Direct flight to Helsinki from Singapore or Hong Kong

Finnair flies daily from Singapore and Hong Kong to Helsinki and it has become a convenient flight to get to Europe. These direct flights take 11,5 hours from Singapore to Helsinki and 10,5 hours from Hong Kong to Helsinki.

The flights offer a nice experience to Finland. The new A350s are comfy to travel and the night flight helps you to get to the new time zone. If you fancy the most pleasant travel option, book yourself to business class. You’ll have a full flat bed, a curated selection of wines and food and a wi-fi!

Finns are proud of their design heritage and the nice thing at Finnair flights is that Iittala products and Marimekko prints are part of the experience. For a homesick Finn – or any design enthusiast – it’s just nice to travel in pretty environment.

As a last tip. Check the ceiling of the plane and maybe you catch some virtual northern lights too.

 

What to do at Helsinki-Vantaa airport

Many people know Helsinki-Vantaa airport through their transferring flights to Europe. In case you are not planning to stay couple of days in Helsinki, there are some nice options to spend your transfer time also at the airport.

If you need some sleep, pop into one of the go sleep tubes at gate 31. Take your ear plugs and pillow with you. Tubes are free from 6am to 10pm. Other times you pay an hourly rate.

Helsinki-Vantaa airport is not too bad for a quick shopping either.

  • Moomin shop, get some Moomin stuff from terminal 2, around gates 26-27: Sun-Fri 5-23 and Sat 5-19.30
  • Book Swap, how nice is this! Finished the paperback over flight? Bring it here, recycle and choose another one for the connecting flight. Terminal 2, gate 31 – Kainuu lounge (open for everyone 24h)
  • Marimekko, get some famous prints to your home at terminal 2, gate 27, Sun-Fri 5-23 and Sat 5-19.30
  • Iittala store, Finns like their tableware and glass items. Grab some classics at terminal 2, gate 28, Sun-Fri 5-23 and Sat 5-19.30
  • Alepa, this small every day grocery shop can be accessed through the arrival hall. Check what to buy in grocery stores and grab some Finnish goodies with you. Terminal 2, arrivals hall 2B. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

And the last but not least – Sauna

Every Finnish home and apartment building has its own, so why not the airport.
Situated between gates 36 and 37. It’s a unisex sauna and everyone whears a towel. It’s free for business class customers and other customers pay 48 euros. You can pay at the lounge reception or book in advance through Finnair’s website.

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Helsinki-Vantaa airport

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Time to have a nap.

 

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Helsinki Airport sauna. Picture by Finavia.

Try these affordable lunch places in Helsinki

There are several lunch restaurants in Helsinki that main stream tourist guides don’t mention but we think these are essential part of our lunch culture and wanted to dedicate couple of posts for them. In the first post, I’ll go through some university restaurants in the city centre of Helsinki that are also open for general public.

Before introducing the lunch places, a bit of background on the tradition. Since 1943 Finnish students and pupils have had the right to free meals during school days. It consists of a warm main course, a side of vegetables, bread and a drink.

(Examples of Finnish school meals. Pictures by Elli.)

This tradition has gone from schools to working life and universities. Student meals are subsidised and many employers provide lunch benefits. Most often people will go out for lunch and enjoy a hot meal with affordable prices from 8 to 10 euros.

These self-service restaurants offer homefood (a direct translation of the Finnish word which means meals made at home) which include drink, main course, sallad, bread and sometime coffee or even dessert. These restaurants are mostly located in university buildings – feel free to go inside and look for the restaurant.

Student/University restaurants
These restaurants are open also for general public. There are differnt prices for students as  their meals are subsidised. The highest price on the menu is generally for everyone else and they vary from 6-10 euros.

Päärakennus
This restaurant is located in Helsinki University’s main building. It’s on the ground floor. Just turn right after entering the building.
Fabianinkatu 33
Mon-Thu 8.30am-5pm and lunch 10.30am-4pm. Fri 8.30am-4.30pm and lunch 10.30am-3.30pm

Porthania
Porthania’s restaurant is located in the University block and is convenient to visit while exploring the city centre.
Yliopistonkatu 3, elevator to 2nd floor
Mon-Thu: 8am-4.40pm, lunch 10.30am-4pm. Fri: 8am-4pm, lunch 10.30am-4pm

Hanken
Hanken’s restaurant is very popular among students. It can get crowded around lunch time but worth of trying if you are around.
Arkadiankatu 22
open Mon-Thu 8.00-16.30, Fri 8.00-16.00. Breakfast Mon-Fri 8.00-10.15 Lunch Mon-Fri 11.00-15.00

Chydenia
Chydenia’s restaurant is located in the basement and has quite nice atmosphere.
Runeberginkatu 22-24
Open Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Lunch 11am-1.30pm

Proffa
Runeberginkatu 14-16
Open Mon-Fri, Lunch 11am-1.30pm

Latin Market Metsätalo
Fabianinkatu 39
Mon-Thu 7.45am-4.30pm and lunch 10.30am-4pm. Fri 7.45am-3.30pm and lunch 10.30am-3pm

Helsinki Christmas bazaars 2016

Helsinki is full of Christmas bazaars from November to December. You’ll find unique hand-made gifts, souveniers, high quality design, traditional pastries and much more in these events. Here are cople of tips where to go for Christmas bazaar shopping in Helsinki.

