Helsinki is a pocket-size Metropolis – a mixture of European chic, Finnish straightforwardness and Nordic functionality.
I put together this 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 & cafès in town and give you two totally different self-guided walking tours. Off the beaten path, of course. Last, I’ll tell you five perfect tips to enjoy a summery Helsinki.
Table of Contents
- 1 What are Helsinki Citizens Called?
- 2 How is Helsinki Weather?
- 3 What to Wear in Helsinki?
- 4 10 Delicious & Pretty Places to Eat in Helsinki
- 5 A Local’s Walk in Southern Helsinki
- 6 Alvar Aalto Walking Tour in the Helsinki city center
- 7 Things to Do in Summer Helsinki
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.
10 Delicious & Pretty Places to Eat in Helsinki
- 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!)
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 Cafe Kuuma
#4 Fat Ramen
#5 Cafe Köket
#6 Paulig Kulma
#7 Cafè Succès
#10 Sushibar + wine
A Local’s Walk 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 km one way. So, you can do it in 40 minutes with all stops, or then you can spend three hours, like me.
Start 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.” Stop by Fasaani Antiques, which is a huge antique store with everything from tiny timbles to huge Narnia wardrobes. The objects are from Finland and other countries.
Further down the street and you will see Café Succès. I already talked about this place above. Succès has a creamy salmon soup which I warmly recommend. This cafe scores high in my Cinnamon bun-ranking. Their buns taste almost as good as my grandmother’s.
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 27″. At first, this 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!
The last stop is the small interior shop Armas, at “Vuorimiehenkatu 16”. The positive vibes and cool little decorating pieces are worth the visit.
Alvar Aalto Walking Tour in the Helsinki city 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!
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.
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
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!
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).
The beautiful beach of Marjaniemi.
#5 Suomenlinna Island
Suomenlinna Fortress island in is a lovely destination. Especially during summer and autumn!
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:
1. Book 3-4 hours if you want to walk the whole circle.
2. There are free maps and toilets when you arrive and midway between the two main island.
3. Tap water is drinkable so fill your water bottle.
4. Walking with a pram is a great exercise as there are cobblestones and stairs.
Phewww, what a long post! I hope it is helpful. If you want to read more about Helsinki, check my list of extraordinary and very Finnish things to do in Helsinki!
Are you visiting Helsinki soon? Comment below and let me know if there’s something more you’d like to know!