Your Ultimate Layover in Helsinki Guide | Explore Finland’s Capital

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Helsinki Airport is the home destination for Finnair flights. Finnair flies from Asia, The Americas and beyond to Europe via Helsinki Airport.

You may have a Helsinki airport layover that ranges from a few hours to half a day. A Helsinki layover means you can either spend your time in the airport or head from Helsinki Airport to the city centre.

This option lets you see some Helsinki attractions on your Finnair stopover before catching a connecting flight.

  • Summary – key takeaways
  • This article provides a comprehensive guide for travellers on layovers at Helsinki Airport. It covers various activities and options available, from exploring Helsinki’s attractions to using lockers for luggage storage.
  • During their stopovers, travelers can enjoy the city’s culture, cuisine, and even sauna experiences.
  • The article also mentions nearby hotels, public transportation, and day tours, offering valuable insights for a fulfilling layover experience in Helsinki.

Use your Helsinki Stopover to explore the City

With a 9-hour layover at Helsinki Airport, we decided to head into the city for a Helsinki layover from the airport. A few hours were spent in the city to offset the time spent sitting at the airport.

Have a layover in Helsinki

Having flown through the capital of Finland before, I can also tell you it is expensive. Prices for food and drinks at the airport are high. Money is better spent seeing some of Helsinki’s attractions.

A direct access ring rail line opened between the Helsinki Airport terminal building and the city’s central station in July 2015. This is the best way to get into the city, making a Helsinki stopover easier.

You will arrive in the city at Helsinki Central Railway Station otherwise known as Helsingfors Central Station.

On public transport, travel time from Helsinki Airport Train Station to Helsinki Central Station is about 30 minutes or half an hour. Single ticket fare from the airport to the city is € 4.10 (mobile), € 4.10 (HSL card), and € 4.10 (ticket machine).

Train tickets for public transport are sold at HSL ticket machines located at terminal buildings and train and bus stations. It is amazing what you can see in one day in Helsinki.

Trains from the airport to the city are frequent on the line, and trains run every 10 minutes in the daytime. All trains are modern and low-floor, providing easy access with luggage, prams or wheelchairs. This is a great feature of the trains as luggage can be a problem getting on and off of trains.

The Finnair Bus used to be another option. As of October 2023, the Finnair bus is no longer operating.

One-day layover in Helsinki

Shopping street in Helsinki
Exploring Helsinki by tram

When you arrive at Helsinki Central Station, there are plenty of options in the city centre, including Helsinki Cathedral, Market Square, Market Hall, The Esplandi Park and the harbour area. These are all a short walk from the station, and you will have enough time.

Senate Square (Senaatintori): Senate Square is home to the majestic Helsinki Cathedral and a historic centre where important cultural events occur. The cathedral’s neoclassical design by Carl Ludvig Engel is a masterpiece of Finnish architecture.

Helsinki skyline featuring the habour and town hall
The Helsinki Cathedral in the city centre

Visitors to Senate Square can not only admire its exterior but also explore its serene interior, filled with stunning frescoes and intricate details. The square often hosts events and festivals, making it a vibrant gathering place for locals and tourists.

Senate Square is the perfect starting point for immersing yourself in Helsinki’s cultural heritage in the city centre.

Market Square (Kauppatori): Market Square is a bustling and colourful marketplace on the waterfront. Here, you’ll discover an array of Finnish delicacies, from fresh fish and seafood to berries and pastries.

It’s an ideal place to sample traditional Finnish street food, like creamy salmon soup or warm, freshly baked cinnamon buns. As you browse the market stalls, you’ll find artisans selling handmade crafts and souvenirs.

The lively atmosphere and proximity to the sea make Market Square a must-visit spot for a taste of local life.

South Harbor (Eteläsatama): Strolling along the South Harbor’s promenade offers more than just picturesque views of the Baltic Sea. This area is a gateway to some of Helsinki’s maritime activities.

