Helsinki: The Hippest City in Europe
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Hel-la-hip-sinki

Helsinki

 

The bus always comes on time in Helsinki.

 

Helsinki

 

Businesses open when they say they will.

 

Helsinki

 

Pedestrians wait patiently to cross the street.

 

Helsinki

 

Life seems… predictable.

 

Helsinki

 

But dig a little deeper and you’ll see

that Helsinki is so much more than it appears to be.

 

Helsinki

 

Seemingly conservative

Helsinki’s got a wild side

 

Helsinki

 

full of trendy hipsters

and a deserved aesthetic pride.

 

Helsinki

 

From doorknobs to dresses it’s all made with care,

Helsinki has arguably the best design anywhere.

 

Helsinki

 

The simplest of spaces are planned with intention

both form and function in every invention.

 

Helsinki

 

In winter the city may seem gray and dreary

but vibrant street art keeps it uplifting.

 

Helsinki

 

Helsinki is foodie heaven

no matter your flavor

 

Helsinki

 

Moroccan brunch, Hawaiian fusion

a slab of meat or a raw vegan treat.

 

Helsinki

 

Organic, farm to table

we might call that trendy

 

Helsinki

 

But eating what’s fresh and local

is typical in Helsinki.

 

Helsinki

 

Pop into a venue

for death metal or intellectual rapping

 

Helsinki

 

then see some white chicks

sing acapella soul while break dancing.

 

Helsinki

 

If you’re a man, you’re in luck,

the women will approach you

 

Helsinki

 

If you’re a woman, even better

the men won’t harass you.

 

Helsinki

 

Strangers may not smile when you walk by

but there’s a level of trust you can’t deny.

 

Helsinki

 

People may bundle in layers of heavy clothes

but get them in a sauna and they’ll gladly strip off their drawers.

 

Helsinki

 

Locals may seem conservative

perhaps a little shy

 

Helsinki

 

But they own their bodies and sexuality

without shame for being alive.

 

Helsinki

 

And in a world full of cities

that produce an excess of worthless fluff

 

Helsinki

 

It’s nice to know that somewhere

still knows what’s up.

 

Helsinki

 

It’s nice to know that somewhere

hasn’t yet lost touch.

 

Helsinki

 

Hel-la-hip-sinki

an example for the rest of us.

 

 

Helsinki

 

How to Get to Helsinki

 

Fly

International flights connect Helsinki with cities all over the world. Icelandair makes regular trips from US destinations with a stopover in Iceland. Getting into the city from the airport is easy and inexpensive (5 euros) when you take the airport bus (615/620, runs every 15 minutes). The last stop in the train station in the city center.

 

Ferry

From Stockholm, From Tallinn

Viking Line makes voyages to Helsinki from Stockholm and Tallin, Tallink is a another great operator between Tallin and Helsinki.

 

Rail/Bus

Long distance buses connect far destinations in Finland and Russia with Helsinki. Check Eurail for train options and Matkahuolto for buses.

 

 

Helsinki

 

How to Get Around Helsinki

3 euros for a ride, 8 euros for a day pass

Helsinki is rather compact and walkable, and it has an excellent public transportation system. Not surprisingly, most people don’t use cars at all. Nearly everywhere in the city can be accessed through the underground metro, bus, or tram. The metro may be the fastest, but my favorite is the tram because it seems the most convenient. All of the transport options operate on the honor system. Which means you don’t need to present a ticket, but if you’re caught by a patrol without one it’s an 80 euro fine. Taxis can be convenient when you’re in a hurry and usually cost around 15 euros to get around the city (9 euro surcharge).

 

 

Helsinki

 

Where to Stay in Helsinki

 

While small and rather manageable, it definitely pays off to book yourself in one of Helsinki’s more interesting and well located neighborhoods. My personal favorites include Kallio, the trendiest hipster neighborhood with many of the best restaurants, shops, and bars, and right in the city center near the famous white Cathedral. I highly recommend traveling like a local and first scoping out AirBnb for an apartment rental. They’re usually more affordable than hotels and you have way more space. Best of all, you’ve got your own kitchen.

 

Huge Hipster Apartment
Kallio
130 euros per night, sleeps up to 7 people

My favorite thing about staying in an apartment instead of a hotel is how you can have a totally local experience. When I arrived at this apartment, in an ideal location right in the center of Kallio across from Hakanemi Market Hall, I was greeted at the door by the friend of the owner who offered me a glass of scotch. He already had about 10 and was waxing poetic on the social problems in Finland. The owner got off of his business call and we all sat together and talked about world travel and culture in Finland. I led them through a meditation and breathing exercise, and even did a smudging with my palo santo stick. It was probably the coolest, realest thing that’s happened to me since I touched down in Scandinavia. Not to mention the apartment is huge, totally awesome, and way cheaper than a hotel!

