Tag Archives: Helsinki

Tips for Helsinki visitors when the Nordic weather doesn’t show its best sides

2017-11-13

Finland’s capital Helsinki is the city where the biggest celebrations during the country’s 100th independence year take place. All kinds of events have been organized through the year, and the 6th December 2017 is the big day. November and December happen to be the darkest months in terms of daylight in Helsinki, but the travel guide The Best of Helsinki shows many places to visit and things to do even then (not to mention at other times of the year).

Fish market at Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

Fish market at the Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

The feedback from readers of The Best of Helsinki is indicating that the chapter with information on local favorites – destinations, activities, events – things that residents of Helsinki like to do is a popular section of the book. Other well received feature is the visual information in photos and maps.

If you decide to venture to Helsinki in November or December, here are my top tips:
Best of Helsinki, travel guide, book cover image

Daylight hours are from 10 am to 3 pm, but it is enough to see the city center around the Senate Square.
If you are staying for more than a couple of days, consider visiting the old town of Porvoo (Borgå in Swedish), only 50 km from Helsinki.
If the weather is too nasty, and staying indoors is the best option, Ateneum art museum, Heureka science center, or Forum shopping mall can save the day.
If the weather allows – it is not too windy, cold or rainy – take a ferry to Suomenlinna.

More information on Helsinki and Finland:
I, Helsinki
The Lighter Side of Finland
Analysis of the Finnish Tango
Lapland

The best parties during Finland’s 100th independence year 2017

2017-09-08

The Nordic country Finland became an independent nation in 1917, on December 6th. It had been the westernmost, autonomous province of Russia, and before that, the easternmost province of Sweden. The early years were tough for the new nation, and only after the Second World War, the country began its rapid development to one of the most advanced societies in the world.

Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki
Finland is celebrating its 100th Independence Day throughout the year 2017. A dedicated web site published by the Prime Minister’s Office shares up-to-date information on events associated with the celebrations. Which event or party is the one to attend?

Here are some guidelines to help you plan:

– The actual day 6th December tends to be dark and murky in southern Finland where the biggest cities are located. In Lapland, there is snow on the ground and the Northern Lights in the sky.
– In September, Helsinki is cooling towards winter, but weather is often fine. In Lapland, hikers and trekkers have the highlight of the year as the autumn colors light up the landscape.
– In October, the annual Herring Market is a traditional big event at the Helsinki market square in the city center.

How Finns themselves celebrate their 100th Independence year?

The traditional way to celebrate the Independence Day in Finland is to watch television. That’s right. The highest viewer numbers each year are for a program that lasts several hours in the evening of the Independence Day. The majority of Finns are glued to their TV screens, watching as important politicians, celebrities, artists, successful sportsmen and ambassadors of countries who have representatives in Helsinki shake hands with the President of Finland and his wife (or husband, as happened with the previous president who was a woman).

During recent years, Finns have adopted other alternatives – in addition to watching television – for celebrating their Independence Day. Since the day happens to be during the darkest time of the year and often, during the murkiest weather, staying indoors is the preferred option. Having dinner and lighting candles at home, or attending a concert are a few alternatives to television.

Tips and advice for the best destinations in Helsinki and for understanding the Finnish culture and customs

A Concise History of Finland – an easy-to-digest history of Finland.
The Best of Helsinki – a travel guide to the capital Helsinki, features also local favorites.
The Lighter Side of Finland – an American author living in Finland has captured the essence of Finns in an entertaining way.
Lapland – a travel guide to Europe’s last large wilderness.
8 Arctic Seasons – an award-winning book on the delicacies and adventures of Lapland.
Spaghetti and Sauna – insight into Finnish culture and customs through Italian eyes.
Finnish Cookbook with Modern Flavors – a brief introduction to some traditional meals, and modern variations of them.

Behind a book manuscript: How a travel writer experienced Helsinki

2016-05-21

The first impression: love or hate

In every relationship, the first impression is extremely important. The same applies to travel destinations that you are visiting for the first time. You can fall in love with a place at first sight, or it can take multiple re-visits before the poor first impression changes (if it ever does).

Now that I have written a travel guidebook on Helsinki and it is published, it is time to look back and evaluate my relationship with the city. I have lived and worked in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, for quite some time but what was my first impression about the city? Did I really like it, did it make me curious, was I unimpressed or even unmoved?

