A May 2005 trip
to Helsinki by KDKerr
Quote: Ah, summertime in Helsinki. The constance of sunlight makes it hard to tell when one day ends and another begins. Following a bitterly cold winter, Finns emerge from their hiding places to spend as much time as possible outdoors. At first, Helsinki's residents may seem to be somewhat standoffish, but they're just waiting for an opportunity to share their fondness of Finland with you. The natural beauty and famous sites will make Helsinki memorable but getting to know the Finnish people will make your visit fulfilling.
Helsinki is a walking city. Traversing its streets on foot is the best way to discover the Finnish-Swedish-Russian architecture, peaceful parks, novelty stores, unique cathedrals, eclectic eateries, engaging nightlife, etc. Stumbling into a place or an event that isn't listed within any guidebook will make your visit to Finland's capital much more personal.
For 2005, Helsinki was ranked as the 20th most expensive city in the world, according to CNN Money. Click here to see the complete list of the World's Most Expensive Cities.
You may get sticker shock when comparing the cost of a beer or cocktail in Helsinki to what you pay for the same beverage back home. While getting your drink on is more expensive here, the prices are pretty standard whether you are enjoying the ambience of a dive bar or posh lounge. At least you can rest easy knowing you aren't getting price-gouged based on the surroundings. However, you may be required to pay a costly cover to enter a trendier venue.
A tram ticket with an hour's worth of unlimited "hop-on, hop-off" time can be purchased from a ticket machine (1.50 euros), the driver (1.80 euros), or a mobile phone (1.70 euros). I didn't travel with my mobile phone, but I found the idea of buying a ticket via text message so very Scandinavian. There are also unlimited 1-, 3-, and 5-day tourist tickets.
The 3B/3T tram line passes many interesting sites including Market Sqaure, the Olympic Stadium, Linnanmake Amusement Park and the Lutheran Cathedral, to name a few. Detailed information about all of Helsinki's transportation options including the Sparakoff Pub Tram and the 3B/3T tram are available online at the Helsinki City Transport site.
Hotel | "Radisson SAS Plaza"
The standard room is very compact and includes two twin-sized beds, which can be pushed together to make a full-size. There is an armoire that contains a color TV, refrigerator, safe, and iron/ironing board. A large closet and suitcase shelf help keep the room from being cluttered with luggage. It takes a rocket scientist to figure out the shower controls and a giant leap for mankind to step up and into the tub. The bathrooms are also heated to reinforce the Finnish love of saunas. The included buffet breakfast is not four-star dining, but it's better than average, with plenty of options.
The Radisson site claims that the standard rooms come with every amenity expected of an international first-class hotel. I've stayed in many hotels during my 32 years, and I wouldn't describe the amenities here as "first class" in comparison. All of the rooms are theoretically air-conditioned, but I remember my room being hot and stuffy. There may be air-conditioning, but it was not under my control, because I like the sleeping temperature to be downright frigid. The entire hotel is equipped for wireless internet access (WiFi), even though I had no need of it on my trip. The Finns love saunas, so the hotel has one, as well as a small fitness center. Most importantly, for me, was that the hotel was handicap friendly for my mother who needs wheelchair accessibility.
I was exhausted from the long trip via Newark International Airport into Helsinki, and I probably could have slept comfortably on a pile of rocks, nails, and broken glass. I stayed at this hotel for two evenings, and it was sufficient for my needs. Plus, I call NYC home, so I'm used to small, cramped living spaces. I'm sure there are better places to stay in the downtown area, but Money magazine ranks Helsinki as the 23rd most expensive city in the world, so they may be significantly more expensive.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 9, 2005
Radisson Sas Plaza Hotel
Helsinki, Finland 00100
358 9 77590
Janne finally got tired of talking to me, and he asked if I had seen two hot girls. He was looking for his friends. Suddenly, Janne seemed much more interesting. He eventually located his female companions, and they wanted to go across the street to the Helsinki Club. Janne came over to say goodbye, and the two women with him invited me to come along. That's when I realized Janne wasn't a Finn with an Irish accent; he was a Scandinavian leprechaun that could magically produce hot friends.
After paying a hefty cover to enter the place, you are required to stop for the mandatory coat check (hate that!), which costs an additional 2€. Finland is quite chilly, even in the summer, so good luck trying to go anywhere without a coat or jacket in tow. The Helsinki Club is divided into three distinct areas - a large wooden bar, a plush lounge, and split-level dance floor. I took a tour of the entire club, but I spent the majority of time in the lounge and on the dance floor. The music being pumped out of the speakers is largely dependent on the night's featured DJ, but for the Saturday evening that I was there, it was an '80s and pop rotation.
According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting 2004 Cost-of-Living Survey, Helsinki is ranked as the 23rd most expensive city in the world. I thought it would appear much higher on the list based on the amount I spent in this club; I hemorrhaged money in both paper and plastic form. Typically, for me, personal financial damage directly correlates with the level of fun experienced. The next day, as I checked my credit card receipts and remaining cash, I realized I must have really enjoyed myself ! The Helsinki Club was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Finland, and I would highly recommend the establishment to anyone planning a visit.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 20, 2005
Helsinki, Finland 00100
358 020 1234601