First Impressions of Helsinki
My first impression of Helsinki came after I landed at the airport. It sounds strange, but I went to the washroom, and I could hear birds chirping. My first thought was Oh there must be a bird inside the washroom (that might seem like a weird thing to think, but I worked at an airport and birds got inside the building the time). Then I realized there wasn’t a bird inside the bathroom. No, the intercom system at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport just plays a recording of birds chirping inside their washrooms. After that I knew Helsinki would be a bit of a quirky city.
After a train ride to the city and a cab ride to my hotel I unloaded my bags and headed outside. The first thing I saw, only about half a block from where I was staying, was the Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square. This is the postcard image of Helsinki, but surprisingly it was not very busy when I was there (in October on a Thursday afternoon).
I continued along and found myself at Kauppatori or Market Square down at the harbour. There were a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish (especially herring), and souvenirs for sale. Apparently I forgot to pack a warm scarf/shawl, so I bought a small scarf Kauppatori. I snapped some photos and browsed the stalls.
Then I had some dinner, some expensive dinner. The last couple of days in Madrid I got sick (really sick) and for three days all I had to eat was three apples. In Helsinki, I was feeling fine (thankfully), but I was starving. So when the lady at one of the food stalls suggested getting the fisherman platter for 25 Euros, I thought “that is a great deal.” Then I realized I paid about $40 (Canadian) for my supper. So it was little pricey, but it was my meal for the day, and it was delicious.
Then I saw the Upsenki Cathedral, the Russian Orthodox Church, just a few blocks from the Market. I walked over there and took some photos because that’s how I roll. Wander, get lost, find something, eat, take some photos, wander again, repeat until bedtime. Hi ho the glamorous life.
Where to Stay
Travel is exhausting. After a week in Madrid (and two days being sick), then spending the night at the Zurich Airport (layover issue), getting lost (trying to find my hotel in Helsinki…hence the cab), and wandering around I wanted to relax for the rest of the evening. Thankfully I was staying really close by at The Kongressikoti Hotel, It was the perfect place for me to spend my two nights in Helsinki. I had a private room with a king bed, dresser, table, tv, and a mini fridge and sink. The hotel has a shared bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen to use, laundry service, free wifi, and tourist maps/information. The guesthouse was simple, quiet, clean, safe, and in a great location.
Next Day – Design District
The next day I went on a walking tour with Happy Guide Helsinki. The Design tour goes through various stops in Helsinki and talks about significance of Finnish design in Helsinki. We visited a variety of different stores looking at clothes, furniture, art, jewelry, accessories and more. I’m certainly no design expert, but I loved the Finnish designs that I saw. They were modern and yet classic, and much of the design is based on being functional as well as having a timeless appeal.
The Design Tour took about 2 hours and was a fun way to learn about Helsinki and how design has shaped this city. Then we went up to the rooftop of the Ateljee Bar in Torni. It was a nice way to end the tour.
Happy Guide Helsinki has several tours including the Design Tour, which occurs every Friday at 3pm. The tour is regularly 20 euros and a reservation is required. You can book this tour online here. The tour is about 2 hours. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. While you’ll go inside some shops you do spend a lot of time outside on this tour.
As mentioned in the post I stayed at the Kongressikoti Hotel. The hotel is a five minute walk from Senate Square and the Helsinki Cathedral.
I was a guest of The Kongressikoti Hotel, and of the Happy Guide Helsinki Tours. I am grateful to both companies for their support. As always this post was written by me and all opinions here are my own.
Have you been to Helsinki? Any recommendations for the next time I visit Finland? Leave a comment below.