Helsinki is Finland’s capital that is home to the national Museum tracing Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present. It’s a vibrant seaside city of beautiful islands and green parks. T.W.O. enjoyed our time in Helsinki even if it was for both work and play. We got to explore most of the city and even took a day trip to Estonia which we will be talking about in our next post. We aren’t ‘finnished’ yet – go ahead and read what we did in Helsinki! Stats: 620,982 people | 300+ islands | 1 sea fortress | most saunas per capita in the world
Helsinki Cathedral is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral located in the city center. The Church was formerly built as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russian from 1830-1852 then it was renamed St. Nicholas’ Church until the independence of Finland in 1917. The neoclassical style church can be seen from all over the city, with best views from the water. Inside the church, the walls are muted, wood pews line the four corridors leading to the main nave. There are no extravagant ceiling modeling, textures or colors. Be sure to walk into this church to get a feel for Finnish culture.
Suomenlinna is an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands and which now is part of Helsinki. To get here, we took the public ferry which is about a 10 minute ride from Market Square. Part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List, this fortress used to be part of both the Swedish and Russian era. The Swedish crown commenced the construction of the fortress in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. The plan was to stock munitions for the whole Finish contingent of the Swedish Army and Royal Swedish Navy at this site. In the Finnish War, the fortress was surrendered to Russia on May 3, 1808, paving the way for the occupation of Finland by Russian forces in 1809. In 1917, the fortress became part of an independent Finland, following the Russian Revolution.
The Design Museum exhibits both Finnish and foreign design, including industrial design, fashion and graphic design. Be sure to stop in here to learn about the evolving designs in the Scandinavian countries. Grab a coffee at Kaddecentralen on your war to the museum – some of the best coffee! No sugar or cream needed. Also, you can buy a pass that will get you also into the Museum of Finnish Architecture as well. Don’t miss out!
Hotel Lilla Roberts is a former power plant built in 1908, turned police station, now it’s a modern design hotel located in the design district. The design district sits in between the busy business district and the most prestigious residential area making it the perfect location for sightseeing, but also relaxation. The spacious rooms are chic, beds are comfortable, staff is friendly and they even have a great bar area! It’s walking distance to everything – shops, restaurants, sites and nightlife. We would suggest staying here if you make your way to Helsinki!
Since 1889, The Old Market Hall merchants have been selling cheese, fish, shellfish, vegetable, fruit and cakes to spices, coffee and tea. Its a great place to shop, eat lunch or just walk around. Centrally located by the harbor, we would come her for lunches. Our favorite spot – Story!
Story is located in the center of the Old Market Food Hall and serves food that is made with the ingredients sold by the local merchants. Go here for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Their specialties are the pancakes, burger, salads and the fish soup. The menu is forever changing. We had dined at Story 3 times for lunch. Each time the menu changed…. so we ordered differently. Greek salad, lemon chicken with couscous and then finally a beet and mixed green salad. Always with a glass of rosé and finnish’ing up with a pastry! Our favorite was the “voisilmäpulla” (aka Finnish Butter Eye Buns). AMAZING!
Bronda is the fifth restaurant by Helsinki’s culinary super duo Tomi Björck and Matti Wikberg. The fresh and impressive space with high ceilings and large windows, floor to ceiling glass wine cellar, this restaurants offers an excellent dining experience. There is also a large lounge/ bar area with a limited menu and fantastic cocktails and on weekends a DJ is spinning. The dishes on the menu reflect Europe, particularly Spain, Italy and France. The experience is supposed to be social and food can be shared – every dish is unique. We highly reccommend checking out Bronda – the food, service and space is impeccable! Check out their sister restaurant Boulevard Social too!
We dined at Holiday on our last evening in Helsinki. It was one of the best dinners we had too not only because of the food, but because of the atmosphere. Holiday is a spot for young professionals to grab drinks after work and then eat dinner. We did just the same – sat outside and enjoyed the evening while we waited for our reservation. Once we got seated, we ordered the tomato bread, fried sweet potatoes followed by the Halluomi Salad and Prawns, Riccota Angel Haired Pasta. Everything was devine….we weren’t “finnish’d” though. We had to get dessert – the housemade soft ice cream! Be sure to check out the Holiday – its a Richard McCormick project.
Pizza, Pizza! And what delicious pizza it was. There are two locations, one in the city and then the other on an island which is only open during sailing season (aka – summer). If you are looking for a lively place and delicious pizza, come to Skiffer.
We dined at Sandro for dinner and had a lovely time. We went to the Eiran location which was just a close walk from our hotel. The interior space was vibrant, creative and homey. The goal of Sandro is to serve a plate of happiness using natural ingredients that are in season. Lots of vegetables are used along with fresh proteins – lamb, chicken, fish. Inspiration for this restaurant – Moroccan + Mediterranean. Be sure to head to Sandro if you are looking for a healthy, hearty meal full of flavor. (This is one of Richard McCormick’s projects)
Located in the heart of Helsinki, Rosters is a vibrant restaurant that offers different spaces for your needs. Grab a seat at the bar, eat in the main dining room or make it private in one of the rooms for a large group. Rosters focuses on the ingredients and social setting. Menu highlights are fish, octopus, fresh salads, beef and lampchops. Be sure to atleast grab a cocktail at the bar here – the space is great!
We didn’t go to Saslik since it was closed, but we wanted to try it since it was Russian and had great ratings. It was the closest restaurant we would get to eating authentic food without being in Russia. Bummer!
An urban oasis occupying a stretch of beautiful Helsinki waterfront, Löyly offers a warm large deck to enjoy the sun, conversation, drinks and food. Not only is this a place to dine, Löyly is also a sauna. Saunas are really popular in Finland – so when you visit, be sure to try one out! Löyly’s architecture uses green practices that sets them a part from most of the other structures on the waterfront. The views looking back on from the deck are lovely – especially with the glass of rosé in hand!
A nautical inspired bar, Old Skiffer was the location where we watched the EuroCup – France vs Iceland. It was a great local bar with a fun atmosphere and great cocktails. Be sure to check this out if you are looking for a social atmosphere. Yes – Skiffer Pizza and Old Skiffer are related. They do serve pizza at the bar too.
For great views of the city, head up to Atelier Bar for their classic mojito! Its a great place to relax and see all the church tops from above!
Okay, now we are FINNISH’D!