I have been travelling around Europe for past three weeks. So I hope you understand I’ve been active with this blog during past weeks. When travelling I once again remembered how much I enjoy finding “the local places” of the towns I am visiting. I love to visit café which is a favourite place of somebody living nearby. Or tasting pizza which is somebody’s must have each Sunday. So you all can be sure that I am very motivated sharing my best (and sometimes just everyday) moments and ideas to do in Helsinki with you. I hope you can love this town doing same things me and the other writers of this blog do!
After three weeks travelling Helsinki-Naples-Paris-Athens-Helsinki first thing I did after arriving home was going running. When running I realized how clean the air felt, how few people there are around and how small Helsinki is. I guess these things are something you notice also when visiting Helsinki. I also think those things make Helsinki quite special – we can’t compete with Athens’s acropolis or the Parisian feeling. But we really have smallish unique town with a bit of Russian flavour here in Helsinki. So small you can easily walk from place to place. Or bike around with city bikes. And if you are not up to those, you can always take tram, metro or bus. It really is so easy and fast to move from place to place here in Helsinki!
One special thing I want to share with you today is old lighthouse boat (majakkalaiva in Finnish) called Relandersgrund (sometimes just called “Rellu”). Nowadays this boat isn’t anymore sailing around – it is parked in the end of Aleksanterinkatu (near President Castle) in central Helsinki. This lighthouse boat was built 1886-1888 in Finnish town called Turku. During the WWI Russians sank Relandersgrund. After war boat war repaired and it was used as a lighthouse boat. In 1991 it was found in very bad shape (before that it had been abandoned) and it was decided to be repaired by private person. However, since in very bad shape there was a lot to do. Currently Relandersgrund looks very nice, however, profit of the café is used for repairing the boat even more. You can read more of boat’s history here, unfortunately text is in Finnish.
You can buy drinks or coffee from boat. The boat has very nice views – you can see Uspenski Cathedral (Orthodox Church), some buildings belonging to President Castle as well as sailing boats and houses of Katajanokka and Kruununhaka districts. And of course – see is there to admire. I recommend this place for afternoons as well as for evenings. You see, in Finland sun is shining almost all night along so you can admire Helsinki views even in midnight!
Anne wrote recently about hippiest café in Helsinki. It is situated in Kallio which really is the hippiest district in Helsinki. Now I’ll continue writing of almost same part of Helsinki – this time I’ll tell you where you can find “piece of Berlin”. Naturally it is found near Kallio, in Vallila district. This “Piece of Berlin” is area called Teurastamo and you can find several resaurants and bars there as well as hammock where enjoy lazy summer.
Teurastamo means abattoir in Finnish and the buildings in the area were built for abattoir purpose in 1933. Abattoir is history now and some years ago it was opened for public being a place for city culture. The place has rough feeling – you can feel and see it has been an industrial area.Quite often (at least every Friday) you can enjoy music played by dj. When hungry you can grill buy your own or buy food from restaurants. Since there was interesting looking pizza oven outside we wanted to taste outcome of that. And I have to admit – pizza eaten on Teurastamo terrace was best pizza I have eaten for a long time! There are also many bars in area so you may spend the whole evening there as well.
Recommend to everyone visit the place – perfect style is to bike but if you don’t have a bike you may also come by metro. Then step out in Kalasatama station and walk 200 meters – ask somebody Teurastamo and they will tell you the right directio. The address of this great place is Työpajankatu 2.
Sauna is a Finnish tradition – a hot room with stove. For stove you throw water and the room gets even hotter. Finnish word Löyly means the steam and heat which comes from stove when you throw water. Almost all Finnish houses have sauna – Finns like to visit sauna at least once a week – some people visit sauna almost daily. It is quite usual that apartments have shared sauna and one can book weekly time for visiting sauna. Also many apartments have tiny sauna by their own.
In history there were many public saunas in Helsinki since not so many apartments had bathrooms and definitely no saunas in apartments. For decades number of public saunas decreased (since people got saunas by their own) but laterly there has been new bloom of public saunas. I guess people like sense of community nowadays. For that need latest bloomer in public sauna field is Sauna called Löyly. It was just opened few weeks ago and it is situated next to see in Southern Helsinki.