An old world tall ship docked at South harbour in helsinki
Helsinki South Harbour tall ship

If you have some extra time, consider exploring the Allas Sea Pool, a unique urban oasis where you can relax in heated pools, enjoy the surrounding sea views, and even enjoy a traditional Finnish sauna.

It’s refreshing to connect with Helsinki’s maritime culture and unwind during your layover.

Uspenski Cathedral: The Uspenski Cathedral, perched on a hill overlooking the city, is a testament to Helsinki’s rich history and cultural diversity.

a cathedral in helsinki Finland
Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki

This red-brick Orthodox cathedral showcases an exquisite blend of architectural styles and is adorned with intricate golden onion domes. You can admire its stunning icons, ornate chandeliers, and detailed woodwork.

Take your time to explore the cathedral’s interior, and you’ll gain insight into Finland’s connection with the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

Esplanade Park (Esplanadin puisto): Esplanade Park is a tranquil oasis in the heart of Helsinki, offering a delightful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

The park’s serene ambience is perfect for a leisurely walk, and you’ll often find locals and tourists alike enjoying picnics or simply sitting on benches, soaking in the serene atmosphere in the city centre.

The Esplanadi Park is also known for hosting open-air concerts and events during the summer months, providing an opportunity to experience Finnish culture in a relaxed setting.

Design District: Helsinki’s Design District is a haven for Finnish-style enthusiasts. Comprising a network of streets and neighbourhoods, this district is brimming with creativity.

You can explore boutiques offering Finnish fashion, visit galleries showcasing contemporary art, and discover design shops featuring iconic Finnish products, such as Marimekko textiles and Iittala glassware.

Whether you’re a design aficionado or just looking for unique souvenirs, the Design District is a treasure trove of creativity and innovation.

Finnish Sauna Experience: A visit to a Finnish sauna is more than just a relaxing spa treatment; it’s an immersion into a deeply ingrained Finnish tradition. Saunas hold a special place in Finnish culture, offering a space for relaxation, cleansing, and socializing.

the interior of a Finnish sauna in helsinki
Enjoy a Finnish Sauna

Consider visiting a public sauna like Löyly to experience the authentic Finnish sauna ritual. It typically involves heating up in the sauna room, a refreshing dip in the sea or a cool pool, and then relaxing in a cozy lounge area.

It’s a therapeutic and culturally rich experience that allows you to unwind and rejuvenate before your next flight. You can head to the Allas Sea Pool Sauna near Market Square in the city centre. Check the website for opening hours.

You might also consider a guided walking tour when you leave the airport. Helsinki is a good place to explore on foot to see some of the city’s best views. The best time for walking tours is in Summer.

A detailed tour guide can be great on a short layover in Helsinki before you return to the airport. If you have more time, maybe you can try ice swimming.

Enjoy a Helsinki City Tour if you have the time

Alternatively, like all major cities, there is the Helsinki hop-on hop-off bus. This type of tour is amazing for exploring the Helsinki city centre area when you have a short time, such as four hours, to see the main sights.

Helsinki hop-on hop-off bus tour easily whisks you around sites like Esplanade Park, Old Market Hall, Rock Church, Parliament, and the Market Square in a few hours or longer if needed. It is a great way to see as much as possible on your Helsinki stopover.

If you have long enough, you might want to get out, see the sights you like, and then return to the bus. The bus runs year-round and checks for opening hours.

Grab some traditional Finnish food

During your 9-hour layover in Helsinki, you can immerse yourself in the rich and delectable world of traditional Finnish cuisine.

The Finnish capital serves up hearty dishes like salmon soup and reindeer to the delicate delights of Karelian pasties and cinnamon buns.

Helsinki offers a delightful array of dining experiences. Find below three great places to eat traditional Finnish cuisine in Helsinki.

