Fall In Love With Helsinki
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Having visited other Nordic countries in the past, I was very keen to add Finland to my list, so what better way to start than with the capital, Helsinki. Fun fact: Turku was the capital of Finland before Helsinki, while it was still part of Sweden, and I hear it's a beautiful alternative to Helsinki if you have time to head over there. Helsinki is the most northerly capital of continental Europe, and is the world's coldest capital so make sure you're fully equipped for the weather if you visit in the winter time. I read that the city heats the sidewalks from underground so there's no snow or ice to deal with while you're walking, something I think places in Canada should invest in! Don't worry about buying bottles of water while you're there, because Helsinki's quality of water is so high it's exported to other countries. Despite it being one of the smallest European capitals, it has a lot to offer in terms of cultural experiences. There are some beautiful sites to see, and a lot of places are easily within walking distance of one another. A few bloggers had mentioned that visiting the Finnish capital isn't about having lots of things to do, it's about become immersed in the culture, and most importantly it's about the food. And they definitely weren't wrong about the food! A large majority of my "things to do" list in the city involves food.
Helsinki can be quite pricey compared to other European capital cities, but the same can be said about all of the Nordic countries. We found a great place to stay in the Haaga region of Helsinki, which was a short train ride to the very centre, and definitely worth it in my opinion. Hiisi Homes Haaga offer short term serviced apartments, right next to a train station and close to the airport. Apartments are a good way to save money since you can use use the kitchen to make some of your meals! Read about my stay in Haaga here. There is a direct train service from the airport to the centre which runs very frequently. I'd recommend downloading the HSL app and buying a multi-day transportation card which gives you access to all public transportation, including the ferries.
Finland is famous for its nature, and is Europe's most forested country. It's a dream destination for people who love being outdoors. Lakes that are used for swimming in the summer, can be used for skating in the winter, such is the dramatic contrast between the seasons. We had planned to stay in Helsinki and the surrounding area, so couldn't venture as far north as we would have liked. But we managed to spend a couple of days at Lake Tuusula which was stunning and only 30 minutes by train from Helsinki. We stayed at Pescator Villas, which is located directly on the lake and offers free bike rentals too! We took full advantage of this and cycled our way around the lake, stopping at various museums and viewpoints along the way. The villas are great if you're travelling with a large group or your family, especially because they come with a sauna and Jacuzzi! Read about my stay at one of the villas here.
Excited? You should be. Here are my recommendations for things to do and places to eat (there are a lot) in Helsinki:
Old Market Hall
Helsinki Cathedral & Senate Square
Warm Yourself at the Moomin Cafe
Walk Through Esplanadi
Kamppi Chapel of Silence
Hotel Torni Viewpoint
Go on a Design Tour with Happy Guide Helsinki
Get Your Noodles on With Fat Ramen
Shop at Marimekko Kioski
Get Your (Vegan) Burger Fix With Bun2Bun
Helsinki Railway Square
Walk Around Puu-Kapyla (Wooden House Neighbourhood)
End Your Day at Tenho Restobar
The National Museum of Finland
Temppeliaukio Rock Church
Eat at the Legendary Merimakasiini Restaurant
*** If you're looking for somewhere to stay, especially if you're with a group, Pescator Villas are the perfect choice ***
Fallen in love with the idea of Helsinki and the surrounding area? It's even more magical when you see it in person, so get booking!