Walking Around in Helsinki, Finland
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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 restroom (that might seem like a weird thing to think, but I worked at an airport and birds got inside the building all 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, and one I’d like.
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 an iconic building in 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. I forgot to pack a warm scarf/shawl, so I bought a small scarf from one of the stalls in Kauppatori. I snapped some photos and browsed the booths.
Then I had some dinner, and it was a bit of an expensive meal. 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. When the lady at one of the food stalls suggested getting the fisherman platter for €25 I thought, “that’s a great deal.” Then I realized I paid about $40 (Canadian) for my supper. So it was little pricey, but it was my one 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 and took some photos because that’s how I roll. Wander, get lost, find something, eat, take some pictures, wander again, repeat until bedtime. Hi ho, the glamorous life.
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 the significance of Finnish design in Helsinki. We visited a variety of different stores looking at clothes, furniture, art, jewellery, accessories and more. I’m not a design expert, but I loved the Finnish designs that I saw. They were modern and yet classic, and much of their designs are 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 beautiful way to end the tour.
Things To Know
I was provided with a complimentary tour with Happy Guide Helsinki Tours. Happy Guide Helsinki has several tours including the Design Tour, which happens every Friday at 3 pm. The tour is €20, and a reservation is required. You can book the tour online here. The tour is about 2 hours. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. While you go inside some shops most of the tour takes place outside.
While in Helsinki I stayed at the Kongressikoti Hotel. This was an exceptional budget accommodation in the centre of Helsinki. I received a complimentary stay at The Kongressikoti Hotel. Of course if you’re not on a budget there are plenty of hotel options in Helsinki you can book.
Thanks to the Kongressikoti Hotel and Happy Guide Helsinki Tours for their support.
Would you take a design tour in Helsinki?