Finland was the last of the continental Northern European countries I had to visit. It was easy enough to get by in Scandinavia language-wise but I was a bit worried about Helsinki. Finnish, if you've ever read or heard it, has not much in common with Germanic languages. But luckily -as everywhere in the Nordics- most people here spoke English very well. The only issue was reading the street names - they are usually listed bilingual in Finnish and in Swedish. If you're not familiar with the Finnish language maybe stick to the Swedish names. They're much easier to figure out, everybody who's been to IKEA will be able to read Swedish street names in Helsinki! ;) Or if you love languages get a pocket guide and learn some Finnish before embarking on your trip.
Funny enough, your tourist city map will also come bilingual which doesn't make it any easier to figure out where one street ends and another one starts. So yeah, I got lost a fair bit at the beginning but that only meant I accidentally stumbled upon the beautiful Sibelius Monument which is dedicated to Jean Sibelius, a Finnish Composer. And by taking a wrong turn I also found a place that sold vegan frozen yogurt! I don't know, but whenever my sense of direction leaves me my stomach seems to profit! The amount of yummie meals I've eaten because I randomly found those little vegan restaurants in the middle of nowhere is just incredible...
Where did I stay in Helsinki? That's the cool part - back in 2013 you could actually sleep in the Olympic Stadium! No joke, there was a hostel built into the stadium complex and it was really awesome. Unfortunately, it seems the hostel no longer exists. If you're nearby the stadium, check it out anyway! It's surrounded by some beautiful parks!
What is downtown Helsinki like? The buildings, the streets & trams and the market square just scream continental Europe. Even flying there just from Dublin made me realize how different the UK & Ireland are culturally compared to the continent. So if you like grand buildings, stunning cathedrals (like the iconic and very much Instagram-worthy Helsinki Cathedral) & cobble stones - then you'll love this place!
So here we go for a little virtual tour of Helsinki!