Löyly is both, public sauna and restaurant. When you want to visit Löyly’s sauna, you have to have swimming suit with you. Otherwise you don’t need anything special – towels are included for the entrance fee (19 euros). Some instructions for first time visitors: first you pay entrance fee, then you go to changing room (there are also lockers where you can leave your stuff). There are separate changing rooms for women and men. After changing for swimming suit you go to shower and then you can choose which of two saunas you want to visit first: there is both “basic” sauna and smoke sauna. After being in sauna for few minutes, you probably want to visit terrace, pop in sea (there is possibility to swim but the sea is very cold so you don’t want to do that for a long time) or buy something to drink. There is also a room with fire place for taking brakes. All that is possible before visiting saunas again. When I visited sauna some days ago, the day was pretty cold. However, that didn’t stop me visiting the sea several times! There were also some tourists passing by and taking pictures of us “crazy Finns” swimming even such a cold day. Entrance fee for sauna enables you to use sauna facilities for 2 hours.
To see this fascinting building and excellent views from terrace you don’t have to visit saunas – if you prefer, you can visit only the restaurant or terrace (no entrance fee then). Restaurant is not fancy in any means but anyway really nice. I tasted burger and it was tasty. Terrace is big and has truly excellent views as mentioned earlier. I can warmly recommend the place for everyone – you can experience Finnish tradition in downtown Helsinki! If you want to be asolutely sure to have sauna experience, I recommend you to make booking in advance. And how do you find the place? The address is Hernesaarenranta 4. It is situated in southern Helsinki – I guess around 2 kilometres from Railway station. You can take bus number 14 if you don’t want to walk there.
Great sauna-moments for all of you. You surely understand I couldn’t take pictures in sauna, so that you have to see by your own.
When you want to see Helsinki skyline and admire our beautiful town from up the best place to visit is Ateljee Bar. This great place is situated on the 14t floor (and that is high in Helsinki since our town doesn’t have skyscrapers) of Hotel Torni. Since in hotel, there are always tourists in the bar, however helsinkians love this please as well. I visit the place at least twice every summer – I love to see town from bird’s eye! The place is not big – there are maybe 10 small tables and 30 chairs inside and some more out. You can’t eat there – the place is only for drinks.
When in Ateljee Bar, you should definitely use the bathroom (you find them one floor down) . I guess the view is the best view from bathroom anywhere in world. Specially the view of the ladies room where you can see two directions is just awesome!
Some interesting history of the place – when opened in 1031, it was the tallest building in Finland. After WWII Hotelli Torni served as the headquarters of the Allied Control Commission which was monitoring how Finland managed with the obligations of the Moscow Armistice.
The address of the place is Kalevankatu 5, it is maybe 200 metres from Stockmann and less than half a kilometre from Central Railway Station.
Read also: the best vies in Helsinki part 2 ››
Want to enjoy sunny day in Helsinki – admire sea, eat something small and have some wine, beer or cup or coffee? Best place for that is Mattolaituri Terrace! This terrace is located in southern Helsinki next to sea and lovely Park Kaivopuisto. Mattolaituri as a word means in Finnish “a dock where you wash rugs”. You see, it is Finnish tradition to wash your rugs in mattolaituri during the summer. I can still remember washing rugs with my mother as a kid – but not at this mattolaituri. Next to Terrace Mattolaituri there is a real mattolaituri. So during the summer you can actually see people washing their rugs and there are always some rugs getting dry next to terrace.
Mattolaituri is designed only for sunny days – since it is only a terrace it is closed during the winter and rainy days. Place is a bit pricy (but considering how lovely the view is, not too pricy) and that is why you normally find a chair to sit down. However, in warm summer evenings it is crowded with people.
When we decided to have this blog with Marjo and Anne we sat in Mattolaituri Terrace and admired the sea and lovely sun in the evening (and later the moon…) and we really got the feeling Helsinki is something we want to write, photo and share with you Dear Readers.
Few weeks ago I visited lovely restaurant called Soil Wine Room. The place is very much in wines – they import those and they are specialized on small European labels. During evening our waiter told many facts of different wines but he was also very pleased when we just ordered some tasty (from cheaper end) white wine and later continued with the same. I liked that – when place is very much in wines sometimes it is difficult for waiter to understand that everyone is not in every moment wanting to have the best wines – sometimes good is enough. What you drink is of course part of your evening but sometimes only one part.