 

Eurohostel
Linnankatu 9 
24 euros for dorm, 45 euros for single 

Helsinki can be hard on a budget, but there are some youth hostels where you can get a decent deal, especially if you’re traveling solo. The most established and conveniently located, is Eurohostel, nearby the ferry lines and about a 20 minute walk to the city center. It’s also right in front of the tram line, which makes transportation quite easy. Rooms are basic, but include a daily morning sauna, which makes you feel super pampered.

 

Vuokrahuone 
Sturenkatu 27
Rooms start at 25 euros

This ultra modern hostel in walking distance of Kallio has nicely done rooms with lovely neighborhood views. They have a shared kitchen and clean bathrooms, and everything is contemporary and new. The vibe is more like a college dorm than a backpacker dorm, as many people are renting long term, which guarantees you a good night sleep. However, if you’re looking to meet other travelers and party, your better bet is to stay in their dorm downstairs. It’s a bit outside of the city center, but there are tram lines close by.

 

Radisson Blu Royal 
City Center
Rooms start around 100 euros 

Ideally located, right in the city center in walking distance to everything, with reasonable rates and quality rooms. The luxury apartments even have their own terraces and saunas.

 

Hotel Haven 
City Center 
Rooms start at 170 euros 

This small, boutique hotel, is meant to feel like home… if your home were incredibly well decorated anyway. All rooms are spacious and beautifully done, some have sea views. They have gourmet restaurants and a cozy lounge all onsite.

 

 

Helsinki

 

Where to Eat in Helsinki

 

Whether it’s local, ethnic, gourmet, or vegan, Helsinki has some of the best restaurants I’ve tasted in the entire world. Most places pride themselves on the high quality of their ingredients, and the way they elevate traditional recipes is inspiring. There’s tons of great restaurants to choose from, but here are my favorites.

 

Silvoplee
Kallio
$6 for smoothies and juice, Salad bar priced by weight, about $12 for a big lunch plate

Unless you live in Helsinki, or want to set yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment, don’t eat at Silvoplee. Ever. Because if you’re anything like me, it will be the only place you will want to eat at for the rest of your life. This endless salad bar of delicious vegetarian, mostly vegan and a good amount raw, has some of the brightest, freshest, most delicious flavors of anywhere I’ve ever eaten. Dozens of inventive dishes grace the salad bar daily, but my favorites were the homemade carrot sauerkraut (lots of probiotics!) and the curried cauliflower quinoa salad. They also have a great selection of superfood smoothies, juices, and raw desserts.

 

Sandro’s
Kallio
25 euros for all you can eat brunch, 18 euros for dinner entrees

Every Saturday and Sunday morning a line curves around the corner where Sandro’s sits. Dedicated locals wait patiently to grab a plate and devour the most epic brunch buffet I’ve ever experienced. Saturday’s it’s vegetarian heaven, with towers of fresh salads, fresh pressed shots of green juice, dry crisp sparkling wine, hot comforting main dishes, and an incredible array of dessert. Come Sundays experience the heart of Sandro’s, Marrakech Madness, with Moroccan inspired brunch. At night Sandro’s remains one of the hippest restaurants in town, with a fun and sexy candlelit ambience, killer cocktails, and delicious Moroccan fusion food.

 

Om Nam
Kamppi
11 euros for salad bar lunch

Owned by yogis, Om Nam is the latest vegetarian restaurant to hit the Helsinki scene. The lunchtime salad bar may be small, but don’t let that deceive you, it’s so good it’s more than enough. Shaved daikon with light as air ricotta and mint vinaigrette, nut and seed pesto spread with black bread, tahini tomato soup, and beetroot hummus are just a few of the incredible dishes I tasted here. The food is so good I insisted on having it as my last meal in Helsinki!

 

Hoku
Eira
13 euros for lunch, 25 euros for dinner entrees

I was exhausted, jet lagged, and freezing cold when I walked into Hoku one night. Yet when I entered the warm, cozy, environment, and saw the genuine smile of the owner Ryan, my energy completely shifted. He and the rest of the staff made me feel like part of the family. By the time my food came, I felt energized and had a big smile on my face. I tasted literally every single dish on the menu, a celebration of chef Ryan’s Hawaiian Japanese roots, so I can verify that everything that comes out of that kitchen is incredible. My absolute favorites were the slow cooked beef with a unique and wonderful ginger cilantro pesto, the seafood stuffed kuha in a beurre blanc inspired by a dish Ryan’s father used to make, and the extra crispy and so Hawaiian chicken katsu with house made kimchi. Hoku is one of those places people come back to again and again, and between the warm vibe, the delicious food, and the generous portions, it’s easy to understand why.

 

Ravintola Olo
City Center 
96 euros for a multi course tasting menu

If you splurge on one meal in Helsinki, make at the Michelin star awarded Ravintola Olo. Their tasting menus offer a truly Nordic culinary journey, employing cutting edge cooking techniques to classic Finnish ingredients and recipes. They are a prime example of New Nordic cuisine, the most revered trend in the global culinary scene.