Helsinki Market Hall (Hietalahden kauppahalli): This historic indoor old market hall is a fantastic place to sample Finnish delicacies in the city centre during a layover in Helsinki. You’ll find vendors offering a variety of traditional foods, from reindeer dishes to Karelian pies and Finnish cheeses.

shopping for local finnish cuisine at the market hall in Helsinki
Buying and trying Finnish food at the old market hall

Bryggeri Brewery: For those interested in Finnish craft beer, Bryggeri Brewery in central Helsinki is a must-visit. It offers a selection of local brews paired with Finnish dishes, providing a taste of traditional and contemporary Finnish flavours.

Savotta: Located near Senate Square in the Finnish Capital, Savotta offers a unique dining experience where you can indulge in traditional Finnish dishes in a cozy, rustic atmosphere.

Try classics like salmon soup, reindeer, and Karelian pasties while surrounded by Finnish folklore and historical artifacts.

The Helsinki Airport Train will take you back to your plane

Now that you have seen Senate Square, Helsinki Cathedral, Esplanadi Park, the Old Market Hall and more, you can head back to the train station to catch your flight at HEL airport.

Your layover in Helsinki day might have been more like a walking tour, but it’s better than spending 6 hours or more at the airport waiting around.

the main train station in Helsinki where the train from the airport arrives
The Helsinki Main Train station

You could fill in a few more hours depending on the time between flights at Helsinki-Vantaa airport. Take some time to check out the front of Helsingfors Central Station Helsinki.

The Helsinki Central Railway Station has two large sculptures out the front, which makes this train station famous in its own right. Jump back on the Helsinki Airport Train, and your day in Helsinki is done.

Helsinki is the queen of the north; It is a progressive and liberal city to visit with something to see for everyone. Grab a Helsinki Guide and see this city on a stopover or stay over. Ensure you leave enough time to get back through passport control and into the Schengen area for your departure time.

Travel Tip: The Helsinki Airport Lockers are a great way to store your bags so you only have to take the essentials in to the city with you. We used the Helsinki Airport Lockers on our 9 hour Helsinki stopover and we highly recommend using them. There were all different size lockers, they were easy to find and they were a good price.

Things to do near Helsinki Airport

Located approximately 17 kilometres north of Helsinki city centre, Helsinki Airport, also known as Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, is the primary international gateway to Finland. It is the largest airport in the country, serving over 20 million passengers annually.

For travellers with a Helsinki layover or spare time before their flights, there are plenty of things to do near Helsinki Airport. The nearby Jumbo Shopping Center offers a wide range of retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment options, making it an ideal place to spend time shopping or enjoying a meal.

Aviation enthusiasts can visit the Finnish Aviation Museum, just a short distance from the airport, to explore Finland’s rich aviation history.

The nearby Heureka Science Center provides an educational and interactive experience for children and adults. For those seeking relaxation, several saunas and spa facilities are available in the vicinity, offering a chance to unwind and rejuvenate.

With its convenient location and attractions nearby, Helsinki Airport ensures that travellers have plenty of options to keep themselves occupied during their stay.

What to do at Helsinki Airport

If you decide to stay at Helsinki Vaanta Airport, you will find shops and food and beverage options.

a plane at the terminal in helsinki
A plane at Helsinki Airport

If you arrive in Helsinki and are tired, several Helsinki airport hotels exist. The Glo Hotel in Terminal 2 hires rooms by the hours and days. You can unwind, have a shower and sleep, and be ready for your onward flight after a long layover.

You can also find Scandic Helsinki Airport and Hilton Helsinki-Vantaa Airport available.

Recently, gosleep pods have been installed in the non-Schengen area that you can use on a layover in Helsinki. The gosleep pods can be rented by the hour with rates from 18,00€ (1 hour) • 26,00€ (2 hours) • 45,00€ (5 hours) • 72,00€ (overnight).

If you pass through Helsinki Airport with kids, there are two playrooms for them to use. You can find kids’ play rooms at Helsinki Airport at gate 16 and gate 20. The play areas are open 24 hours daily for your Helsinki airport layover.