I believe it was late summer — August or September — when I arrived. The first images I can still recall were that it was green everywhere, lots of light, very clean, plenty of space and no fuss — everything just worked. Nothing was spectacular, massive, totally weird, or anything like that, but rather human-size and practical.

Local people kept their distance, and didn’t chit-chat (later, I found out that it is the norm). But if I approached someone, the response was overwhelming.

Helsinki made me curious. I didn’t quite know what it was and why it attracted me, but I wanted to know its secret. There had to be something behind those faces and facades that an average tourist didn’t see.

View video:

Helsinki, city streets

Reality check: How was Helsinki really like?

After you have spent a few days in a new destination, you realize that there are actually ordinary people who go about their daily lives in the city. Life in the destination is not all about seeing the sights, having meals in tourist restaurants and constantly carrying a camera that’s ready to shoot whatever comes in front of the lens.

Of course, a few days isn’t enough to learn how people live in a place, but a sharp-eyed traveler gets hints and impressions of the local culture. At this stage, things get interesting. If I am exploring a destination because I intend to write about it, after a week or so, I have visited and photographed the obligatory sights. Then, I can look around for things that I find different, interesting and outside the inner circle of must-see places. In Helsinki, it meant discovering places like Kaivopuisto, Itäkeskus, old Eira, touring the shores of the city on a bicycle, and getting to know the bohemian district of Kallio.

I must have taken more than thousand photos in Helsinki in winter and in summer time. Some of the images made it to the book, most didn’t. Let me show you a few pictures of Helsinki where I believe I managed to capture something about the true faces of the city.
cafe at Esplanade park in HelsinkiA cafe at Esplanade Park in the city center.

Erottaja, Helsinki, jugend housesHouses lining the Erottaja street.

helsinki, view from hotel torniA view of Helsinki from Torni. The city’s landmark white Cathedral rises above other buildings.

The bottom line: What does Helsinki mean to me?

After spending so much time in Helsinki, exploring its streets, discovering rarely visited places, studying its essence, asking stupid questions when chatting locals, photographing and writing about the city, how do I feel about it now after my Helsinki travel guidebook has been published? Would I want to live in the city? Do I feel that I want to visit the city next year and two years after that?

It is a universal up-and-down experience how a foreigner accommodates to a new country and culture. Many culture shock -books have been written about the phenomenon. Having lived long enough in Finland, I believe I have survived from my shock, and I can sit back and take a long, hard look at the city, its people and culture.

The things I most appreciate in Helsinki (and in Finland) are safety, how everything just works, rationality of the people, ample green space, human-size architecture, modern art, and large wilderness areas. For me, the ideal moment to travel to Finland is when I want to breathe freely, be sure that I can be alone of I want to be alone without anyone bothering me, not worry about officers or taxi drivers cheating me, and forget about the poverty and distress in many other parts of the world. If it is summer, I will sit down at Esplanade or Kaivopuisto Park with my ice cream and blend into the crowd. I will be quiet and think the same things as Finns do: when we head to the cottage next weekend, what will we grill after sauna?

Helsinki is one of the easiest city to travel to and explore. It is a pleasure to stop by even for a short layover. Staying in the city for a long period exposes people to the long and dark winter, but summer rewards those who survive the winter. (Locals actually enjoy winter by traveling somewhere where it is colder than in Helsinki and snow is abundant).

I actually think that Helsinki (and Finland) is a bit of a hidden gem. The world has started to take notice of the country and its capital after news of its school system, maternal packages, Angry Birds, Nightwish and talented race drivers have spread in social media. Scandinavian kitchen and literature are also trending, at least, in Europe.

At times, Helsinki may be cool, but it won’t leave you cold if you give it a few days.

This story was written by Kim Anton who has authored and photographed two travel guidebooks for Klaava Media.

Esplanade park ,Helsinki in summer
My favourite season in Helsinki? Well, everyone falls in love with Finland’s summer (as I did), but winter has its own, very special atmosphere and fun outdoor activities. The picture above and the one below show the same place in summer and in winter in the center of Helsinki.
snow storm at Esplanade park in Helsinki

Nordic mixture of unique experiences and culture: The Best of Helsinki

2016-02-27

The capital of Finland, Helsinki, is a traveler-friendly city: there is plenty to see in the city, but it is easy to move around town and traffic rarely causes major problems. Food, drink, and accommodation options are plenty. Helsinki is a mixture of many things: it is centuries old, but modern; it is a western city that used to be part of eastern empire. These influences and traditions have blended into a unique Nordic culture and architecture that visitors can experience in Helsinki. Travel guide The Best of Helsinki: The Sights, Activities, and Local Favorites explains and shows it all.
Helsinki: Klaava Travel Guide, sample page
Travelers who have never visited any Scandinavian country may think there is always snow on the ground and people have to give way to elks and reindeers that roam on city streets. Yes, snow covers the ground in Finland in winter, but summers are beautiful, warm and green. Yes, there are plenty of elks and reindeers (and a number of wolves and bears as well), but they are hiding in the wilderness.

