Helsinki is the Capital city of Finland, in the South of the country, and sits on the Gulf of Finland. It’s the largest city and most populated municipality in the country. Helsinki is often called the “Daughter of the Baltic”, as it’s located on the tip of a peninsula and on 315 islands. Because of it’s Northern latitude, Helsinki’s winter days are very short- around 6 hours during the winter solstice; summer days are quite long- around 18 hours during the summer solstice. In an August 2012 survey of cities and their livability, the Economist Intelligence Unit awarded Helsinki eighth best overall. Read our interview with local, Leena, to plan your trip to Helsinki.
THE LOCAL: Leena
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST HER: (from Leena) I have been living in Helsinki my entire life, but have spent a lot of time abroad for both education and leisure. I’m pretty savvy and resourceful when traveling, so hopefully this bit will help you out for when you’re visiting my home!
1. Favorite Street to Wander/Stroll in Helsinki:?
My favorite is actually a German coffee shop, bakery and lunch spot called Café Daja. It’s located near the city centre in Kruununhaka. However, if you’re looking for a traditional Finnish place, stop by Cafe Ekberg (located downtown, too).
3. Best Area to Shop Local?
You can find everything you need at Stockmann, an old Finnish department store with a couple of cafés. Honestly, we do a lot of shopping online because everything is so expensive in Finland! Take a look at eco-chick.com– one of my favorite online stores. If you’re set on shopping during your visit, there are nice boutiques in an area called Kallio. This area used to be a very blue collar but is now a hip, chic shopping district.
4. Favorite Sunny Day Agenda?
Head to the island of Suomenlinna for a nice picnic and enjoy the sun. You can also walk around in the fortress. There are also many nice parks in and around Helsinki. My favorite park is Hesperian puisto (Hesperian park). There you’ll find lots of white walkers burning in the sun… although some of them may get a mild tan (a.k.a. freckles). Enjoy the ice cream kiosks around city that open as the weather warms. The ice cream cones are overpriced, but they’re absolutely worth it!
5. Essential Helsinki Tips?
Everyone in Helsinki speaks excellent English, even the elderly. If you need directions, ask us. We won’t come to you even if we see you looking around totally confused. Don’t ask why, that’s just how we are. But we’re working on it! Public transportation is very good and relatively cheap. We recently built a train station that will take you to and from the airport or city centre for around 6 euros. Also, if you want late-night food after a night out, go to Jaskan Grilli. Just don’t cut in front of the line or you will find yourself in a brawl with an intoxicated Finn!!
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP FIVE HELSINKI ATTRACTIONS
1. Fortress of Suomenlinna – Thumbs Up!
2. Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Kirkko) – Thumbs Up
3. Natura Viva Hiking & Camping Tours – Thumbs down, only because I’ve never heard of these tours. You can get around Helsinki very easily by bus. I will say, though, it’s nice to have a walking tour. You can learn a lot from the guides!
4. Seurasaari Island and Open-Air Museum – Thumbs Up!
5. The Esplanadi Park – Thumbs Up.
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP RESTAURANTS FOR YOUR TRIP TO HELSINKI
2. Ask – Thumbs up. Expensive.
4. BLINIt Russian Restaurant – I haven’t heard of this restaurant either, but it sounds like a great place for a lunch or a lighter meal with moderate prices. My favorite lunch restaurant is a vietnamese spot called No. 5 Coffee. Order the phð!
5. Ravintola Kuu – Thumbs up.