Helsinki, Finland

I arrived in Helsinki, Finland in November 2014. The sky was gray and it was cool enough to wear a lightweight jacket but still not freezing cold yet. I flew on Finnair from Paris to Helsinki which was a nice easy 3-hour flight. To get into the center of downtown Helsinki easy and cheaply was to take the Finnair coach bus for about 6 euro one-way. It took about 20 minutes to arrive at the central train station. From there it was an easy 10-minute walk to my hotel, the Omena on Lonnrotinkatu street. There is another Omena hotel a little bit further out from the center but I chose this one for its location and price. And you certainly get what you pay for, that’s not to say it’s bad, but it is basically a 3-star budget hotel for just under $100USD per night.

The hotel itself does not have a formal reception desk or check-in area. That’s because you book it online and a code is emailed to you which serves as your room key.

It’s a very simple process and was convenient. I booked a room for 2 people and got a decent size room with 2 twin beds, a separate bathroom area, and a separate sitting area with a table and chairs. The bench in the sitting area can fold out to become a 1-person single bed so if sharing a room with 3 people the cost becomes pretty cheap.

There is a large flat-screen TV but with limited channels in the Finnish language. We did find CNN in English which was better than trying to master the multi-syllabic Finnish language when super tired.

The room is also equipped with a small refrigerator, coffee pot and cups, iron, and hair dryer. We were on the 5th floor with only a view of the street below. The windows do not open but since it was cold it didn’t matter. The thermostat to the room was set at 19C which became too warm after returning to the room after a walk around town. Nevertheless the room was still comfortable for a budget-friendly hotel.
See my review here on Hotels.com

We arrived famished and lucky there is a pizza restaurant literally adjacent to the hotel. Just take the elevator down to the first floor and walk to your right through the doors. No need to go outside in the cold. Another plus is that the pizza counter guy spoke English so it helped in which pizza to choose when there was no translation for some of the items. We learned later than pretty much everyone in Finland speaks English as it’s required in school. It really made it helpful to travel around Finland not having to worry about speaking the strange Finnish language.

The next day we took a 2-hour city Panorama bus tour. It was very comfortable and I’d recommend doing it for first-time visitors (as we were) as well as if you have limited time for sightseeing (which we were there for only 3 days). We got to see a number of sights that we wouldn’t otherwise see if we had just walked around. The Rock church for example, was pretty cool. And the Sibelius monument with its striking shiny chrome silver standing out amongst the pine trees was something neat to learn about. Overall the people are friendly and helpful in Helsinki. Grabbing a coffee at the local Starbucks was easy. There are several museums to visit which all are within a 15-20 minute walk around central Helsinki.

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