What to buy in Helsinki – list for 2018

So you have gone through the main souvenir shops, grabbed some Iittala, Marimekko and Fazer with you and wondering if there is anything else you should buy in Helsinki? Oh yes! Check LivinginHel’s 2018 curated list for shopping and enjoy some unique Finnish products.

Joutsen (swan in Finnish) is a well known brand for its high quality down products. They have soft and comfortable pillows, duvets and down coats. A good thing is that their products are also suitable for people with allergies (approved by the Finnish Allergy and Asthma Federation). You can find Joutsen products from many retailers and at Joutsen store just behind the National Museum. Joutsen ››

A strong recommendation: Don’t miss this throw. It’s perfect for travelling, light and so warm (unfortunately the webstore is only in Finnish but you get the idea!) ››

Museokatu 8, Monday-Friday 10–18, Saturday 10–15

joutsen duvet

Balmuir products sit well with Nordic idea of beauty and quality: plain designs, subtle colours, natural materials and fine quality. The products vary from fashion to cosmetics and home textiles. Grab a warm cashmere scarf or a linen towel from Balmuir’s selection before heading home. Balmuir ››
Pohjois-Esplanadi 25-27, Monday-Friday 11–19, Saturday 10–17

Stepan Sarpaneva watches
Sarpaneva watches are made in his workshop at Kaapelitehdas and the quality and design are high class. However, these watches are not available in every corner shop and the best way to get his unique watches around your wrist is to mail him or simply giving him a call. A great opportunity to visit his workshop as well! Sarpaneva watches ››


Makia store is located in Lasipalatsi. Just like the building, also its cloths are functional and made for Nordic weather. Makia has also labelled some of their products as pure waste products. They use recycled textiles that would otherwise go to waste and manufacture new fashionable clothes out of them. Makia ››
Mannerheimintie 22-24, Monday-Friday 11–19, Saturday 10–18



The textile designer Ritva Puotila’s paper yarn products range from carpets and furniture to bags, pillows and containers. They are inspired by Finnish nature and raw materials – wood and paper. Woodnotes products have received several design awards and are known for their elegant design and quality. Woodnotes ››
Vepsäläinen – Annankatu 25,  Stockmann – Aleksanterinkatu 52 B,  Artek Keskuskatu 1 B

place mat_woodnotes

Minna Parikka
Minna Parikka’s shoes and accessories have a fresh approach in Finnish design scene.  Pop-stars and fashion bloggers wear her shoes and the bunny ears are recognisable all over the world. Minna Parikka Universum is a flag ship store in Helsinki city centre and has a wide range of Parikka products. Minna Parikka ››
‘Aleksanterinkatu 36, Monday-Friday  10–18, Saturday  10–15

Minna Parikka, November 2015 in Helsinki, Finland.

This 1820 established company is producing home textiles with beautiful designs. THere are some well known characters like Moomin in their textiles and the Tom of Finland collection is a tribute to the art of Touko Laaksonen. You can find kitchen, bathroom, home decor and bedroom items in Finlayson’s collections. Finlayson flag ship store is located in Helsinki city centre. Finlayson ››
Eteläesplanadi 14, Monday-Friday  10–18, Saturday  10–16


Enjoy your shopping!

Day trip from Helsinki to Porvoo – strong recommendation

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.

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.


Helsinki-Vantaa airport


Time to have a nap.



Helsinki Airport sauna. Picture by Finavia.

What to buy in Helsinki – groceries

One of my favourite grocery stores in Helsinki is S-Market in Bulevardi in Helsinki downtown (the actual address seems to be Hietalahdenranta 7, but it is situated in the end of Bulevardi next to sea). Surely one reason it to be my favourite is that I live nearby. But it is pretty good supermarket – not too big but big enough to have pretty good selection. I also appreciate that Hietalahti Market Hall (Hietalahden Kauppahalli in Finnish) is next to S-Market Bulevardi – very handy to visit both. Another very good supermarket here in Helsinki downtown is at Stockmann Department store -1 floor. You can read more shopping in downtown from this post – Stockmann mentioned there!

What to buy from Finnish Supermarket? Of course if you are hungry buy whatever you wish to eat. In Finland people speak pretty well English so just ask from somebody when you are not sure about what different items are. I collected here some Finnish specialities I think everyone visiting in Finland should buy and taste. First I want to introduce Karjalanpiirakka. It is Finnish snack – pie made of rice and rye flower. If you are hungry, just buy some of those and something to drink. Karjalanpiirakkas are normally found next to breads, you should buy those ones baked in store (they look like the ones in picture above).

