When you’re looking to book a European getaway, Helsinki probably isn’t the first spot you think of. If you’re like us, you’re constantly dreaming about adventuring through Rome or Paris… but Helsinki, Finland? What’s even there
It’s time to let you in on a little secret… Finland is cool. And it’s just getting cooler.
We just returned from spending a week in Helsinki, not knowing what to expect. We went with zero expectations, and we can honestly say that it blew us away. We’re already planning our trip back - that’s how epic it was.
Here’s why you need to go, too:
1. IT’S EASY TO GET AROUND
Maybe it’s our old age, but we dig a place with good public transportation. Don’t get us wrong, we still walk everywhere (we averaged 7 miles/day in Helsinki), but it’s nice to have options, you know? Public transport in Helsinki is incredibly clean and easy to use, and consists of bus, tram, metro, local railway and ferry services. You can purchase a Dayticket for unlimited use on public transportation for up to a week, making it easy to zip around the city!
2. THE INNOVATIVE CULINARY SCENE
We’d go back to Helsinki just for the food. Seriously. They have everything - from traditional Finnish cuisine (reindeer, lingonberry porridge, bear stew), to trendy vegetarian restaurants and dumpling shops… it’s impossible to go hungry! See a list of our favorite Helsinki restaurants here.
3. MUSEUMS THAT ARE REALLY COOL
Shhh.. don’t tell anyone, but we’re normally not big museum people. We get bored. Not the case in Helsinki, every day we went to at least one museum - we couldn’t get enough! From colorful and interactive art exhibits at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, to learning about mammals at the Natural History Museum of Helsinki, to the whimsical architecture at the Amos Rex, we were mesmerized by Finnish history, culture, and arts. And there were still so many museums that we didn’t have time to see!
4. THE PLETHORA OF SAUNAS
Fun fact: There are more saunas than cars in Finland! The population of Finland is just over five million, and there’s three million saunas - that’s one sauna per household! For Finnish people, the sauna is the place where they relax, spend time with friends and family, and find physical and mental healing. It’s a way of life that we can definitely get behind, and there are some pretty remarkable saunas sprinkled around Helsinki. Two must-try saunas are:
Löyly is a pampering and soothing oasis on the Helsinki waterfront. Its modern, wooden architecture is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the interior is just as stunning. Book your sauna session in advance, take a refreshing dip in the Baltic Sea, and enjoy a drink by the fire.
Allas Sea Pool
Located in the middle of Helsinki, right next to the Market Square, Allas Sea Pool is one of the most picturesque sauna experiences in town. Their hot and cold pools overlook the harbour, and we recommend taking a dip right around sunset.
5. THEIR OBSESSION WITH COFFEE
If we learned anything during our time in Helsinki, it’s that the Finnish take two things very seriously - saunas and coffee. They have legal coffee breaks (two 10-minute breaks a day, to be exact), and most drink around 3-5 cups per day! Many cafes will even include a free refill with your cup of coffee, and Cafe Regatta will actually give you 5 cents back for each refill or “santsikuppi” you drink! Other coffee shops that shouldn’t be missed are Good Life, Kaffa Roastery, and Kuuma.
Helsinki surprised us. We had no idea how enchanting this part of the world is, and how quickly it is evolving. From innovative restaurants, to bustling coffee shops and a growing art scene, Helsinki is on the rise. There is no better time to explore it than now - before word gets out about this charming city.
So… Meet ya there this summer?