5 things to love about Helsinki

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This was the first thing we saw when we got off the plane.

Last week R & I went on holiday to Helsinki, hence the lack of posts here. We had an amazing time! I thought I’d share some of our favourite things about the city, just in case any of you are thinking of going. It’s an expensive city, but definitely worth visiting. R & I were on a tight budget, which meant there were some things we had to miss out on and that we had to be quite mercenary sometimes when deciding what to do, but we were there for 5 days and managed to experience a lot of what the city offers nonetheless. I’ll attempt to keep this short, but I did take a lot of pictures so forgive me if I get overexcited. 🙂 I’ve grouped them loosely by what aspect of Helsinki they represent. So here we go, 5 things to love about Helsinki, in no particular order:

1) The architecture

Until 1917, Finland belonged to either Sweden or Russia, and Helsinki’s architecture represents that. The city center is a mix of pastel neo-Classical building and brick buildings with a Scandinavian/Nordic vibe, while the outer parts of the city feel very industrial and Eastern European.

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Senate Square.
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Building on Suomenlinna.
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Restaurant and optician in the city center.

2) The water

What’s not to love about a city by the sea? The air is fresh and breezy, and the water itself makes the whole place feel a little more zen. Helsinki has a beautiful harbor with a great market. It also has lots of lakes throughout the city. We spent a lot of our time walking around these, as they were so lovely. We also took a ferry out to Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage site just out of the harbor. The island was fantastic and had incredible views.

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Ferry back from Suomenlinna.

 

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View from King’s Gate on Suomenlinna.
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Lake in city center.
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Another lake, complete with dog. 🙂

3) The nature & wildlife

Despite being a capital city, Helsinki is still open and natural. There were unexpected pockets of wilderness in the center, in addition to lots of parks and gardens. Perhaps related, there were also a lot of dogs in Helsinki. My husband went into a tiny record shop with three dogs in it! I also saw loads of birds, squirrels, rabbits and bees.

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Gulls!
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Bees in the Winter Garden.
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Paper birch.

4) The markets & secondhand shops

Helsinki has at least three major markets, and we managed to get to two of them: Kauppatori and Hakaniemi. Kauppatori is the posher of the two, which is to be expected given that it is dead in the center of the city and prime tourist sites. Hakaniemi is about 20 minutes from the center and feels more traditional. On weekends Hakaniemi also hosts a flea market, but unfortunately we weren’t able to stay over a weekend. I really preferred this market, though, and I imagine the flea market’s great. Helsinki is also full of secondhand shops, which we thought was brilliant! Some are charity shops, while others are chains or independent secondhand shops.

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Hakaniemi Market.
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Inside Hakaniemi Market

 

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Kauppatori Market

5) The food

There’s a bit of overlap with markets here, because we did a lot of our eating in them. 🙂 Food in Helsinki is expensive. I read about it before we went and was still shocked by the prices. Because we were on a tight budget, we didn’t eat out that often. What we did have was delicious, though. There were loads of Italian restaurants, but our favourite was probably Russian restaurant Blini. The salmon dumplings were great.

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Probably the best ice cream sandwich wrapper I’ve ever seen.
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Picnic on Suomenlinna with market strawberries, raspberries and peas.
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Voisilämapulla, a butter bun and easily one of the most delicious pastries I’ve ever had.

 

Stay tuned for my impressions of the incredible Helsinki Design Museum and to see what lovely things I brought back. 🙂

If you’re interested in reading more about Helsinki, I’d recommend Posh, Broke and Bored’s posts about it. While she obviously didn’t approach her trip with a budget as strict as ours, a lot of our impressions of the city are the same.

 

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