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Walking in Helsinki

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.

Kruununhaka

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).

Helsinki Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland

The Helsinki Cathedral is a bright white that stands out against the blue sky. They were doing repairs on the front of the building, so this is a view from the side of the Cathedral. Still pretty sweet.

Kauppatori

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.

Flowers for sale at the market. So pretty.

Flowers for sale at the market.

Harbour Helsinki

Harbour views in Helsinki.

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.

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland.

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.

Hallway inside the Kongressikoti Hotel.

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.

Moomin

This is a kids’ table at a furniture store. It features characters from the Finnish/Swedish kids book series Moomin. It’s apparently very popular because I saw these characters on a variety of items on the tour.

Moomin Sweater

See? Another Moomin character (this is Moomintroll) on an adult sweater.

Finnish purses

Fashionable change purses.

Wood art

This is a wooden wall art from Nikari, a wood design manufacturer. I thought this was a simple, but unique piece.

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.

Another city view of Helsinki. You can see the Central Railway Station in the center.

City birds-eye-view of Helsinki. You can see the Central Railway Station in the center of the photo.

View of the city and the harbour from the bar.

View of the city and the harbour from the Ateljee Bar.

Things You Should Know

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.


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2 Responses to Walking in Helsinki

  1. kami March 16, 2016 at 3:58 AM #

    I really like Helsinki, it’s one of the quirkiest capitals in Europe yet I feel not enough people seem to get there! I was supposed to be there last week again but the sickness kept me at home :/ Hopefully I will be able to visit it this year, I really enjoy it!

    • Alouise June 19, 2016 at 2:08 AM #

      Thanks for the comment Kami. I really loved Helsinki, and wish I’d gotten more time to spend in the city. Hope you can make a visit to Helsinki this year.

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