Night of the Arts 2017 / Taiteiden Yö 2017 in Helsinki

Just a quick note reminding about Taiteiden Yö (Night of the Arts) that’s celebrated today allover Helsinki. It’s an annual art festival as a part of Helsinki Festival, a series of different kinds of events during August.

This year I haven’t had the time to actually plan on what to do and where to go but I was planning on seeing at least these ones:

  1. The Secret Garden on Senate Square

Last year this garden was almost next door from my home and the atmosphere was very cosy and nice. They had workshops for kids, couple of bands and artists playing on the garden and some snacks available. This year the Secret Garden will be built to Senate Square so hopefully they will manage to make it as magical as last year.


The Secret Garden in Helsinki in 2016

2. One Pint Pub: Bellydance, Blues and Jazz

Not really interested in bellydance but this is our local with an amazing selection of craft beers all over the world. Support your local!

4. Mattolaituri night of arts

If the weather is good (as it should be), I think I’ll take my city bike (the yellow Alepa-bikes I wrote about in May) and make a short tour around the city. One of the pit stops will most likely be Mattolaituri in Kaivopuisto park to listen to some DJ’s and see their light installations. I can imagine it to be pretty cool in a dark August night.




Islands on Helsinki archipelago: Isosaari


Suomenlinna Fortress must be one of the most well known islands on Helsinki archipelago. However, during the past couple of years some of the islands that used to belong to Finnish Army have been opened to the public. Anna wrote about Lonna last year and this summer we got yet another interesting island to visit when Isosaari island was opened.

Isosaari island situated about 4 kilometers from Helsinki center and it takes about 30-40 minutes to get there on a boat. The boat costs 15 € and it leaves from Helsinki Market Square (or Kauppatori) next to Suomenlinna fortress ferries. During the summer (until 14 August) you can get there from Tuesday to Sunday and until 3 September during the weekend on Saturdays and Sundays. Mondays are reserved for golfers so if you are into the game I recommend trying out the peculiar 9 hole golf course that’s built on Isosaari.

Like I mentioned, Isosaari (or Mjölö in Swedish) used to be a military island and some of my friends have actually served their military service (or at least some part of it) on the island. There are still marks of that era such as an old shooting range and barracks. The old Officer’s Club has been re-opened serving light snacks, hamburgers, fish soup and beverages for visitors.


On a warm day you can also bring your own picnic basket or spend the day on the beach swimming. or even spend the night in your own tent on the camping area. There’s also a couple of saunas you can rent out for a larger group or just enjoy the public sauna that’s warm from 10 AM to 6 PM every day (during summer season). Just be prepared that it’s a public sauna for both men and women.

However, my favorite thing about this island is the beautiful nature and tranquility on the island. Even though it’s situated quite close to Helsinki mainland, the island is very quiet and peaceful. I think Isosaari is worth the day-trip: a bit of nature during the day and then heading back to the center for a nice glass of wine at Kauppatori at Allas Sea Pool for example.



Picking wild berries and mushrooms around Helsinki area

One of my favourite things in August is probably harvest season. Lots of fresh veggies in stores, local fruits (mostly apples) and of course wild berries and mushrooms. My parents just got back from Lapland and brought back a buckets and buckets full of cloudberries (called hilla or lakka in Finnish) which they had picked from swamp – and I absolutely love them!

Since we have this cool thing called everyman’s rights in Finland,  you’ve got the right to enjoy outdoor pursuits regardless of who owns or occupies an area anywhere in Finland. This means that you are allowed to gather wild berries and mushrooms from the forest free of charge and you do not need the landowner’s permission for it. However, there are still rules that apply so I’d recommend reading them before going to the forest for the first time. For example has them written down quite simply on their website.

Cloudberries are mostly found from Lapland (even though I have heard someone found them from Southern Finland, too), but blueberries grow everywhere in Finland and you can also find wild raspberries and sea buckthorns around Helsinki area. A bit later in the autumn (around September) you can pick lingonberries as well.

Berries are quite easy to recognize but with mushrooms I’d be more careful and only gather the ones you know for sure. I usually stick with chanterelles, funnel chanterelles, ceps and different sorts of boletes. Best way to get to know them is to go to the forest with someone who already knows how to recognize them.

Usually the season starts already in July when blueberries are ripe. However, this year has been a bit exceptional since the summer has been somewhat cold. Most of my friends usually go picking berries and mushrooms to their summer house but one option is to take the bus to Nuuksio national park (Eero wrote about camping in Nuuksio two summers ago, too). It will take a bit of time to get there on public transfer but it’s still doable. I would also recommend trying out Porkkalanniemi in Kirkkonummi to which I would recommend renting a car) or even taking a walk to Helsinki central park.


Helsinki City Bikes and new bike stations in 2017


After a long wait we finally got ourselves a new city bike system a year ago in May! Helsinki used to have an old city bike system  but it was closed in 2010 due to constant vandalism. In other words, the bikes got lost and broken all the time since there was no system to track down who actually was using the bike and where. Similar to shopping charts, you could just borrow the bikes from the bicycle stand with some coins.

Fortunately a year ago, the new and much improved Helsinki City Bike system started and a lot had changed in 6-7 years. The bikes were no longer green – greens seems to be reserved for trams in Helsinki public transport. Today the bikes are yellow and much stronger with little baskets in the front. The height of the saddle is easily adjustable and the bikes have automatic lights, too.

I used the city bikes the entire season last year (from May to the end of October) and last year I cycled about 90 kilometers. That’s not a huge amount of kilometers but considering that I was away for the entire July and all of my trips have been less than 30 minutes long (most of them under 1 kilometer, too) I think the bikes are my favorite and most used public transport method for the summer They served me extremely well in the city center where using other means of public transportation isn’t convenient. Biking saved up a bit of time and got me to work in less than 10 minutes – a walk that would normally take me about 15 minutes (but in the morning every minute matters…). For longer rides I still used my own bike but all my adhoc trips seemd to be all done by city bikes.

