Car rental Helsinki
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Helsinki, or Helsinki, is the capital of Finland and is located in the far south of Finland on the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The city has a population of 604,380 (2012) inhabitants. Both Finnish and Swedish are official languages. Helsinki is the original name of the city and what it is called in Swedish.
Helsinki was founded in 1550, 300 years after the Swedes had entered the country, by the Swedish king Gustav Vasa. But there was a small population in the city and this did not change until Russia conquered Finland in 1808 and Finland came under the Russian Czar. Finland gained independence in 1917 after the Russian Revolution that same year.
The city has a reputation for being good at design,and in 2009 the city was chosen to be World Design Capital in 2012. The Contemporary Art Museum designed by Steven Holl is an interesting example of modern architecture. It is also popular to visit the fashionable Nokia store in Aleksandergatan right in the city center.
Many characterize the city as “liberatingly different”,it is relaxed with a good nightlife, has good shopping opportunities and many museums. Sauna and swimming opportunities are also good, for example in the beautiful swimming pool Yrjönkatu from 1928.
Just outside the city on some islands lies the castle of Sveaborg, which is one of the world’s largest coastal forts and was begun by the Swedes in 1748. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a popular destination especially in summer.
Explore Helsinki with car hire
Helsinki is an exciting city to visit, but you haven’t experienced Finland until you’ve seen the archipelago, forests, lakes and the many medieval towns. With car rental you can easily reach many great places near the capital. The road network is well developed, and the main stretches usually have a good motorway. Here are some suggestions for driving routes when you want to explore Suomi.
Porvoo – Medieval City near Helsinki
The medieval city Porvoo is within a short driving distance of Helsinki, on the coast east of the capital. It was established at the end of the 14th century, but the preserved settlement you see today is mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries. In the center of the beautiful Old Town you will find one of Finland’s finest church buildings,Porvoo Cathedral from the year 1410. In addition to the idyllic small streets and architecture, Porvoo is known for having many pleasant eateries and cafes, as well as several exciting museums. If you stop by, you should taste the city’s famous Runeberg cake, named after the Finnish national poet J.L. Runeberg who lived here.
- It is only 51 kilometers from Helsinki to Porvoo, and you drive almost the entire stretch of highway. With a rental car, you spend about 40 to 45 minutes each way.
Nuuksio – National Park with flying grains and wolves
Nuuksio National Park shows off some of the most beautiful things about Finnish nature. It is also very close to Helsinki, and is therefore a perfect place to stop by if you want a little away from the city life. In Nuuksio you tend to go hiking in the forests that run through the valleys and succulables that were formed during the last ice age. The trees are ancient and fairytale– there are lots of small lakes and water there, and if you’re lucky you’ll see some of the animals that live in the National Park. Besides wolves, foxes and moose, there are also flying squirrels in Nuuksio. Also visit the Haltia Nature Centre if you stop by the national park. There are interesting exhibitions that describe life in the park, and a nice café and restaurant.
- From Helsinki to the Haltia Nature Centre in Nuuksio National Park, it is 32 km. The trip goes by the neighboring town of Esbo and takes about 1 hour and 5 minutes by car.
Kotka – An important city in The History of Finland
A good distance past Porvoo, and eastwards from Helsinki, lies the coastal town of Kotka. Traditionally, Kotka is considered one of the country’s most important centres for shipping and trade, and also as an important place in defence. Today, education and culture are in a more central position. Here you will find many exciting museums,most focused on military and maritime history. The city is also quite beautiful. Not as old and venerable as Porvoo, but with pleasant neighbourhoods where you will find nice cafes to settle down on. Visit one or more of the city’s famous parks if you visit Kotka, such as the Sapokka Water Park,Sibelius Park, or katariina park by the fortress ruins of the swedish strait castle.
- From Helsinki to Kotka it is 133 kilometers, and you drive almost the entire stretch of highway. The trip will take about 1 hour and 45 minutes each way.
Hämeenlinna – Famous fortress and Sibelius birthplace
Hämeenlinna is a town just north of Helsinki, which is called Tavastehus in Swedish. It is considered one of the country’s most important cities in several ways. It is also among the oldest, and was a center already in the Viking Age. When the Swedes ruled Finland in the Middle Ages, they built an impressive fortress on an island near Tavastehus. In Finnish, the fortress is called Hämen Linna, hence the name of the city. The fortress was later moved to Lake Vanajavesi, which is just north of the city. The fortress is considered one of the country’s best sights. Adjacent to the fortress there is a great park, with swimming opportunities and activities suitable for people of all ages. Hämeenlinna is also known as the birthplace of the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, and of course the city has a good museum for the music enthusiasts.
- To get from Helsinki to Hämeenlinna, drive straight north on the E12 motorway. The route is approximately 100 kilometres long, and the trip normally takes 1 hour and 5 minutes by car.
Turku – Finland’s most lively city
Turku is called in Swedish Turku, and was formerly the capital of Finland. The city is also the oldest in the country. It probably gained city status sometime in the 13th century, at a time when this part of the country was a throwing ball between the great powers Sweden and Russia. The city is known for being both beautiful and exciting. A good part of the architecture of the city centre is from the Middle Ages, there is a great cathedral here, and in Turku there are very many festivals,concerts and other cultural events. Besides visiting some of the city’s many museums,sights and good restaurants, you can look at the pretty surroundings, parks and archipelago. If you have children with you, Mumilandet should be visited, an eldorado for anyone who likes Tove Janson’s children’s books.
- It is 167 kilometers from Helsinki to Turku. You drive virtually the entire stretch of highway and will normally spend about 2 hours on the trip.
Parking and traffic with car hire
Relatively large cities such as Helsinki are usually not the easiest to find street parking in. The city has three zones for parking,where zones 1 and 2 are in the city center. The price of parking is most expensive in Zone 1, and is reduced as you move further away from the city centre. As in most other countries and cities, it is only allowed to park on marked places. There is good signage that tells you which times apply to free parking. You pay either at the vending machines that are on the sidewalks, or with your mobile phone. With mobile payment, you must register first with one of the companies offering this solution (EasyPark, eParking, Parkman or Spottery).
Driving in the center of Helsinki is relatively easy. There are rarely violent queues, but of course more dense traffic when people are going to and from work. The streets are well signposted, but there are a good deal of one-way runs here, and it is recommended to have navigation in the rental car.
Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport is located just north of the center of Finland’s capital. This is by far the most congested airport in the country, with over 20 times more passengers than the airport in Oulo, which is next on the list. From most of the major cities in Europe there are direct flights to Finland’s capital. Helsinki-Vantaa is a well-run and clear airport. It is repeatedly voted one of the best and most user-friendly in Europe.
There is also order at the desks and offices of the car hire companies. Hertz, Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, Avis, Sixt, National and Europcar are gathered in the same area of the corridor between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. This makes it easy for both those who will be delivering car hire, and those who will pick up the car when they arrive in Helsinki. The exception is the low-cost carrier Rental Cars, which has a counter in connection with the airport’s parking facilities.
- From the city center of Helsinki to the airport it is about 21 kilometers. The fastest route is when you take European Route 12 as soon as you get out of the city centre streets. The time will then be about 40 minutes.