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

Map

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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 paths in Helsinki, Part I

Autumn in Helsinki

Fancy a nice walk in Helsinki? There are several options for that, now I am writing one very central one. If you want to walk only few kilometres and enjoy sea and our lovely park Kaivopuisto, this is “the walk” for you.  When walking you can also see many small nearby islands, for example Suomenlinna fortress which you can see below.

Suomenlinna fortress

In many ways this walk offers many “best things” of Helsinki – sea, nature, nice parks and  smiling people. If you would like to have a cup of coffee when walking there are several options – some small kiosks as well as coffee shops Café Ursula and Café Carusel. The latters have sea view as well as good Finnish Pulla (Pulla is Finnish pastry – sometime I’ll write more of that) to enjoy with coffee. In summertime there is also a big terrace called Mattolaituri where you can enjoy sun and cold wine or beer.

Walking route in Helsinki

This time my walk started at Telakkakatu near Eiranranta Beach. After that I headed east following the coastline. After Silja Line ferry terminal I headed to Tähtitorninmäki to enjoy colourful trees and ended my walk to Esplanadi in downtown. And how was Helsinki downtown today? It was very peaceful – some tourists, some locals. I think when something as dreadful happens as this weekend in Paris, one feels very safe in our smallish peaceful Helsinki. I know Paris or for example Rome offers things Helsinki doesn’t. But then – Helsinki is so far away from terrorist attacks. Also usually there are no long queues when visiting museums and getting from one place to another is so easy since not too many people in metros and trams. So I really welcome you to see our beloved capital!

Anna

Coastline Helsinki

Weekend trip for cottage


Sunset

Sunset

I have been quiet for a while – first I had a very busy week at work and right after that – early in Friday afternoon – I escaped Helsinki and headed towards countryside. I spent a lovely weekend with friends in very picturesque summer cottage and this is what I am going to write now. But before my stories of Finnish cottage life I have to tell why the writing is a week late – on Sunday I flew to Italy to spend a week there with my family and closest relatives (and didn’t take my computer with me).

Hiking in forest

Hiking in forest

Almost all Finns have some close to them (family or good friends) who own “summer cottage” (mökki in Finnish). Some people spend all their summers at the cottage – some like me visit cottage now and then but not too often. Some cottages are like homes – having dishwasher, fancy bathrooms etc. However, many Finns want to go to summer cottage and escape the hectic life and for them that means living without electricity, fridge or other facilities. If you get the invitation, I recommend you to find out in advance what kind of cottage you are visiting. Even you have visited somebody’s fancy home and you know the person is well off, it doesn’t necessarily tell anything about how well the cottage is equipped. I also always recommend to give some praises of one’s cottage – quite often people have very strong emotional bond for the place.

Most summer cottages are by the lake or sea – part of cottage living is swimming, fishing and admiring the nature. I think in every summer cottage there is a sauna and it is tradition to warm sauna every night. Since it was pretty chilly during my visit, sauna was great in the evenings. My friends swam in the lake after heating up in sauna (even it was freezing at nights…) but I didn’t, too cold for me! However, I enjoyed so much admiring the stars (in the middle of forest you can really see the stars well!) when cooling off the heat in darkness. And I had fun watching my friends swimming in cold water.

view from dock

view from dock

Besides sauna, we cooked delicious food, hiked in the forest, admired migratory birds (lots of them, I guess they had some kind of gathering before flying to south far away from soon wintery Finland) and played tennis. Tennis court is not a “must be” in summer cottage like sauna, but luckily there was one in this cottage. I must to admit – admiring the lake view at the same time than playing tennis is awesome!

Since most of the cottages are in the countryside, normally you need a car to reach one. However this time we took a bus from Helsinki and had a good 5 kilometers walk to cottage both ways from the bus stop. Sun was shining so we really enjoyed the walk. And I have to say – after admiring quiet Finnish cottage life it was just fantastic fly to hectic Rome and explore something totally different!

Anna

Retreat to Nuuksio

Dear reader, I’ll be visiting this blog occasionally with scribblings mostly about antiquarian bookshops, museums and generally seizing the moment in some of the perhaps stranger places of our beloved Helsinki.

But oddly enough I start by heading out of the city in search of natural solitude by a beautiful pond in the spirit of Henry David Thoreau. Well, it’s not that lonely out there, but it’s definitely a breathtakingly beautiful place of natural wonder. And it’s easily accessible from central Helsinki by a smooth train-bus combination plus a little bit of walking, as is only appropriate in such retreats. The place’s called Nuuksio and it’s a public natural park. You’ll be there in about an hour and a half from the Helsinki central train station.

Mustalampi pond in Nuuksio

For many a traveler the whole Finland, even the center of our tiny capital, is a place of natural beauty. I strongly agree! Care to wander in a true forest with big trees and all? Head for the (somewhat confusingly named) central park starting just outside Helsinki center. Wonderful place to get safely lost in the woods. How about a dip in the Baltic Sea? Be our guest, anywhere anytime. (I know it’s not the cleanest of waters this so called sea of ours, but I for one don’t mind the murkiness but go for late night swims year around accompanied with very pleasant smokes afterwards.) Anyway sometimes I long for something even more special and so do my daughters, now 10 and 12. That’s when we pack our backpacks, take the train and bus to Nuuksio and walk to Mustalampi pond, where we pitch our tent for the night. What a bliss!

Camping by the Mustalampi pond in Nuuksio

Quite a few hikers there during daytime, but come evening and almost everybody disappears. It’s just you and perhaps a couple of other tents. You’ll be a few meters from the pond, where a swim is a must between the strange floating moss-islands. There’s a place for campfires nearby for cooking and roasting marshmallows, as we always do. A dry-toilet for convenience is to be find nearby as well. The night’s sleep is always distracted by ducks and other birds breaking the otherwise total silence, but no matter, anyway you’ll be tempted to stay outside the tent watching the moon and starscape otherwise quite invisible in Helsinki area because of too much light-pollution. When we were there in late September it was a cloudless sky lit by a supermoon so big and bright I almost felt like reaching for my sunglasses! Was it cold? Definitely, but only for me with the too thin sleeping bag. The girls slept beautifully with proper equipment. Did I mind? Absolutely not. Anyway I mostly stayed outside sipping rum and shivering not because of coldness but due to the natural wonder happening before my eyes and because of the sheer joy of sharing this with my daughters once again, so close to our home.

Swimming in NuuksioIn the morning, after the obligatory dip in the pond and a nice breakfast prepared over fire, we packed our things and took the very nice 5 kilometers hike to the natural center Haltia for exhibition visit and a huge lunch at the cafe’s plentiful buffet table. There’s a direct bus from there back to Helsinki center.

It’s not Thoreau’s Walden, but close enough and probably better for the kind of city dweller as myself. If you’re a nature lover and visiting Helsinki, don’t miss Nuuksio. (But having said that, if you’re a REAL natural lover and an experienced hiker, there’s plenty of truly wild nature upper north, about which I don’t know much).

Next time very likely about bookshops. Until then!

Eero

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