Helsinki public transport has pretty good instructions on how to register and use the bikes on their site but here they are in a nutshell:



Register: Choose the most convenient time for usage: 1 day (5 €), 1 week (10 €) or the entire season (25 €) which ends on 31 October. For the registration you need your credit card details.

Collect: After registration you will receive a cyclist ID and a pin code that you need for collecting the bike. All the bike stands are marked in Helsinki public transport’s map. There are also other services such as that use open source data to show the availability of the bikes on each bike station.

Ride and Return: First 30 minutes is for free and after that you need to pay extra for each beginning 30 minutes. 5 hours is the maximum time you’re allowed to use a bike at a time (after that you’ll get a 80 € fine) so I would recommend returning the bike every now and then and picking up a new one if you want to save up some money.

Since the city bikes have been a huge success last summer, City of Helsinki decided to expand the bike network  much further from the city center, all the way to Lauttasaari, Etelä-Haaga and Käpylä. Starting from May 2 until October 31, there will be 140 bike stations and 1400 bikes available this summer, which sounds good to me!




Trip to Helsinki Bothanic Garden in Kaisaniemi


It seems to take quite a long time for spring to arrive to Helsinki this year  – even though the sun is shining, the temperature seems to be just a few degrees above zero. But since it was Easter just this week and to me Easter is a definite sign of spring, we decided to get a kick start for the season and visit Kaisaniemi Bothanic Garden.

The Bothanic Garden is a part of Finnish museum of natural history, Luomus of which I wrote about some time ago when thinking about what to do with kids on a rainy afternoon in Helsinki. Bothanic Garden is situated in Kaisaniemi so it’s a short walk or two tram stops from central railway station. Like most museums, it’s closed on Mondays but exceptionally they kept their doors open for Easter also on Monday. Tickets for adults cost 9 € for evergreen glasshouses but if you are a proud owner of a Museum Card you can access the garden for free. However, outside gardens are free to everyone all year round.

I haven’t really visited that many bothanic gardens outside of Helsinki so I can’t really compare much to other gardens – and to most people the plants in the garden are probably very common outside of Finland. However, I think it’s an excellent way for a quick getaway from a cold winter’s day and it gives you the opportunity to learn more about exotic plants. Some of them are also very popular houseplants in Finland (for example snake plants and saintpaulias).

One of the bothanic gardens attractions is their Waterlily Room’s  Santa Cruz waterlily which, according to the museum, has survived the bombings of World War II. They don’t usually survive our dark winter so the new plants rise again after March.

During the summer this is a nice area just to walk around the outside gardens or have a cup of coffee at next door cafe Viola. At least I added this to my to do -list for next summer!


Breakfast in Helsinki – Cargo coffee and vegetarian food


For the past year I’ve walked by Cargo coffee every week but haven’t had the chance or a perfect time to actually visit the café. It’s been on our to-do list for a while but sometimes things that are too close (only a couple of blocks from our home) get forgotten. Today, however, we decided to actually do something about it and went for a Saturday morning breakfast at Cargo.

Cargo Coffee is situated just between Kamppi and Ruoholahti at Ruoholahdenranta. It’s built from sea containers and has a bit of an industrial look and feel from the outside combined with Scandinavian design inside. Tram no 9 stops right in front of the café (stop called Länsilinkki) but you will get quite close by also with tram no 6 or tram no 8. You could also continue a late breakfast at Cargo by walking next door to Clarion Hotel’s Sky Room for a drink or two to enjoy the view (opens at 3 PM on Saturdays).


It came as a nice surprise that Cargo only serves vegetarian breakfast and food and there’s also vegan options on the menu. I decided to have a breakfast plate with yogurt, homemade granola and berry compote, hummus, salad avocado, bread and cheese, served with juice and coffee. The rest of the crew choose some vegan pancakes and hot chocolate and a parmigiano omelette. All were very happy with their choices. The omelette was excellent. And the pancakes with fruits &  got a convincing two thumbs up from a junior carnivore.

The breakfast is served from 7.30 to 11 on weekdays and from 10 to 3 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week Cargo also serves vegetarian lunch and in the evenings there’s a separate dinner menu. The open terrace upstairs draws quite a crowd in the summer afternoons and evenings. They do serve wine, after all.





Traditional Finnish pastries: Runeberg torte

runeberg-torte-1Today we celebrate Runeberg day, commemorating the birth of our national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (born 5 Feb, 1804). He’s the guy behind the lyrics of the Finnish National Anthem — Maamme or Vårt Land (Our Land) — and poems like Farmer Paavo (Saarijärven Paavo), which can be considered as an ode to Finnish Sisu, and the epic Tales of Ensign Stål.

So Runeberg is actually quite an important character in shaping the Finnish mentality. However, to me, his biggest claim to fame is his wife, the novelist & journalist Fredrika Runeberg, the woman behind the Traditional Finnish pastry called Runeberg torte (Runebergin torttu in Finnish). Fredrika made the torte famous even though she didn’t actually invent the recipe.

Runeberg torte is a cylinder shaped sweet pastry made from almonds, flour, bread or gingerbread crumbs, arrack or rum. On top of this juicy torte is a raspberry jam topping with a white sugar ring. You can bake them yourself, but during January and February you can buy them from practically any grocery store or cafe – so pay attention if you’re visiting Helsinki in January!

If I had my way, we would have Runeberg tortes available all year round. Unfortunately that’s not the case and anyway maybe it is better to have something to look forward also after Christmas :).