For lovers of art and design, The Art in the Airport gallery at Gate 37 offers a range of photography, sculptures, and paintings.

Helsinki Airport terminal has several shops to keep you busy. You will find the usual electronics, luggage, food stores, and global brands such as Bvlgari, Burberry and Mont Blanc to browse before your connecting flight.

If all else fails, the Artic bar at Helsinki airport is great for a drink on your Finnair stopover in Helsinki. The bar has views over the runway and comfortable couches with USB charging stations for all your electronic equipment. We have spent a little time there watching the world fly by while on our layover in Helsinki.

A panoric picture of the harbour area youwill see on your Helsinki stopover

FAQ Section: Helsinki Airport Layovers

1. How big is Helsinki Airport?

  • Helsinki Airport, also known as Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (IATA: HEL), is the largest airport in Finland. It covers an area of approximately 783 hectares (1,935 acres) and has two terminals: Terminal 1 (T1) and Terminal 2 (T2).

2. Can I leave Helsinki Airport during transit?

  • Yes, you can leave Helsinki Airport during a layover or transit. Finland allows travellers with valid Schengen visas or those from visa-exempt countries to exit the passport control airport area and explore the city during their layovers. Ensure you have enough time between flights and check any visa requirements based on nationality.

3. Are there hotels near Helsinki Airport?

  • Absolutely! Helsinki Airport offers various accommodation options nearby. Some popular hotels include Hilton Helsinki Airport, GLO Hotel Airport, and Clarion Hotel Helsinki Airport. These hotels provide convenient access to the airport terminals and offer comfortable stays for travellers in transit before reaching their final destination.

4. Are there Helsinki day tours from the airport?

  • Several Helsinki day tours are available for travellers with layovers at the airport. If you have ample time, these tours typically include guided excursions to Helsinki’s top attractions, such as the Senate Square, Suomenlinna Fortress, and the Helsinki Market Square. You can book these tours to maximise your time in the city.

5. Are there Helsinki Airport lockers?

  • Yes, Helsinki Airport provides luggage storage services in the arrivals hall, including lockers, for travellers who need a secure place to store their belongings during their layovers. You can find luggage storage facilities in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, making it convenient for passengers with various flight connections on a layover in Helsinki.

How to get to Helsinki

  • Helsinki is the capital city of Finland. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is 17 kilometres from Helsinki City Centre. 17.2 million people travelled through Helsinki Airport in 2016.
  • The main carrier at Helsinki Airport is Finnair. Budget carrier Air Baltic flies to neighbouring countries and beyond the airport, and it is a hub for CityJet (on behalf of SAS), Jet Time, and TUIfly Nordic.
  • You can check the prices of international flights to Helsinki with Kiwi Flights. Domestic flights can be booked through Expedia.
  • Helsinki Airport to Helsinki Railway Station is available from Terminal 1
  • You can book a Helsinki Airport transfer with Suntransfers, whom we have personally used on many occasions.
  • You can reserve a rental car and have it waiting for you at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport 

Getting around Helsinki

  • The same tickets can be used for travelling on buses, trams, the Metro, commuter trains and the ferry to Suomenlinna.
  • You can also transfer from one vehicle to another with the same ticket.
  • A day ticket is key to getting around in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
  • Day tickets are available for unlimited use on public transportation for 1-7 days. They can be purchased from ticket machines, the Tourist Information or the Helsinki City Transport service point at the Helsinki Railway Station.
  • The Helsinki Card includes free public transport and many other discounts. Check for day ticket prices here

Where to stay on a multi-day layover in Helsinki

  • Helsinki’s city centre has accommodation options for every budget, from hostels to apartments and hotel rooms.
  • Hostels in Helsinki can start from as little as 23 euros a night for a shared dorm room.
  • Hotels in Helsinki generally start from around $147.00 a night for a double room 3-star and increase incrementally as the luxury rating rises towards the 5-star average price of $314.00.
  • You can compare and book your stay on Expedia or

We hope this article from us here at Wyld Family Travel has you inspired to visit Helsinki on a layover. There are so many things to do in Helsinki that will have you entertained for you entertained on a stopover.

