This post was kindly sponsored by My Helsinki, however as always all opinions are my own. I only ever recommend brands and places that I personally love!
If you’re anything like I was before my trip to Helsinki you’ve been trawling through Pinterest and Instagram to find the prettiest places to add to your Helsinki trip plans. Something that became evident to me quite quickly is that there wasn’t really a common list of sights to see and after visiting myself I now understand why.
The beauty of this city runs deeper than what you can see on the surface. Visiting Helsinki was like stepping into a story book, full of characters, colours and tales. Not every moment could be captured by a camera or added to an ‘Instagram worthy’ bucket list. Rather it’s a city that encourages you to live in the moment, soak in the culture and explore without preconceived ideas or expectation.
HOW LONG TO VISIT
We spent one week exploring the city which meant we were not rushed at all and had a very easy going trip. But if you have to stick to a shorter timeframe I think three to four days would be perfect.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Public transport was really easy to use in Helsinki so we got around using the trains, trams and buses. When it’s really cold it’s also a bit nicer to be in a warm tram or bus than walking too far. We used the Helsinki Card – which covered all public transport and entry to heaps of attractions too.
WHERE TO STAY
Helsinki isn’t a huge city but it’s still good to be central or at least close to public transport so it’s easy to get around. We stayed really close to the main train station and loved it as a base to explore all corners of the city.
5 Memorable Helsinki Experiences you can’t miss
1. Explore the Seaside
Helsinki is actually an archipelago made up of around 330 islands and it’s super easy to catch a quick 10-15 minute ferry from the city to the main ones. The best islands to visit are Suomenlinna, Vallisaari, Kaunissaari Quay, Pihlajasaari, Lonna and Seurasaari (this one you can actually reach by foot). Each island is really unique and you can read more about them here to decide which ones are best for you. We decided to visit Suomenlinna because the whole island is basically a medieval castle and I’d heard of the cute hobbit style houses there that I really wanted to see!
When we arrived on Suomenlinna we grabbed ourselves a hot tea and fudge bar from a cafe and set off with our map for a few hours of exploring. We saw beaches full of little ice bergs, explored castle walls and hunted down the cute hobbit houses. It was the perfect relaxed way to spend half a day experiencing the Helsinki seaside.
2. Hunt down the most delicious Cinnamon Bun
The food in Helsinki was a big highlight for me. From the freshly baked sour dough bread to the forest berry topped desserts, I looked forward to every meal. If you are more adventurous with your eating you can try things like bear, elk and reindeer – something I didn’t do! One thing we found ourselves on the hunt for each day was cinnamon buns and while we never had a bad one we ended up find the BEST one at Way Bakery and Wine Bar. I’m talking a perfectly crisp outside, soft fluffy inside and just the right amount of cinnamon goodness. But I urge you to make it your mission to find your favourite, here are some places to try:
- Way Bakery and Wine Bar (a clear winner for us)
- Cafe Regatta (this place is the cutest red shack right on the ocean – a must visit)
- Ekberg Bakery (Helsinki’s oldest bakery)
And here’s a little list of my other favourite places to eat (and some we had on our list but didn’t get a chance to try):
- Story (breakfast or lunch)
- Kumma cafe (breakfast or lunch)
- Kaffa Roastery (yummy coffee – and they even roast their beans on site)
- Gron (this Michelin star restaurant is suprisingly affordable and the dishes are so fun and unique – make sure you book in advance)
- Savotta (delish traditional Finnish food – we loved having dinner here)
- Restaurant Bronda (this restaurant has the most beautiful atmosphere and makes killer cocktails and dishes)
3. Discover the beauty of Finnish Art + Design
It wasn’t until we started exploring Helsinki that is really sunk in how much of the world’s good design originated here. From the orange handled Fiskars scissors (that your mum probably has a pair of), to famous furniture designs copied by Ikea and the iconic poppy printed fabric by Marimekko. Not to mention the magical world of the Moomins. If you’ve never heard of the Moomins (I hadn’t) before you go to Helsinki you will leave with a little place in your heart for them. First made famous by their creator Tove Jansson, in a series of fiction books, the Moomins are a family of white, round fairy tale characters with large snouts. In Helsinki adults love the Moomins just as much as the kids – and you will notice them everywhere!