 

Grotesk
City Center
10 euro apps, 35 euro entrees, 7 euro sides 

Typically I’m a green smoothie kinda girl… but every now and then I do like to get a little carnivorous. I had the most incredible meal last night for my travel buddy A Journey of Wonders birthday at Grotesk Bar Ravintola. I was blown away by the quality of the food and service, and they really won me over by playing rap music. Standout dishes included the sea urchin “ceviche” with garlic aioli and the seared lamb shanks with port wine and crispy broccoli. Locally sourced, sustainably raised, and made with love.

 

Restaurant Ask 
Kronohagen
59 euros for 4 course dinner, 89 euros for 8 course dinner

One of the most praised restaurants in Helsinki, Restaurant Ask serves carefully curated tasting menus using foraged ingredients, wild game, and organic produce. They highlight fresh, local Finnish ingredients, but artfully add their own contemporary touch. A great place to experience New Nordic cuisine.

 

 

Helsinki - 31

 

What to Do in Helsinki in the Winter

 

It may be cold, at times really, really, really cold, but there’s no shortage of indoor and outdoor activities in Helsinki in the winter. Bundle up, and get ready to explore. If you plan to pack a lot into one day, consider getting a Helsinki Card, which offers free admission to most museums, free local transportation, and discounts at tons of restaurants, pools, and saunas.

 

Sweat in a Sauna

Sauna culture is easily my favorite thing about Finland. Nearly every local grew up going to sauna, most apartments have their own private saunas, and many people use the sauna daily. Some people have even been born in the sauna. In the winter it’s a spectacular way to warm up, sweat, relax, and detox. Most hotels have saunas, but for a more local experience I highly recommend visiting a neighborhood sauna. My favorite, one very popular with locals, is Kotiharjun Sauna in Kallio. It’s a more traditional word burning sauna, and you’ll get the change to sit outside in the snow and sip on a cold beer with some half naked old Finnish men. Also worth checking out is an excursion to the Finnish Sauna Society for a traditional sauna with ice dipping.

 

Shop Local Designers

Helsinki has been named one of the top Hipster cities in the world, among cities like Williamsburg in New York, and has also been awarded the honor of being the design capitol of the world. Sustainable design is huge in Helsinki, and there are shops selling eco friendly products everywhere. Check out eco and repurposed clothing and accessories at Globe Hope, Urban Story, and Ekolo. Kallio has some of the best vintage/second hand shops, be sure to check out Frida Marina, Olo Huone, Fargo, and Fox and Rabbit.

 

Take a Moment of Silence

Admittedly, I usually get burned out on cities quickly. I find the traffic, people, and buildings all too stimulating for my jungle girl soul. I have a feeling I’m not alone. This is why I love the Kamppi Chapel, also known as the Chapel of Silence. This contemporary space feels soft and womb like, swaddling its visitors in silence and peace. People from all walks of life and belief systems are welcome to seek refuge in the space of calm. I wish every city had one of these!

 

Scope Out the Café Culture

Much to my surprise, Helsinki reminded me more of Seattle (my hometown) than anywhere I’ve ever been. A big part of this was the strong café culture that lives there. Sipping on something strong, fair trade, and organic, over deep conversations with a friend or reading a great book, seems to be part of the daily routine as much in Helsinki as it is in Seattle. The moment I pop into a café, I feel right at home. Some of my favorite spots in Helsinki include Bergga, a very hip spot in Kallio with a salad bar, warm buffet lunch, excellent homemade ginger beer, and great music, Mbar downtown with a social scene and often live music, and Freese, which serves globally renowned coffee by an award winning barista, with strong berry notes, a unique and very Finnish flavor.

 

Warm up With a Coffee and a Slapped Ear

Cold wind bit my face as I walked along the highway in Helsinki. The sea lay beyond me, a white frozen mass, bleeding into the opaque sky. A little red house appeared in bold contrast. I walked past the outdoor fire, stepped into the kitschy wood cabin, and ordered myself the most popular treat in Finland. The cardomom scented pastry Korvapuusti, literally translates to “slapped ears”, and tastes like the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever had in my life. Worth the cold walk. Get your own with a hot coffee, and sit on a reindeer hide by the fire, at Cafe Regatta.

 

Wander in the Snow in Suomenlinna

When you need an escape from the city, head to the nearby island Suomenlinna, which is beautifully deserted in the winter. Now a UNESCO Heritage site, Suomenlinna was once an important naval base. Today you can wander the old stone walls, learn about Finnish history, and walk along the coastline for some gorgeous views.

 

Hide out in a Museum

While with the right clothing you can certainly enjoy being outdoors in Helsinki in the winter, darkness and rain will likely send you indoors early in the afternoon. Museums are the perfect rainy day activity, and Helsinki has many. My top recommendations include The Finnish National Gallery with a vast collection of classic Finnish art, the Design Museum where you can see collections of 75,000 different design objects, The Museum of Contemporary Art with new cutting edge exhibitions, and the National Museum of Finland where you can discover the history of Finnish history starting way back in prehistoric times.

