East meets west with spectacular views over Helsinki. Russian and Finnish are the most widely heard languages in this exotic venue which served as the Russian headquarters during the latter part of the Second World War. As the tallest building in Helsinki from 1931-1976 it has been the scene of intrigue that shaped the recent history and politics of northeastern Europe. An unforgettable and atmospheric location.
This is your last chance to see Helsinki, the 2012 World Design Capital, before the snow arrives. Explore the fascinating Design District (www.designdistrict.fi), including the Design Museum’s new ‘The Home – A space and a state of mind’ exhibition (www.designmuseum.fi). Visit Kiasma, the museum of contemporary art (www.kiasma.fi), to see Kaija Papu’s life-size knitted police car. Rest your legs in Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall cafe or spend a quiet moment in the stunning wooden award-winning Kamppi Chapel of Silence. If you fancy seeing some older Finnish architecture while enjoying the trees in their autumn colours, the Seurasaari open-air museum (www.visithelsinki.fi/en/see-and-experience/sights-and-attractions/seurasaari-open-air-museum) is the perfect place to spend a bright autumn afternoon. For evening entertainment, take advantage of the Finnish National Opera’s low prices (as little as 14 euros) and enjoy The Magic Flute, Don Carlos or Tosca (www.opera.fi).
This is a small seafood restaurant on the western side of Helsinki. It has plenty of seafaring memorabilia on the walls.
Head along Bulevarden and at the end of the road it is to the right facing the water.
The pricing was decent and the food was delicious.
This record shop is on the same road as the Rock Church and has a good selection of vinyl and CDs, including a metal section. The staff were helpful in pointing out Finnish bands and there is a section of the shop where you can listen to records or CDs to see if you like them, complete with a comfy chair.
A viking-themed restaurant tucked away in a small shopping corridor opposite Stockmann, Harald is a bit pricey but worth the money. (Most restaurants in Helsinki tend to be a bit more expensive.)
The staff were nice and the atmosphere combined with the lovely food (I had bear) made a great evening.
Citykäytävä 2. krs, Aleksanterinkatu 21, 00100 Helsinki
Irish pub in the centre of Helsinki. Authentically Irish with Irish customers as well as bar staff.
As you'd expect for Helsinki, drink is not cheap - about €11 for two half litres of cider.
Old Market Hall, situated along the South Harbour and Market Square, has been selling Finnish delicacies to locals and tourists for over 120 years. It’s a well-known place for meeting up with friends over a cup of coffee and cinnamon buns before shopping for berries, wild mushrooms, game, sea food and freshwater fish. Try fried reindeer slices with potato mash and lingonberry sauce followed by oven cheese with Arctic cloudberries and cream. Alternatively, taste Karelian pasties, made from thin boat-shaped rye crusts filled with savoury rice pudding. Most importantly: don’t forget to buy those all important sausages and beer for the evening of sauna, skinny-dipping and barbecue!
Wanha Kauppahalli, Eteläranta, 00130 Helsinki
+358 9 636177
Open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm Saturday
Google map: bit.ly/fvFoj7
I stayed at the GLO in July 2007. I went to Helsinki with my husband for a wedding and most of our friends stayed at the Palace Kamp but we decided to stay at its sister hotel, the GLO. It’s next door to the Palace Kamp so probably the best location in Helsinki. Unlike the Palace Kamp, GLO is a modern hotel and we really liked the room: big room, brand new, very stylish and modern for an extremely reasonable price. Breakfast was also included - a big buffet with plenty of food. There’s a Spanish restaurant in the hotel where you can enjoy tapas.
The hostels get very, very busy during the summer months and it is certainly advisable to book as early as possible in order to get a cheap bed.
Also, be aware that if you have not warned the hostel that you will be making a late check-in (and by late check-in, they mean any time after 6pm) your reservation may be cancelled and given to another person. So if there's any chance of delay, send an email or call in advance of your arrival.
(The alternative is, if you missed out on point one, to hang around hostel receptions at about 6pm to see if they are yet ready to make some cancellations).
The 'Church in the Rock' is the most striking piece of religious architecture in Helsinki.
The chuch was hewn from a huge chunk of granite, the walls left as jagged bedrock, into which a concrete altar was poured. The copper roof seems to float above the church as the light come from a circular window on to which the roof sits. A proper 'wow' moment.
Lutherinkatu 3, Helsinki
The place from where the Five Corners Quintet get their name and THE area in Helsinki to buy music. Vinyl and jazz included but you can get anything from Sibelius to Carl Craig.
Three great shops for any digger: Eronen, LifeSaver and Digelius.
Helsinki is full of design. It is everywhere and there is even a 'Design District' - an area of 20 odd streets and incorporating 150 shops that caters for everything; interiors, clothing, art, antiques, restaurants, galleries, museums and more.
Every participating store has a free Design District map which details every other store involved and what they specialise in. A great idea.
Walking distance from the city centre, Hietaranta is sheltered by the city, with perfectly clean water and is so shallow as to be very child friendly.
A must see in the summer and also in the winter when the sea freezes (supposedly). We spent a great afternoon there in mid August with only about 30 other people. A real highlight.
Hiekkarannantie, 00100 Helsinki
A good way to get to Tallinn or Stockholm - much greener than flying. Lots of services, and all ferry terminals are walking distance to city centre accommodation. However, you should book a cabin if doing the overnight ferry trip to Stockholm, as the bars, cafes and clubs are terrible, and there is nowhere quiet for you to sleep in a chair.
Viking Line Terminal;
This is a very bizarre restaurant - in some ways very Finnish, but somewhat cringeworthy to a local like me.
The decor resembles a Finnish countryside bar from the olden days and so does the clientele (this is the cringe bit).
You can have your drink under a massive plastic cow's udders or even sitting in an old Zetor tractor. However, this is only the bar.
The restaurant, on the other hand, is in a different class altogether. The food is very Finnish and very tasty - the menu is available online.
I took two British friends here and at least they seemed to love it - as a funky experience more than a would-be favourite bar, but anyway.
This is a combined bar, cafe/deli, restaurant and club with an excellent location on the Esplanade. The punters can sometimes be a bit bland (office girls and suits on the prowl) but the food is good and the Kellobaari at the back is pretty cool.
Teatteri, Pohjoisesplanadi, Helsinki;
This casual place has a brilliant location right on the Esplanade. Downstairs is a self-service cafe; upstairs, the comfortable library bar and a restaurant serving Scandinavian/Continental food.
Suomenlinna is a major monument of military architecture. The construction of the sea fortress on the islands just off Helsinki began in the middle of the 18th century. When it was complete, its military shipyard was one of the biggest dry docks in the world and centres of know-how at that time. It was a military base until 1973 when it was turned over the public. Only accessible by ferry, it is now a living museum and about 1,000 people live on the islands.
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org