About Helsinki and travel guide for the capital of Finland
I would definitely say Helsinki is a long weekend city break type of place to visit… relax and chill under a lot of green areas. It’s difficult to compare to other Nordic cities (didn’t visit Oslo yet!) but it’s one of the down to Earth kind of cities in the Nordics. The only thing that reminds you a little bit of Stockholm is the archipelago. It’s so strange to walk the streets and to notice that there are two official languages, therefore all street names are written in Finnish and Swedish. If you get to compare, Swedish are more temperamental meanwhile Finnish are talking quiet like they don’t want to disturb the nature with any sounds. It’s just a personal opinion, so don’t take that for granted, dear reader!
Then again, now after being there, whenever I get reminded of Helsinki I think of strawberries and fish street food dishes, but I will let you know in more detail below.
In Helsinki, you can see the religious influence from Russia, with some massive and actually quite impressive churches. What else I managed to see and suggest for you to also check out:
1. The Senate Square. This place is a must to see. It’s like the epicenter of the city, it’s the place where you can set as a reference point for a date (as I was told by a local) or of course the place where all the busses full of tourists will stop first. The entrance in the cathedral is free and it looks pretty impressive from inside as well.
2. Market Square. Not far away from the Cathedral is the heaven for any foodie. On the seashore of the Baltics sea the big market is giving the opportunity to eat some delicious dishes, but I have to tell you, that it’s not the fanciest place you visited. You can find great traditional food, like several type of fish and a lot of fresh fruits, which are special as it takes a lot of time to ripen and that is because of the harsh weather, therefore every fruit are smaller but much sweeter than anywhere else in Europe. Of course, you will be able to try reindeer soup and somewhere in autumn there is a Herring Festival, which is the most popular fish in the Scandinavian area. To summarize, do try strawberries which I would recommend picking the smaller once (those are sweeter) and also the fish dishes cooked on the spot and if you are not that adventurous go for the salmon which is also remarkable for a street dish.
3. Uspenski Cathedral is just a few steps away from the Senate square and it’s a very beautiful Orthodox Russian Cathedral. It can give you a nice view over the market square and makes for some good Instastories.
4. Temppeliaukio Church. Please, dear reader, do not stop reading, I know it looks like I am going all religious, but this is one of the most impressive one in Finland. It’s a church that was actually dug into the rock. From outside, because it has a neighborhood around it you will not even realized that the church is there for 100 years. The place is impressive.
5. The National Museum of Finland. Here you can see how Finland evolved from the old times, when Finnish people would have just dropped the fish into a fire and it will smell 1000 times better than the sushi fish. Take some time to visit it and walk around the museum.
6. The Olympic Stadium. Do not miss the climb in the Tower of the stadium, from where Helsinki looks gorgeous. 5 euros cost the entrance and if you're still there, you can take a walk through the Central Park, which starts north of the stadium. It's huge.
7. Helsinki University Library – it’s a very quiet place (of course, it’s a place where students go to study) It’s interestingly designed from an architectural stand point as well as Kamppi Chapel a contemporary artwork for a place of silence.
8. The Suomenlinna fortress was built on 6 islands, is part of the UNESCO heritage. It is the place where Finns come out in nature (as if Helsinki is not only green in general) at the end of the week. Of course, there is the famous story I shared on Instagram already, whereas there is a functional military base, for which you need to make an appointment way too much time in advance, and even so it’s not sure you will get in and there is also a functional prison, which I found out the hard way. The thing is, I always respect the traditions of a country and I don’t try to do anything illegal just for the sake of the gram, but when I saw 50 cm tall fences and people walking in and out through the gate, I really though I can visit the place, until I realized that inside there were only men, looking at us in a strange way and an angry voice yelling “where do you think you are going? This is a prison”. It was just then when I realized that I have to go out as this is a functional governmental place, and I shouldn’t be there. All is good, I didn’t get a fine and nothing really bad happened, except that I was categorized “ohh, these tourists nowadays!”
How to get to Helsinki
For most of us probably plane will be the easiest way to arrive in Helsinki. Or you can do it as we did and experience the cruise ships available between all the capitals from the Nordic countries. So, it will be around 2 hours from Tallinn, Estonia or even better, experience overnight sleep from Stockholm. My whole experience with Tallink Silja Line is available on Instagram