I’ve been to Helsinki, Finland twice, once as a student 2013 while I studied abroad in 2013 and again for work in 2015.
When I visited as a student, I participated in a self-guided tour of the city. There was a large group of us divided into teams. Each team had the responsibility of researching a specific site in the city, guiding the entire group to that site an presenting a little of what we found. There was also an unexpected challenge at each location. My partner and I were assigned the Helsinki Cathedral and our challenge was that one of us had to propose to a stranger.
My partner refused to complete the challenge, so after we made our presentation I scoped out the area to see who would be my future betrothed. I spotted a guy who seemed to be travelling alone and looked to be around my age. He was wearing a fanny pack in that cool European way diagonally across the shoulder instead of around the waist. I asked if he wouldn’t mind getting engaged today. I was met with a look of pure confusion. Quickly, I realised that he was Spanish and his English was not so great. So I got to practice my Spanish and repeated my request. After finally receiving a nod of approval, I proposed to him on bended knee “in front of friends and family”. He graciously accepted . Afterwards, we snapped the customary celebratory photos and then we parted ways destined to never to met again.
I saw all of the major sites (listed with links below) as well as spending an afternoon at a traditional Finnish Sauna. The Finnish Sauna was fun because there was a group of retired Finnish men in sharing the sauna with us. They told us that they visit multiple times a week for their health. They showed us how to adjust the temperature to 113 degrees Fahrenheit and then how to make the plunge into the adjacent lake of 30 degree water. Yikes! Needless to say it was incredibly cold, but completely exhilarating. This is supposed to be very good for your circulation. The strong and sturdy Finns, repeated this process many times but once was enough for me. This island girl could only take so much. But I visited on my return to Helsinki and have gone to saunas and baths in other European cities as well.
On my first visit I also took in a hockey game. I was rooting for one one the local Helsinki teams, the Jokers. Sadly (but not surprising with a team called the Jokers), they scored not one goal and lost the game but no matter, my friends and I got on the jumbo-tron. So in reality we were the real winners.
I would definitely recommend visiting Helsinki. Also if you’re feeling adventurous, after spending a few days in Helsinki, you can take a ferry over to Tallinn, Estonia. It takes just a few hours and then you’re in the Baltic. I’ll be sure to post about my trips to Tallinn soon. But first check out some more photos from my visits to Helsinki:
- Shanghai Cowboy – This is favourite restaurant in Helsinki. It is not Finnish food, but it has a great atmosphere in a cozy basement space. They serve great drinks and can accomodate a wide variety of dietary needs (e.g. vegetairan, gluten free, etc)
- Ravintola Karl Johan-Oy
- Ravintola KuuKuu – Tradiational Finnish Food
- Suomenlinna – an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands in Helsinki.
- Marimekko Outlet – Miarimekko is a very popular Finnish brand, but it can be pretty pricey. But if you can get there, the outlet sells products at highly discounted rates.
- Temppeliaukion Church – The Rock Church
- Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square
- Havis Amanda and Market Square
- Sibelius Monument – dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius
- Design Museum