I’ve been to many great cities, but none of them have yet beaten Helsinki. I’m a “junantuoma”. That translates to brought by a train, which is a saying used by the original Helsinkians to describe the people who were not born here. I have only lived in Helsinki for about six years, so one might say I’m still just a tourist here in my home city. But during those years I have developed a serious crush on Helsinki. Actually I might even describe it a love affair.
Why do I love Helsinki to bits?
1.It’s small enough to be compact but big enough to stay interesting.
I live a couple of subway stops away from the city centre, which means we have a lot of nature surrounding us, but can still reach the heart of the city in less than 15 minutes. Comparing to big cities all over the world, there are rarely bad traffic jams here – at least if you avoid using your own car in the morning and in the afternoon when people go to and get out from work. Us Finns have a bad habit of complaining about the traffic in Helsinki, but I bet those people haven’t experienced a real traffic jam. Trust me – driving out from Helsinki city centre is a wee bit faster than, say, driving out from LA during the rush hour.
Getting around in Helsinki is easy by foot or by bike. A great way of getting to know Helsinki is to take a Bike tour with HELtours. They have great guides who know a lot about this beautiful city, and you get to explore Helsinki by an iconic Finnish bike called Jopo. I also love just wondering around the streets of Helsinki. There are lots of unique and beautiful neighborhoods in Helsinki that are best enjoyed by foot. A couple of my favorites are Eira, Punavuori, Kallio, Puu-Käpylä and Kumpula.
2.Helsinki is full of great events.
There’s always something going on here. A wide range of cultural happenings, interesting museums, music festivals and food events take place on a weekly basis. A great way of checking out what’s happening in Helsinki during your visit is to use this site.
My favorite events are for example the LUX Helsinki Light Festival, Streat Helsinki EATS, Taste of Helsinki and Helsinki Design Week. HAM is a museum you should totally check out during your stay.
3. Helsinki has an amazing restaurant and café scene.
I love food. What I love even more than food, is GOOD food. The great new is here we have it! There are so many wonderful restaurants here that I wouldn’t be surprised if people started traveling here only on eating purposes. I would totally recommend them to do so! My personal favorites from fine dining spots are Ragu, Finnjävel (amazing Finnish cuisine!), Muru, Gaijin and Boulevard Social (the acoustics there is bad but the food, oh so good). I would also love to try Grön, Pompier, Ask, Vinkkeli and Yume.
For quick and cheap but great eats I would recommend Döner Harju in Kallio (the seitan pita bread is to die for), Date + Kale which is a new vegan restaurant in Kamppi, Ônam (great vietnamese pho soup) in Forum, Street Gastro and of course my all time favourite: Fafa’s. I mean srsly, I could live on those fantastic falafels.
4.The nature is never far away.
As a nature person I must admit I sometimes wish I’d live somewhere far away from the city lights, in the middle of a forest, by a lake. But so far the city life pro’s have been more important, and the nice thing about Helsinki is that here’s lots of nature surrounding us everywhere. Forests, seaside, nature trails. I can easily go kayaking in the beautiful archipelago or rent a stand up paddle board and explore Helsinki yet again from a slightly different point of view.
You can even take a bus and find yourself from a Finnish National Park in less than an hour! Pretty amazing, right?
5. The Helsinki summer nights are something to remember for the rest of your life.
Imagine a warm and light summer night when the sun hardly sets, a beach by the sea and close friends gathered together to eat, drink and laugh together. I’ve lived so many nights like this, and I never ever will get tired of them. Those night are the ones that make me wanna scream “Helsinki, I love you!” from the top of my lungs.
Best places to have a summer evening picnic are Suomenlinna (a ferry ride away from Helsinki Market Square, lots of scenic spots to choose from), Mustikkamaa beach, Lammassaari, the Meilahti rocks (behind the hospital by the sea), Seurasaari (close to Meilahti), the rocky sea side in Eira or Tähtitorninmäki. 100 % satisfaction guaranteed (just remember to choose great company, food and wine).
6. It’s safe here.
I have a one year old kid, so as a mother I appreciate safe places. Finland is the safest country in the world according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Helsinki is truly a peaceful capital, and I’m super thankful about it.
7. Helsinki is beautiful all year round.
Summer or winter, spring or fall – Helsinki never stops doing what it does best: being pretty.
Cheers to Helsinki, my favorite city in the whole wide world!
If you feel like reading more about Helsinki I warmly recommend these great blog posts:
Young Adventuress: 10 things that surprised me in Helsinki
This American Girl: Hel-la-hip-sinki
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Happenings in HelsinkiHelsinki