A weekend in Helsinki, pt. 1 – Churches, markets, boats, and fish
Hey guys! We’ve just “survived” a massive thunderstorm last night here in Copenhagen, but I was actually really glad – it had been a long time coming! The warmth and especially the humidity had become a bit too much for me, and so I was glad to spend the weekend away from the city, and luckily, we made it back in time before flights had to be canceled due to the weather!
Friday afternoon, we headed to the airport to cash in my boyfriend’s birthday present from me – a weekend trip to an undisclosed location! I had promised myself not to tell him where we were going (and all his friends and family also kept quiet!), and his guesses ranged from Rome to Madrid to Iceland, but he was actually surprised when he saw Helsinki at the gate!
We landed at Helsinki airport around 19:30 local time, and headed to the hotel. The cheapest option is to take a shuttle bus that goes straight to the central station, and we walked to the hotel from there. After freshing up a bit, we decided to take a late dinner at a place we’d seen on the way and that I know from Germany: Vapiano!
I know, flying all the way to Helsinki just to eat at a chain restaurant might not be intuitive, but they simply make good pizza and we didn’t feel like hunting the city center for hours to find a good place to eat. And look at this beauty! Creamy mozzarella, garlicy bruschettta tomatoes, rocket, and freshly shaved parmesan – delicious!
We then took a little walk to one of the cocktail bars I’d read about: A21, supposedly one of the best cocktail bars in Helsinki. And we were not disappointed! A stylish place where you have to ring the doorbell and are then let inside and seated by a very sweet waitress. The bar is small, but the white curtains between the small seating areas give it a really cozy, but elegant atmosphere. The menu has some classics, but also some Finnish-inspired cocktails, which we decided to go for. Both our cocktails had birch syrup in them. Mine tasted like a summer forest, with gin, lime, basil and topped off with champagne. My boyfriend chose one based on rum, with linden flower and soda. They were delicious!
We headed home to catch some well-deserved rest and to plan the day ahead of us.
On Saturday, we decided to head down to the harbor. On our way, we passed the Senate Square with the iconic white cathedral – a truly impressive building!
From there, we walked towards the other, famous church in Helsinki – the orthodox church on a small hill on the other side of the water, across from the cathedral. Quite the contrast – the cathedral is a bright, clear, almost minimalist building, whereas the orthodox church boasts the typical Russian pomp – gold plating, icons, fur coats, crowns, you name it!
We then crossed over the harbor market, a bit of a tourist trap, but some great fun to be head anyways!
We spotted knifes and utensils made of reindeer horn and wood from the forests of Lappland…
… fresh flowers, …
… and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, grown locally:
Once we were at the harbor, we thought, why not hop on a cruise boat and see Helsinki from the water? And so we did. Obviously, I fell in the trap of underestimating the strength of the sun (in the middle of the day!) because of the strong winds at sea, and ended up burning my shoulders. Typical! But the boat trip was totally worth it, and if you ever go to Helsinki, I do recommend you take one. Helsinki looks beautiful seen from the sea!
The trip also took us by the sea fortress island, Suomenlinna. Given we only had a weekend, we didn’t want to use half a day or so to take a separate trip out there, but apparently it’s supposed to be worth a visit. We stuck to what we could see from the boat, which was quite impressive as well, starting with the old King’s Gate:
… before heading back out there on the open sea, …
… and into the picturesque harbor:
Back at the market, we were starving, so we opted for one of the fish stands and got ourselves a big grilled salmon plate with some nice spiced potatoes and a garlic sauce.
The sales girl also threw in a handful of those small fried fish for us to try, …
… which I promptly did, earning me a puzzled look from the boyfriend, accompanied by the words, “I never thought YOU’d just eat a fish head!” – I actually hadn’t realized the heads were still on and that I had just bitten one off! Needless to say, I did NOT eat any more of those fishies!
On our way back to the hotel, we walked down the beautiful Esplanades, lined with luxury shops and great old buildings…
… and the pretty flowers in the parkway in the middle, …
Finally, we sat down next to a lovely little café and enjoyed an iced latte, before taking the walk back to the hotel (we walked SO MUCH!). The place is called Caffi, and they sell teas, coffees, chocolates and much more.
This is only part one, so stay tuned for the next part (there are some GREAT bars and a Finnish restaurant waiting for you!).
By the way, I’m doing an Instagram takeover for Expat in Denmark, so why don’t you head on over there to see what I’m up to!