Trip to Helsinki Bothanic Garden in Kaisaniemi

 

It seems to take quite a long time for spring to arrive to Helsinki this year  – even though the sun is shining, the temperature seems to be just a few degrees above zero. But since it was Easter just this week and to me Easter is a definite sign of spring, we decided to get a kick start for the season and visit Kaisaniemi Bothanic Garden.

The Bothanic Garden is a part of Finnish museum of natural history, Luomus of which I wrote about some time ago when thinking about what to do with kids on a rainy afternoon in Helsinki. Bothanic Garden is situated in Kaisaniemi so it’s a short walk or two tram stops from central railway station. Like most museums, it’s closed on Mondays but exceptionally they kept their doors open for Easter also on Monday. Tickets for adults cost 9 € for evergreen glasshouses but if you are a proud owner of a Museum Card you can access the garden for free. However, outside gardens are free to everyone all year round.

I haven’t really visited that many bothanic gardens outside of Helsinki so I can’t really compare much to other gardens – and to most people the plants in the garden are probably very common outside of Finland. However, I think it’s an excellent way for a quick getaway from a cold winter’s day and it gives you the opportunity to learn more about exotic plants. Some of them are also very popular houseplants in Finland (for example snake plants and saintpaulias).

One of the bothanic gardens attractions is their Waterlily Room’s  Santa Cruz waterlily which, according to the museum, has survived the bombings of World War II. They don’t usually survive our dark winter so the new plants rise again after March.

During the summer this is a nice area just to walk around the outside gardens or have a cup of coffee at next door cafe Viola. At least I added this to my to do -list for next summer!

-Marjo

Suomenlinna Fortress – Absolute ”Must See” in Helsinki

 

One place everyone should absolutely see in Helsinki is Suomenlinna Fortress. It is perfect combination of history, nature and picturesque village situated in the island next to downtown Helsinki. It is very easy to reach – just take a ferry from Kauppatori (opposite to President Castle). It takes only 15 minutes by ferry and there are several ferries every hour. Tickets can be bought in ferry station. It is also good to know that normal Helsinki transportation tickets (the ones you use when travelling by bus or tram) are valid for the ferry. There is no entrance fee for the island and it is always open. There are living approximately 800 people in the island. More information you find here.

 

But what is this Suomenlinna Forstress? Well, it used to be fortress protecting Finland. The fortification work begin in 1748 (back the Finland was part of Sweden). However, it took many years to finish and even when finished the fortress was actually never completed as planned. Nowadays Suomenlinna is a beautiful place and marked as UNESCO  World Heritage Site. This tiny island is perfect place to spend a day – you can walk around and admire see, old buildings, fortress and nature. I suggest to have picnic there (you can find a grocery store from the island, it is very near the ferry stop), another option is to visit some of islands cafes and restaurants. It is also possible to swim in Suomenlinna but there are no long sandy beaches – however you will have feeling of nature when swimming there. You can also walk tunnels within fortification – some of them are open for visitors. Since the streets of Suomenlinna are old you should not wear high heels. Also it is not place for people having difficulties to walk.

 

 

I’ve just spend two great days in Suomenlinna – Saturday I spent a great day there with my husband. When arriving we headed to Länsi-Mustasaari part of Suomenlinna (when arriving by ferry, you go right). It is not as touristy as other parts – if you want to have a feeling “being alone” then you should go that way. You can also admire beautiful Helsinki skyline from Länsi-Mustasaari. We were reading books and having picnic whole day. My husband also swam (but I didn’t since the day wasn’t too hot). Yesterday I visited Suomenlinna Summer Theatre (unfortunately the play is in Finnish) and had a picnic again. This time we headed towards Kustaanmiekka. When going to that direction you see first old church (which is also a light house) and after that many other old buildings. This way is more touristy but also you see more beautiful buildings than in Länsi-Mustasaari (where it is more aboug quietness and nature). You’ll find easily guideposts so it is easy to see which way to go.

During winter time Suomenlinna is different – very windy and not touristy at all. However, I recommend to visit Suomenlinna whatever the season is – it really is very lovely and special place!

