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 Environment.fi 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.
Strong recommendation for day trip from Helsinki to Porvoo, a second oldest city in Finland. Porvoo has beautiful old town with narrow streets and picturesque wooden houses. Just perfect place to stroll around and enjoy feeling of old times. Many small shops around offering handicrafts, antiquities, cloths and toys. Also many pretty and tasty coffees shops, restaurants and bars. There is also a church to visit – old cathedral build in 15th century. Town is so lovely, I got marred there years ago and I always have this really special feeling when visiting!
A week ago I once again visited this lovely town. This time we had lunch in Fryysarinranta – lovely restaurant by the river. We enjoyed fresh summer buffet with different kind of fish and salads. I strongly recommend to taste their fish soup. In Fryysarinranta you can sit on a terrace by the river or inside in old wooden house (middle picture above from there). I also visited Cafe Paahtimo – I had glass of wine in their lovely terrace by the river.
I also recommend you to try Restaurant Meat District – newish restaurant in old lovely building in center of old town. There are many lovely places around and easily found when walking around old town.
How to get to Porvoo? Well, Porvoo is situated 50 kilometers from Helsinki and it is easily reachable by car, bus or even bike or boat. Buses to Porvoo leave in Helsinki from Kamppi terminal and it takes around one hour. Check bus schedule here. If you want to bike, it is good to know that there is biking path for most of the way. However, maybe 15-20 kilometers there is no special biking path but that part is easy and safe to bike as well. Finest way to travel is to take boat Runeberg. Boat takes 3.5 hours and you can enjoy Finnish archipelago while traveling. Finest day you’ll have if you take boat in the morning, then stay in Porvoo as long as you please and in the evening take bus back to Helsinki. Porvoo is a small town so no need to stay over for longer time – day is enough.
ps. There is maybe cutest toy store ever in Porvoo. It is called Riimikko (sign in below picture). Very strong recommendation! You can find Muumi postcards there as well as shown picture below.
Flow is definitely coming – less than a month and the best music festival of Finland (even Nordics?) is here! Flow is music festival here in Helsinki and it is ALWAYS a weekend when we’ll send our kids to their grandparents and spend our weekend listening music and enjoying great Flow-feeling with our dear friends at festival. Since we are living in downtown Helsinki we’ll invite friends over for whole weekend to sleep, enjoy breakfast and preparty listening best artists from flow-app before entering to festival.
Flow is in Suvilahti, Helsinki. Place is easier to understand when I tell it is in Kallio-area near to metro station Sörnäinen. Kallio is 2-3 kilometers from Stockmann/Railway station so really in downtown. Easiest way to get there is to bike (there is a “bike lot” in front of festival with thousands of bikes, love it!) but if you don’t have one just walk or take metro or tram 7A/7B/6 (step out from tram also in Sörnäinen).
Festival area itself is a pearl – location is just great and old pretty buildings and gas holder creates a “post industrial feeling” which ensures atmosphere is just perfect. Festival is pretty trendy place – you can see beautiful people wearing interesting cloths (no heels however since best to walk around with flats) and you can taste different delicious foods. There is always also art, this year video installations. Of course the main point is music – there are several stages with different artists all the time. This year I am waiting most for Lana Del Rey, London Grammar and always so great Alma (a Finn you should listen a bit right away if you don’t know her!). Age limit to festival is 18, I would say most people are 30-45 years.
Days for festival this year are 11-13.8.2017. If you plan to enjoy the festival, I suggest you buy your tickets now since normally at least some days are sold out well in advance (however not yet when I am writing this). More information of festival you find here. There are lots of information also in English. Also I guess – since me and my friends Anne and Marjo love Flow festival so much, we’ll write more about this before the festival.
Pictures here are from last year.
My favorite park for picnic in Helsinki is Park Sinebrychoff (also known as Park Koff, in Finnish Koffin puisto). Maybe it is my favorite since I live near by – however for sure it is very popular park for picnic or just sitting and enjoying summer among locals. Location is great, near to see in the end of Bulevardi, so easy to walk there but also tram 6 passes by. Also city bike station is very close by. Exact address for park is Sinebrychoffinkatu. Park is quite big so you can always find a spot for you and your picnic blanket. Need something to bite? Then head for big grocery store S-Market near by (I wrote about this grocery store before). You can also find restaurant South Park in the park if you aren’t up for picnic and want to have a proper table instead.
