It’s not very sexy-looking, and it is getting a bit long in the tooth now,
but this contains just about every plausible government office and a good deal
more besides. The only caveats are that the makers have been a bit sloppy with
the English names in places, and the last update may be somewhat old. Some
of the sites will open up in Finnish, and not all come equipped with their own
English pages or digest. It covers everything from the President of the
Republic through the Government and Parliament to the websites of Finnish
embassies abroad. Yes, it will probably throw up a few dead links as bodies have moved site (or changed name - like Virtual Finland) in the meantime, but it will get you started.
For those who can’t
be bothered with a long list to choose from, but want the direct line, this is
the official site of the Finnish Government. It contains information on ministries, ministers,
and the Programme of the current coalition government in full in English, etc. There is also a direct link here to Finlex, a legislative databank that contains contains translations of Finnish Acts of Parliament (mostly in English). Tons of material here if you are looking for the "official2 line, through press releases and the like.
Helsinki Stock Exchange (NasdaqOMX).
Real-time market information, facts on listed companies, press releases, etc. This may need some menu-based tweaking to find exactly what you want.
Finnfacts provides information on Finnish
industry and the economy to foreign journalists. It promotes Finnish industry
through long-term communications aimed at foreign media. Finnfacts is part of
the Economic Information Office (TAT). As it says on the tin "Finnfacts is a part of the TAT Group, which is an umbrella organization for Economic Information Office, Finnfacts, Infor, and Infor Consulting. Finnfacts operates independently, it is not a state-owned agency. Finnfacts' activities are financed by the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, Technology Industries of Finland, the Chemical Industry Federation of Finland, the Finnish Fair Corporation, and the national airline Finnair.
subject of labour-market organisations, touched upon above, the two big players are:
For numbers freaks,
there’s Statistics Finland,
providing everything from coffee consumption (high) to population growth (low).
The very first item
on the Governments on the WWW list above is Virtual
Finland. That was the old name: it's now called This is FINLAND, following a revamp in early 2009, but it remains a classy and quite comprehensive service provided by the
Press Office of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Once you get past the inital hurdle
that this of course IS the "official picture", it’s a good site with a wealth of information.
Their NewsRoom Finland offers daily
news updates (from STT, the Finnish News Agency), a bit of arts and sports news, and some topical articles, and the site as a whole
is a useful place to start. Another source of news, of course, is the Finnish Broadcasting
Company’s online English news service.
The City of Helsinki also has a
fully-equipped site. It contains info on city services,
and links to local transport as well, but these are perhaps best listed
separately below. The City of
Helsinki's tourism & leisure pages include links to Visit Helsinki, the official tourism website for the capital, which has all the bits and pieces one would expect on accommodation and events and the like. There is even a section on restaurants
and bars, though it is not likely to be inclusive (see "eat.fi" below). A neat interactive Tourist Map enables you to find that Helsinki
and Metropolitan Area address from the map. Correct spelling of streetnames helps, but the
search function is quite smart...
Just to be
completely fair, here’s neighbouring Espoo and Vantaa as well.
Neither of them are quite complete, and Espoo at least used to have an annoying habit of
letting you link on a page that is allegedly in English, only to tell you it
doesn’t actually exist. An awful lot of Finnish cities, towns, and villages
have their own sites at www.townname.fi. Experiment.
VR - Finnish Railways have
another comprehensive site, with timetables for both long-distance and commuter traffic. Worth checking in here whenever there's a public holiday, as they update quite nicely in English with special schedules for Christmas and Easter and so on.
Airport is run by Finavia, formerly the Finnish Civil Aviation Administration. The Helsinki-Vantaa
site gives information on just about everything, including domestic and
international departures and arrivals. Other Finnish airports can be accessed
from the Finavia pages.
If you are looking
for What’s On in Helsinki, one place that is useful and right up to date
(*but it does require Finnish*) is Helsingin Sanomat’s own weekly
supplement NYT. There’s a lot packed in
to this site. And of course we WOULD recommend it, wouldn’t we…? Seriously
though, if you are looking for
lunch restaurants, steak houses, fish and seafood restaurants, vegetarian food, gourmet eating, international cuisine, Finnish, Asian, American, Middle Eastern, or Mediterranean cooking, other European cuisine (including Russian) and bars with food (and often a decent selection
of beers), then the links here will get
you to a list of such joints, and often you can click on the places concerned
for English/Finnish pages. One caveat is that in some of those cases above you'll get so many hits it asks you to narrow your selection geographically. Maybe best after all to start safe with a Finnish helper. The week’s movies
are available here (though names are given in Finnish), and there is a great
deal more besides. Explore, and learn Finnish as you go! Many of the categories
have search engines where you can specify the type of food/film/music/happening
you are interested in, and you can narrow down your selections. If you are desperate to find out what's on at the movies in English, there is always the Finnkino site, which is listed below under cinema.
On the eating front, a relative newcomer that has taken off well is Eat.Fi. This is definitely worth browsing. It also works for bars, though I would add that the Good Pub Guide produced
by the Finnish Society for Traditional Beers makes a better fist out of
directing you to decent places to get real ale, at least in Helsinki. Don't be misled by the country's love-hate relationship with alcohol: though prices may seem steep, you can find a lot of excellent bars with an occasionally breathtaking selection of beers on tap. Anything "Recommended by the Guide" is likely to be a decent watering-hole.
