Hometown Secrets: Helsinki, through the eyes of a Millennial

Photo: Kallio Block Fest/Julia Kivelä

When in Finland you have to stop by in Helsinki, in the end, it is our capital and the biggest city in Finland. If possible, you should try to visit Helsinki in the summer however short it may be. Helsinki in summer is a truly beautiful city with fun events happening every week. Helsinki is also filled with amazing ‘secret’ spots, which the typical tourist guides usually do not mention. I will give you a local’s perspective on what to do and see in Helsinki.

Helsinki during summer is amazing. People are outside enjoying the long-awaited warmth from the sun. They sit in parks, listening to live music and have a drink or two. During the weekend, they take the ferry over to Suomenlinna, the old sea fortress just 15 minutes outside of Helsinki. I run tours there part-time so I know for sure Suomenlinna is must for all the history buffs out there.

Photo: Isosaari Island/ Julia Kivelä

Therefore, I recommend visiting one of the other islands outside Helsinki, Vallisaari or Isosaari. These islands are only known by locals, but not that many tourists (yet). So, if you want to do a day-trip, take a picnic blanket, some food, your swimsuit and take a ferry to one of these islands it is the best way to enjoy the Finnish summer!            

When it comes to food, the best cinnamon bun in the world is in Café Regatta. Regatta Cafe is a lovely small cafeteria by the sea. It is close to Sibelius Monument and in my opinion, as a cinnamon bun fanatic, worthier to visit than the monument. After you had you cinnamon bun you may want to rent a board from the cafeteria to do some stand-up paddling. Stand up paddling is a nice way to explore the shores of Helsinki and burn that cinnamon bun away.

Photo: Café Regatta/Julia Kivelä

Avoid the ‘Hop on Hop off’ bus. Instead, buy a day-ticket and travel around Helsinki with the trams. The trams take you everywhere around Helsinki and go right past the same attractions. Also traveling around by tram, you will experience the Finnish awkwardness sitting close to other people. Do not be surprised if you see people standing, even if there are seats free. However, don’t be scared to speak with us. When you get us going, we have a lot to tell about Finland.
If you want to experience a true Finnish sauna and swim in the sea, you should visit Sompasauna. Sompasauna is a public sauna, which is open through the whole summer. Just take your swimsuit, a towel and something to barbeque and head on over to Sompasauna to enjoy some true Finnish culture right in the heart of Helsinki.

Photo: Sompasauna/Harri Tarvainen

When the sunsets and it starts to get a little bit colder, head to Kallio! Kallio (The Cliff) is an old neighbourhood in the north of Helsinki. Kallio is the most vibrant district with a laid-back atmosphere that the local population enjoys. It is the type of a neighbourhood, where dogs rest underneath café tables, laptops are always out in public, and the regular 9 to 5 work schedule does not always exist. Kallio is particularly famous for its nightlife and has some of the cheapest pubs in the Helsinki.

Photo: Kallio District/Jussi Hellstén

This was my take on Helsinki. Do not expect an Eiffel tower or a Big Ben. Instead be ready to meet awesome people, eat some good food (cinnamon buns all day long!) and a city with saunas, an old history, and a vibrant atmosphere!

See you in Helsinki

Author Information: Jon Järviniemi is an Intern at the Embassy of Finland in Canberra. 


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