For art lovers I recommend Sinebrychoff Art Museum which is in the park (the address is Bulevardi 40) and seen above picture (yellowish old building).
There is great playground for kids nearby – just walk the hill up and continue maybe 300 meters and you see the playground (ask somebody if you don’t find it).
And then – sometimes it starts to rain just when you are enjoying your day at park. That happened me last Thursday. When I realized rain is definitely coming I collected all my stuff and run to Hietalahti Markethall (Hietalahden halli). There is this great historical feeling of markethalls – you can feel there have been selling and buying for many, many years before you have been born. You can buy lunch, best milkshakes in town as well as meet, vegetables and souvenirs. Markethall is not open in the evenings (except Saturday and Sunday, opening hours below) – it is more place for lunch and ice-cream. So great place I recommend you to pay a visit there even not raining! In front of Hietalahti Markethall there is great flea market to wonder around – recommend that as well!
Today 23.6.2017 we have midsummer celebration here in Finland. This midsummer celebration is called Juhannus in Finnish. It will last all weekend and target is to enjoy summer and sun shining through the night. Since I am supposed to tell you what locals do during Juhannus I do it right in the beginning: almost all locals (I would say more than 70 % of Helsinkians but this is just wild guess) will travel out of Helsinki. We Finns believe right place to celebrate Juhannus is in summer cottage. Helsinki will be very empty and very different from normal during this weekend. So, this time I will tell you what tourists can do during Juhannus if in Helsinki. These things are of course also things what those few Helsinkians might do if in Helsinki during Juhannus weekend. And then – I am also traveling outside Helsinki this afternoon but I did some running first in the morning. There in Kauppatori (the big market square just opposite the President Castle) I saw former Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen. So after all, some very essential Helsinkians are spending their Juhannus here!
Right picture above you see something very essential of Juhannus – kokko in Finnish, bonfire in English. It is burned in the Friday evening. This kokko I took picture is situated next to Cafe Ursula. The address is Ehrenströmintie 3, that is by the see in Southern Helsinki, maybe 2 kilometers south from Railways station. Very nice walk from downtown – many parks. Kokko will be burned 9.30 pm and Cafe Ursula will be open during Juhannus weekend – so it is a great place to find some Juhannus feeling! Another great place to sense traditional Juhannus feeling is Seurasaari. There will be bonfire and old Finnish celebration traditions today from 4 pm until late night. Tickets there are 23 euros (kids under 12 years are free). Seurasaari doesn’t really have an address since it is small island. Google so you’ll see where it is. It is like 5 kilometers from downtown Helsinki. You can take bus number 24 to travel there.
Probably most “Helsinkian” thing to do in Helsinki today and tomorrow is to go to this dancing event – Juhannustanssit in Finnish. It is not disco dancing but more like fox, twist, Finnish disco and some new Finnish hits as well. My guess is (never been but sounds fun!) that there are lots of 25-50 years old downtown people who go there every year. This happening is organized by We love Helsinki -collective and it is situated in Kallio district at Kuudes linja and Kaiku (address Kaikukatu 4). Juhannustanssit is happening both Friday and Saturday from 9 pm until 4 am. Even you absolutely can’t dance I still recommend it!
And what about Saturday and Sunday? Most shops will be closed and town continues to be very empty. My recommendation is to visit Allas Sea Pool (picture below but very bad quality – in reality it looks a lot better!) which is combined restaurant and outside pool. You find there also saunas and it will be open during Juhannus. Great views of Helsinki when swimming in (warm) pool – I highly recommend that!
Interested in knowing some more about Finnish history? Want to see some amazing frescos and interesting romantic style building? Wanting to buy some Finnish souvenirs? Rainy day and you don’t know what to do with kids? Answer for all these questions is: visit Finnish National Museum! This wonderful museum is located in centre of Helsinki, it is less than 1 kilometre from Railway Station. Address is Mannerheimintie 34. Trams 4, 7A, 7B and 10 goes past the museum if you don’t feel like walking. There are good English texts all over museum so it is understandable even not understanding Finnish! Building itself is really amazing. First thing to notice when entering from main doors are the bullet holes. They are also part of Finnish history since they were made during Finnish Civil War in 1918.
