Best Sledding Places in Helsinki

6B0D9E34-6602-48A9-BD0B-9DB86C11C0BBOne of the most fun things to do in winter is to go sledding! We helsinkias do sledding a lot – with kids, teenagers and with friends. During last seven days I have tried two different sledding hills in down town Helsinki and can recommend both for you.

First one is in Punavuori district, in the end of Bulevardi in the Park Sinebrychoff. The same place is one of my favourite places around the year – I have written the place before. In Park Sinebrychoff there is simply a great sledding hill, you can go very fast but it is also suitable for kids. Also surroundings are very nice with many old buildings. Here you see families as well as groups of friends having winter fun. There is also a small restaurant ”South Park” where you can have brunch, dinner or just some hot chocolate to warm up as well as art museum (yellow building in picture below). So you can actually spend a perfect winter day in the park eating, sledding and enjoying art!

 

 

Another great place for sledding is Park Alppipuisto near Pasila railway station. There sledding hill is not as wide as in Park Sinebrychoff but if you are not afraid you can enjoy sledding from very high and steep hill. I think Alppipuisto has more ”natural” feeling and you can enjoy winter scenery there in addition to sledding.

 

 

I as well as other Finns have sled at home.  However, if you are just visiting Helsinki, you have to buy or borrow a sled. For buying I recommend visiting XXL sport store in Kluuvi (in Aleksanterinkatu). I guess hotels don’t have sleds to borrow but if you are staying in AirBnb you host could borrow you one if you ask. You can also always go to Park Sinebrychoff and ask to borrow sled from someone (more people there, that is why it is best place borrowing one).

Anna

ps. yesterday was pretty cold so hot chocolate was very much needed after some sledding

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Best park for picnic in Helsinki, part I

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!

Anna

opening hours Hietalahden Halli aukioloajat

Midsummer in Helsinki – what to do?

 

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!

Anna

 

Interesting Museum in Helsinki – National Museum of Finland

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).

Anna

First of May in Helsinki: best ways to celebrate May Day (vappu in Finnish)

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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!

Anna

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New Moomin Café in Helsinki Kruununhaka

As many of you know (and some might not – yet), Finland is not only the home country for Santa Claus but also The Moomins. Created by a Swedish-speaking Finnish author Tove Janson in 1940’s, free-spirited Moomins have been one of my favorite cartoon characters when growing up. These days Moomins are still a part of my every day life as I usually drink my morning cup of coffee from a Moomins mug. I would debate it would be very hard to find a Finnish home without at least one Moomins mug in their kitchen cupboards!

These days Moomin characters can be found from all sorts of products and places such as curtains, towels, jewelry, toys and clothes. Thers’s also a Moominword for little children situated at west coast of Finland. Last month we got ourselves the first Moomin Café called Mumin Kaffe in Helsinki and we went to check it out one freezing January afternoon.

The new Moomin Café is situated in Kruununhaka, not very far from Helsinki Cathedral, the big white church in city center. They advertise themselves as a child friendly café but in no means I would call it a café only for children and their parents. There’s a nice play corner in the café where kids can play or read books but otherwise the café is very scandinavian looking (not full of stuffed animals or children’s tunes or something similar). Actually, I think during our visit other customers included some moms with their kids, some couples and group of friends. Worth the visit if you’re walking by!

 

 

Muumin Kaffe is located at Liisankatu 21 and there should be new cafés opening at least at Stockmann and at Töölö, Mechelininkatu 3 (not very far from Hietaniemi beach of which Anna wrote about some time ago).

-Marjo

Best Helsinki Christmas Market – Tuomaan Markkinat

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Anne wrote some weeks ago about Christmas Bazaars here in Helsinki. I think the best bazaar is Tuomaan Markkinat, which is situated in Senaatintori (along the Aleksanterinkatu). It is very beautiful place – Helsinki Cathedral is just next as well as Helsinki University and other old picturesque buildings. At Tuomaan Markkinat I recommend to stroll around and admire all different handicrafts, Christmas foods and Finnish specialities. Many of them are very reasonably priced so you can also buy great gifts for Christmas. If you have kids, they should try carousel. And when feeling cold, try some warm drinks!

 

Tuomaan Markkinat will be open until 22nd of December so there are still some days left. This time I bought some woolen stockings – very warm and useful for those cold winter days we are still waiting for.

Merry Christmas for everyone!

Anna

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Enjoy Christmas Lights of Helsinki – Christmas in Helsinki Part II

 

As you know, Helsinki is very up in north. That means city is pretty dark during Christmas time. Snow brings some light – but we need of course also some decorations. This year we have very pretty light decorations in Park Esplanad (Esplanadin puisto in Finnish, situated between Etelä- and Pohjoisesplanadi). Above and below pictures are taken there. There is also one picture of Restaurant Kappeli which is lovely old building in Park Esplanad. After admiring Esplanad lights, I recommend to pay a visit for Kappeli and enjoy some glögi, warm drink with some Christmas spices. Anne wrote about mulled wine (meaning glögi) some weeks ago.

After Park Esplanad you have to check our official Christmas Street Aleksanterinkatu which is just a block away. By the way, for British readers it is nice to know that Senaatintori is by the Aleksanterinkatu. And this Senaatintori and lovely Tuomiokirkko (Church) you saw when watching x factor UK this year since Saara Aalto, the Finnish Finalist in show this year, visited Senaatintori in the clip filmed in Finland shown a week ago in British tv.

In the beginning of Aleksanterinkatu (exact address is Aleksanterinkatu 52, the window being in the corner of Aleksanterinkatu and Keskuskatu) you can find “Christmas window” of department store Stockmann (read more about Stockmann and shopping in down town Helsinki here). This year Stockmann Christmas window is winter wonderland – a top for all kids but also absolute “must see” for everyone else.

For other Christmas activities you should read what Anne wrote some weeks ago,

Anna

 

 

 

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.

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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.

Anna

 

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Best Beach in Helsinki – Hietaniemen Uimaranta

 

I really love Hietaniemen Uimaranta (which is normally called “Hietsu” as the official name is pretty long…) – it is sandy beach next to downtown Helsinki and perfect for sunny summerdays. You can just enjoy sun and swim but you can also play beach-volley, chat with friends or visit cafeteria. You can also ffind showers and changing rooms. What there are not are sunbeds and umbrellas so people are just lying in their own towels. Not having rentable sunbeds is very Finnish thing – we want beaches to be for everyone, not just for ones who have money. However, I would like to be able to rent sunbed for a day… There are not that many people as in many other European beaches near downtowns. Also the location of the beach is just perfect – so near downtown!

 

Every time I visit (and I visit often) I am surprised how many foreigners there are – maybe enjoying beach life is not in Finnish DNA? How to get there? You can walk – it is a bit more than kilometre from Railwaystation. The address is Hiekkarannantie 11. When walking there you should also enjoy big cemetery called Hietaniemen Hautausmaa next to beach. Map below shows that area as green area by the sea near the beach.

After rainy day sun just started shining, maybe I’ll next take my bike and head towards Hietsu!

Anna

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