We started our Finland trip this year by visiting the country´s capital city – since our plane anyway landed here we decided to spent two nights in a cosy hotel in the centre, get a feeling of the place and get use to the colder weather again. Although the city is quite spread out, 2 days is enough time to see most of the attractions – I believe there is more to do in the summer, so if you are thinking just about a weekend getaway, then better go when it´s warm!
So, what did we do? The first thing after checking in at our hotel close to the main train station, we walked to the most recognizable building of Helsinki, the Cathedral. I could clearly remember it from my last visit around 15 years ago ;). We had luck – the sun was shining and surprisingly, there were no people around. The church stands on a high point so there is a nice view from the top.
Since we had not eaten anything but an airplane sandwich, we splurged on a local restaurant that served craft beer and amazing Finnish style burgers! Even though most of the tables were booked (it was Friday evening), we got a place and nobody seemed to mind we have a 4-year old at the table. The only bitter taste left the price for the beers, at 8€ each this was a clear sign we won´t be drinking much on this holiday ;).
The next day we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and were off to the famous Suomenlinna island, after a good breakfast of course! We´ve done the walk down to the harbour from where the ferry takes off already the day before so we knew where we had to go. The ferry ride takes only 15 minutes and the return ticket costs 5€ per person, children under 7 don´t have to pay. The ride itself was worth it, because we could see the whole city from the sea, and we passed many little islands on the way.
Suomenlinna, “the fortress of Finland” and an UNESCO World Heritage site was originally built by the Swedes as Sveaborg. This cluster of many islands connected by bridges is a must-see attraction in Helsinki today and it is really worth a visit. If nothing else, it´s a great way to escape the city and enjoy the nature. In the summertime you can also relax at some of its beaches!
Well, we did not have beach weather and it was quite windy over there, therefore much colder than back in the city, but still – we had sun! We walked all the way to the other end of the islands (1,6km in one way), to the monumental King´s Gate. There are great views all over and we had a very relaxing couple of hours on fresh air. There are also many museums on the island, not to mention cafes. We also found a children´s playground where we of course had to stop for a while ;).
Back in the city, we strolled down the Esplanade Park where many designer stores found their spot and I was particularly interested in one of them – the famous Iittala shop! We came out with a little candle holder :).
All that walking made us hungry and we decided to have a snack and go for a dinner later on. Finding bread was more of a challenge as we really did not spot many bakeries! All went well at the end and we were all set to go out and explore further.
Snack after snack – we visited the probably most famous market hall in the town. It is situated close to the main market square and you really cannot miss it as it stands out with its interesting architecture. And inside – paradise! So many yummy things at one place, fresh fish, vegetables, little restaurant and the more exotic food stores that sell bear meat (in a little can for 50€) or reindeer salami. Even if you are not hungry, it´s interesting to just walk around and have a look.
Finally we were at that incredible underground church I also had in my memory from my last visit! The Temppeliaukio Church has to be one of the most amazing churches in the world. Actually it does not even look like a church, more like a temple of some kind – as its name also indicates. We were just in time for a rehearsal and the room was filled with live music which just contributed to the whole atmosphere!
On the way back towards the city centre we passed some interesting buildings and also stopped at a huge supermarket at the Kamppi bus station and shopping mall, where we bought some snacks for the long 10 hrs train ride which we took the next day. In search for a real Finnish dinner we ended up in one of the cult restaurants in the city centre and I had my first salmon soup! Little did I know that many of those will follow by the end of our trip ;).
Our time in Helsinki was short but sweet and we were off to Lappland the next morning. There are some things we missed out in Helsinki, like the ZOO (which is on an island) and some museums – but since we only had 11 days for the whole holiday we rather spend the most of it in the nature up north. Who knows, maybe we return to Helsinki some day – but then it will have to be in the summer!
The post about the whole trip is coming up soon!