Helsinki (or any region in Finland) has plenty to offer for nature-lovers because large forests, lakes or the sea are never far away. Party-goers enjoy Helsinki’s lively nightlife scene, whereas foodies may enjoy a meal the Lapland, Asian, Italian, Russian or traditional Finnish way.
The Best of Helsinki, Klaava Travel Guide
The Best of Helsinki is a visual travel guidebook that shows you the places to go and helps you navigate to your destination. You can browse the book to get an overall understanding what the city has to offer, and then study details of those places that seem interesting.

Find out more about the book here.

Here are a few sample pages extracted from The Best of Helsinki.
Travel guide: The Best of Helsinki
Helsinki: Klaava Travel Guide, sample page
Helsinki: Klaava Travel Guide, sample page
Helsinki: Klaava Travel Guide, sample page

Travel photography gallery 2015: Helsinki and North Europe

2016-01-21

I have stayed in Finland for quite some time now, and many places, including the capital Helsinki have become familiar for me. Finland has its own unique culture (as explained by Russell Snyder and Irene de Benedictis in their own books), but I think I have learned the zen of the Nordic life: during winter, work and try to stay healthy, but in summer let all hell break loose and enjoy life.

In 2015, I continued photographing and taking notes on Helsinki for the travel guidebook that will be published later this year. Now, when I look at my photos I realize how green city Helsinki is in the summer (in winter it is either white or black, depending on the snow situation).

In the 2015 travel photo gallery we also have images from Erin who has a project in Lapland. Take a look at the gallery:

Hietalahti flea market in Helsinki, Finland.

Hietalahti flea market in Helsinki, Finland.

Ten things every traveler should know about Finland

2015-11-24

People who live in the far north, for instance, in Scandinavia have to cope with different environment than, say, people in Italy or US. This inevitably leaves its mark on local cultures and customs of each region. If you are planning a journey to Finland, here are ten tips that help you explore the country and communicate with locals. Otherwise, you may wonder for the whole duration of your trip why didn’t anyone speak to you or why did locals eat reindeer.
reindeers in Lapland

1. Reindeer is not the national dish of Finland.
In Lapland (the northernmost region of Finland, Norway and Sweden), however, reindeer is daily food. A few restaurants in the capital Helsinki have reindeer on their menus, and meat is available in large grocery stores. If you want to taste reindeer, here is a tip: try the smoked reindeer first. It is a delicacy that practically every meat eater loves. After that, if you are adventurous, try the traditional fried reindeer with mashed potatoes. More tips for touring and eating in Helsinki in this book.

2. Helsinki is the most popular tourist destination, but there are other places worth a visit.
Finland´s capital Helsinki draws the country’s biggest tourist crowds, especially, in summer. Visitors who are looking for natural landscapes, peace and quiet or adventures head to Turku archipelago, Lapland or lake district in eastern Finland.

3. Mobile networks in Finland have a wide coverage, and they are among the fastest and most economical available.
Roaming costs both for voice calls and Internet data are easy to avoid by getting a prepaid SIM card from a R-Kioski shop (it is like a 7-Eleven) and inserting the local card to a smartphone. If you want to find a free Wifi access point, look for a hamburger restaurant, like Hesburger or McDonalds, a shopping mall, or an access point in the center of Helsinki provided by the city.

uspensk cathedral in helsinki
4. Russian influence is evident in Helsinki, but don’t tell it to the locals.
Until 1917, Finland was Russia’s territory. Hundred years earlier, when Russia had won Finland from Sweden, the capital was moved from Turku to Helsinki. The new capital needed administrative buildings, university and proper infrastructure. That’s how Helsinki’s uniform city center around the Senate Square was established. Today, excellent Russian restaurants can be found in Helsinki, and plenty of business is conducted with Russians. A visitor should never question if Finns are eastern or western Europeans: Finland wants to belong to the west.
Read more about Finland’s history between the east and the west.

