This time, our mission to get to know every single country in Europe saw my boyfriend and me heading north. Neither of us had ever been to Helsinki before. Once the flight had been booked, we searched out a lovely AirBnB – as usual – and quickly found what we were looking for. Depending on how long you are planning to stay, it’s worth checking out www.visithelsinki.fi. You’ll also find some great ideas for day trips, for instance to Porvo.
The bus ride from the airport to the city centre didn’t take long, and in fact took us almost to the front door – or would have done, if we hadn’t missed our stop. Our accommodation for the next few days was a lovely little apartment in the buzzing suburb of Kallio. Something that’s typical in Finland are apartments that instead of having a separate bedroom have a kind of platform that hides the bed.
The Finns are very proud of their country. And quite rightly so. A quick welcome-to-Helsinki drink with our friend Mikko turned into a sightseeing tour that lasted several days. I particularly liked Suomenlinna, the Gibraltar of the North and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s easy to spend an entire day here. www.suomenlinna.fi. The Temppeliaukio Church in the suburb of Etu-Töölö is a very special church. It was built into a granite field, although the copper roof with 180 windows allows plenty of daylight in. Linnanmäki is Helsinki’s leisure park, and is not far from the city centre. It’s open from April until October. www.linnanmaki.fi.
As we love trying new foods, our visit to Helsinki was again a culinary trip of this terrific city. We started on the first evening with vegan burgers at the Soi Soi. Other highlights included falafel from Fafa’s, cake and drip coffee at the Café Johan och Nyström, and lunch at the Café Villipuutarha. Like most of the cities in Scandinavia, Helsinki has a covered market. Vanha Kauppahalli is right by the harbour, and is a must on the to do/to see list for tasty snacks and all kinds of little gifts. www.vanhakauppahalli.fi. Be warned: the Finns like to lunch early, so you might find yourself alone in a restaurant by 1 or 2 pm.
Apart from the famous sauna, beer brewing is another hobby of the Finns, which is evident from the large number of micro breweries. Beer is a cult drink here, and whether local or imported is often served in a wine glass. Our tip for a “beery aperitif”: the pub at the Stadin Panimo brewery. www.stadinpanimo.fi.
If you come to Helsinki in August, the Helsinki Festival takes place from 14-30 August. The wide and varied festival programme includes events all over the city, from classic to pop, drama to modern dance and film – it’s got it all. Helsinki is great for a weekend tip, or perhaps as part of a triangle trip with Tallinn and St. Petersburg or Riga.
Good to know: Finland Swedish is the name of the form of Swedish spoken in Finland. After Finnish, Swedish is the second official language of Finland. You’ll notice that all the traffic and road signs and so on are in Finnish and Swedish.
Book your next trip to Helsinki at www.swiss.com.