For more amazing ideas on where to holiday in Finland, click our Finland Destination Guide page for more brilliant inspiration.

18 thoughts on “Your Ultimate Layover in Helsinki Guide | Explore Finland’s Capital”

  1. Hi, thanks for the post! About the new railwaystation at the Helsinki airport: The direct underground passageway to the terminal bulding is still under construction, it should be opened by the end of the year. Until that you need to take the free shuttle bus.

  2. This looks like a great place. I’d love to visit Scandinavia, especially Finland and the Sami parts, My sons name is Fin (Finley) so he thinks that Finland is his country! Thanks for the read.

  3. It’s such a good idea to break up your journey by seeing a bit of your stopover country. Mr Tin Box has been to Helsinki to visit a friend who was living there at the time. He also reported that it was a very expensive place. However, there’s a lot of culture and it looks like you made the most of your short time there

  4. Visiting the country your stopping in sounds like a fantastic plan. It would be very tiring for everyone to sit around an airport for 9 hours, I know I would get bored even if the kids were happy! I have heard that Helsinki is a lovely city to visit, I will have to head there sometime. Fantastic that your girls are thinking about the environment too.
    🙂 x

  5. What a great way to spend your time waiting for the flight. Helsinki sounds wonderful (although I was a bit ‘eeek not reindeers!’ too) It’s good that your kids are good in airports anyway. We’re going away soon with our toddler and i’m already a bit worried about it. Your posts always inspire me to go travelling more. We’re definitely going to check if you’ve been to where we’re going for our next holiday, so we can get some tips about what to see from your posts first.

  6. With all that there is to see and do in Helsinki are you tempted to go back for a third time?! It sounds like you made great use of your time there. I had never really thought about Helsinki but it looks like a lovely city to visit, great tips!

  7. You’ve managed to find some beauty there in Helsinki – I’m afraid its just one of those cities that didn’t set our world on fire – promised beer tram did not exist (I think that’s the only way I convinced hubby to go!) but the ferry across to Tallinn was fabulous and the highlight for us! Thanks for sharing

  8. I love that it’s now so easy to make the most of a stopover and see the city. My only visit to Finland was to Lapland and so I only saw the airport in passing and none of Helsinki itself.

  9. These are great tips! We are thinking of doing a long layover or weekend trip in Helsinki next year. I Pinned this post to refer to again later 🙂

  10. I’ve always wanted to visit Finland – and Helsinki looks like a great city break. One to add to the long list. The esplanade looks so pretty then food and beer, sounds like the winning combo.

  11. Thanks for this! I have been thinking about visiting the Northern Lights early next year, and travelling via Helsinki..will keep these things in mind..

  12. I’ve never been to Finland but would be great to go for a long weekend or even as a tie in with Tallin. Fab way to spend a few hours in transit! I’d have to stay away from the reindeer meat too!

  13. It sounds like a great city for walking, and the quick guide paired with the comments, it sounds like a day in Helsinki is enough. But now I want to visit Tallin…

  14. We visited Helsinki a while back and loved it! Pretty walkable. My favorite part was tasting some fresh salmon by the pier…

  15. I’ve never been to Helsinki but especially with the bright sky, it looks really lovely. You seem to have covered a lot of ground of a stopover: I would have probably lounged in the beer garden for most of it (children permitting…) 😉

  16. I’ve never been to Helsinki but especially with the bright sky, it looks really lovely. You seem to have covered a lot of ground of a stopover: I would have probably lounged in the beer garden for most of it (children permitting…) 😉

  17. Finland is a place we dream of, the name conjures up images of reindeer and lots of snow.
    Nice informative article and some nice pictures.


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