 

Swim Naked at a Public Pool

There’s a first time for everything, and at the famous Yrj0nkatu Swimming Hall, I checked naked public pool swimming off my list. They have special days for men and for women, so you can freely don your birthday suit while making laps. Even better, strap a floatie around your waist and try water running with the naked older Finnish ladies. They also have several saunas to enjoy after you’ve had your pool fix.

 

Nibble at Hakanemi Market

My favorite way to get to know any city is first through its market. I hear that in the summer months, all of Helsinki turns into one big market. Fortunately, in the winter months, Hakanemi Market Hall in Kallio still boasts fresh, local produce, traditional smoked and pickled fish, foraged mushrooms, and all kinds of goodies. For my fellow Seattleites, it’s like a mini Pike Place Market.

 

 

A huge thank you to Visit Helsinki (the local tourism board) and my local friends (old and new) for showing me the best of the city, and to the hotels and restaurants who sponsored my stay. My gratitude is overflowing <3  As always, all opinions and recommendations are my own. 

 


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Comments

  1. I love Finland! I did get yelled at once by a cop when I crossed against the light even though the street was empty. :)

  2. Helsinki is not what I expected! Shame you’ve realized you like solo travel not with another blogger b/c I’d love to take a trip with you :) Maybe if you come to India

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 29, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Girly I will definitely come visit you in India! Let me know when is the best time to come and I’m there :)

  3. Great to read about my home when I’m sweatting in Thailand. Hope you enjoyed Helsinki, I’ll try those restaurants, when back home. Hoku is already my favourite, so I trust on your taste!

  4. Beautiful photos – you’ve got me Helsinki is worth the visit!

  5. Glad you enjoyed Helsinki. Winter time is fine but I can’t wait for summer

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 30, 2015 at 1:00 am

      I hope to come back for summer!!

      • Ville Salo Says: January 30, 2015 at 10:18 am

        I hope you do, Helsinki only really comes alive in the summer – the cold and dark makes everyone so gloomy in the wintertime.

        In the summers, the parks are constantly full of happy people on picnics, everyone is making sure they get absolutely everything out of the sunny days, and the food is infinitely better – let’s be honest, there’s absolutely nothing “local and fresh” available in wintertime!

        • Camille Willemain Says: January 30, 2015 at 12:39 pm

          Yes I’ve heard! It sounds just amazing!

          • As a happening, the first of May partying in Kaivopuisto and around is truly worth to experience once in a life time… a good day to mingle around and get to know the Finnish people.

          • Camille Willemain Says: February 2, 2015 at 6:51 am

            Awesome, I will keep that in mind!! Hope to be back then :)

  6. My spouse and I went for 8 days in December and loved it. Many of the same experiences as you, but I’ll add a few for readers. Its worth it to take the ferry to Tallinn for a day to check out their old town. The ferry was an interesting experience by itself, but Tallinn was very cool (we loved our dinner at Neh). We ate at Ask and Olo, and really enjoyed going old, old school by eating at Sea Horse – the best reindeer I had on the whole trip.

    For lodging, we did AirBnB and got great apartments to ourselves for around $70 a night. Would totally do that again.

    Didn’t care for the design museum at all, but loved the Mannerheim museum more than any other! My only regret is that we didn’t get out of Helsinki either to the surrounding towns or up to Lapland…but that’ll be another trip I suppose.

  7. It’s only when you travel to poor, developing countries that you realize how emotionally, culturally and intellectually backwater place Helsinki is. It’s a hipster paradise of course: non-emotional, non-creative, non-human, non-happening. The best thing about Helsinki is that you can leave it behind.

    • @Ilpo – the best thing about any place is that you can leave it behind if you wish. I wouldn’t want to live in Helsinki – I don’t like cities – but it’s a lovely, friendly place to visit. 3rd world countries have their merits too, but eventually one wants clean running water, decent food, sewers and reliable electricity and internet connectivity.

      • Camille Willemain Says: January 30, 2015 at 1:04 am

        Yep!

      • @Rob: if you live in Helsinki like I do, you really do not feel like living in a city. I prefer not to live in the center, so our house is in one of northern suburbs – less than a mile’s walk from home is Helsinki’s Central Park (Keskuspuisto) where you can pick berries and mushrooms as much as you want. Same distance north and you are in city-owned Haltiala farm with its cows, lambs and horses – and in late Summer anyone can freely pick flowers or peas from city’s fields. And the bus goes in half an hour every 10-15 minutes to the center. To me this is the best combination of city and rural area life – especially in summertime!

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 30, 2015 at 1:03 am

      I understand where you’re coming from, and do prefer the colorful, warm, humbling feeling of the third world, all you have to do is look at the way that cultural monuments are being desecrated, tourism is exceeding infrastructure, and people are being prostituted to see that third world countries have plenty to learn from a conscious place like Helsinki also.

  8. It was such a pleasure to read your blog post, coming originally from Finland and from the Metropolitan area. We live currently in the Gulf region and your observations about Helsinki, Finnish people and of course the pictures made me miss home… In a good way. Thanks!

