Helsinki has its charms…
7th to 9th August, Helsinki, Finland
Once again, I probably should have written this sooner but what the heck….better now than never right?!
To continue the “episodes” of my summer vacation, here it goes again………..
So, if you’ve came across my recent post on how to spend two days in Stockholm, you’ll know that this summer vacation I went on a fantastic trip (that took a while to plan, not gonna lie) but was totally worth it. It went like this:
Stockholm (Sweden) — Cruise — Helsinki (Finland) — Train — St. Petersburg (Russia)
I’ll post about all these destinations separately, but I’ll try to link them together as I write about them. Just click on the destinations above and enjoy the posts! 🙂
To continue, let me tell you how to enjoy Helsinki and take it all-in, in just two days…
Stop 2: Helsinki!
When in Helsinki, we stayed at the Sokos Hotel Albert. This is a super cozy hotel, not far from the market square, we easily walked our way to where we wanted, and it has great bedrooms, nice breakfast service, and is nicely decorated with Jazz oriented artwork. In case you didn’t know, Finland is actually known for its connection to Jazz music, and one activity we didn’t get to do, but were very sorry to have missed, was going to a jam session in some bar to listen to jazz music (if you’re reading this, put it on your list of activities!). One night we helped ourselves to the living room, where we stayed playing games and planning the next day. Has you can tell, this hotel really offers a super cozy and chill vibe!
To begin our visit to Helsinki, we decided to buy the My Helsinki Card. This card made our life much easier in the city. You can choose the type of card you want (depending on your stay duration, etc) and it will ensure your transportation through the city, as well as give you access to certain city attractions.
Let’s explore! So our first decision was to go to the Senate Square where you can see the beautiful Helsinki Cathedral, which you can see in the first picture. This is an Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral and its grand, however simple, architecture is stunning to look at.
Very near the Senate Square, at walking distance, is the Market Square. Here, in August, there was a little fair, and food kiosks. I ate the most delicious salmon of my life. I really mean it! It started to pour down rain, but we were prepared and the kiosks had rain protection for the picnic tables where we were having lunch. It was sort of perfect: hot plate of food, good company, and just centimeters from my skin, a big downpour!
Next, we went uptown and visited the Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Church). This is also a Lutheran church, and the spectacular feature about it is that it was actually built diretcly into solid rock! This feature makes this church perfect for concerts, because its accoustic is fabulous.
Continuing our journey uptown, we went to Sibelius Park to see the Sibelius Monument. Jean Sibelius was a finnish composer who became famous for is music in the end of the XIX, beginning of XX century. The monument is a sculpture entirely made of organ pipes that was built for a competition, and is now one of the most famous attractions in Helsinki.
The best part of having gone uptown to this park, was the fact that we found the perfect cafe I’ve ever been to: the Cafe Regatta. It was so great that we ended up staying there for like two hours just eating, drinking, photographing and chilling! If I lived in this city I would spend my life here with my friends for sure! It’s really perfect.
The Cafe Regatta is super cute. It’s a wooden red cabin near the sea, very cozy, where you can buy delicious food and hot drinks and enjoy the view outside (I suggest the tables near the fence, they’re pratically in the water, and you can see the boats, ducks, the rowing lessons….listen to the sound of the water, enjoy the summer breaze…..perfection!). Everything here is filled with details which make everything more quaint. They even have a constant fire under a shed, that has a special purpose besides being cute and making a warm environment, no, here you seat around the fire and heat up sausages for hot dogs, for example. Like, you buy inside the cafe and then go outside and have a camp fire experience. This place was great!
I urge you to try the wonderful cinnamon rolls. It was always my choice when in Helsinki. Sooooo delicious!!!! And this cafe had some great ones! And with that view as well…hum…..so good!
The second day we went to the Uspenski Cathedral, just a walk away from the Market Square. This is a totally different cathedral from the first one. The Uspenski Cathedral is an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral and was designed by a russian architect.
Finnish history has lots of ties with the Russian one, and this trip (Sweden, Finland, then Russia) was ideal to understand the sequence of historical events, and the reasons for each country’s cultural behaviour and stand on political affairs.
On this second day, our goal was to explore Suomenlinna, a UNESCO’s World Heritage site in Finland. This was my favourite spot in Helsinki.
From the Market Square you can catch a ferry boat special Suomenlinna. There are lots of boats that make this trip and they’re also very frequent through the day (just be careful not to miss the last one to go back to the city, when you’re in the island ahahah).
Situated on a group of islands off Helsinki, Suomenlinna was built during the Swedish era (yes, you have the Swedish, the Finnish, and the Russian eras) as a maritime fortress. It is also called Sveaborg or Viapori. This place was always been home for a small comunity of people and it started to then get tourist attraction and became what it is today.
You can spend, and you MUST spend, a whole day here. It offers museums, shops, restaurants, cafes, so you can spend your time relaxing and exploring the historical world heritage site, learning more and more about Finland’s history and the Fortress history. You don’t need to pay to see and explore Suomenlinna, only the museums require a ticket.
We explored every corner of Suomenlinna, climbed every hill, learned so much at the museums and enjoyed every view there was to enjoy (I even got stung by a freaking huge bee while I was enjoying ahahaha if you look carefully, te bee is on my ankle in the first pic ahahah I only found out what bug bit me because it got caught on camera ahahah).
Suomenlinna offers a variety of places to eat, but I recommend Café Piper because of the view. It’s located at Piper’s Park, and the tables are mainly on top of a hill where you can see the beautiful Gulf of Finland.
At the end of the day we made reservations for one of the best restaurants in Helsinki. The Lappi Ravintola (which means restaurant). I highly recommend you make a table reservation if you plan on going, since it’s always fully booked.
The specialty of this place is reindeer. However, only my parents went for it. I have a theory that eating Santa’s friends isn’t a go mojo ahahaha I chose other dishes which are also super delicious. Meanwhile, my parents swear by the reindeer (ok…we get it…the meat’s delicious…but I will still not get Santa Claus angry with me ahaha). It was a great end of the day, and this restaurant is just two streets away from the hotel, so it was all coordinated.
The next day we caught a train (Allegro trains) to Saint Petersburg, Russia, but I’ll leave that for my next “episode”.
I hope this post helps whoever reads it to plan their trip. I look forward to going back to Finland and see more of the countryside, perhaps see the northern lights, but for now the country’s capital was fascinating enough for me!
I definitely recommend the trip!
Feel free to check my other two posts about the other two stops on this fantastic trip of mine: Sweden and Russia. (yeeey!)
Don’t forget: Be happy, explore the world, travel everywhere, take it all in!
Kiss Kiss, Joana