5. Midsummer turns Finland’s cities into ghost towns.
Midsummer is no ordinary fiesta in Finland. The sun doesn’t set at all in the north, and in southern parts of the country there is enough light to party through the night without artificial lights. The thing is that locals escape to the countryside and into deep forests to celebrate the Midsummer. Shops and restaurants are closed, leaving only innocent tourists roaming on empty city streets. If you happen to be in Helsinki during Midsummer, take a boat ride to Suomenlinna fortress or ferry to Tallinn in Estonia. Other places to visit are medieval town of Turku where an old castle stands by the sea, or the medieval castle in Hämeenlinna by a lake.

6. Leave your cheque book home.
The preferred way to pay in Finland is a debit or credit card that has microchip for added security (chip card). The only alternative is cash (Euros). The overall price level in Finland is higher than in Continental Europe, but somewhat lower than in neighboring countries Sweden or Norway. The price of Big Mac meal was 6.50 Euros in 2015.

7. You will not a see single reindeer or elk.
Reindeers live only in Lapland where it is easy to find them and photograph animals even in selfies. The only town where reindeers occasionally visit is Rovaniemi because they organize reindeer races. A large elk population roam in forests across the country, but you would have to be extremely lucky to see one.

8. Finland is a bilingual country.
Both Finnish and Swedish are official languages in Finland. This is the reason why street signs in Helsinki and in other coastal towns are in Finnish and in Swedish. Children learn both languages at school, but still, English is the foreign language that Finns know the best.

9. Finns follow the rules.
If you see a pedestrian waiting for the pedestrian traffic light to change to green, even though there are no cars in sight, you are looking at a local person. More than 600 000 people live in Helsinki . and more than a million in the metropolitan area, but the city is a safe place. In summertime, public drinking in parks and streets may surprise visitors, as well as Finns’ fairly natural way of dressing, but you should excuse them because of the short summer that they enjoy from the bottom of their hearts.

10. The top sights in Helsinki are not the Sibelius statue or Olympic stadium.
Don’t waste your time, but head to Suomenlinna (a beautiful island fortress outside the city), Temppeliauko Church, also known as the Rock Church, or Ateljee Café at the top of hotel Torni. If you have time, take a hike in Nuuksio wilderness (only 30 minutes from the city) or get an invitation (or rent yourself) a cottage by a lake and enjoy the summer the Finnish way. More tips in the book The Lighter Side of Finland.

Suomenlinna, Helsinki

Suomenlinna, Helsinki.

Guggenheim cities show their true character through museum architecture

2015-06-28

In June 2015, three cities have Guggenheim museums. The cities are New York in the U.S., Bilbao in Spain and Venice in Italy. Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates has agreed to build a Guggenheim museum but construction hasn’t started. Guggenheim organized a design competition for a new museum planned in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. The winner, Moreau Kusunoki Architects , was recently announced, allowing us to compare designs of five Guggenheim museums across the world.

guggenheim new york
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

guggenheim bilbao, design by frank gehry
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

guggenheim abu dhabi, by frank gehry
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (planned design).

peggy guggenheim collection, venice
Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

guggenheim, helsinki, moreauku sunoki architects
The planned Guggenheim Museum for Helsinki.

Architecture always delivers a message that tells something about the city where the building is located. It also tells about the time and the trends, but in every way, public building is a statement. Look at me! This is who I am!

What do the five Guggenheim museum designs tell us? The architecture of New York, Bilbao and Abu Dhabi museums are asking for our admiration by showing how daring and prosperous the cities are. The designs of Venice and Helsinki museums are modest but solid and proud of their roots. Both Venice and Helsinki invite visitors in to the building, instead of asking them to admire art from the outside.

With or without a Guggenheim museum Helsinki is a travel destination worth visiting in northern Europe. Download a travel guide to Helsinki and take it along on your smartphone or tablet when you travel.

The status of Guggenheim Helsinki and Abu Dhabi can be followed at their own web pages.

16 most beautiful bookstores across the world

2015-06-26

We all like to shop at online bookstores for convenience, selection and prices, but there are (at least) two things that still draw customers to bricks and mortar bookstores: helpful personnel and architecture of the building where the bookstore is located. Old cathedrals have been converted to stores in some parts of the world, and legendary architects have designed stores in other parts of the world.