  9. Beautiful photos of my beautiful hometown. Thanks, reading this was a good way to start the day today. If I ever get tired of Helsinki, all I need is to see it how a foreigner would and I’ll just fall back in love again :) Just experienced Hoku myself and yes it is incredible.

    If you’re still in town and haven’t been yet, I’d recommend Passio on Kalevankatu for dinner. They are super passionate about what they do and it shows, in every way. Pure bliss!

  10. Thank you for the beautiful photos and nice tips. Welcome back to Helsinki in the summer, it’s even better.

  11. If you love to run you can also experience the city by running: http://www.runhelsinki.fi/

  12. I’m currently living abroad – in London, and missing my hometown Helsinki so badly. Thank you for your nice words, and pictures, and I’m so glad that you have found that Helsinki is beautiful and cosy place with lots of stuff to do and see. We have our cabin in Lapland, and I’ve been there since I was a little girl, it’s amazing especially at winter time. Have you seen any northern lights yet? Well, I think I need to take a flight to Helsinki asap, cause I think only when you are living abroad you are able to appreciate what you have in your home country. :)

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 30, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      Aw, thank you I’m so glad you liked it! I’m in Lapland now, one of the most beautiful places in the world :)

  13. I woud like traveling to finland in the future, so this article will help me a lot B: but a I have a question, what about the lenguage? can I survive in Finland with english?

  14. Dear Alex, come to Finland and you’ll find that most Finns speaks excellent English. No problem at all, especially in Helsinki region.

  15. I´m glad you enjoyed my home town, wonderfull pictures you took!

  16. Oh, you got me into tears! Thank you so much for your beautiful love poem to my sweet bitter home city! We love you too!

  17. This is awesome! 😀 Helsinki <3

  18. Wow, sounds like you visited an entirely different city than the Helsinki I know. Coming from northern(er) Finland Helsinki has always seemed an angry, unfriendly place with a few good restaurants, some damn good coffee and, lately, a lot of insufferable hipsters.

    • I was totally thinking the same thing then Urho..I come originally from the middle/eastern part of Finland, and have lived in Helsinki pretty much half my life now. And yes, coming to Helsinki people reeeally seem so much more uptight, cold, angry and most of all snoby.. It sure has been a long process to “adapt” to Helsinki, you just dont find quite so much nice and open people as you do in pretty much ANYWHERE else in Finland. Oh and don’t get me started on the hipsters, that pretty much describes 90% of the people nowadays, aand it really is getting quite boring and annoying already.

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 31, 2015 at 1:14 am

      Haha, it’s all subjective isn’t it? 😉

  19. anja-leena tyry Says: January 30, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks, nicely done !! – Winter is great ! You just need the right equipment, incl. clothes. Most of the times OK also in Helsinki, but you should leave the Center… Parks, forests, sea, islands are better. I am a native , but from more north, just worked and studied at the Helsinki area fore many years. I also have lived in Zurich, Brussels, Anvers, Oakland Ca.. and in the Same area, Northern Finland. Once you come this far , do not just stay at the hectic south, take a day train to Oulu, Kuopio or at least to ( my ) Tampere to experience the normal life style… Helsinki is, even if it is quite small, still the ” Metropolitan area…” .

  20. Anita Smiley Says: January 30, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    These photos and the commentary bring back so many memories of days spent in Helsinki with friends and days spent walking the streets of Helsinki from one end to the other. It’s a city where you can find time for reflection away from the crowds or find yourself in the midst of boisterous crowds enjoying life. I speak Finnish, which, of course, is a great help; but not knowing the language is no problem. I’d go back to Finland and Helsinki any time.

  21. Thanks for this eye-opening and very charming little article about the city where I was born! I have by now lived over 20 years in another part of Finland, and reading this really makes me want to move back and see Helsinki with new eyes. You make me especially interested in Kallio. During my childhood, that area was basically just the working-class district where you didn’t have any reason to go unless you lived there. But look at it now… You got me especially keen on trying all those interesting restaurants. Sometimes it takes a non-native to open a native’s eyes to all that is interesting, but has simply gone unnoticed.

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 31, 2015 at 1:13 am

      Absolutely :) It’s all about seeing the world with the wonder of someone who’s just seeing it for the first time!

  22. Pekka Moisio Says: January 30, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Need a Taxi tour in Helsinki? Pls contact Pekka the Finn, love to tell you more about Helsinki and Finland!

  23. That was a great look into Helsinki’s heart. Thanks for making me nostalgic of my own home town.

  24. Tiia Alikoski Says: January 31, 2015 at 12:33 am
  25. Eleni-Hellas Says: January 31, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Well said! I love Helsinki, can’t wait to visit it every year, either summer or fall. I’d love to visit in the wintertime, at some point. It looks magical!

  26. Hi from Helsinki! There’s direct flights too with Finnair from the US and Canada: year-round New York and seasonal Miami, Chicago and Toronto. Chicago is a newbie with Finnair, AA operated it for a few summers. I last visited Chicago 15 years ago – high time to go again!

