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Can I leave Helsinki Airport during a layover? What places to visit in Helsinki and nearby areas?

Article published
1.11.2019 at 09:55
During a layover you can visit Helsinki's Central Library Oodi, go ice swimming or experience local nature. We gathered together the best tips to help you familiarise yourself with Helsinki and Vantaa during a short stay.

At times, every air passenger has to spend hours in an airport waiting for a connecting flight.

You can spend your layover at the airport, where you can find a wide range of different shopping, restaurant and other leisurely possibilities. Passengers travelling to the Schengen areas can spend time at several different lounges and also enjoy relaxing moments napping or having massages. In the Non-Schengen area passengers can spend time at the event area Aukio or hang out in the Olohuone Maja. An airport is a good place to spend a layover, but adventurous travelers might want to spend the extra few hours by getting to know the surrounding area instead. We asked representatives of Helsinki and Vantaa for the best tips for travelers who want to spend their layover in either city.

Can I leave Helsinki Airport during my layover?

If you are travelling within the Schengen area, you are allowed to exit the airport during a layover. Travelers from outside the Schengen area can also leave the airport if they don’t need a visa to visit the Shengen area, or they already have a visa that allows a visit to Finland. However, it’s good to keep in mind that border control will add the necessary information to travelling documents when entering and exiting Schengen area, which might affect the passenger’s visa. In addition, passengers need to go through passport security when entering and existing Finland.

How long does it take to get to Helsinki or Vantaa city centre?

The journey from the airport to Helsinki city centre takes over half an hour with public transport, so if you wish to travel to Helsinki, you should schedule over an hour for travelling. You can read more about the different ways to travel to the airport. There are multiple places to visit in Vantaa that are close to the airport – it only takes 15 minutes to visit some of the best spots in Vantaa.

Also remember to reserve enough time for airport procedures. Boarding usually begins about half an hour before a flight’s scheduled takeoff and you’ll need enough time for security control as well as passport control should you be exiting and entering the Schengen area. Security control at Helsinki Airport is quick, but during peak hours some traffic is to be expected. Before leaving the airport, download the Helsinki Airport App so you can track security waiting times.

An hour to visit Helsinki or Vantaa – what should I do?

If you only have an hour to visit the area around Helsinki Airport in addition to the time saved for travelling and airport routines there are many places worthy of a quick visit.

Visit Vantaa’s tourism specialist Mari Virtanen suggests a visit to a local museum if you have an hour or two to spare.

“It only takes a few minutes by train to get to the Finnish Aviation Museum, and an hour is more than enough time to go round the museum. If you want to take a shopping break between flights, I recommend going to the Jumbo shopping centre. It only takes 15 minutes to travel there by bus,” Virtanen shares.

The Stopover Guide service helps you find exciting experiences near Helsinki Airport and shows you how to get there. If you are looking to travel to Helsinki, you have to keep in mind the extra time it takes to get to the city center. According to Mari Somero, Tourist Information Manager of Helsinki Marketing, however, the journey will be worth it.

If you only have an hour to spend in Helsinki, you should definitely go to the Helsinki central library Oodi. The building is very beautiful, and it has some of the best views of Helsinki. Oodi is located right next to Helsinki railway station, so it’s easy to travel to the airport,” says Somero.

Four hours in Helsinki or Vantaa offers unforgettable experiences

According to Somero, visiting cities during layovers is a common phenomenon and many travelers get to know Helsinki this way. A four-hour visit to Helsinki is enough time for an introduction to the city.

There are city tours of Helsinki, either by bus or boat, that only take a few hours. These offer visitors a good taste of the capital very quickly. After the city tour, there’s plenty of time to go for a bite to eat as well,” sums up Somero.

The close proximity of Vantaa offers unforgettable experiences close to the airport. Virtanen encourages travelers to experience Finnish nature at Kuusijärvi outdoor recreational centre. It takes about an hour to reach Kuusijärvi on public transport, and the area hosts a traditional smoke sauna.

A long layover is a chance to try out Finnish saunas and ice swimming

If you have a longer layovereight hours for example you can familiarise yourself with Finnish sauna culture. Somero invites travelers to visit Löyly, which is located in Hernesaari, Helsinki. During winter, it’s possible to try out ice swimming at Löyly. There are also multiple public saunas in Helsinki where you can experience the traditional, Finnish way of going to a sauna.

A long layover is also an opportunity to visit the different manors in the Vantaa area, such as Backas Manor and Kuninkaan Lohet restaurant.

“Nature and Finnish traditions are very present in the Vantaa area, and more and more tourists are discovering it. I recommend to anyone who has already experienced Helsinki’s sights to give Vantaa a chance. We have something different to offer,” Virtanen adds.

Find out your flight’s gate and when you should be at the airport