At bread section you also find Finnish healthy speciality rye bread (ruisleipä). When tasting that, you should also buy at least some butter since rye braid just alone is maybe a disappointment. I LOVE rye bread and it eat every day – normally with some butter, cheese and cucumber (and with that I drink Coca-Cola but surely my drink is not Finnish (or healthy) at all:-) Cheese we cut here in Finland with “juustohöylä”, picture found of that above with other things mentioned in this section – this juustohöylä-tool is also found from S-Market Bulevardi. It is very handy when wanting to cut very thin slices of cheese. But back to rye bread – there are variety of different rye breads – pick whatever label as long as they are really rye! You can find also “rye bread chips” called “Ruissipsi”. If you need more snacks I recommend tasting Finnish yoghurt with some mysli. A+ yoghurt in the picture is my favourite!

And of course you have to hear about Finnish sweets as well. I recommend you to buy Finnish ginger bread (piparkakku in Finnish) – very delicious. These are very tasty just alone. But if you wish, you can also buy some brie cheese and put slice of that on top of ginger bread. In that case you need to buy also some red wine since those belong absolutely together. Luckily there is Alko next to S-Market. Alko offers wide selection of wines. In Finland wines (and hard alcohol) are only sold in Alkos – those you can’t find anywhere else.

I truly believe we have best candies in the world here in Finland. We have such a wide variety of different candies – you have to visit candy section in S-Mark.  The absolute buy is chocolate by Fazer – there are basic chocolate and also different flavours. Also I warmly recommend you to taste some black liquorice. That is absolute favourite for many Finns but I know it can taste a bit strange for foreigners. I think that is a great homecoming gift from Finland. There are also a lot more delicious candy – like TV Mix in picture. After tasting variety of candies you should try some Finnish Xylitol chewing gum – it is very good for your teeth (also found from candy section).



Shopping in Helsinki, Part II

Last time I wrote you about shopping around Punavuori area. This time I’ll concentrate on shopping in downtown Helsinki. Just for your information, there are malls in Kamppi (next to metro station) and Forum (in corner of Mannerheimintie and Simonkatu) – if you want to do really basic shopping, you can visit those. However, they are nothing special, so I am not concentrating on those.

As I wrote also last time – when you follow my recommendations for wondering around, I am sure you’ll find many interesting places on your own. I am just writing some of them and you’ll find the rest! I recommend to start shopping day in Café Esplanad at Pohjoisesplanadi 37. You can taste delicious “lohikeitto” (meaning fish soup made of salmon) or try maybe biggest “korvapuusti” (=baked rolls) in Helsinki. Café Esplanad is bit place so you can almost always find a place to sit down. It is also great place to sit for a longer time – I have been reading there many times for hours.

After enjoying offerings of Café Esplanad it is time to visit so small but sweet Ombrellino next to Café Esplanad. Ombrellino is the best place to find something for kids – no need to wonder around and try to find something  – just visit here. Lovely shopping assistant will help you if you don’t know what kids of certain age would like to have.

Next to Ombrellino you find clothing store Samuji. That is a Finnish label for women clothing and homeware. Clothing is not classic in my eyes but timeless and sustainable design. Visiting there you get to see one angle of Finnish modern design – I highly recommend!

After these stores it is best time for you to enjoy park Esplanad when finding you way to best place for Finnish handicrafts – Taito Helsky Shop. Many tourists go to Kauppatori to buy “something Finnish” – that is of course okay but way better place for something Finnish is Taito Helsky Shop at Eteläesplanadi 4. There is a wide selection of Finnish handicrafts – artisans have their collections there and Helsinkians and tourists can find what they need (and sometimes maybe don’t need but they are so lovely you just have to buy those…). I really love this shop – I’ve bought many things from there for myself as well as presents.

Finlayson is part of Finnish industrial history. My grandparents worked at the factory back in times. Nowadays they are almost “world famous” since they have these “Tom of Finland” duvet covers in their offering (unfortunately not on shop window this time). However, mostly Finlayson has very normal and everyday duvet covers, towels and fabrics. You find this very Finnish store at the address Eteläesplanadi 14.


I wrote earlier that Finlayson is part of Finnish history. Surely Marimekko is as well, and when in Helsinki you HAVE to visit one of their stores. They sell for example clothing, bags and some homeware. Offering is very colourful from hippiestyle to suitable to office. There are many Marimekko stores in downtown but since I suggest to visit Stockmann afterwards, I recommend you Marimekko store at the address Aleksanterinkatu 50.

And as stated above, if you still need something after all shopping done (and you are not over your budget), I recommend to continue to Stockmann – Finland’s biggest and nicest department store next to this Marimekko store.