  27. I love this post, i found myself smiling and nodding away reading it, i am in total agreement i was there a few days over the new year and i am longing to go back! Wonderful Helsinki!

  28. I think you’ve captured Helsinki really well! And it’s so nice to see it featured outside of summer too. You’ve got some great places to eat selected too. I like it!

  29. Mr Jukka Nieminen Says: January 31, 2015 at 4:28 am

    Helsinki in note whole Finland.
    In some cases winter is the best time to visit Helsinki or Finland.
    Nice picks. Thanks!

  30. Timo Voipio Says: January 31, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Great pictures, although as a Helsinki-born guy, this is a bit different than the city I know 😀 Public transport is a bit more complicated than what you present, though. Check out https://www.hsl.fi/en/tickets-and-fares (HSL is the regional public transport operator). Most buses don’t operate on an honor system, you have to board at the front and validate your ticket at the onboard machine, or show your paper ticket to the driver (or buy one – preferably with exact change, coins, or a 5-euro bill – and don’t even try to use a 50-euro bill, the drivers don’t have that much change onboard). For a tourist, the day ticket is the most hassle-free choice. If you take the bus or the train, watch out – the fare jumps if you cross a municipal boundary, and the western city limit is pretty close by.

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 1, 2015 at 2:13 am

      Thanks for the clarification. I guess it’s all relative. I’m from Seattle which has a HORRIBLE transit system, and I travel mostly in third world countries where transit is unreliable at best, nonexistent at worst, haha.

  31. Atta Lyyra Says: January 31, 2015 at 11:21 am

    I’m soooo happy to have Helsinki as the Capital City of my home country, it really is a wunderful place!

  32. I wonder if you met any Finns? Did you get to know us, did anybody invite you at their homes? I think you should come again during summer and see what the countryside and summer city has to offer. But then again, I hate the winter :)

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 2, 2015 at 6:55 am

      Yes! I have a friend who is from Helsinki and got to stay with her in her apartment in Kallio. I also made friends with some Finnish travel bloggers who showed me around :) I’m now in Lapland and have met some of the most amazing local people. Most definitely I need to come again in Summer!

  33. Helsinki is one of my favorite places where I wish to spend my winters again and again :)

  34. I really recommend you to get known also other cities, like Tampere, Turku, Jyväskylä, Kuopio and Oulu. In my sight and also as in national ratings the Tampere is the best city of Finland 😉

  35. spectacularspectacle Says: February 3, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Hi, I think that helsinki is alright, having lived there for some years, but its never a good idea to paint a place as a heaven on earth. Helsinki has a waiting list of many years to get a city apartment, and most ethnic finns don’t let out their flats to nonfinns. There are also waiting lists to learn finnush for years, cause finns dont take to kindly to nonfinns in their society.

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 4, 2015 at 12:07 am

      Absolutely there are two sides to everything, and you’ll see that in the post I also describe my difficulty in Helsinki. Everything is predictable, people don’t say hello on the street, etc. If you read some of my other blog posts you’ll see that to me heaven on earth is a tropical beach surrounded by jungle with a colorful vibrant culture. However my job is to reveal the magic that exists everywhere, and magic does exist in Helsinki too.

  36. This is all true if you are a foreigner and white.
    For all others, Finland is horrible s**thole.

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 4, 2015 at 12:04 am

      That’s one way of looking at it.

      • I guess what I’m trying to say is that since you are a good-looking white american, you are like some sort of superhero for most people here. This means that everyone will be extra extra friendly towards you and you’ll most likely never see the “real” Finland which is dark, depressing and unfriendly.

        • Camille Willemain Says: February 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

          Actually, people were not friendly with me. In fact I would smile at people in the street constantly and they looked at me like I was a weirdo, haha. You’ll notice I even write that in the post. But yes, you are absolutely correct that as a white person from a privileged country I am treated differently than someone who is not white nor from a privileged country. In some places I’m treated better, in some places I’m treated worse. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience except for mine, so that’s what I do.

    • rocknroll Says: February 4, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      Helsinki is alright, a complete city. But leave before it turns you into a cold unfeeling automaton cos Life is short.

      • Camille Willemain Says: February 5, 2015 at 3:44 am

        Lol. I’ve already been in Lapland for 2 weeks.

      • Thank you for your nice blog post about Helsinki, Camille :)

        I just need to let you know, that in Finland it is consired polite, when not talking to strangers or pay to attention towards them :) I know, it sounds a bit different to your ears, but just want to clarify about the cultural differenties :) Talking or smiling to strangers ,(especially small talk, which doesn´t really exist here)is consired here that you are taking their time and bothering them.

        I know, it is quite different, compared to Us, but just wanted to let you know, that I am still sure, that most of the people would be friendly, even they don´t smile. Actually same culture is more stronger, more easter you go (fex Russia).

        And I feel sad, when some people here generalise that “all the finns are racists”. I am so sorry if some people have just met these kind of people here, but been living here 30 years, don´t see any racists people around me (but sure, and it´s sad, it exists).

