As my next trip to Finland is getting near, I realised I never posted anything from my last visit to Helsinki. I spent a lovely day with my best friend there around Christmas, drinking way too much coffee and glögi (mulled wine) and enjoying a walk around in the brisk winter air in the heart of the city. I briefly lived in the “hipster district” of the city, near the amusement park, a while ago, so a trip to Helsinki brings a lot of memories back in mind.
I thought that I could share some of my favourite little tips to do in Helsinki, if you’re ever in for a quick hustle-free winter visit.
Helsinki is located in south of Finland, which often confuses tourists who think the city should be covered in snow in December. The temperature is cool, but Helsinki doesn’t get the same amount of snow as other parts of the country (especially Lapland). As Finland gets very little sunlight during the winter months, the city is a gloomy place to visit between November and February, which may come as a surprise to people wanting to see Santa Clause’s happy and snowy homeland.
I, on the other hand, find the darkness and cold air rather comforting. You get to layer up and focus on being warm, and so does everyone else. Therefore no one cares what you look like. Walking around in freezing wind gives you a fantastic reason to stop by in a cozy coffee shop, that Helsinki has a lot to offer. Hot drinks, comfortable jumpers, warm lights and the hustle-free atmosphere: that’s what Helsinki is all about during the darkest months.
My fives tips for wintery Helsinki:
1. Sweden is known for fika, but Finnish people drink coffee like water. Every coffee shop will offer a selection of pullas (cinnamon buns) as well, which to me, taste like home. Make sure to visit an independent, quirky coffee shop, while in Helsinki.
2. The flea markets are a thing that I constantly miss. The whole second-hand culture is much more natural and easy in Finland than in England. Charity shops and vintage stores don’t offer the same kind of feeling as buying second-hand from another person. Especially during summer time Helsinki is buzzing with outdoor flea markets. My favourite flea market is Bruno located near Pasila train station, in an old railway building. That place has character!
On my visit to Helsinki, I didn’t bring a proper winter coat. In the photos I’m wearing a coat I found from a flea market for 2 euros. A proper find!
3. Fine dining. Helsinki is the place to try the nordic specialities, if you can afford it. The nicest restaurant around the centre offer bear, reindeer, moose and wild duck on their menus, and of course a selection of forest based food, berries, mushrooms etc. I like to take my foreign guests, who are uncertain of the food, to the restaurant Kaarna that’s located in a shopping centre Forum, as they do snapas; tapas like small dishes of Finnish food.
4. Window shopping. Esplanade Park has Finnish design stores surrounding itself with beautiful window displays that make you want to stop by and the Design District has fashion designers working in their studios and showcasing their work in their shops. There are several shopping centres right next to each other in case you want to do actual shopping.
5. Check out the areas around the centre. I’ve heard the phrase “is this it?” from tourists several times in the Helsinki city centre. It is a tiny centre for a capitol and therefore very easy to walk around. But Helsinki has very good tram service that can take you a bit further to new and different areas. I mentioned the “hipster” area before, Kallio, which is filled with awesome little pubs, bars, coffee shops, vintage, record and book stores and all things cute and weird. The tram would take you through Hakaniemi, which has a nice market place. The fancy area of Helsinki is called Töölö. You’re basically right there when you walk past the Parliament House.
My favourite place to walk around in Helsinki is Ullanlinna, which is supposed to be the place where Tove Jansson got inspiration for creating Moomins. It has some magical jugend architecture, seaside and a lovely atmosphere.
I’d definitely say though, that Helsinki is at it’s best during summer. Island hopping is definitely something I’d try if I visited Helsinki during summer. And by the way, Finland is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year, so I do assume that there are a lot of special things going on that I’m not aware of. This year would be the year to visit, if you’re ever going to.
The photographs were taken by my best friend, Aurora.
Keep your collars up, it’s supposed to be a cold February!