A travel journal
to Helsinki by katja_b
Quote: The atmosphere of Helsinki in summer is cheerful, outgoing, always in the sun. There are a few places to see here that someone may have recommended, but in case they didn't - here's the inside scoop to how a local will get the best out of the summer!
Enjoy the gorgeous view over the city from the tiny Ateljee Bar at the top of Hotel Torni.
Walk or jog around Toolo bay - better make it leisurely and rent one of those canoes.
Take a spin at Linnanmaki amusement park - the kiddie section is not bad either.
Rent rollerblades at Kaivopuisto park and swish past the marina.
Pick up a city bicycle (again, public transport) for a 10 FIM deposit and find your way around enjoyably - the map is on the bike.
Get a coffee / beer / ice cream and join the enjoyment of the long sunny days on any convenient terrace...
But, the centre is not very large, so walking is an option for enjoying much of the downtown area, and if you find one of those citybikes, all the better.
Restaurant | "Cafe Esplanad"
It's sort of budget, if you are in for a coffee and carbohydrate splurge (a splurge is never the cheapest option and this is definately the cheapest cafe on the Esplanade). The soups are generous, so are the salads. The various filled bagels and baguettes are mouth-watering. You get adequate coffees and teas. But the reason this is so well known is that they have possibly the biggest cinnamon rolls in town! locals call them "korvapuusti" which actually means a bang on the ear... The other danish pastries are also big and so good...
To top the atmosphere, if possible, some evenings they cram in a singer and two jazz musicians! In the evenings there is an age limit of 18 or 20.
If this is too full or busy for you, try the sister cafe, called Café Succes, a ten min walk away in a very fancy part of town called Eira.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 18, 2001
Helsinki, Finland 00100
(09) 665 496
Attraction | "Ateljee Bar"
Actually, you should go here, if nothing else, to see the ladies' restroom. I am totally serious! Ok, the terrace and the bar have also a terrific view, but this is the classiest thing, for those who don't suffer vertigo. You are not seen, but you sit there with the best view over the entire city...
I took a Scottish visitor there, and although the tower itself looks rather unimpressive from street level, indeed, it is impossible even to see the bar from there, we went up and "oh my!" It was ten p.m. in early July and the sun was golden and the sea so blue, and the terrace packed with people. We had ciders and admired the view... The bar tenders were building a drink with absinthe and a lump of sugar flambée as we waited to be served at the teeny bar.
The bar is small but so are the two terraces! One has a transparent wind shield, the other is au naturel, actually surprisingly little safety precautions considering that it is a drinking establishment, and on a wonderful sunny summer evening go up there and just enjoy the bird's eye view on the fair and surprisingly colourful rooftops of Helsinki... In the indoors they have a monthly changing art exhibition, hence the name Ateljee.
The lift is tiny, you may have to queue a bit to get up and down. But this climb is worth the view!
Incidentally, Hotel Torni is also a nice hotel - if you get a room in the tower itself. All the people I know who stayed there, have insisted on staying there again...
Helsinki, Finland 00100
+358 9 1311 3472
Attraction | "Walk around Toolo bay"
The park extends from next to the famous Finlandia hall (designed by Alvar Aalto and just recently re-marbled) all the way to the Opera house and from there to the Olympic Stadium. In the summer the park is full of life, with many differnet groups of people active there: from singing meetings to capoeira, salsa, and tai chi, not mentioning the more private picnics and running and biking along the bay trail. The fine and rather expensive restaurant Toolonranta is located at the north end of the bay next to the Opera house.
Next to the Finlandia building is a spot where rowing boats can be rented to row around the placid bay, admiring the park, the array of architectural sights around the bay including old wooden villas and the skyline of the Linnanmaki amusement park's ferris wheel.
Attraction | "Linnanmäki"
The entrance is 20 FIM and then you can either get a day bracelet or buy separate tickets for rides, for about 65 FIM and then 7 FIM (need 1-3 tickets).
It's a classic must for a summer visit :)
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 18, 2001
Linnanmäki Amusement Park
Helsinki, Finland 00510
+358 (9) 773 991
Attraction | "Suomenlinna (Sveaborg)"
The ferry leaves about every 20 to 30 min from the far end of the market square, public transport tickets are valid. It is best to buy them well beforehand at the kiosk or at any R-kiosk 10 mk a piece, more convenient than trying to buy one aboard. I find I always have to run to catch the ferry!
The fortress consists of a number of islans, each with its very own character. The island with the port is like a little historic town: a shop, charming villas, a church (yes, summer weddings and horse-drawn carts) as well as a gallery, brewery and the sorts.
There is a small Naval Academy on a little island off this one, but that's off limits.
The next island is monumental, historic, full of granite grey walls, monuments and stone buildings. Here there are also artesan workshops, museums and a couple of villas tucked away on the more sheltered side. There is also a shipyard (last time the basin was dry), and a little harbour beyond there - apparently they have a sauna there, in addition to the little pub. But cross the island and suddenly over the ridge you will see the Baltic, glinting blue, possibly windy, and below lovely smooth inviting rocks for sitting down and watching seagulls soar on the wind. (now, who has the bottle opener?)
There are tunnels in the walls, some of them large and open, but one which is narrow and absolutely dark...
The last island is the starkest of all, with just cannons and the bastion walls but a lovely spot in the middle, and also in one grey granite construction a nice bar and a pizza place (!).
This is the low-budget approach to Suomenlinna, surely you can dine here well enough, but our economy walks are based on the invigorating effect of fresh air and picnic supplies.
