your debit-/credit-card company you’re heading away
  • Arrange for appropriate travel insurance
  • Contact your mobile-phone provider about roaming charges or an international plan, or about getting your phone unlocked to use a Finnish SIM