After bullet holes you see the amazing ceiling frescos by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. They present Kalevala theme (Kalevala is the Finnish national epic). Frescos were first made for Paris World Fair in 1900. These frescos you can see without paying entrance fee. In one fresco you can see many snakes disturbing the farmer when trying to start farming in rocky soil. I think that fresco presents Finnish history pretty well – it hasn’t been easy to start life here in north. But then – look how beautiful Finland is nowadays and how awesome city Helsinki is! But back to history – I have to mention that there is a pretty new prehistory section right in the first floor – very interesting to see how life started when first people arrived to Finland 10 000 years ago.
Of course there a many other exhibitions as well – you can learn a lot about Finnish history about the time Finland was part of Sweden and Russia. Right now (until 14.1.2018) there is also pretty interesting exhibition called The Public and the Hidden Finland presenting photos taken during Finnish 100 year old independency.
I promised also something for kids for rainy days. Answer for this is Vintti in the top floor. For my eyes there is nothing THAT special but all kids seem to love it! You can play with old shop, weave a mat, build a “log house” etc… many things kids love to play with!
Final thing I want to mention is the museum shop. You can buy good quality and quite stylish Finnish souvenirs there. Recommend to visit that as well. For visiting museum shop you don’t need to pay admission fee (so the final tip – if you don’t want to pay entrance fee or you are very busy, you get taste of the museum just admiring the ceiling frescos and visiting the museum shop).
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.
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.
Time to have a nap.
Helsinki Airport sauna. Picture by Finavia.
Best carneval time in Helsinki (and in Finland) is around first of May. Celebration starts already some days before – you can see groups of students wearing haulers. However, the real “vappu” and big celebration starts early evening of 30th of April. At 6 pm thousands of people want to see when statue Havis Amanda (situated between Kauppatori and Park Esplanad) will receive her “graduation cap”. After that as well as before there will be thousands of people in down town Helsinki celebrating. Most people wear their “graduation caps” (but only after 6 pm), drink sparkling wine and buy some air balloons. Overall feeling is positive and springish (even it would not be warm and sunny at all) and bars are very crowded. Recommend to be somewhere near Havis Amanda around 6 pm and after that visit at least Senaatintori and arounds. After these “must dos” you can have fun evening in bars – but it will be very crowded everywhere. However – don’t party too late since best part of May Day celebrations happens first of May.
First of May it is best to be in Ullanlinna (Ullis) and Kaivopuisto (Kaivari) already 9 am (doesn’t matter even you are not looking your best and smelling a bit of sparkling wine) since there will be choir singing and May Day celebration “officially” begins. All the day long there will be thousands and thousands of people having picnics and wondering around. You should have your own picnic snacks with you as well as some sparkling wine since there is not restaurants – idea is to have those with you. Everyone just spends the day meeting friends and having fun. Students were haulers, almost everyone have their “graduation hats” (but you can come without – no problem) and children have their balloons – what a perfect day! Remember to wear warm cloths since Kaivopuisto is next to sea – there can be very cold. See you in Kaivari on Monday!
There are many great Russian restaurants in Helsinki. I truly recommend to visit at least some of them while here if you are not paying visit to Saint Petersburg right before or after Helsinki. Maybe my favourite Russian is very traditional, pretty price and authentic Saslik at Neitsytpolku 12. However, this time I write about my first visit to lovely Russian restaurant called Bystro which is situated near Kauppatori in the heart of Helsinki. Food is great, prices are reasonable (Saslik is pretty expensive) and atmosphere casual. Address for Bystro is Eteläranta 16.
I was spending night with my friends, so we started with sparkling wine. Some of us took pickled cucumber and honey as a first course, some ready chosen “starter plate” with different Russian specialities. Both were delicious! I absolutely wanted to have blinis as my main course. In Bystro you get certain amount of roe, sour cream (smetana) and onion and with those you can eat as many blinis as you want. Blinis are totally “fresh” and so tasteful. I think blinis are absolute must have for everyone visiting Bystro. You can always have them as a beginning, if you have something else in mind as main course. Since it was Easter time, I chose pasha for dessert. It was modern and tasty (right picture below).
Bystro is not very fancy – you can basically wear whatever you want. You can have black lovely dress but as well jeans and nice shirt – customer are locals as well as tourists and from all ages. I recommend to make reservation in advance – restaurant is often fully booked.
When you step out from Bystro you see right away very lovey scenery shown below. If you want to continue having Russian night, I recommend Bar Mockba in Eerikinkatu.