Feel like sitting down after all this? Perfect place for sitting down and tasting some good wine is Bar Vin-Vin found near Stockmann (but you need to cross Mannerheimintie) at Kalevankatu 6. There you find wide selection of wines and very expert people recommending you right flavour – perfect place for relaxing before evening dinner.





Perfect (Saturday) Shopping in Helsinki, Part I


How to spend perfect shopping day in Helsinki? Well, there are surely many different answers but let me introduce one. This text concentrates on shopping (and bit other things as well) around Punavuori area in Helsinki.

Best way to start shopping day is to have breakfast at Café Ekberg (1 in map). This wonderful Café is situated in Bulevardi 9 (less than one kilometre from Railway station or Stockmann). Since pretty popular breakfast place, it is good to make reservation beforehand. Café Ekberg is also perfect place for afternoon snack in case you have had your breakfast at the hotel.

After breakfast I recommend visiting flea market Hietalahden Kirpputori (pictures above, map 2) which I’ve written before. After checking all tables you probably feel like it is good idea to sit down. For that you find small terrace café in front of Hietalahden Kauppahalli (Old Market Hall). After resting a while I recommend to visit Old Market Hall which is next to flea market, where you can find some Finnish handicrafts, vegetables as well as restaurants.

Walking along Fredrikinkatu is a great choice for shopping – you can find many small shops and boutiques. Here I just mention few, but there are plenty more around! Good starting points are three great clothing stores (map 3) in Fredrikinkatu: Liike, Asuna and 2OR+BYYAT. Addresses for these stores are Fredrikinkatu 35 and around (they are really close to each other so when you find one, you will find the others as well). All these stores represent Finnish design (some international as well). Liike and Asuna have labels from different designers, so you get very wide overview of Finnish contemporary fashion in these stores. My favourite label in Liike is “Miun” – I have so many dresses designed and made by them! Also other labels are very interesting. Since smallish labels, you can be pretty sure others will not have the same outfit than you when buying from these small stores. 2OR+BYYAT is more “international”. Their collection is sold worldwide but the brand is based in Helsinki. I especially like their leather designs.

After lots of cloths it is time for some old books – antiquarian books shop Hagelstam opposite of Liike is really worth for visiting. When you have had enough books continue along Fredrikinkatu – after one block you find tiny Fredrikintori market place (map 4) . This time there were flowers, sometimes there are antiquity furniture or vegetables. Right after Fredrikintori market place you find vintage store Ruuturouva (map 5) – that is fun place to drop by and find some vintage bags, shoes and dresses.


And after all this shopping you need some nutrition for you soul – for that you have to continue walking Fredrikinkatu and turn left to Merimiehenkatu. At the corner of Fredrikinkatu and Merimiehenkatu you find very cute candy store called Roobertin Herkku (map 6). That is a great place to stop by and buy some sweets. With mouth full of candy continue along Merimiehenkatu towards beautiful Johanneksen Kirkko (Johannes Church) (map 7). If doors are open, you may wonder around there, if not, just admire this 19th century church outside.


Still some energy left? Continue to Annankatu. You find old Finnish tableware and other oldish Finnish design from not so fancy antique store moderndesign.fi at Annankatu 8 (map 8). After popping by continue to the corner of Annankatu and Uudenmaankatu. There you find Formverk (map 9) where you can find nice and handy items for home. After Formverk walk few meters right along Uudenmaankatu and you find Ivana Helsinki, Finnish women cloths designed by Paola Suhonen (map 10). I strongly recommend visit there (also downstairs). I have bought many dresses from there. Next to Ivana there is Punavuoren Peikko which has cute kids clothing offering.

After all shopping, best place to enjoy Helsinki is Ruttopuisto (official name of this park is Vanha Kirkkopuisto) which you find when walking along Annanatu towards north (map 11). However, there might be some Pokemon hunters who will disturb your resting like Marjo wrote earlier


If you are hungry, there are many good restaurants near by, I would recommend Soil which I have written before of something in the corner of Ruttopuisto – for example Gaijin with modern Asian flavors or Italian style Toscanini (both situated in Bulevardi, walk along Bulevardi towards Mannerheimintie and you will find them) are great choices.

And even mainly shopping the whole day you have also seen some of the most beautiful neibourhoods of Helsinki – many great buildings along your way – hope you have noticed also them!



Bookshopping in Helsinki

Soon there’ll be the annual book fair in Helsinki, a humongous event with hundreds of bookshops, publishers and whatnot presenting their best for the tens of thousands of booklovers browsing the offerings and rushing to catch something of the very packed presentation schedule. Pretty much everything’s there from big publishers and literary superstars to tiny one-person workshops and never-heard-ofs. The best bit, for me at least, is the antiquarian bookshop section, where you can basically browse through the best selections of the whole country’s sellers in one go. Conveniently at the same weekend in the same premises there’s something of a wine fair for securing a nice buzz so inspiring for reaching the right mood for some high culture and generous shopping.


