Welcome to Helsinki off the beaten path! Now we scratch the surface of the biggest city and the capital of Finland.

Helsinki is a pocket-size Metropolis – a mixture of European chic, Finnish straightforwardness and Nordic functionality. I put together this local’s guide to show you some new sides of the city!

First, a little introduction to Helsinki from a local’s perspective. Then, I’ll share 10 favorite restaurants in town and give you three totally different self-guided walking tours. Last, I’ll tell you where to head in Helsinki in the summertime!

Looking for something else about Helsinki? Check out some of my other posts:

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Here is the agenda of this post!  Let’s go!

What are Helsinki Citizens Called?

Helsinkians, in English. In Finnish, this term refers more to a person who was born and grown up in Helsinki. Thus, you can meet Helsinkians in Helsinki and any other location in Finland. It is a quite funny phenomenon.

True Helsinkians are very proud of being Helsinkians (and of course, they should).

On the other hand, people who, at some point in their adulthood, have moved to Helsinki, like to highlight their roots (and of course, they should). They never refer to themselves as Helsinkians.

How is Helsinki Weather?

Well, Finland isn’t a bikini vacation destination. It’s cool or cold compared to many other places in the world. That’s part of the Nordic magic! The fresh air, a cozy fireplace, and hot drinks, comfortable clothes… What a bliss!

In Helsinki, there is always a freezing wind from the sea. Even in the summer, when other southern towns are enjoying warmness. Still, it is my favorite city in Finland so don’t get too scared! There are plenty of things to do even if the weather is bad.

What to Wear in Helsinki?

It’s all about proper clothes when you visit this Northern beauty.

An all year round pack list to Helsinki: a light down jacket, a scarf, gloves, a beanie, umbrella, and sunglasses. Even in July, trust me.

If you come in the winter time, replace light down jacket with the warmest jacket option you have and take a pair of long johns or woolen tights with you.

Seriously, I cannot stress how important it is to have two layers of clothing warming up your legs and proper waterproof winter shoes.

pack list to Helsinki

Ten Delicious & Pretty Places to Eat in Helsinki

I’m a proper foodie, so I feel I definitely should let you know about my favorite places to eat. These spots have become my regulars because:
  • They offer great food that doesn’t cost a fortune
  • They have a distinctive soul which I love (The energy of the staff, a beautiful interior… You know what I’m talking about. That vibe that makes you wanna stay.)
  • They offer relaxed, casual eating (no dress code!)

#1 Restaurant StoryStory restaurant Old Market Hall Helsinki

Situated in the middle of the Old Market Hall, the interior of this place is Scandi-gorgeous. Delicious sweet and savory treats and a seasonal menu featuring fresh farm to table dishes.

#2 RoslundRoslund Helsinki restaurant

The most legendary meat shop in town. Located in the Hietalahden Market Hall (another Market Hall you should visit besides Old Market Hall). In my opinion, they do the best burgers in town.

#3 Fat RamenFat Ramen Helsinki restaurant-min

Fat Ramen is next to Roslund in the Hietalahden Market Hall. Their hearty soups are huge and super tasty. It’s my favorite lunch spot with the girls.

#4 Cafe KöketKöket Helsinki restaurant

My go-to place if I need to distance work at the center as there is plenty of room in the halls of this Jugend era gem. Located along the pristine Aleksanterinkatu, next to the Cathedral of Helsinki.
Also loved my mums with their toddlers and babies!

#5 Paulig KulmaPaulig Kulma Helsinki restaurant

Paulig is a Finnish coffee roastery so this place is all about coffee. Extended opening hours and a great location in the middle of everything. Healthy salad lunch buffet from Monday to Saturday. Try the Finnish invention, the vegan protein called Pulled Oats, as a side with the salad bar.

#6 Cafè SuccèsCafe Succes Helsinki

Nestled in the middle of one of the most charming districts in Helsinki, this is a terrific lunch and coffee spot. Succes serves Finnish classics like the salmon soup with a continental flare.