Anna

 

 

 

Walking in Seurasaari island

Seurasaari_view

View from Seurasaari island to Meilahti

We’ve been having really nice and sunny autumn days in Helsinki for the past couple of weeks. I think the best way to enjoy the weather and warm(ish) days is to have long walks around Helsinki. One of my favorite routes is around Seurasaari island in Meilahti.

Easiest way to get there from Helsinki city center is probably by bike or bus. There’s a nice seaside biking route that goes from city center to Hietaniemi beach and along the coastline to Töölö and Meilahti all the way to Seurasaari island. No bikes are allowed in the island but you can leave it to the parking space. If you have the time, you can obviously always walk there – it’s around 5-6 kilometers from Helsinki Railwaystation, depending on the route. Last time I decided to take the bus. Bus number 24 from Eira via Helsinki city center goes straight to Seurasaari, but this time I used another bus and walked from Munkkiniemen aukio.

Seurasaari island brigge

Bridge to Seurasaari island

There’s a beautiful wooden bridge that leads to the island. At the left side(or the east side) of the island there’s Seurasaari Open-Air museum displaying traditional Finnish buildings, cottages and manors that have been relocated to the island from all around Finland. The first building was rebuilt there in 1909. The museum is open from May to September but you can always admire the buildings while walking through the island.

Seurasaari open-air museum

Relocated buildings at Seurasaari open-air museum

There’s also a nice view all the way to Lauttasaari and Hietalahti from the east side of the island. During the winter when the sea is frozen I’ve actually walked from Seurasaari to Hietalahti beach. One of my favorite places on the island, Kalevalakehto (or the Shamans Haven of the Kalevala) is also on the east coast of the island.  It’s intended for small gatherings and meditation and I visit it everytime I’m in Seurasaari. Kalevalakehto has been on the island for 5 years now and it has a temporary permit in Seurasaari until 31 August 2018.

Kalevalakehto in Seurasaari

Kalevalakehto in Seurasaari

There are cafés and kiosks in the area but I recommend taking your own picnic food with you or at least some coffee and sausages, since you can always use the outdoor grill area. Just remember to bring your own matches and put out the fire if there isn’t anyone using the grill after you. There are excellent paths  as well as park benches around the island so you can stop and admire the view or enjoy your coffee by the sea if the outdoor grill area is too crowded.

Paths and steps around Seurasaari island

Paths and steps around Seurasaari island

The island is popular among tourists but also among locals and I keep finding new things to see everytime I go there. Once I’ve even spotted our president Sauli Niinistö walking his dog there one winter Sunday.

Marjo

seurasaari island map

Seurasaari island’s map and facilities

What to do with kids on a rainy afternoon in Helsinki?

Luomus_Helsinki_skeleton

3rd floor at Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus

I’ve got a couple of favorite museums in Helsinki which I visit on regular basis but then there are those I’ve actually never visited. For some reason they’re too close to visit and not on top of my mind when thinking about what to do on a rainy September afternoon.

This Saturday I made an exception and decided to visit Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus – the one that’s right in the city center with giraffes drinking coffee at the museum balcony, just behind the Parliament building. I took my boyfriend as a guide since he has, unlike me, visited Luomus frequently. And to be honest, I can see why.

Luomus_Helsinki_Reindeer_diorama

Reindeer diorama at Finnish Museum of Natural History

The museum has three floors and a balcony filled with bones, animals, birds, plants, rocks and sounds – everything and anything that has to do with nature. I’d say this is a perfect museum to visit with children in Helsinki and I’ll definitely take my 8 year old godson there some day.  The kids in the museum were excited about the dioramas representing nature from African savanna to Australian bush and Arctic Circle. The third floor is dedicated to Finland’s nature and this was probably the first time I’ve seen Saimaa ringed seal for the first time in real size – even not an alive one.

Luomus_Helsinki_saimaa_ringed_seal_diorama

Saimaa ringed seal diorama at Finnish Museum of Natural History

 

All the dioramas are very well planned and executed and offer plenty to see also for grown-ups even though most of the visitors at that time were smaller children. Trying to see everything in 2 hours prove out to be nearly impossible, so I think I’ll go back and concentrate on one thing at a time. We’ve had a museum card in Helsinki for some time which allows you to visit almost 200 museums as often as you want (one museum per day) within a year for just 54 €. My birthday’s coming up so I’ll definitely add the museum card to my wish list.