Stockholm is old news. The new so called ‘scandi star’ is on the rise: Helsinki. Straight from India I flew into this Finnish winter wonderland for a stopover on my way to Amsterdam. This gave me a little more than 24 hours to explore this northern city, where the winter wind is icy cold and the dark kicks in at 4PM.
After weeks of immersing myself in the local Indian culture, I was more than ready for some modern day Scandinavian design, art and city life. Helsinki didn’t let me down, the opposite, to be exactly. Driving from the airport to the city centre – after my inner kid calmed down from the snow-excitement – the first thing that came in mind was “I could live here”. That feeling sticked with me the whole trip, not only because I just love the cold and I’m impressed with how the Finns deal with it, or the cool people, the aesthetics or all the pastel coloured buildings, but mainly because of the size of this city, which gives it such a cosy and friendly vibe. Everything is reachable by foot, which makes it the perfect city for a short trip or stopover. This is how I spent my 24 hours in Helsinki.
Waking up at Klaus K
Waking up in one of the Sky lofts in the Klaus K hotel is like a dream to me. Besides a huge bed, a very stylish bathroom and your own area for drinks and tea, you’ve also got a comfy couch and a lounge table, which gives you the feeling like you’ve got your own design apartment in the city. And then I haven’t told you yet about the private entrance that comes with it. Scandinavia equals design and Klaus K is the perfect example. Not only the hotel is situated in the hustle and bustle of the Design District, the whole hotel breathes design.
Breakfast at Klaus K
Nothing beats a hotel breakfast buffet style and the people at Klaus K know everything about that. After I got my slices of fresh bread (as a Dutchie I’m very critical when it comes to bread), my healthy yoghurt bowl with fresh fruit and my blueberry overnight oats they served me a fresh watermelon/raspberry smoothie. It was only because I just had one day to spend in this city, otherwise I would have thrown myself on the bed to recover from my food coma. Too much yumminess. From healthy fitgirl-food to home-baked cheesecakes and brownies for the sugar addicts.
Walking around the design district gives you the ultimate Scandinavian design experience. What surprised me the most where all the pastel coloured buildings, which almost made me happier than all the cool shops and café’s. You don’t need a strict plan, just wander around the streets and you will find a trendy spot on every corner of the street.
Old market hall
After wandering through the design district you can slowly make your way in the direction of the surrounding water. Near the ferry you find a beautiful building which houses the old market hall. Lined with food stalls and café’s this is a great place to browse and sample Finnish food, including all kinds of reindeer products. Can it get more Finnish? As the water was calling me I didn’t stay here for long, but it was definitely worth a quick visit.
If you think about Helsinki, you think about water. The whole city is surrounded by water and the moment you turn away from the buildings you get this Scandinavian countryside feeling. Little islands in front of the coast with cute wooden houses, lots of boats, frozen water and a layer of snow. Because it is freezing most of the time it is important to walk steady and firm to keep yourself warm, which means you can cover quiet a distance. I walked from Lyypekinlaituri all the way up to the Merenkulkijoiden statue and walked back to the city centre through the icy and slippery city parks, where people were taught how to ice skate and kids were playing in the snow. Like being outside in minus 7 degrees is nothing!
Warm drinks at Michel
To warm up after my walk along the water I went to Michel. Here they sure know how to make a place look Instagram-worthy. Not only everything is covered in marble, but they used this pink and green colour combination which makes it hard to put away your camera. Definitely a good spot for lunch, but I decided to go for the full Finnish experience and walked back into the design district for a perfect cinnamon roll.
Cinnamon roll at Fleuriste
This place. It doesn’t even look that special, but the smell of freshly bakes cinnamon rolls makes it perfect. It is small, cute and feels very local. The perfect spot to get some work done or to read a book if you’ve got more time to spend in Helsinki. The girls at Fleuriste made cinnamon roll baking into an art and the whole city knows about that. And I have to admit: it was the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever had, thanks to the hint of ginger and the fact they came straight out of the oven.
Holy Helsinki: Kamppi Chapel & Temppeliaukio church
You can’t leave a city without visiting one of its churches and in Helsinki that’s not a punishment at all. The Kamppi Chapel is a beautiful piece of modern architecture and a perfect place to sit in silence for a while. It is not without a reason called “The Chapel of Silence”. Only a 15-minute walk further you can find the Temppeliaukio Church, also called the Church of the Rock. One of the most unique city churches I’ve ever visited because it is build directly into a solid rock. Although it is a bit of a tourist attraction it is an inspiring place to visit if you’re into architecture and a perfect stop to warm up from the cold.
Meatballs at Ravintola KuuKuu
Very close to the Temppeliaukio church you can find this local restaurant called Ravintola KuuKuu. I decided to spend the evening relaxing in my hotel room, but the next time I will definitely visit KuuKuu for a meal of traditional Finnish meatballs. According to the book ‘Helsinki: people make the city’ that I found in my hotel room, this is an absolute hidden treasure with the best meatballs in town.
Relaxing night / Sauna & Spa
I bet Helsinki has the coolest places to go for a cocktail (design district!) or to shake your booty till late, but I decided to indulge in Klaus K’s luxury. They do have a sauna and a spa, but my in-room rain shower, complementary MALIN + GOETZ shower goodness and humongous soft bed where more than enough to make me happy and give me this feeling of extreme luxury. After a day in the cold and walking for hours this was all I needed. What a perfect day.
Discovering new places is one of my favourite things to do in the world and Helsinki absolutely showed me why. Although I love Helsinki covered in snow, I can’t wait to be back in this city in the summer. With all the cool and fashionable people, the big city parks, the surrounding water and cool hotspots, I’ve got the feeling that this city will become one big festival when the sun is out. Helsinki, you definitely deserve the Scandi-star title.
Article and pictures by Lisa Galesloot