#7 Restaurant PennyPenny restaurant Helsinki

Dimly lit with candles, the atmosphere is cozy and romantic in this tiny restaurant. I just love this place! On weekdays there is a lovely lunch. Make a table reservation when you can.

#8 The Restaurants of the Fifth Floor of Kamppi Mall Sandro restaurant Helsinki

If you want to eat with the locals, head here. The fifth floor of Kamppi Mall is filled with amazing restaurants, many of which have a scenic view over the city. My favorites include Sandro and Fisken på Disken. The last-mentioned is an absolute must if you love fish! Sandro puts a spin on North African and Middle-Eastern dishes.

#9 Sushibar + wine

Cool Scandinavian design, top-quality sushi, organic wines, and pretty people. In my opinion, this sushi chain has the best sushi in town. Four restaurants in different locations of the city.
#10 Hills Dumplings
Helsinki off the beaten path offers delicious restaurants and streets away from the crowds!

Opened spring 2018, this is my new favorite in the city for a date night! Super tasty dumplings with a Helsinki twist and delicious fruity craft beer. What more could a girl ask for?!

‘Uptown’ Inspired Walking Tour in Southern Helsinki

The southern part of Helsinki is the poshest area in the city and perfect for city walks. This walk is very short, only around 1 kilometer one way. So, you can do it in 40 minutes with all stops, or then you can spend three hours visiting all the tiny boutiques (like me).

Helsinki mapStart the tour from the glorious Esplanade “Esplanadi Park” at the city center and find the street “Korkeavuorenkatu.”

The first stop is the old library on the street “Rikhardinkatu 3”. The Hogwarts-part of this library originates back to 1881. It has been the place for many historical meetings. The most beautiful part is the 1920s built book tower. Check the opening hours in English.

Continue your way onward “Korkeavuorenkatu” street. Stop by Fasaani Antiques, which is a huge antique store with everything from tiny timbles to huge Narnia wardrobes. Further down the street and you will see Café Succès. I already praised this place in the restaurant section of this post. Yummy!

Next door, Flower shop Ölander, knows how to make the whole street bloom. I think it is the oldest flower shop in Helsinki with more than 110 years of floral knowledge.

Take a right to head on to the street “Vuorimiehenkatu”. At first, the self-service flea market Kaivarin Kanuuna looks nothing special. However, the wealthy neighborhood brings their stuff here, so the brands are quite impressive. Sometimes overpriced, but sometimes exceptional finds at this location!

Rikhardinkatu library in HelsinkiThe Rikhardinkadun Library

the oldest flowershop in Helsinki The oldest flower store in Helsinki.

’Boho’ Inspired Walking Tour in Northern Helsinki

Kallio is definitely the most boho area of all Helsinki neighborhoods. Its authenticity and venues filled with street cred certainly make it worth a walking tour!

First, take a metro to ”Hakaniemi”. Visit the modern Hakaniemi market hall. The original hall is now under construction. The hall has fascinating stalls, like the one packed with Finnish dishes. If you are hungry, enjoy a soup of the day at Soppakeittiö.

Continue your way to Karhupuisto park (literally: Bear Park) and pop in the Kallio Library, which is the prettiest library in Helsinki.

Next to the park, you can’t miss the magnificent grey granite tower of the Kallio church. This church is by a famous Finnish architect Lars Sonck and a quick visit is a must.

Then, wander your way deeper into Kallio, for example to Helsinginkatu, which is home to many second-hand stores. Check here my cafe recommendation for this area. Enjoy the neighborhood and walk all the way to Sörnäinen metro station and take the metro back to the city center!

Helsinki off the beaten path: Visit Hakaniemi Market Hall. Click to read all about Helsinki!

The Hakaniemi market hall is full of intriguing stalls.

Helsinki off the beaten path: self-guided walking tour to Kallio area. Click to read all about Helsinki!
Discover Helsinki off the beaten path with this Helsinki guide by a local and find incredible hidden gems in Helsinki and things to do around Helsinki!

The Kallio library and Kallio Church are on opposite sides of the Karhupuisto park.