        But I am glad you liked my city! I think, almost every city is great place, if you just know the right people and know the right places to go. And you know, “the places” are always outside the toursit areas and often you need to know some locals to get to know the best places.

        And I have seen so many nice pictures about Seattle, that I would like to go there! Never been in the Us, before wanted to go to the east coast but nowadays I have been thinking to go to the west coast! It seems that Seattle has a bit similar vibes as Helsinki!

  37. Hipsters have ruined Kallio. Used to be place with some real edge with punks, hippies and heavy metal dudes. Also alcoholic bums. Now almost everything is goddamn expensive and soooo boring. Couple of good places still left like some seedier bars and Lepakkomies rock club for instance. I still love the place, but something real has been lost.

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 4, 2015 at 12:03 am

      I feel this way about some parts of my own home city, Seattle. I guess when you can’t compare to the past, you just take a place for what it is :)

  38. Thank you for extremely nice blog post! We might be small or shy, but Helsinki does have spirit!

  39. Yeah Helsinki is great. Lived around it all my life and cant get enough. So many places to explore.

    I think this clip gives a beautiful image of the city. The harsh and moody winters and explosion of green during summer.

    Also has “Vappu” in Kaivopuisto in it! You’ll know when you see all the white hats (1st of may party).

  40. kalastaja Says: February 3, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Many comments recommend Helsinki during the summer, but my recommendation is to go to Åland/Ahvenanmaa or any of the islands in the Archipelago Sea (Finnish Saaristomeri, Swedish Skärgårdshavet). For instance, check out Herrankukkaro in Turku Archipelago. Many of the Helsinki residents go to their summer cottages in these areas.

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 4, 2015 at 12:00 am

      Yes! My friend who’s from Helsinki has a family cottage on one of those islands and we’re planning to go this summer :) Thanks for the tip!

  41. Loved this post of my home city! I write a travel blog myself so this post gave me a lot of inspiration for what to write about Helsinki when the time comes :) so thank you! Hope you enjoyed your stay despite the grim weather!x

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 3, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Awesome thank you! Yes I had a good time but I DEFINITELY need to come back in Summer when the city comes to life 😉

  42. Aleksandra Says: February 3, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Thank you so much for speaking so beautifully about my home city :) I’ve lived abroad for all my life except for the past 4 years. I absolutely love traveling around but its nice to be reminded to not take home for granted, for someone else Finland is just as exotic and interesting as foreign countries are for me!

    Lapland still never ceases to amaze me, no matter how many times I visit 😉

    Glad you liked Finland, welcome back anytime!

  43. Aleksandra Says: February 3, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Oh and one more thing, you really need to come back for summer and visit Porvoo, Hanko and the Turku islands !

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 3, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      Yes! I am definitely coming back in Summer! :)

      • When you’re going to Porvoo (or Borgå) make sure to check out the Brunberg chocolate factory shop in the city centre. The best candy (not just chocolate) you can find anywhere in Finland. People usually prefer to buy their christmas consumables from there, but it doesn’t really matter when you go. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, I’ve just obligated you to experience the place for yourself. They’ve also got free samples of practically every candy and chocolate!

        I hope that you’ve noticed, by the way, that your blog has been awarded a sizeable amount of attention – it was just featured in Nyt.fi! Glad to see people enjoying this place.

  44. Jani Norrby Says: February 3, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Great that you have something good to say about Finland! A good read as well, very well written and very thorough!

  45. Oh my, you’re breaking my heart! I recently moved from Helsinki to Joensuu (up in the north, right next to the Russian border, about 5,5 hour drive) to study and I miss my hometown so much! Last summer me and my friend decided to have a “tourist day” and explore Helsinki with fresh eyes, with no expectations and I fell in love even harder than I had before. I’m so glad that you enjoyed your trip and you really should visit Helsinki in the summer, it really comes alive :) And a little insider tip, if you want to find really good sushi, go try the buffet at Fuku Sushi, it’s one of my favorite places in Helsinki, at Fredrikinkatu 47! :) http://www.fukuhelsinki.com
    Loved the post! :)

  46. fuck you americans I hate you all. Finland will declare war against USA and we will kill you all!

  47. WilburnSmith, Finland Says: February 4, 2015 at 11:18 am

    I enjoyed your blog and wanted to also share something about kallio, as you seemed to like it so much. This takes place next summer, so don’t miss it 😉

    http://finlandtoday.fi/kallio-liike-looks-for-volunteers/

  48. […] American Girl said it so beautifully on her blog post about […]

  49. Great post, thanks!

    you really need to come back in summer, the city is full of light and life, the nights are short, the outdoor cafes and bars are packed. The Midsummer being an exception, many locals excape to their summerhouses then.

    Yes “the women will approach you”, that always amaze foreign men visiting bars in Helsinki 😉 Finland is a country of strong, independent women.

  50. P.S Travel tip:
    You can easily combine Helsinki and Asia: Finnair flies to around 15 destinations in Asia via Helsinki and they often have good deals from Europe. A friend of mine from UK spent the New Year in Helsinki and continued to Thailand.

