HEL – Helsinki – Finland
Ok to start with it does not always look that bad out at Helsinki airport. And even when it does, the airport stays open and planes leave mostly on time. Actually the last time the airport closed due to weather was in 2003 and that time the closure lasted for half an hour. Pretty impressive.
Helsinki airport is pretty much a gateway to Asia. Most of the traffic operated by Finnair (the national carrier of Finland) is planned to feed passengers to connecting flights from Europe to Asia making Helsinki airport probably the fastest route to Asia for most Europeans.
But what about the airport. Helsinki airport is not the most entertaining on the world. It is purposeful, punctual and quite straight forward. Bit like Finns in general. You enter, drop your bags of, walk through security (in terminal 2 take the security lanes upstairs to the right of the check in – you will beat the queues) and arrive at your gate in just a few minutes. If you are travelling within the Schengen region you will have a quite slim selection of cafes and restaurants to choose from so don’t arrive too early. On the other hand if you are travelling outside the Schengen area and you go through passport control, there is a bit more entertainments available.
Even though the airport is a bit small, lacks some entertainment and abundance that you might get at bigger airports, this place feels very special. Perhaps it is because it is our “home port” and you always have that excitement of starting your journey or warm feeling of returning home, but perhaps it is because of the comfort and cosines of the airport. There is plenty of light pouring in and even in the dark days of winter the place offers a warm shelter from the elements outside. There is a lot of natural materials used to decorate the place that remind you of the nature around Helsinki and Finland but still the place is packed full of smart technology that is only natural in a place like Finland. Pretty nice combo I would say.
TOP 3 of HEL:
- High speed free WI-FI (everywhere)
- Book swap lounge (Gate 31)
- Abundance of work and charging stations for your devices (all around the airport but check out Gate 21)
Bonus: Newly installed sleeping pods
WORST 3 of HEL:
- Even though HEL is an efficient airport, they have their occasional disaster moment with baggage handling. during peak travel periods (Christmas etc.) don’t expect to get your bags in 10 minutes.
- Public transport to and from the airport. The airport is served now also by a train service to Central Helsinki in addition to the bus services but still the additional journey to town is sometimes a pain. The train wil surely improve the situation when fully completed with direct terminal access.
- Limited options when it comes to food. There are plenty of small cafes and kiosks, but when it comes to food the offer is quite limited for an international airport.
TOP 3 THINGS TO BUY:
- Ruisleipä. The tough, unique, Finnish rye bread. Head to the Stockmann shop near to gate 26 and stuff your carry on bag full of this goodness.
- Napue Gin by Kyrö Distillery Company. This Finnish small batch gin was chosen as the worlds best gin for a Gin and Tonic
- Jenkki chewing gum. Absolute classic. Simply awesome. The gum is sweetened with Xylitol which is made from the beatiful birch trees you see in Finland and which is a natural dentist for your teeth.
Best way to arrive: Take Finnair flight 666 from Copenhagen directly to HEL. Just hope that HEL has not frozen over during your flight.