Alvar Aalto Inspired Walking Tour in the Helsinki Center

You maybe have heard of Alvar Aalto who was a Finnish design genius? Here are five easy-to-spot grand pieces by him to effortlessly enjoy!

  • Between the Uspenski Cathedral and Allas Sea Pool is my personal favorite: The boxy white building which is Stora Enso headquarters (Kanavaranta 1).
  • Next to Stockmann department store, there is a huge bookstore, called Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (Pohjoisesplanadi 39). You can’t miss it; there’s the only Starbucks of Helsinki downstairs.
  • Spot the Erottaja pavilion (Erottajankatu) in the middle of Mannerheiminkatu. This little building is the first building that Aalto did for Helsinki.
  • Very close by is Restaurant Savoy. Its stunning interior is by Aalto. Savoy is expensive and one of the most prestigious restaurants in Helsinki. If you want to experience its charm “on a budget”, they have their classic dish Vorschmack for around 20 euros. For Aalto-fans, this restaurant is a must!
  • Lastly, admire the magnificent Finlandia hall (Mannerheimintie 13)!

Things to Do in Summer Helsinki

#1 Flea market

In the summer, we Finns love an outdoor sale! Hopefully accompanied by sun and warmness. The most famous of Helsinki flea markets is definitely Hietsu, just next to Hietalahti market hall which is one of my favorite places to grab a bite in Helsinki. It’s a total bazaar (Weekdays 8 am-6pm, Saturdays 8 am-4 pm, Sun 10 am-4 pm). Go after breakfast to make the best finds!

Helsinki local guide. Flea markets are the perfect summer activity in Helsinki off the beaten path!

Sunday flea market in Eastern Helsinki.

#2 Eat by the sea

Cool kids definitely hang out in Kaivopuisto strip in the summer. And why not, it’s not only an awesome place to have an outdoor workout very close to city center but the perfect location for mingling with other people and admiring the Helsinki archipelago.

Favorites include Mattolaituri, Cafe Birgitta, and Löyly. Or a visit to Suomenlinna fortress island!

If you crave for an authentic Helsinkian atmosphere, take a metro to Lauttasaari and head to Paseo Cafe & Grill by the beach.

#3 Visit Nuuksio National Park

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I advertise Finnish national parks pretty much all the time (examples: Oulanka, Repovesi & Pyhä-Luosto).

I just can’t help it; they are so spectacular. Also, my hubby and I have a lifetime goal to visit all of them. So no wonder that I point out that there’s a beautiful national park called Nuuksio near Helsinki!

#4 Beach

There are amazingly 26 beaches in Helsinki. Take a towel and join the evenly-scattered (there needs to be enough personal space for everybody) and calm Finns to enjoy the sun. The “Copacabana” of Helsinki is Hietaranta beach (but please don’t take the reference too literally).

Helsinki local guide offers unique ideas how to experience Helsinki off the beaten path!

The beautiful beach of Marjaniemi.

#5 Suomenlinna Island

Suomenlinna Fortress island in is a lovely destination, especially during summer and autumn! For us locals, it’s a popular picnic place with the children.

Think adorable cafes and restaurants (only a few, but they are great!), archipelago views, a bit of Finnish history (this is where they had Finnish submarines storaged during WW2), summer green turning into the autumnal color blaze and seawind blowing your hair.

Nice to know in advance about Suomenlinna:

1. Book 3-4 hours if you want to walk the whole island circle.

2. There are free maps and toilets when you arrive and midway between the two main islands.

3. Tap water is drinkable anywhere so fill your water bottle.

4. Maybe not the best baby destination as there are many cobblestones and stairs. On the other hand, walking with a pram in Suomenlinna is a great full-body exercise.

Phewww, what a long post! I hope it is helpful for you. Are you looking for more information about Helsinki? Check out some of my other posts:

Are you visiting Helsinki soon? Comment below and let me know if there’s something more you’d like to know!

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Helsinki off the beaten path! Discover this amazing city with the help of a local. Click to read all about Helsinki!

Hello there!

I’m Varpu. One blonde,
travel-loving,
Finnish engineer driving this site.

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