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 5, 2015 at 3:45 am

      Awesome thank you!! I will most definitely do that, planning to go back to Asia after Europe trip is over :) Much more adventures for me to have there…

  51. Love yout post! You’ve found some great restaurants but you really should check out Fafa’s, it’s super good falafel and pita bread place, fast and delisious ( they have few places around Helsinki center) ! And Bistro Sinne has really good burgers! And if you want some american style bagels go to Brooklyn Cafe in Punavuori.
    Helsinki is my home city and i just love it. And i think that most of the people here are happy to have foreigners visit us or even live and stay with us. I personally love to talk to people and get to other cultures. Finnish people really speak good english and most speaks even swedish or french or some other languages.
    And what comes to finns who come other parts of finland, give us helsinki people a chance, we are not cold or angry 😀
    Hope you come again in summer and feel the summer vibe in Helsinki :)

  52. …best town in the world!!! :-)

  53. Hi. I found Your blog from one of our newspaper. I am amazed how positively wrote about Helsinki. I loved also Your great set and well selected of nice photos and thorough information after photos. All this I can say with full heart because I was born in Helsinki and later lived around in Finland and thus I know Finland. This means that I have traveled my country from the South to the North and from the East to the West.

    I look forward to read your quality posts from these Nordic countries.

    Happy weekend!

  54. Saunajasisu Says: February 6, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Hello Camille! Like Sartenada, I found your blog from a newspaper. You have written a very nice post about my hometown. However, there’s one point I’d like to clarify. This “the women will approach men” thing is true only if you’re a foreign man. Finnish women do not approach Finnish men. Thus, the percentage of lonely people in Finland is higher than almost anywhere else in the world.

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 7, 2015 at 1:20 am

      Interesting point. I’ve actually heard that Seattle (my hometown) has more lonely people than anywhere in the world, haha. Guess I’m attracted to lonely cities… this makes a lot of sense actually LOL!

  55. […] Hel-la-hip-sinki […]

  56. 4th generation born n’ raised local I really appreciate your write up on our small big city.

    I had similar feeling when we last time visited your home town, the splendid Seattle, although we stayed with friend in Bellevue, WA, but that’s close enough 😉

    While on the subject, you’ve mentioned Seattle many times in the comment but not one single “go hawks”, so to set things right…

    GO HAWKS!!! 😀

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 22, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Thank you. Seattle and Helsinki are so similar aren’t they?? I noticed it as soon as I arrived.

      • I agree, two beautiful cities surrounded by water and close to nature on the front porch of the norther wilderness (okay so there’s places like Vancouver BC and Tampere in between..). Then you have places like Capitol Hill the Seattle equivalent of Kallio.
        Of course there has been a lot of Finnish and Scandinavian immigrants to the pacific NW, so that could partly count to the similar atmosphere. Also the industrial past in forestry and the more resent ventures of Microsoft and Nokia has brought this two corners of the world closer together.

  57. […] Hel-la-hip-sinki – This American Girl – The bus always comes on time in Helsinki. Businesses open when they say they will. Pedestrians wait patiently to cross the street. Life […]… […]

  58. Thanks for the great read. I’m getting “Reise Fieber” as they say in German, just watching the gorgeous pictures … such a beautiful world !

  59. […] dreaming big. A blog about a small team’s long way from the scrappy Kallio neighbourhood in Helsinki, Finland, to sunny Florida to play in the big-girls-league, in the Beach Brawl tournament hosted by […]

  60. Hi there,

    When you come back to Helsinki, I’d like to show you the city and surroundings – please contact me, if you’re interested!

  61. Awesome pictures! I’m planning to visit Finland just before Christmas and this made me really excited!

  62. Terrific write up! Clear and well curated! I am headed to Helsinki and look forward to following your tips!

  63. Fantastic photos, a very cool and chilled place in more than one way. Agree about the tram, the ring route of trams 2 & 3 offered a nice way to view the city in an affordable and authentic way. We splurged for one night though staying at the Katajonakka Prison Hotel. A great jumping off city to go and explore the Baltics

  64. Wow, really great post with a lot of tips, for me it will be very useful because, this summer i will take a big tour in Finland, i will use your tips, and try to have best vacations, thanks again!

  65. Amazing post, amazing photos!

  66. Hi Camille,

    I am a Finnish lady returning Helsinki end of June after having lived two years in Germany. I really enjoyed your writing! As for me Helsinki seems so much more attractive than Hamburg, I can hardly wait to soon be back there!

    There was a small typing error in your text in the chapter about Kotiharjun sauna saying “It’s a more traditional word burning sauna..”

    Haha, I guess you meant WOOD burning sauna.
    Word burning would be good too, all the bad words, wrong words…

    All the best,
    Silva

    • Camille Willemain Says: June 18, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      Oh my thanks for that correction lol. I love it, a word burning sauna where you just scream and swear and then the fire burns it all away 😉 Let’s invent it!