Have you ever run smack dab into a metal pole on the sidewalk? Leaving you squinting and thinking ‘what the hell just happened?’ I have- literally, when I was a child, but figuratively when I arrived in Helsinki.
I was nothing short of bored with the idea of going to Helsinki because I had heard so many bad reports about it during my time in Russia. I was told it was sleepy, boring, and fruitless. So once I arrived and was greeted by a girl on a pink and gold bike who would soon tear these reports to shreds I was pleasantly shocked. Johanna- A Helsinki native with a killer laugh was kind enough to welcome me into her trendy loft apartment. She also turned my stay into a crash course in Scandinavian design and underground art and design scene.
Upon arrival I was introduced to Helsinki’s 100-meter long Graffiti wall- a street art project designed to provide a place for artists to express themselves without defacing property. On the same pier there were temporary art exhibitions and a seasonal café. I was given my bearings and finished the evening sipping wine in the sunset by the sea watching the boats drift around the small islands spotting the Finnish coastline.
Helsinki is gorgeous in summer and every street should be surveyed with intrigue and expectation. Compared to The Baltics, Scandinavia feels more refined and cosmopolitan. The Finnish capital however is a great mix of class- design shops, fancy labels, swanky and interesting restaurants, green parks, and sophisticated museums. But also trendy underground boutiques, cafes, vintage, and flea markets all found in a cats-cradle game of streets in the downtown area.
WHERE TO GO:
I would suggest seeing Helsinki on foot or by bike, made easy with ample bike lanes. This is a lazy capital in July and jokes are often made that the city is on vacation all month, so follow suit and sleep in during the summer. There are a lot of markets in the city and I would suggest going to Kauppatori Market Square for a light breakfast in the morning sun.
Take a jaunt around the nearby lakes and follow the park up near the train station. The city will start its gradual wake up between 10 and 12 and you can delve in. There are a lot of shops are galleries to browse around the Kamppi area across from the station and then zig-zag down the side streets off of the main drag- Fredrikinkatu (or Freda).
Stop for lunch at Café Number 9- a simple place with great food that all Helsinki natives know. Plus you can’t pass up dishes like the Kill Bill Stir fry, Sauteed Reindeer, or my choice NUTTER- a peanut butter noodle dish inspired by pan-asian cuisine.
Browse the classic Boulevardi and get a cinnamon bun at the famous Ekberg bakery where you can find Debonair Finnish women meeting over tea and coffee.
|Thousands of shirts hung a la Aladdin for a Gallery|
Once you have had enough of the finer things get into the underground scene in Punavouri area check out the shops, flea markets, and galleries in the area to find the most unique treasures.
This route will keep you away from the most touristy areas but once you are ready for the human swarm go to the gorgeously long green strip where people bask in the sun, splash in the fountains and in indulge in ice cream all summer. This is between Pohjoisesplanadi and Etelaesplandi. Then turn up to the most famous landmark in the city- The Lutheran Cathedral.
Personally I had only a few short days in this amazing capital and I fell in love so fast. This is a sea-side pleasure not to be missed.
For further info on sites check out: We Are Helsinki