Usually, when a travel destination isn’t particularly high on my ‘must-see’ list, it turns out to be a place I will never forget. Helsinki was no different.
Unlike my previous post about arriving in Helsinki might have suggested, as soon as i got to see a bit more of this city in the far corner of Scandinavia, I understood immediately why people fall in love with it.
There is nature all around, typical food you can’t find anywhere else, loads of funky modern design and beautiful historical buildings. But the fact that I also got to experience a bit of the Finnish lifestyle, when we joined the Finnish Sauna Society on a relaxing night of sauna, was something that made my trip extra special.
I really found out that Helsinki might be COLD… but at the same time it’s a HOT city!
In 2012, Helsinki was chosen as the World Design Capital and was placed 8th best city to live in that year as well. So what is it that makes this city so live-able? For me personally, it was the great balance I found between innovation and keeping old traditions alive.
While we stayed at Radisson Blue Seaside hotel, we got a tour of the (in my opinion a bit more modern) Radisson Blue Plaza hotel, and their rooms were simply amazing! They also had this cool restaurant, where guest could order from iPads and where they’d project designs onto the tables.
Visiting the Iittala factory was an absolute highlight of my trip, but what I really loved was that this is a brand that people in Finland really grow up with and pass along generation to generation.
Ah, yeah the Sauna! This is really a key element of the Finnish culture and I was so happy to be a part of it.
We got to join the locals at the Finnish Sauna Society on a great night of Sauna, talking around the wood fire while roasting sausages, eating cinnamon rolls and experiencing what it’s like to dive in the frozen lake after taking the Sauna. If I only was a little more brave I could have told you what this is like, but just standing outside in bikini was quite refreshing, I can tell you!
If you’re really curious, I can suggest you take a look at the video my wonderful friend Nadine from thenadwork shot and judge for yourself if you’d be up for it when visiting Finland!
Yeah minus 16. About that. Even after a week, my hands are still dry from the cold wind that went straight through them, but on a more positive note: the weather here in London feels like a nice Summer day now.
I can really recommend wearing good layers when visiting Helsinki in winter en to bring warm shoes/boots and a good coat. I was wearing my ski jacket, two sweaters and a thermal under layer, but at some moments I was still freezing! Oh, and definitely don’t forget your scarf, hat and gloves, you really, really need them!
One of the most beautiful places we visited was the Töölönlahti Bay, and with Happy Tours Helsinki (Go check ‘m out, they also do free walking tours and our guide Karri Korppi was amazing!), we did some Nordic walking around it. That was a great way to see the nature of the city -and get warm at the same time.
For a nice lunch break, stop at Café Piritta, where you can order a deliciously looking hot meal. I say looking, because I had a bit of a hangover from the night before (what happens in Helsinki, stays in Helsinki…) and so I was in no state of eating around that time.
I wish I could, because it looked amazing and the others were devouring their soups, chicken and salmon dishes! I didn’t even manage to take a picture of my meal, which for me is unheard of, so I definitely have to go back!
After warming up by a quick Tango lesson, which by the way made Finnish Television (check it out here, I’m the one with the green hiking boots and grey ski-jacket) (Did you know that tango is really quite popular in Finland? It was brought to Europe in the 1910’s by traveling musicians and the Finnish version is an established variation of the Argentine tango!), we took the elevator (some brave people among us walked up the 200 stairs…) to the top level of the tower at the Olympic Stadium and got the best views over the city, covered in a stunning white coat.
If you’re still unsure if Helsinki is worth visiting, have a look at these photos and tell me what you think:
Yes, Helsinki was Cold, but enough about that. This city left me with a warm feeling and if it wasn’t for participating in the Nordic Bloggers Experience, I probably wouldn’t have know what great a place it was for a long time to come. And now I cannot wait to go back!
So now it’s up to you, tell me:
Have you been to Helsinki before? What did you find that was HOT and what COLD? And what destination you visited surprised you the most? Let me know!
Visit Finland – www.visitfinland.com
Visit Helsinki – www.myhelsinki.fi
Finnair – www.finnair.com
Where to stay in Helsinki?
I stayed in a few hotels in Helsinki over the years, here are my favourite:
- Scandic Paasi [website]
- Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel [website]
- GLO Hotel Kluuvi [website]
- Hotel Helka [website]
- Forenom Aparthotel [website]
Check all Tours & Activities in Helsinki at GetYourGuide:
Booking a trip to Helsinki or the rest of Finland? Here are some great guidebooks:
Disclaimer: I was in Finland as part of the Nordic Bloggers Experience / MATKA Travel Fair. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Follow us through the hashtag #nbeFinland and #Matkamessus as our blogs, photos and videos are rolling in!
This post is also available in: Dutch