Helsinki has consistently been voted one of the top cities in the world to live in, and though we may be slightly biased ourselves, there’s no denying that being surrounded by the largest archipelago in the world and having hipster neighbourhoods, quaint cafes and summer days when the sun doesn’t seem to set, are just a few things that make Helsinki a very attractive capital. Having both lived in Helsinki for quite a number of years, Pinja and I have put our heads together and come up with an ultimate list of some must-dos, must-trys and must-eats if you’re ever in town!
First things first: if you’re visiting Helsinki in the summer or early autumn, be sure to head over to the Market Square by the South Harbour for your fix of fresh fruits and berries, local delicacies and some traditional souvenirs as well. Do watch out for those greedy seagulls, though they have over the years become part of the scenery.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, the Fazer café on Kluuvikatu is your one stop for all things heavenly with a good selection of savoury pies and sandwiches, too. This more than a century old café is also stunning visually! Weather permitting, find yourself a nice spot in the scenic Regatta café by the shore in Töölö; this is a favourite amongst both locals and tourists, not least because of their fresh cinnamon buns and coffee policy – the house actually pays you 10 cents for each refill!
Photo taken by Lyra Li
For lunch, head over to one of our three Old Market Halls from where you can get all kinds of yummy local foods. If you’re happy with something light, try Soppakeittiö (The Soup Kitchen), which you’ll find from all the market halls and find yourself a delicious soup for 10 €. Known especially for its famous Bouillabaisse, which is on the menu every day, Soppakeittiö is a popular lunch option among the busy citizens.
For a low-budget but delicious dinner, try one of the city’s street-food-oriented restaurants. Helsinki has gone crazy over street food in the past few years and you can find lots of options ranging from authentic Mexican to Middle-Eastern and from Vietnamese summer rolls to burgers. We recommend Fafa’s (several locations around the city centre) from which you can get delicious falafels, pitas and meze salads. There have also been several new gourmet burger places opening in the city lately, such as Friends & Brgrs and Naughty Brgr.
If you can splurge a little and want something a bit more sophisticated, head over to Sushibar + Wine. Scandinavian design, the best sushi in town and a glass of small winery wine are guaranteed to make the perfect evening with friends.
If you’re looking for something unique and local, the Design District in the heart of Helsinki might be just the place. You’ll have to shell out quite a bit, but this hub of Finnish crafts and designs is guaranteed to be of topnotch quality.
For some more wallet-friendly alternatives, check out the numerous thrift stores and boutiques sprawled across the city and you’re bound to find some true gems for a bargain. A good place to start would be the internationally recognised hipster neighbourhood Kallio, which is known for its laidback and culturally diverse atmosphere.
If you’re visiting the city during the summer, don’t miss out on the Hietalahti Flea Market which is the largest outdoor flea market of the city. Filled with clothes, accessories, books, design and pretty much everything you’ve ever dreamed of it’s the go-to shopping place for a trendy citizen. Make sure you have cash with you and be ready to bargain!
Photo taken by Maija Huitu
If you’re only staying for a short while, a summer stroll along the beach of Hietaniemi or a picnic in Kaivopuisto on a beautiful day alone will definitely be more rewarding for your soul than any museum we could think of. In addition to taking your selfies in front of our number one sightseeing spot, the Helsinki Cathedral, why not get a day-ticket and hop on trams no. 2, 4 or 6 for some of the best architectural and culinary routes around Helsinki?
If you don’t mind the crowds, take the ferry to Suomenlinna. A world-heritage site, this small island featuring a fortress from the 18th century is filled with cultural and natural sights, not to mention superb picnic spots that attract both tourists and citizens alike.
If you’d like to explore the Finnish art scene, try the Ateneum Art Museum which features a large collection of Finnish art as well as changing exhibitions from the world’s most interesting artists. If you prefer modern art, head over to Kiasma, a museum of contemporary art, where you can get familiar with both Finnish and international contemporary art.
If you want to see where university students gather on weekends, Kallio is the place to be. Filled with pubs, bars and nightclubs with student-friendly prices, it is the epitome of Helsinki’s trendy nightlife.
If, on the other hand, you find yourself more glamorous than hipster, there are lots of popular nightclubs in the city centre, such as Teatteri, where you can dance the night away together with fashion bloggers and celebrities. There are also lots of great cocktail bars, such as Liberty or Death, which are, however, a bit on the expensive side.
There is so much more to Helsinki than we had covered and the only way to truly experience this Nordic capital is – you guessed it – by visiting. If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, remember to drop us a line and one of our Her Campus at Helsinki members will surely be willing to take you around. Have a lovely spring term Georgetown!
Photo taken by Lyra Li
Header photo taken by Maija Huitu.