Travel tips: Helsinki

We’ve just returned from five days in Helsinki, having travelled there to celebrate the wedding of our friends Erik and Ninni. Helsinki is not a big or particularly exciting place, but it is certainly worth a visit. A few things we can recommend:

  • Visit Kiasma – the museum of modern art is located in a building that is a work of art in itself. We went to see a show called It’s A Set-Up, featuring works that in some way challenged you to do more than just stand there and stare. A short film by Marja Mikkonen called 99 Years of My Life was particularly moving and thought-provoking; and walking through the hanging ribbons of Jacob Dahlgren’s The Wonderful World of Abstraction was just plain fun. The exhibitions change regularly, but even if whatever is currently in situ doesn’t appeal, the building is worth seeing. The cafe serves tasty sandwiches too.
  • Swim at Hietaniemi beach – a good place to catch the last rays of evening sun, with plenty of sand to sit on and calm waters in which to paddle or swim. We were there during a bit of a heat wave, so the dip in the Baltic was refreshing. And, a big bonus in expensive Helsinki, it’s free! (Take tram #3 to Kauppakorkeakoulut and walk about ten minutes west by the cemetery.)
  • Get smelly breath at Kynsilaukka Ravintola Garlic – this rustic restaurant specialises in all things garlic, from the breads and spreads you’ll be offered on arrival to the garlic ice cream on the dessert menu. The reindeer skewers with roasted garlic and pototatoes were magnificent. It’s not cheap, but it is tasty.
  • Café & Eepos – if you visit the Temppeliaukio church that’s dramatically carved into a big hunk of rock in the middle of the city, you can escape the tourists at this warm and friendly little café. Tasting the chocolate fondant with vanilla cream was at least as religious an experience as visiting the aforementioned church. Find it by walking out the door, turning right, heading around to the back of the church and turning left on Sammonkatu.

A boat trip through the archipelago is recommended, although the pre-recorded tour in Finnish, English, German and Russian got a bit tedious. The company with the live tour guide might be a better bet…but that’ll have to wait for a future trip.