It can get windy, it is an island out as sea, so bring something windproof, but there are also nice sheltered spots for the enjoyment of all. If you are brave enough, bring a swim suit, there is a little swimming beach, too.
Suomenlinna (sea Fortress)
Bring a blanket. Go get the volleyball net. Paddle in the shallow waters, though after a bit it deepens quickly. Join the unabashed enjoyment of a beautiful summer day!
The beach is accessible through two routes:
Etelainen Hesperiankatu or
Hietaniemenkatu (though the cemetery).
Get there by tram, for example.
To bike, take the bike route along Hesperiankatu from Toolo bay park.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 19, 2001
near Hietaniemi cemetary
In fact, I was there with a foreign friend, in the sauna, some early and not very warm morning after an envigorating swim. We sat there, and an older lady came in and sat close to the "kiuas" (the heating element with stones). She started slapping on water, scoop after scoop, and it got quite hot! After every scoop she looked at us, smiled and asked in heavily accented english "Not too much?"
Similarly, after about a third morning swim in the same week, the older gentlemen in the pool started nodding a good morning to us. We smiled - we had been accepted to the regulars club... :)
The pool is open for public from about end of May to end of August. It is located in the picturesque wood house area of Kumpula. To reach the area, catch the 55 or 55A buses going east from downtown or for example 70, 75, or 77
and get off on the last stop before the Lahti motorway begins (ask the driver for Kumpula). Cross the motorway and walk up the "village street", Allastie is after the shop on the left before the forest, you will walk there in less than 5 min.
The pools are outside. On a good day the whole area is packed with people in the pool and on the lawn. There are dozens of kids queuing for the diving boards and platforms in an orderly manner, and the water is full of them, too. The entrance will let you enjoy the whole day in the area: sit on the lawn, go buy an ice cream, dip into the water, repeat. This is ideal family fun.
If you like envigorating swims, you should come in the morning between, say, 6:30 and 9, and join the faithful regulars for your swim. On a chilly August morning the water is wonderfully warm to jump into, and the morning sun lights up the mist rising from the water's surface...
Now you'll be jealous: I live right next to this place... :)
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 20, 2001
Kumpula open air swimming pool
Attraction | "Vanhankaupunginlahti :) east of the city"
The canoes for rent are on the Hameentie side of the bay. The water is still, with a current of course because of the river, but otherwise usually very calm.
In the early spring the melting waters swell the river up and the salmon rapids attract those with kayaking experience - definately not for beginners.
Unfortunately I don't know that much about kayaking to say more.
How to get here? by public transport take bus 71, 73B, or 68 and ride a good 7 km from the railway square eastwards, maybe 15-20 min.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 23, 2001
East end of Hameentie - mouth of the river Vantaa
The river Vantaa hits the bay on two sides of a little island. On the island is a museum of technology (currently they have a special from bikes to motorbikes exhibit).
There is also a wooden house, the cafe Kuningaskalastaja (=Kingfisher) - very quaint and pretty, nice atmosphere, art on the walls, bit like visiting a dainty old auntie. Their salmon soup has a reputation, which I unfortunately cannot confirm in first person. Yet. The rest of the menu is impressive, too, but not cheap. They should be contancted for the canoe rentals, too. Now, in the summer time their terrace is on the lawn: a dozen tables with white parasols and table cloths laid on a wood slat surface. They serve beer and cider from the tap and as I was ordering mine at my last visit, the cook was frying salmon next to us. I went to ask for a sandwich indoors, and a wonderfully smiling man suggested he could have the cook make me one, since I was too hungry for just pastries. I got a lovely sandwhich, more than I had bargained for, plus a plateful of salad and watermelon.
There are always tons of fishermen at the river's mouth. I don't know if they catch anything, but I suppose they do. The river is being looked after, and the city has planted a lot of fish to support the fishermen's enjoyment. At times it may be forbidden to fish for these reasons - it looked quiet at end of July to me.
There is a new, nice pedestrian bridge, and the whole area is being developed nicely. Very pretty, picturesque.
At the end of the bridge start the trails to the nature park. The bay is a bird reserve, a good and famous one. Not too far away you'll find a bird tower and planked trails through the rushes and undergrowth.
There is also a planked trail way out to a little island, where tiny summer cabins are side by side. Lammassaari - this little island - is a nice little walk in itself. But no pets allowed.
For hikers and bikers the trails reach miles and miles across the bay and over and back again, all the way to the arboretum (tree garden) and beyond. The fields and farms of the agricultural university are on the north side, the suburbs of Herttoniemi and Siilintie in the south.
East part, starting end of Hameentie
Attraction | "Arabia factory shop"
During the tourist months there is a bus shuttling between downtown and the Arabia factory shop, willing to scoot shoppers back and forth. You may also take the tram number 6. The factory shop stocks first and second grade goods in glass and ceramics. There is also an exhibition upstairs. (currently, July 01, they are having a renovation sale)
Whether you are looking to stock up on your elegant Teema set, or you want just a little something for a friend (I recommend any the glass votive candle holders, very sweet, and not too expensive), or you want to get the biggest Aalto vase ever, you should definately make a visit. Famous Designer Names have created products in all categories, also Iittala glassware and Hackman cutlery and crockery, and young designers have also contributed to products.
If you're looking for something prototypically Finnish to take home as a present: Teema mug with Moomin characters!
The map of the center area is stuck on the bike, to show the area of allowed biking and to locate drop-off spots. If you find a bike and return it to the stand you earn 10 mk.