Tuomaan markkinat
In 2015, the Huffington Post ranked Helsinki Christmas Market among the 15 European Christmas markets we love to love.
In the centre of Helsinki, Senate Square
3.-22.12.2016
Mon-Fri 11am-8pm
Sat and Sun 10am-7pm

Vanhan Joulutori at the historic Vanha ylioppilastalo
Finnish handicrafts by Finnish designers and artisans.
Mannerheimintie 3
17.-22.12.2016
Mon – Fri 11am-8pm
Sat and Sun 11am-6pm
Fri Dec 23rd 11am-6pm

Korjaamo
You’ll find more international flavours in this market. Australia, Italy and India are present together with Finnish products.
Kulttuuritehdas Korjaamo
Töölönkatu 51 a-b
26.-27.11. and 10.-11.12.2016 11am-5pm

Ornamo Design Christmas Market
A selection of high quality design and handicrafts by professional designers
Cable Factory, Tallberginkatu 1, Helsinki
2.-4.12.2016, Fri 12pm-8pm, Sat and Sun 10pm-6pm

Women’s Christmas Fair
You will find hand-knit and embroidered Christmas decorations, pottery, jewelry, candles, leather and wood products and much more.
Pikku Satamakatu 3-5
2.-6.12.2016
Fri 2.12. 11am-7pm
Sat-Mon 3.-5.12. 10am-6pm
Tue 6.12. 10am-5pm

 

tuomaan_markkinatTuomaan markkinat. Picture: Jussi Hellsten

Try these mulled wine places in Helsinki

When winter arrives in Helsinki, it’s time to spend some time in candle light enjoying mulled wind, or as we call it glögi, with your friends and family. The tradition of drinking this warm, alcholic drink comes from 1800s and is nowadays mainly enjoyed around Christmas time.

From November onwards you can find several bars and restaurants in helsinki that serve glögi in its various formats: alcoholic, non-alcoholic, with red or white wine or even with a dash of vodka or brandy. The spices makes it special and most often you’ll find cinnamon, ginger, cloves, bitter orange peel or star anis in it.

Glögi is served with almonds and raisins and you can choose to add or leave them out depending on your preference.

Try some of the following places around Espa for warm glögi and cozy winter atmosphere.

Kappeli
Eteläesplanadi 1

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Strindberg
Pohjoisesplanadi 33

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Salutorget Bar
Pohjoisesplanadi 15
(picture borrowed from Salutorget’s website)
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Read next:
Christmas markets – Tuomaan markkinat. This year 3.-22.12.2016
Christmas pastries – see the video on how to make traditional Christmas stars

Northern Lights in Helsinki

Can you see Northern lights in Helsinki and when should you travel to see the lights, are the most common questions from my foreign friends. Yes, you can see them also in Helsinki and other southern parts of Finland.

You should travel to see Northern lights when evenings get dark. Finland is famous of nightless nights summer so wait until autmun and winter for darker nights. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, four nights out of five are illuminated by Northern lights in Northern Lapland (Kilipisjärvi-Utsjoki area). However, in order to see the lights the sky needs to be also cloudless. Further South you go, the probability of seeing Northern lights decreases. This doesn’t mean you wouldn’t been able to see them in Helsinki at all, there are just less evenings and nights to see them.

According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the best months to see Northern lights are from February to March and from September to October and the best time during the day is between 9pm and 1am local time. If you are in a city, try to find a spot that isn’t disturbed by city lights or reflections. In autumn and especially in winter the nights can be cold also in Helsinki so remember to wear warm cloths and shoes for Northern lights spotting.

So, if you came to Finland just to see the Northern lights then book a trip from Helsinki to Northern parts of Finland to ensure better probability to see the lights. If you are visiting only Helsinki, keep looking in the Northern sky in the evenings to get a glimpse of the colourful lights.

Check out also the Auroras Now service for Northern lights alerts.
And for clouds in Nordics, you can visit Finnish Meteorological Institue’s cloud satellite service.

You can try Observatory Hill (in Finnish Tähtitorninmäki or Tähtitorninvuoren puisto) for spotting the Northern Lights if you are in Helsinki. In case you don’t manage to see the lights at least you’ll visit one of the nicest parks in Helsinki. You can get there either through Tähtitorninkatu (tram number 10’s final stop and through Kasarmikatu to Tähtitorninkatu) or through Unioninkatu.

See also thee northern ligths Sky Cameras

The hippiest cafe in Helsinki

Helsinki is full of beautiful cafes and restaurants and in the past years probably thanks to the Restaurant Day, it seems there are new places popping up every week.