There is also some really unique and quirky architecture to discover in Helsinki including:
- The Rock Church
- Sibelius Monument
- Kamppi Chapel of Silence
- Amos Rex Museum
- Kiasma Art Museum
- Design Museum
- Huvilakatu (beautiful neighbourhood with colourful buildings)
4. Do Sauna like a true Fin
The culture of Sauna is deeply rooted in Finnish lifestyle. In fact it’s a weekly ritual in most families and there are so many saunas in Finland that if everybody decided to take one at the same time there would be enough space. When we learnt that it’s traditional to either take a dip in a freezing lake or the sea, or roll around in the snow in between saunas we knew we wanted to try it. Mostly just so we could say we did it!
We tried two public saunas during our stay and both were beautiful. Allas Sea Pool has the most incredible view of the city during and after sunset. They also have an outdoor pool that is heated to 27°C if you aren’t keen for an icy dip. I found the changing rooms a little overwhelming because it’s a small space and got quite crowded while we were there.
Then there is Loyly – which is pretty fancy as far as saunas go and actually owned by Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen, who is in the TV series Vikings. I loved that it was nice and quiet. However there is no heated pool so if you want to dip, it’s got to be straight into the sea! This is where we decided to take a sea dip and it literally took my breath away! Make sure you book in advance for this one because spaces are limited.
You can also have dinner at either of these saunas afterwards, which we did for both. The food was lovely and not too pricey. Towels are included in your entry but you may want to bring your own flip flops to wear. Also be prepared to get naked in front of the whole change room – something I am still not used to coming from Australia where we are a bit shy!
5. Soak up the Serenity of Nature
Something that made the experience of Helsinki a really calm and serene one was that it’s a city close to nature. No matter where you are in the city you are usually within walking distance to either the sea, a lake or a forest. While I was doing research for our trip I saw Nuuksio National Park pop up a lot and decided it was something we wanted to fit into our trip. You can catch a train and bus, which takes about an hour or if you book a tour you may get driven.
I really really wanted to see reindeer while we were in Finland, and they are far more common in the Lapland area. But there is a reindeer park at Nuuksio where you can book private tours with the reindeer, or if you are lucky they also have open days anyone can visit (for $25 per person). We went along to one of the open days and were able to chat with the reindeer handlers and feed the reindeer – which was super cute.
The other thing we got to do a Nuuksio, which we’ve been wanting to try for a while is snow shoeing. We went on a tour with Feel the Nature – which I highly recommend. Our guide picked us up in Helsinki and drove us to the park where we put on our snowshoes and trekked across frozen lakes, moon-like snow covered landscapes and through pretty forests. We had a little stop half way to cook some cinnamon buns on a fire and drink berry tea. Something I loved learning about was Everyman’s rights. Which is public access rights for everyone in Finland to enjoy outdoor pursuits regardless of who owns or occupies an area. You do not need the landowner’s permission, and there is no charge. People can pick berries, camp and enjoy nature freely. Which I think says a lot about the Finnish culture we felt really lucky to experience.
Helsinki is a place we really loved experiencing. Nature is at the heart of the city, the pace is slow and relaxed, the food is comforting, the people are welcoming and there is beautiful design around every corner. I really really enjoyed not having to reach for my camera every five minutes, but rather just enjoying soaking up the soul of the city.
LIKE MY OUTFITS?
These outfits are from my Winter Capsule Wardrobe, you can also shop these items and support Jayde Archives at the same time by using some of the affiliate links below:
- Madewell Ruffle Sleeve (sold out, similar here)
- Madewell Whisper Cotton Long Sleeve (size up for a casual fit)
- Witchery Knit Top (old, similar hereECO)
- Oysho Fluffy Sweater (old, similar here ECO)
- H&M Multi Sweater (old, similar here ECO)
- Everlane Renew Short Puffer* ECO
- Selected Femme Wool Wrap Coat ECO
- Free People Dream of Me Midi Skirt (old, similar here)
- Weekday Body Jeans
- Madewell Roadtripper Jeans (old, similar hereECO)
- Timberland 6 Inch Classic Boots
- Panama Jack Felia Igloo Boots
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