Photo: Eero Ehanti

All this is fine, and many a year I’ve been there, finding great books and enjoying the company of good friends and booksellers, many of whom I’m somewhat acquainted with after years of frequenting their shops. But something’s not right. That enormous, fully packed fair-hall with those long book-lined corridors definitely hide a gem or two; perhaps a rare Henry Miller with perfect dustjacket, to name but one of the treasures I’ve come across there. Yes, they are nice, and you’ll always find something like that. But something’s not right, buying doesn’t feel good.



Photo: Eero Ehanti

Why? Because in such a fair you’re in no-man’s land in front of offerings from all around the world. The fairgrounds are anonymous places where everything is brought together for the case of convenience. This surely appeals to many. But not me. Convenience does not belong to the vocabulary of true bibliophile, who enjoys hunting for the rare prey in real shops, the weirder the better, where the actual purchasing momentum is of very high importance. It’s there that you encounter the best discussions with wise shopowners and clientele bound to be equally wise. It is not bookfairs but bookshops, dear bibliophilic reader, where you should head for while in Helsinki, because these are the places for catching the mood of the city. In a way they’re similar everywhere but at the same time they catch something vital from that particular city. What’s been read in the city eventually ends up in an antiquarian bookshop, or the best of it, as the bulk just might end up in the dump, where it probably belongs to.

Antiquarian bookshops, those hotspots of the spirit of place! Whatever that might be in that particular city, you will find something of it in a nice bookshop, or else you’ll sense it whilst walking around searching for one. Always when preparing to conquer a new city I start by finding out about the most interesting bookshops, which I dutifully mark in my map to form the framework for my wanderings in the city. That I encourage you to do as well when in Helsinki, and I can help you. I definitely know these places very well and often hunt for old English language books, which makes my tips valid for the occasional traveler.



Photo: Eero Ehanti

There are quite a few bookshops in town, and most of them have a section for English fiction and plenty of non-fiction scattered in the designated shelves in between the Finnish titles. Go for it, ask for what you want, or if you’re like me, ask the shopowner to just point to the English fiction section and browse it quickly through. One typically quite quickly establishes if there are any fancy hard-back volumes with good dustwrappers.

I’ll name just a couple here with a promise to come back to them later on in this blog: Hagelstam at the corner of Uudenmaankatu and Fredrikinkatu, which is perhaps the best of them all with a unique atmosphere with stuffed owls and very rare treasures. Maps and prints as well. Another good one for English readers is Runebergin antikvariaatti in Runeberginkatu, where I’ve been lucky enough to score some amazing poetry from Lawrence Ferlighetti’s Beat-circles. Definitely not to be missed is the international bookshop Arkadia in Töölö district, which beautifully serves the foreign language clientele with good selection, big cozy and fascinating premises and an amazingly rich program of readings, plays, concerts and gatherings of all kinds. The owner something to be very proud and thankful of. Characters like him make my Helsinki.



Photo: Eero Ehanti

Then there are the Planeetta antiquariats. Three branches, Green planet, Red Planet and Orange Planet, adorn the Hakaniemi, Kallio and Vallila areas respectively with varying specializations. Very good ones these as well, although not so concentrated on English language books. Not to be missed is Kampintorin antikvariaatti in Kamppi, which stocks a large collection of good quality books. Look for the varying displays in the window for some treasures. The one in Kruununhaka, Laterna Magica, is a very fascinating one with a great brick-walled gallery space at the back behind some nicely winding bookshelf-filled corridors, where photographic exhibitions and the like are held. Good English language books will be found. By the tourist-populated Senate Square you’ll find Senaatintorin antikvariaatti, which continues a long tradition of Seppo Hiltunen’s antikvariaatti, a Helsinki-institution definitely if ever there was one. So good that the new owner has picked up the legacy so wonderfully! Do not miss this little place. A very well kept one is Antikvariaatti Sofia in Vuorikatu, where I once found the complete series of Casanova’s Memoirs in a very nice English edition.


Photo: Eero Ehanti

These places I definitely encourage you to seek in Helsinki and promise to cover them in more detail here at some point. There’s more places, luckily, although sadly many an antiquarian bookshop has closed down in recent years. Hats off for places like Sangi, which for one is a place I miss very much not least because of the very nice owner with amazing knowledge of books, music and everything cool. Wonder what’s he up to these days…

If books are your thing, dear reader, go for these places. And yes, why not visit the book fair next month as well, for it is after all lots of fun!