Svenska Dagbladet, a popular Swedish daily newspaper, compiled a list of 15 most beautiful bookstores in the world. They all are exceptional, and worth a visit even if you are not planning to buy a book.

The curious thing about the article in Svenska Dagbladet was readers’ comments on the list of 15 most beautiful bookstores. The big favorite among readers was Akateeminen bookstore located in the city center of Helsinki, Finland. It was not mentioned in the article. The current Akateeminen store was designed by Alvar Aalto, and opened in 1969.

akateeminen bookstore, Helsinki
akateeminen bookstore, Helsinki
Akateeminen bookstore in Helsinki.

Take a look at 15 other beautiful bookstores as selected by Svenska Dagbladet.

bookstore livraria in Porto, Portugal, foto by alamy
Livraria Lello & Irmão, Porto. Photo by Alamy.

The Best of Helsinki, Finland: Tips from a Local Writer

2015-05-24

Helsinki, Finland is a relaxing Scandinavian destination to visit: it is a relatively compact city that can be explored by foot, by bicycle or by public transportation, like trams. Local people think there are traffic jams in the city, but visitors from one of the metropolis of the world may have another view. The best time to visit Helsinki is May-September when there is plenty of light and everyone enjoys the warm season.

view over the roofs of Helsinki, FInland

More tips for travelers heading to Finland in Russell Snyder’s book I, Helsinki – A Finland Visitor’s Guide. Here are some highlights:

Sight: Suomenlinna fortress island
City view: Ateljee Bar in Hotel Torni.
Sea view: Sightseeing cruise from the Market Square.
Piece of history: Senate Square.
Architecture: Tour around Töölönlahti for monuments and variety.
Food: Restaurant Lappi for traditional dishes of Lapland, restaurant Bellevue for Russian delicacies.
Park: Esplanadi in the city center and Kaivopuisto by the sea.
Art: Ateneum and Kiasma museums, galleries in Design District.
Shopping: Esplanadi for branded goods and Hietalahti flea market for fun.
People watching: Cafés at Esplanadi.
Drive: From Lauttasaari to Kulosaari via the coastal road.
Cycling: Any cycling path that follows the coastline, for instance a route via Töölö, Meilahti, Munkkiniemi. Kuusisaari and Lauttasaari.
Beach: Hietaranta in the city.
Hike: Nuuksio national park outside Helsinki, hike around Töölönlahti in the city.
Winter fun: Walking on ice, sledding in Kaivopuisto or cross-country skiing in Paloheinä.

 
Here is a video that shows a few highlights of Helsinki:

I, Helsinki – A Finland Visitor’s Guide download travel guide to Helsinki, Finland

Book Reading: a Video of Helsinki, Finland Travel Guide

2015-02-16

The majority of overseas visitors arrive in Helsinki, Finland’s capital in the summer. During summer weekends, however, local people migrate to their summer cottages they have built on lake and sea shores around the country. In the winter, on the other hand, a visitor may encounter peculiar local habits, such as skiing and skating on sea or sledding in the city center.
I Helsinki, Finland travel guide
In any case, if you are planning to visit Finland, and Helsinki in particular, it makes sense to plan ahead. Travel guidebook I, Helsinki lets you quickly discover the sights you want to visit and activities you would like to try out.

Here is a video (captured in the summer) that includes five chapters from the book that you can listen and watch:

More about the book. I, Helsinki, travel guide to Finland's capital

Book Trailer Video: Introduction to Helsinki

2014-11-13

Yes, for the traveler, Helsinki is certainly worth a visit or three. What’s more, according to recent research, the residents of this city are very content with where they live.
Helsinki, Finland tourist guide
Let Helsinki tell you in her own words about her city. What to see, do, and expect. She is proud of herself and her accomplishments over the years, and is more than happy to give you some outstanding tips.

The video was produced for the travel guidebook I, Helsinki

Helsinki speaks out in her own travel guidebook I, Helsinki

2014-09-10

Typically travel guidebooks are written by travelers or locals who explore the destination until they know what is remarkable and worth recommending to visitors. I, Helsinki is a different guide because in the book, the destination herself shares the best tips of the city. Here is a video clip that shows readers some of the places the book talks about.

from the book: I, Helsinki
Old Market Hall near the Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

Watch the video:

The video segment is based on chapters in Russell Snyder’s book I, Helsinki.
Download ebook: I, Helsinki by Russell Snyder