However, there are also some classics that have been there for a long time like Bear Park Cafe which you can find in the hippiest part of Helsinki, Kallio. The summer cafe spreads to Karhupuisto and serves coffee and various delicacies like pulla (cinnamon buns) and ice creams from Helsingin jäätelötehdas.

Remember, this cafe area is wi-fi free so just enjoy the atmosphere without social media 😉

The Bear Park Cafe is located in a small kiosk called ’lippakioski’. There are still some 19 kiosks around Helsinki and they were designed around 1940s and 1950s. You can find similar kiosks also from Esplanade park in the centre of Helsinki. They were built close to the bus stations and they have had the same purpose since then: to serve refreshments to townspeople.

The Bear Park Cafe has also another small cafe on the same street called Kulmakahvio. This cozy cafe operates through out the year and is a very nice place to observe just Kallio and its colourful atmosphere.

How to get there:
Bear Park is located in Kallio
You can take tram numbers 1, 1A, 3B or 9 that stop directly in front of the park. Hakaniemi metro station is also a short walk from the park.
Kulmakahvila’s address is: Agricolankatu 13.

 

A Cosy restaurant in Helsinki – Baskeri and Basso

There are several lovely restaurants worth visiting in Helsinki and one of the latest additions is Baskeri and Basso or just shortly BasBas.

This cosy restaurant is located in Tehtaankatu 27-29 (the entrance is via courtyard) and has very warm atmosphere and delicious food. It’s run by Nicolas Thieulon and Kalle Kiukainen and the menue is a mix of French, Italian and some other international flavours.

The restaurant is located in an old factory building and warmly decorated with wooden chairs, candles and soft lights. It’s also nice to have an opportunity to see chefs working with the dishes as there is an open kitchen just in the corner of the bigger dining space.

The best way to experience the menu is to choose 4 small dishes and mix warm and cold delicates. It’s definitely enough and you’ll get a good variety of dishes. There’s no wine list but the staff is knowledgeble on their cellar options and very helpful in matching the wines and dishes together.

Remember to make a booking in advance – it seemed quite busy when we went there the first time!

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Basbas restaurant Helsinki

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What? Basker and Basso restaurant
Where? Tehtaankatu 27-29
How to get there? By trams 1A (Perämiehenkatu), 2 and 3 (Eiran sairaala) or buses 14 (Perämiehenkatu) and 18 (Eiran sairaala).
Why? Because of the atmosphere, friendly service and lovely food.

Music festivals in Helsinki – Flow

One of the most interesting music festivals in Helsinki is definitely Flow festival. It’s a perfect way of getting tuned into Helsinki’s artistic and relaxed atmosphere. The festival takes place from 12th to 14th of August – just when the evenings start getting darker and festivals better.

Each Finnish city has its own music festival and Flow is the one to visit in Helsinki. You can buy the tickets already now and get to know the artists playing in each stage. Yes, don’t worry if you don’t know a single band on the list – it’s a great opportunity to explore some new music and just enjoy the atmosphere.

The Flow festival has been organised since 2004 and it has grown its popularity every year reaching over 70,000 visitors. It’s been organised in old power plant area in Suvilahti which a unique and convenient area for an urban festival.

Flow is a nice experience also to someone interested in food. There are several nice restaurants offering food for all tastes; vegetarians, organic and sustainably produced food.

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Photo by Jussi Hellsten, Flow Festival

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Photo by Samuli Pentti, Flow Festival

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Photo by Jussi Hellsten, Flow Festival

What? Flow music Festival
When? 12. – 14.8.2016
Why? Atmosphere, bands, arts and food

How to live like a local in Helsinki?

After couple of glasses of sparkling (as any story in Finland would start) we got this idea. Travelling is wonderful, it gives perspective and new experiences. When you come home you compare what was different and you cherish the moments when you felt living like a local.

Sometimes living like a local happens through a random new friend or someone who had just a recommendation of a place, an event or thing just the locals know. Sometimes it’s a moment when you notice that things are done differently and you try it yourself too. Sometimes for someone it’s a moment livinginHEL.

We are three ladies in their 30++ and their very engaged wider family writing this blog. Two of us work and live in downtown Helsinki and one of us lives abroad. This blog is about everyday life in Helsinki so, whether you are living in Helsinki, just planning to visit the buzzing capital of Finland or considering to move here, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll bring in front of you everyday life of Helsinki through our own experiences.  

We hope you enjoy!

Anne, Anna and Marjo

P.S. If you didn’t know yet, HEL signifies those 3 magical letters of our famous airport HELsinki-Vantaa. You’ll see them first when you arrive in HELsinki. Otherwise living in Helsinki is far away from Hell, at least that’s what we and some reputable other parties think (Monocle and the Economist)

Disclaimer: We only know how we live and breathe Helsinki and we are happy to share our experiences and give you advice. However, we represent just a very small group of Finns and things we love or do don’t necessarily apply to any Finn.

Oh, and we are active in Facebook and Instagram as well #livinginhel, so join the group and share your thoughts, memories and pictures with us. If you wanted to get just updates directly to your email, just sign up for the mailing list.

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