16 May 2016

Four days in Helsinki

My sis and I try to vacate the country every year for a few days but thanks to four months of unemployment (and a couple of getaways closer to home) we didn't quite manage it last year. We sort of, kind of, take it in turns to pick the next destination and for 2016 my sis chose Helsinki!

The Finnish capital is a fairly small city some of which is walkable but we mostly made use of their excellent tram network. The locals we met were a mixed bunch, mostly very friendly and helpful, others less so. Practically everyone spoke English and near on perfect at that. When we got back from Finland and people asked me "how was it?", three things came to the forefront: 1. It's a cool city - it's full of cute cafes & bars, two out of three people seem to own dogs (as dog lovers we thought this was awesome) and it's got islands and Moomins (need I say more?). 2. Our airbnb was perfection, a cosy scandi appartment (perfect for two) in a great location. 3. Finland is hella expensive. Stupidly I thought it would be similar to London prices (aka expensive but just about manageable) but no, it turned out to be pricier than Iceland!

Food & drink
So both these were expensive, I'm talking  8 euros for a half litre of beer or a single vodka and coke, sandwiches costing between 6-9 euros and you'd be looking at 18-22 euros for a main course at a mid-priced resturant. But, we found ways round it, such as the most excellent Bar 9 (try their Kill Bill - one of the best things I ate the entire holiday), delicious falafel at Fafa's, traditional Finnish brunch at Bergga (Helsinki are very into brunch) which incidentally was directly below our Airbnb and lastly, the Old Market Hall for a range of foods and price ranges (the building itself is also a stunner). In terms of nights out, we discovered (on our first night after ordering the 8 euro beers) that this wasn't going to be a boozy holiday. Instead we stuck to one or two small beers (equivalent to half pints I guess) with food and only went out twice. Firstly to the awesome Library Pub which is exactly what it sounds like: a bar with books! And secondly to Navy Jerry's a cocktail place that played rockabilly tunes (my kind of place). We did buy a couple of beers at the supermarket and a v.chatty member of staff explained to us that we only had until 9pm to buy alcohol as they stop serving it then (and that we wouldn't be able to buy any on Sunday either!). He told us that Helsinki residents hop on the ferry to Tallin to buy their booze in the-much-less taxed Estonia (kinda how we brits do booze cruises to Calais). We found A LOT of coffee places which pleased my sis and they all had an excellent selection of tea which was perfect for me. (I may have brought back moomin tea...)

Architecture & Art
The buildings in Helsinki were incredible - lots of turrets and spires, a bit gothic in a way and just generally interesting looking, from the cathedrals and market halls, to the train station and people's brightly coloured clapperboard houses. We didn't get around to the architecture museum (or a couple of the other museums for that matter) as everything was basically closed on Mondays (poor planning on our part really). We did pop into HAM though, Helsinki Art Museum, to see the mini exhibition they had on moomin creator, Tove Jansson.

The island
Helsinki has around about 330 islands, varying in size and accessibility. On our first day we caught the ferry to Suomenlinna to see the marine fortress built the 1700s. Visiting the island was easily one of the highlights for me. We were free to wander through the town (people actually live on it now too) and explore the network of tunnels and spaces used to store ammunition for the cannons which are still in place today!

Tampere & Moomins
On the Saturday we took a two hour train north to Tampere, home of the Moomin museum which housed some of Tove's original drawings as well as a number of moomin sculptures, made by her partner, depicting scenes from the Moomin adventures. Although the exhibition was good, it and the Moomin shop were very small, we actually ended up buying the bulk of our moomin goodies back in Helsinki! With some time to kill before our train, we wandered over to the edge of the huge lake (which actually looked like the sea) at Tampere to take in some views. On reflection, I really liked Helsinki as a city but I think if I ever went back to Finland I'd want to spend my time in the countryside. We saw bits of it on the train to and from Tampere - lakes, so many lakes, and pine forests - and it looked beautiful.

So there you have it, a little break down of Helsinki. Now that I've finally got around to writing this post, I reeeeeeally want another holiday...but somewhere a bit cheaper I think!


  1. Has boo been photoshopping :)? Tidying up a few photos. We should plan our next adventure! And yes somewhere cheap or cheaper fo sho!

    1. haha, no photoshopping but instagram has brightened/straightened up a few pics ;)

  2. Yay! Sibling trips are the best! I love all the beautiful pink buildings.

    1. they are :) yeah, the architecture was ace!

  3. These photos make me reeeeeaaaaally want to go on holiday soon! Helsinki looks beautiful. I'd heard from a couple of people that it was a bit boring? But hey I live in Leicester so anything's exciting compared to here! (this football season notwithstanding. oh and when they found a king in a carpark)

    1. haha! Boring is a little harsh I think (I loved the trip to the island for example and I wish we'd done more water based excursions) but I can sort of see why they said that, it's v.chilled out.


Ta v.much :)

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