On the 8th of August Glasgow Celtic will return to Finland to play HJK Helsinki in their Champions League qualifier. This is a return from their UEFA Cup qualifier in 2000, where Celtic managed to qualify. The HJK fans are passionate & vocal, their memorable chant is ‘Klubi’ which means ‘club’. In 2000 there were more HJK fans than Celtic fans, & yes, us Celtic fans were louder!
This blog entry is for the visiting Celtic fans, a few tips to get by & enjoy their stay in Helsinki with ease.
Helsinki is the capital of Finland, & its a fairly small city by comparison to other major capitals in Europe. Its compact, efficient & very versatile. Finland is known as a cold country, & in winter it is, very. But in the summer it can get very hot, as much as +35, & you can expect temperatures to be quite high in August also. Helsinki is not a rainy city, but it can rain, & when it does it can be heavy, but never for very long.
Arriving in Helsinki, is usually flying into Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (or Tampere airport, 2 hours away) which is 40 min bus ride (€4 max, bus number 615, or night bus 620N takes you to the centre) or a 20 min taxi ride (around €40) Helsinki Airport is an international hub to Asia, & can be very busy, but its very well organised, & has free wifi.
The city of Helsinki will be busy with tourists at this time of year, & many Finns will be returning from their summer cottages to get back to work, so expect the city to be lively. Finnish people are very hospitable, honest, friendly & calm. There is very little crime in the Helsinki & Finland in general, so if you leave a bag in a bar/shop or station, you are likely to find it in the same place or handed in for you to collect, unique I know.
Public trasport in Helsinki is fantastic, there are buses, trams, trains & even boats. To get to the Sonera stadium from the centre, you need to take tram number 3B, 3T, 4, 7B or 10. Oh & there is free wifi on most of the trams too. The Sonera stadium is next to the 1952 Olympic stadium, easily visible from afar. You can walk to the stadium from the centre, it should take 25mins via Töölö Bay.
Free wifi is available around Helsinki city, just search for it on your device, & theres no need to sign up for it, just accept & surf.
Ive had a lot of tweets from Celtic fans asking me the same question, how much is the beer?? Well, it can be expensive depending where you go, anything from €4-€6, & please remember, its not a full pint you get here, they press a button & it fills to the amount. Unless your a Guinness drinker, then you’ll get a proper pint. So where to drink? Molly Malone’s is where most people went the last time Celtic played here, it can be expensive & over priced but its the only place to have live music seven days a week. Its also the only pub in Helsinki that has Sky TV. For the Finnish experience, try Zetor, its fun & quirky with Finnish food at a decent price. There is a unique pub in Helsinki, it’s a tram, the Koff tram (named after the Finnish beer) runs throughout the summer, its 8€ & will take you on a tour of the city as you drink beer, its very popular, & you cant miss it, its bright red!
This wishing to buy alcohol can do so from any supermarket (S-market, K-market, CityMarket) From there you can buy beer & cider, if you wish to buy anything stronger you need to go to Alko, its the national alcoholic beverage retailing monopoly in Finland. Its sounds dodgy, but its not anywhere near like that. Prices are the same as the UK. You have the ability to recycle your empties, all shops have machines, so if you have cans or bottles, return them, you’ll get money back.
Eating in Helsinki is great, & if your a little open minded it will be a pleasurable experience. Fish is plentiful & fresh, straight from the baltic sea, & definitely worth trying. Herring & salmon is always available. Meatballs & mash potatoes is a traditional dish, you may also get a side of berry jam with it, so don’t be offended or shocked if you see it. Reindeer is also available to eat, again worth trying once in your life. There are plenty Grill kiosks around the city which are open to the wee small hours, try a Lihapirakka (meat pie) or a makkara (sausage). But you can check out every place to eat on the site eat.fi, where you can define what you want to eat. A very good site.
If any of you miss Irn-Bru or Tunnocks caramel wafers you can visit Behnford’s in the WTC, in the heart of the city. Again, its expensive, but if your desperate…
There are plenty beaches around Helsinki, you can try Hietaniemi beach (or Hietsu as its known) its a 15min walk from town & has golden sand. & there are plenty of football fields around the city too, all have goals (with nets), they’re free to use. If your in the Hietsu area you should try the famous Cafe Regatta, The only cafe in the world to give you money back when you ask for a coffee refill. All buns are freshly baked & there is an open fire outside to cook sausages if you want, it sits by the sea & is very popular & has friendly staff.
Sightseeing, there is plenty to see in Helsinki if you have the notion to look around. Soumenlinna is a fortress build on a beautiful island, & you can get to it from the Market Square. The boat trip is part of the public transport route, so its cheap, highly recommended.
If you happen to find yourself in need of help, lost passport for example, you’ll need to contact the British Embassy. Its not far from the centre of the city (15min walk) & the phone number is +358 (0)9 2286 5100
Enjoy, & hail hail!!