In an attempt to celebrate my birthday in style, I planned a trip to Sweden to spend it with my best friend who moved to Stockholm 2 years ago and promised her for ages to go for a visit.
She suggested I take a 40-hour trip to Helsinki via a ferry, which leaves Stockholm daily at 5 pm and reaches Finland at 10 am the second morning, then heads back to Sweden at 4 pm, where you spend another night on the ship and reach Stockholm at 10 am.
After a quick research, I found 2 companies that offer these trips. I booked a cabin on Silja Symphony for around 120 Euros including breakfast. I really didn’t feel it was worth the 12 Euros I paid, maybe because I mixed up the timings and went to breakfast a bit late and couldn’t find a place to sit and have a proper meal. I was lucky to have the cabin to myself for both nights, which was amazing. Keep in mind that the prices are different depending on the season. During the summer season, the price for a cabin might reach 400 Euros!
That was my very first cruise, so excuse me if I sound fascinated by way too many things that I saw on the ship!
Starting with the most important issues, the ship offers 1 GB of data via WiFi, but sadly it doesn’t really work all over the ship, but if the weather is nice, you can spend it on the deck and enjoy this amazing service.
Needless to say, there are some restaurants and bars to enjoy your nights, but the most important thing is that there is a duty-free shop where you can buy everything you need.
To my surprise, Helsinki was a small city — at least in terms of the touristy parts — so you can understand my frustration when I realized that I spent 30 Euros on a Hop-on / Hop-off bus ticket, only to realize I was able to see most of the destinations on my list on foot.
The port is a 10-minute walk away from the Senate Square where you can find the lovely Helsinki Cathedral. The Evangelical Lutheran church was built in the 1800s and is distinctive with its tall, green dome and the smaller 4 domes that surround it. The long row of stairs leading to the church serves as a place for locals and tourists to hang out.
Uspenski Cathedral (Russian Cathedral) is 15 minutes away from Senate Square, which was also built in the 1800s. The church is known for its beautiful red walls and the green copper roofs that represent the Orthodox chapter in Helsinki’s history.
Somewhere between the two cathedrals, you can find Market Square. If you are looking for some fresh Finnish food and souvenirs, that’s the place to go! The market is also known for a beautiful bronze statue called Havis Amanda. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear photo of it. By the way, if you have some time to spare, I suggest you check out the SkyWheel near the market.
This next stop is the only destination I was happy I had the hop on/hop off ticket for, as it was a bit far from the city center. The Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church) was the highlight of my visit, as I was fascinated by its history and architecture. I was so curious to experience the acoustic quality due to rock surface and copper ceiling. I would definitely go back for a concert one day.
My last stop before heading back to the port was the main station. I am no longer surprised by the amount of creativity that cities put in building stations, but what I found interesting is the 4 statues holding the spherical lamps. They look creepy!
If you’re looking for a hidden gem, look no more. Near the station, there is a beer tram stop. You will be able to take the tram, go around the city while enjoying a cold cup of beer!
In summary, Helsinki is a really pretty city and it totally deserves a second visit. 10 hours are not enough to explore the city, but it was enough for me to fall in love with it. If I ever have the courage, I will go back in winter and maybe be lucky enough to see the northern lights.
Were you inspired to visit this beautiful city? Let me know in a comment below.