Travel Guide: Helsinki
We ferried from Talliin, Estonia across the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki. What an entrance to a city that turned out to be beyond expectations! Helsinki is Finland’s capital city, located in the south of the country in the Gulf of Finland. One of the best days was visiting the Löyly sauna facility where we polar dipped into the ice-cold water of the Gulf of Finland. We then warmed up in the saunas and by the fire in the restaurant. Helsinki has a regal feel to it, great restaurants and cocktail spots that rival any that we've visited! We loved the Christmas market at Market Square (Kauppatori) and had a great/interesting day "working like locals" at Sofia Coworking space. Helsinki is called the “white city of the north” because many of its buildings are constructed from a local light-coloured granite AND it is also the most northerly of continental European capitals. The entire population of Finland is smaller than you might think at 5.5M people and Helsinki has about 1.5M of them. Overall, we highly recommend Helsinki!
Food & Drink
1 Löyly Helsinki • Löyly Restaurant is connected to its sauna facilities. It may not be the best food in the city, but I think the experience could be better by far. This is because you can access all the sauna facilities, polar dip in the Gulf of Finland and then shower, freshen up and eat an amazing dinner by a roaring, indoor fire. We had dinner reservations, so I was only able to squeeze in a quick beer, but it was one of the most enjoyable of the trip!
2 Grön • Cozy restaurant offering a menu of creative & seasonal contemporary Scandinavian cuisine.
3 Olo • Fine dining venue presenting innovative tasting menus & wine pairings amid understated decor.
1 Chihuahua Julep • Agave-friendly cocktail bar with a good selection of tequila, mezcal, bourbon & rum. Look for the door bell to enter. It's also a mobile phone and photo free area with no reservations. Cheese &snacks on the menu.
2 Liberty or Death • Dark and swanky cocktail bar with a hip vibe. They have a very cool menu, which is made out of metal and very heavy. The drinks on it are incredible with gin being a specialty. Worth checking out!
3 Runar • Runar could be the best cocktail bar in Helsinki. Set inside Helsinki's Hotel F6, Runar is a very different type of hotel bar. The flavour combinations are interesting and impressive such as "gin, wasabi, fennel and apple". These bartenders know their stuff.
1 Kauppatori/Market Square • An outdoor, harbour-side market that is open year-round. Packed with food stalls, handicrafts & a heated cafe tent in winter, this market is amazing. We went during their Christmas Market and it was unbelievable with roasted chestnuts, mulled wine/glogg and festive food.
2 Vanha Kauppahalli • Right beside the Kauppatori/Market Square, this indoor market is a traditional, 19th-century venue with restaurants, shops & stalls selling Finnish specialties.
3 Hakaniemi Market Hall • Bi-level red-brick market since 1914, with seafood, produce & other foods, plus crafts & souvenirs.
Other Food & Drink
More Food • Ora, Restaurant Shelter, Pizzeria Via Tribunali, Deck terrace of Relandersgrund Majakkalaiva
More Drink • Schooner Kathrina
Activities & Attractions
1 Finnish Sauna at Löyly • As mentioned, Löyly has sauna facilities connected to a great restaurant. What I'd recommend is going using the sauna facilities, polar dipping in the Gulf of Finland and then eating food in the restaurant (we went in winter when there was a fire blazing in the center of the room).
2 Ferry across to the Sea Fortress, Suomenlinna • This UNESCO World-Heritage site is a military fortress steeped in history. The island is big and as you walk around it, you are transported into a different world and time.
3 Temppeliaukio Church • Visiting this church is a little bit of a "slow activity", but it also a must-do. Known as "Church in the Rock," this modern church is carved into rock with a surreal copper dome.
Eira, Ullanlinna, Kaivopuisto, Punavuori, Töölö, Kulosaari
HOTELS & AIRBNBS
A Jugend Pearl in Southern Helsinki • In the charming and peaceful neighbourhood of Ullanlinna, a neat 41 sq/m apartment is waiting for you. Near the sea, well connected to the city center—by tram, bus or foot. Numerous cozy cafes and restaurants within walking distance.
H Hotel St. George Helsinki • A 5-star hotel in a building dating back to the 1840s. This hotel is luxurious and classy. The location is impeccable in the retail district, close to bars, seafront dining & the Helsinki Art Museum.
H Hotel Kämp • For the past 134 years, Hotel Kämp has been the safe haven in the heart of Helsinki for both locals and visitors alike. Set in a building dating back to 1887, this ritzy hotel is a 5-minute walk from shopping in the Market Square