If knowing Finnish or having a Finnish friend to hold your hand is too much to ask, then
another "lateral thinking" way of finding out what’s going down in Helsinki is
to try the Ticket
Service Finland site. This should come up in English. If you want to book tickets for something online, you’ll
have to register. The company, now part of Ticketmaster, has outlets all over town and in major provincial
centres. There’s a big one in the Stockmann department store,
but if there is a hot-ticket concert you can be sure THAT is the place which
will have the longest queues. Lining up outside in the early hours in December
is strictly for the hardy nature-lover. The larger sports events are also covered by Ticket
Service Finland. Don’t forget the ice-hockey season: Helsinki Jokerit play home
matches in the Hartwall Arena and HIFK play at the old Ice Hall just off
Mannerheimintie, past the Olympic Stadium. Two other ticket agencies worth checking out are Lippupiste and Tiketti. Click on the flag if English doesn't come up right away.
Cinema in Helsinki is mercifully NOT
dubbed (except in the case of children’s animations, and even these can usually
be found with their original soundtrack at some performances). Finnkino is a major player. They also have
online ticket sales, but you'll need to register first. It's all explained clearly enough. The site given
here also does tell you the original names of the movies, before they were
"translated" for Finland. Helsinki movie theatres have been consolidated
in recent years, with big multiplexes grabbing most of the attention and
the audiences. Tennispalatsi is the biggest, with 14 screens and
auditoriums from 92 to 703 seats. Another biggie is the
10-screen Kinopalatsi (everyone’s gotta have a movie-palace), and there
is also the cosy Maxim on Kluuvikatu. If you are more into art-house
movies, then Andorra is probably one place to try. It’s on Eerikinkatu, just
down from the little cinema (Orion, 216 seats) run by The National Audiovisual Archive, formerly the Finnish Film Archive. Unfortunately their site doesn't seem to be in English for some reason. Andorra is
downstairs from the tragically-hip Corona Bar, partly owned by the Brothers Kaurismäki,
Aki and Mika.
A quick word about Lasipalatsi (yep, another palace, this time a glass one), a Film and Media Centre complex, which is a refurbished piece of Functionalist architecture from the 1930s, now with a neat library, lots of WiFi hotspots, nice cafés, and multimedia workshops. Worth a look.
Right behind Lasipalatsi is the new Kamppi Center, which houses a handsome underground bus terminal for connections to Espoo and for long-distance coach traffic. This huge development went up a few years ago after being a very large hole in the ground, and also includes a large shopping mall, offices, and apartments. It's not by any means the only mall in the downtown area, but it is the newest. While we are on the subject of shopping, the main street for that is probably Aleksanterinkatu, which features the Stockmann department store (see above), and other significant shopping complexes include Forum (on Mannerhemintie, close to Lasipalatsi), and the smaller Kluuvi and Kämp Galleria malls. The latter is quite upmarket, in part owing to its proximity to Helsinki's swankiest hotel, the 5-star Kämp. Sokos is another department store, straddling the area between Mannerheimintie and the main railway station. Boutiques can be more or less anywhere, but there is a congregation around the Esplanades and in Erottaja. Your best bet in this consumption sphere is probably to hop to the Visiting Helsinki portal and its inevitable Shopping section. Don't forget the markets and market halls. The market hall down by the Kauppatori market square in the South Harbour is worth a visit in its own right.
Lonely Planet's Destination
Finland contains a good deal of information on Finland and Helsinki, aimed
at travellers from abroad. As is inevitable with such guides, some of the
information is a little dog-eared and out of date. Best get a second opinion on
addresses and links. Rick Steves, who
is apparently immensely popular among North Americans (people follow his routes
and suggestions like members of a religious sect going to Lourdes), seems to
have largely ignored Finland. His Scandinavia ends primly and
geographically-correctly at Stockholm, though I have heard he has included
Finland and Estonia in the latest editions after "Russia and the Baltics" went
out of print. This is about the best he has to offer on the Web, at least: Stockholm’s
Top Day Trip. Pah! Humbug! Of course, since his disciples only go where he
tells them, there isn’t much reader feedback
on Finland to be going on with, either.
Finnish Tourist Board. This
contains an online travel guide, links (their hotel links are not bad, and
connect up with some of the country's hotel chains), and a guest book for
comments. Again, this is the image they want you to see, of course. Finland.com provides a similar sort
You can get the
weather from the Finnish
Meteorological Institute's pages. 5-day forecasts are provided for several
locations, and some background information on what to expect at different times
of the year.
The University of Helsinki is Finland's
largest university (though arguably not the oldest, since it was transplanted from Turku). The Main Building and University
Library face Helsinki's Senate Square and are part of the skyline of the city's
Empire-style centre. For other universities and some colleges of further
education, check out "Finnish
Universities", a handy link-list made by some nice person at the
Ministry of Education.
If for some reason
you need the address of your embassy or consulate in Helsinki or elsewhere in Finland, the Embassies Abroad site may have the answer. They do warn that things may not be 100% up-to-date.
There are a good many Message-Board operations out there attempting to cater to the newcomer or the ex-pat resident. Some are specifically "virtual", with little by way of meetings and interaction. Finland Forum is pretty well-trafficked, but there is always the proviso that one actually reads earlier threads and uses the search function to avoid getting royally flamed for asking the same question for the 400th time. One smaller board that seeks to be slightly more "hands-on" is IESAF, or The International English Speakers' Association of Finland. This is a registered association and they arrange gatherings and monthly pub-quizzes, and have a decent set of useful links for members and non-members alike. They (or Finland Forum for that matter) can probably put you in touch with people who arrange stuff for ex-pats, like Jolly Dragon.
There are also a slew of blogs in English
that may turn up something interesting amid the usual waffle and rant.
we have left something vital out here, but that simply makes it possible for
you to use your ingenuity and a search-engine. Which is what they are there
for, after all. If something REALLY vital seems to be missing, let us know
using the mail address on the front page.
Updated July 2009. All links should now be operational. "Should" is the operative word. Please inform us if any are not.