a long weekend in 'too perfect' Helsinki

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Over Easter weekend hubby and I headed to Helsinki, the capital of Finland for a very much needed break from work, moving house and life in general.

It was our first time to Finland, so expectations were mixed - though being part of Scandinavia I thought things would run well, be a little on the expensive side and hopefully well designed. We decided to take things very leisurely, which was good planning since on the whole Helsinki was very quiet and rather chilled.

We started out our Finland weekend exploring the city by foot...

Helsinki Esplanade

... and went for a stroll down the Esplanade park - a pedestrian only boulevard street that leads from down town all the way to Market Square. Being April the trees were still quite bare, but that didn't seem to put off locals, many who were out and about enjoying a coffee and people watching. In Summer I believe there's lots of fun events held on the Esplanade, including live music and fashion shows.

Next we circled round Market Square, pausing to admire the water front, and surrounding buildings and then back into town.

Down town Helsinki

Helsinki has lots of open spaces, with paved squares and green spaces dotted all over the map. There's also an abundance of creativity and art. Although again, even on a Saturday I found this city surprisingly quiet and wondered how this city was doing so well when so much seemed to be closed?

Maybe I'm too used to London, but I was constantly wondering - where are all the people??

Art space Helsinki Esplanade
art space, Helsinki

Yummy cinnamon bun

While on holiday I like to 'eat like a local', so we indulged in lots of Cinnamon Buns, a staple in Helsinki's many cafés. Yum... layer upon layer of gooey cinnamon and sugar.

Helsinki street art

We also spied some lovely street murals and had a chuckle at local restaurant humour....

Fish restaurant - Helsinki, Finland

Next stop was Helsinki's famous Design District. We spent a whole lovely afternoon wandering through the streets, visiting tiny independent galleries and doing the odd spot of shopping. All of this was of course fuelled by the never ending supply of coffee along our route.

And you can't visit Helsinki without stopping off at the Design Museum. The permanent exhibition here showcases classic Finnish design from the second half of the 19th century to our present day and is really worth a visit. There's so many common household objects that we use today that originated in this country. The exhibition has just the right amount of content to keep you interested and engaged.

Design Museum - Helsinki, Finland

Lips Chair, Design Museum - Helsinki, Finland

After the visiting the Design Museum we were at a bit of a loss of what to do, where to go. The streets were quiet, many places seemed shut... but the sun was shinning so we decided to take a walk around Helsinki's water front and it was at this stage of our weekend we really started to understand what would be like to live in this city during summer...

... indeed the water front on a sunny day seemed to be the place for relaxation...

Waterfront - Helsinki, Finland

Waterfront - Helsinki, Finland

Waterfront - Helsinki, Finland

... so we did the same. Picked up yet some more coffee and buns and enjoyed the sunshine.

Easter bunny - Helsinki, Finland

Even the Easter Bunny was out enjoying the water front!!

Enjoying a beer - Helsinki water front

Then we walked a bit more and enjoyed some beer...

Relaxing - Helsinki water front

Beer and coffee - Helsinki water front

And, well basically spent a day café hopping. It was lovely.

What else? One of Helsinki's most famous attractions is Temppeliaukio, also known as Rock church. The interior walls of this circular church are made from naturally forming rock. It was rather modern and beautiful as far as churches go. Rock on!

The Rock Church - Helsinki

And although we didn't actually go in I couldn't resist this photo of Helsinki's Natural History Museum. Who would have though there are giraffes in Finland?

Helsinki Natural History Museum

On our last day we caught the 15 minute ferry over to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress - Finland's number one tourist attraction. Originally a military site, the fortress now acts more as a popular picnic site, and in 1991, Suomenlinna was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can spend a good half day at least exploring the island.

On our way to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki
looking back at Helsinki from the ferry

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki
visiting the old cannons

Cat at Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki
a very relaxed cat, Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

Having fun at Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki
having fun with our shadows :)

Back on the mainland we did a bit more of the same. Relaxing, sunning, coffee and beer drinking until it was time to catch our flight home to cloudy grey London.

Peace - Helsinki

More coffee - Helsinki
what, another café?

Cafe sign - Helsinki
café sign - Helsinki

River walk - Helsinki
my last pic of our Helsinki mini-break :)

I actually learnt a lot about myself on this trip. Yes, Helsinki ran perfectly, public transport was on time, systems worked, people were happy, streets were clean, etc. But personally I found the city, well just a bit boring (sorry!). When I travel I like a bit more challenge, some roughness around the edges and dare I say it - personality. That's me though! I know several people who love this city.

While away we also did an amazing day trip to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia - which is just 90 minutes away by boat. And speaking of boats, Tallinn floated mine a lot more than Helsinki. But I'll tell you all about that next week.

How was everyone's Easter break?

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  1. I have mixed feeling about Helsinki. I would love to visit but I've also had some unpleasant encounters with Finns so I'm yet unsure about it. Anyway I love your pictures, especially those at the waterfront!

    1. I think you'll always meet people you do and don't get on with from any country, so don't let the few encounters you've had put you off. I met the happiest bus driver ever while in Helsinki. It is a very beautiful city.

  2. Looks like a nice city for an easy city break. How awesome that you had beautiful weather. I really love that sign about the wi-fi. Sometimes when I travel with people we are rushing around to find some wifi. It's nice to switch off for a while.

    1. Totally agree. My hubby is a complete tech geek and I love getting away with him when he can't access the internet and we can have some decent conversation!

  3. I have been to Finnish lapland but not to Helsinki, looks great and those cinnamon buns looks fab :)

    Ella | www.towanderandtoroam.blogspot.com 

    1. Ahhhh, now I'm jealous. I would love to go to Lapland, this is on my bucket list. Thanks for stopping by :)

  4. Hmm, I completely agree with you. Granted, I've never been to Helsinki, but I can see what you found a little "meh". I'm standing by to hear about Tallinn though! :)

    1. Stand by!!!.... Tallinn was awesome :)

  5. I'd love to go back to Helsinki. I went on business a few years back and so had to race around to do any exploring. I've said since then I need to go back and look around properly, but as yet haven't managed to get around to it.

    1. Thanks for sharing your post. I always love to read what other think of places I've recently been to.

  6. I did read this whole post, but all that's stuck with me is "cinnamon buns are like the most popular food there?" and I'm there. Sounds like it's a good place to go if you want a laid back holiday, and not so much hustle and bustle.

    1. Ha ha. Yes, I've with you. The buns are delish! :)

  7. Helsinki looks completely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing :) I'm looking forward to reading about Tallinn as I've always wanted to visit and hope to next year when we move to Europe!

    1. Thanks Amy. That long awaited Tallinn post is coming very soon.....

  8. Seems like it was a beautiful Easter trip. I love the "We don't have wifi" sign. SO true ;) Thanks for linking up with Let Your Light Shine Thursdays!