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 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!