So, great selection of wines – but also great selection of tapas! My personal favourites were tartar which was very tasty with egg and garlic mayonnaise and manchego tasting with 6, 12 and 18 month “old” manchegos (actually I don’t which word to use for old, but I guess you understand what I mean…) tomato marmalade, olives and bread. There are several meat, fish and vegetarian tapas so plenty to choose from. Best way is just to order plenty of different ones and share those with everyone in table.
The place is pretty tiny – maybe 30 people can fit so if you want to eat here it is important to book a table in advance. However, I have visited there now two times in a short time (since I really like the place and I happen to live very near) and have always been able to get a table even without reservation. Place is somehow very cute – so if you want it all – great surrounding (but not too fancy), tasty wine and great tapas, this is a place for you! Address of this place in Fredrikinkatu 37 so it is in Punavuori area. It is open until 11 pm so you can have late dinners there as well (not all places in Helsinki have this late dining hours). No lunches and not planned for small kids. Net pages seems to be only Finnish but waiters speak English so no language problems for anyone.
I am – once again – writing about how to spend perfect evening in Helsinki. This time I am writing how to spend a perfect “upper scale evening” – what I am writing about is not fanciest in Helsinki but very nice indeed. This time the title is not “After work in Helsinki part III” although it could be since I think this kind of evening is best to have on Saturday.
Perfect place to start for this kind of evening is Bar Kämp. The address of this elegant bar is Pohjoisesplanadi 29 and it is in downtown Helsinki. Bar Kämp is part of hotel Kämp but most of the customers are not the hotel visitors. I’d say half of the people are foreigners and half Finnish. Middle age is around 50 years, so if you want to find young trendy people – this is not the place. However, if you want to relax for a while and enjoy very beautiful bar and feelings of luxury – this is the place to visit. You may also order some food from next located Brasserie Kämp. The place is perfect for couples, business guests and also for group of friends. Bar Kämp is also pretty common place for after works for those who want something fancier than Milli Miglia (which I wrote last time – also a great place but different style compared to Bar Kämp).
After drinks we headed to Huvilakatu 28 (Ullanlinna district in southern Helsinki), where Restaurant Chef & Sommelier is situated. It was my first dinner in this lovely restaurant. Before I had heard many positive feedbacks and yes – I totally agree. Right in the beginning I want to give “a warning” for you – restaurant is very tiny so you absolutely have to book in advance! Restaurant concentrates on organic ingredients and many of them were also near by products – my friend had dessert with parsnip grown next to her summer villa near in Helsinki. Restaurant recommends to have four- or five course menus, but it is also possible to choose one with three, seven or nine courses. We chose five course menu with three glasses of wine recommended by waitress.
You can see menu below but unfortunately it is in Finnish. I may tell you that there were game and reindeer as well as fish and many different root vegetables – very Finnish ingredients. Staff kindly told us that it is also possible to choose vegetarian menu if preferred.
Food was just delicious and staff was wonderful – lots of stories of ingredients and different courses. I am not specialist in wines but in my understanding restaurant has fine wineselection – I really liked the wines recommended with our dinner. I let the pictures speak this time – and recommend this restaurant to everyone wanting to have very delicious and wonderful evening in Helsinki.
It is almost Easter – if coming to Helsinki next weekend it is better to check how restaurants, museums and shops are open – many people are escaping Helsinki during Easter holidays!
So what did I do last Friday? Well – I had a fantastic evening going around Punavuori and Kamppi visiting restaurants and bars. Since it was something I can recommend for you to do as well while in Helsinki, I’ll tell you about my night and also share addresses of the restaurants I visited. All these places I visited are closely situated – the walking distance is something like one kilometer you can go walking. They can be visited by group of friends, alone or with someone you love.
First I had dinner in a lovely restaurant called Southpark. This restaurant is situated in Park Koff (Koffinpuisto) and the address is Bulevardi 40. Southpark has Southern Californian style in their offering (in their own words, I have visited only San Francisco and surroundings so I don’t know what to expect about Southern California). It is perfect for brunches, lunches or dinners – however if you want to have only drinks, then you have to find another place. There isn’t wide range of choose for a menu but for sure everyone will find something to enjoy! I would say the menu list is style “less is more” meaning that everything tastes excellent. Personnel seem to know wines very well and they are more than happy to recommend suitable wines for your menu. Restaurant has big windows so there is a great view for the park it is situated. Since restaurant is tiny, I recommend you to make a reservation if having dinner or brunch. Southpark is not fancy so you can enjoy your dinner wearing jeans (but if you want to dress up, that is also possible, no worries).
