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First Impressions of Helsinki
My first impression of Helsinki came after I landed at the airport. It sounds strange, but I went to the washroom, and I could hear birds chirping. My first thought was Oh there must be a bird inside the restroom (that might seem like a weird thing to think, but I worked at an airport and birds got inside the building the time). Then I realized there wasn’t a bird inside the bathroom. No, the intercom system at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport just plays a recording of birds chirping inside their washrooms. After that, I knew Helsinki would be a bit of a quirky city, and one I’d like.
After a train ride to the city and a cab ride to my hotel, I unloaded my bags and headed outside. The first thing I saw, only about half a block from where I was staying, was the Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square. This is an iconic building in Helsinki, but surprisingly it was not very busy when I was there (in October on a Thursday afternoon).
I continued along and found myself at Kauppatori or Market Square down at the harbour. There were a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish (especially herring), and souvenirs for sale. I forgot to pack a warm scarf/shawl, so I bought a small scarf from one of the stalls in Kauppatori. I snapped some photos and browsed the booths.
Then I had some dinner, and it was a bit of an expensive meal. The last couple of days in Madrid I got sick (really sick), and for three days all I had to eat was three apples. In Helsinki, I was feeling fine (thankfully), but I was starving. When the lady at one of the food stalls suggested getting the fisherman platter for 25 Euros, I thought “that is a great deal.” Then I realized I paid about $40 (Canadian) for my supper. So it was little pricey, but it was my meal for the day, and it was delicious.
Then I saw the Upsenki Cathedral, the Russian Orthodox Church, just a few blocks from the Market. I walked over there and took some photos because that’s how I roll. Wander, get lost, find something, eat, take some pictures, wander again, repeat until bedtime. Hi ho, the glamorous life.
Next-Day – Design District
The next day I went on a walking tour with Happy Guide Helsinki. The Design tour goes through various stops in Helsinki and talks about the significance of Finnish design in Helsinki. We visited a variety of different stores looking at clothes, furniture, art, jewellery, accessories and more. I’m not a design expert, but I loved the Finnish designs that I saw. They were modern and yet classic, and much of their designs are based on being functional as well as having a timeless appeal.
The Design Tour took about 2 hours and was a fun way to learn about Helsinki and how design has shaped this city. Then we went up to the rooftop of the Ateljee Bar in Torni. It was a beautiful way to end the tour.
Happy Guide Helsinki has several tours including the Design Tour, which occurs every Friday at 3 pm. The tour is regularly 20 euros, and a reservation is required. You can book this tour online here. The tour is about 2 hours. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. While you’ll go inside some shops most of the tour takes place outside.
Things You Should Know
I was provided with a complimentary tour with Happy Guide Helsinki Tours.
While in Helsinki I stayed at the Kongressikoti Hotel. The hotel is a five-minute walk from Senate Square and the Helsinki Cathedral. Helsinki can be an expensive city, and this was an exceptional budget accommodation option in the centre of Helsinki. I received a complimentary stay at The Kongressikoti Hotel. Thanks to both of these companies for their support.
As always this post was written by me and all opinions here are my own.
Would you take a design tour in Helsinki?