After having dinner, we headed a bit north to Kalevankatu 36 where bar Milli Miglia is situated. This bar is a bit kitschy – but in a funny way. Bar is named after Italian car race and also decorated so that you can’t think you are anywhere else. I am not by any means a car race fan but this bar really works for me! I would say there are more women in this bar compared to men, but I just write this for you to understand that even Milli Miglia is named after car race, this place is for everyone to enjoy. Milli Miglia is pretty popular but around 8 pm in Friday we were able to find places to sit down. You can sit here for one drink or you can sit here for the whole evening – whatever you prefer.
And were to finish your night – Bar Mockba (Bar Moskow) is an excellent place for that! Above I mentioned Milli Miglia is a bit kitschy. Well – Bar Mockba is exceptional big time! It is totally Soviet Union style and in my understanding owned by film-making Kaurismäki brothers. Mockba is definitely not a hotspot – but definitely one of the classics. To make your night perfect I recommend to taste champanckaya (Russian champagne) and of course some (warmish) vodka. I remember that 15 years ago there was a big poster on a wall which said “In Lenin we trust, others pay cash”. Nowadays you can pay with credit card as well but curtains are still totally USSR style as well as other decorations. And I have to say – service is ex-Eastern European as well – but this fact is very easy to forgive in these surroundings. If you want to spend an evening in a bar where you can see very wide selection of interesting people – you HAVE to visit Mockba. You can be whatever age (over 18 for sure, most people being 35+) and wear whatever you want – you will be looking totally right. The address is Eerikinkatu 11. It is not easy to find since no big signs– try to spot a window with awful soviet style curtains and then open door.
After visiting all these places I think you are ready to head for your hotel or home…
This weekend it’s again time for Uisge, the biggest whiskey (or whisky) event in Finland. I have been going there regularly for some years now. Excellent, low key event that gives you the chance to sample and savor the wonderful whiskies of the world over two days.
Held at the Vanha Ylioppilastalo (Old Student House), the main area is usually very crowded. Importers, distilleries and brands big and small will have a booth in the main hall. The prices are reasonable even for the rarest bottlings. There’s also always special tastings either revolving around a theme or a brand on both days.
Despite big brands being present there’s very little commercial about the event itself. It’s more a meeting of like minds, a place to sample, socialize and meet up. In fact, I’ve ended up joining a few whisk(e)y societies while at Uisge.
The price of the entry fee includes a custom-printed Glencairn Whiskey Glass so you can nose & sample the water of life in an optimal setting. Ice water is also complimentary so you can wash your palate. All in all, a night at Uisge is guaranteed to leave you smiling. Make sure you bring along a notepad to record your impressions and note down your favorites because, this being Scandinavia, you couldn’t buy a bottle to take with you even if you tried.
Tix are available at the door, but to guarantee entry I’d recommend buying in advance through Tiketti.
ps. Due to Finnish legislation, Uisge can’t actually promote the event or even have proper website, but somehow, it’s grown quite popular still. And for further info, you can always look them up on Facebook, under UISGE Viskifestivaalit.
Most Finns are Lutheran by religion. However, hardly anybody goes to church on Sundays or in fact in any other day. But there is an exception for this and the name of exception is Christmas – On 24th and 25th of December all the churches are full. Also, before Christmas it is popular to visit churches and enjoy Christmas music. You can listen when others sing or play and you can also sing Christmas carols together, the latter we Finns call “Kauneimmat joululaulut”.
On Monday evening me and Marjo wanted to enjoy Christmas spirit and headed to Johanneksen Kirkko (Johannes Church in English) since there was a Christmas concert. Since we wanted to chat as well, we first paid visit to this lovely bar called Latva just next to church. I recommend the combination – first some glögi (that is a Finnish Christmas drink), and after that something for your soul (music, words of God or at least charming surroundings) in Johanneksen Kirkko.
Want to experience yourself?
The address of this remarkable church is Korkeavuorenkatu 12, it is about one kilometre from main Railway station. From downtown you can walk or take tram 10. To ensure best experience, visit bar Latva as well. It is next to church and the address is Korkeavuorenkatu 25 (they are really close even numbers a bit far away!). There will some concerts in Johanneksen Kirkko before Christmas – 11.12. and 15.12. at 7 pm. Kauneimmat Joululaulut will be there on Sunday 13.12 6 pm.