On the way to visit my hometown in Finland, my boyfriend and I stopped in Helsinki for a night. Although our stay was short, I thought to share a few tips to make the most of Helsinki if you have only a little time. Please also see my earlier post about Helsinki where you can find a number of other recommendations.
We stayed one night in Klaus K Hotel in the middle of Helsinki city centre. Although Finland and the rest of Scandinavia is known for high end design, it has taken a while for true design hotels to land. The main majority of hotels in Helsinki revolve around chains, such as Scandic and Sokos, which are certainly comfortable but less interesting. For a design lover, I would recommend Klaus K. The decor and taste of the premises are impeccable. Scandi minimalism combined with design quirks with a loose association to a Finnish national epic, Kalevala.
Although the hotel rooms are nicely decorated, it is really in the hotel’s entrance and lobby where the design elements come to life. The reception has a glamorous white entrance desk with sophisticated light details. The nightclub is an interesting mix of classic club features like fluorescent staircase and loungy, comfy livingroom chicness. What I really liked about the bedrooms was not the decor but the Art Nouveau architecture that is so characteristic to Finland. It is in the thick window ceilings and frames and high rooms that I can definitely feel that I’m nowhere else than Finland. Likewise was the experience in Klaus K’s breakfast. Very high quality organic products were laid out in abundance for us to enjoy. After a Klaus K breakfast you won’t be graving for a lunch in a while!
It is probably true that Klaus K cannot compete in glamour and luxury in the same level as some boutique hotels in France and Italy but it certainly is a great place to stay for a city break in Helsinki. After all Klaus K is very comfortable and beautiful, centrally located and enjoys all amenities you might want from a short stay like a gym, spa and a nice restaurant.
As soon as the snow melts and evenings become longer Finnish people love to head to the terraces. One of the best ones in town is Mattolaituri just by the sea and close to the fabulous Kaivopuisto park. After a walk along the sea front or in Kaivopuisto it is very nice to stop for a drink at Mattolaituri and soak in the slow hum of a Finnish summer evening and, if you stay late enough, admire a fantastic sun set.
You may think that I’m crazy but as soon as my feet touch my motherland’s ground in the summer, all I can think of is where to get Finnish berries, and quickly! If you have tasted strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, red currants, black currants, cloudberries or lingonberries in Finland, you might know what I mean. There is nowhere in the world where berries grow so delicious and the best place to pick a litre or two (unless you have time to go to a berry farm or forest!) is the Helsinki Market Square.
The Market Square is worth a visit even if you aren’t after berries. The traders sell local produce products such as vegetables, honey and jams. There is also fresh seafood, baked goods, and some souvenirs on offer and you will be able to enjoy good lunch dishes like salmon and potatoes or even reindeer meat. In the market square cafes you can safely feel that some things just never change.
If you have time, there are many boat trips that start just next to the Market Square. They are a perfect way to enjoy the sea life and marvel at beautiful Helsinki archipelago.
For beautiful seafood Fishmarket is a great choice. It may feel a little touristy or business-like given its location next to some of the biggest banks in Helsinki but apart from that the atmosphere is warm in a modern dining room which is served by courteous waiters. Food in Fishmarket is very well prepared and nicely presented. Wine is of course very expensive, but remember, we are in Finland.
Even if I’m on a short visit to Finland, I love to pop into the design shops to see what new is available or stock on my old staples like Iittala glassware or Arabia pots and pans. Helsinki city centre is perfect size for a little design tour as everything is a walking distance away and to a large extent located in the Helsinki Design District.
A few of shops worth a try are for example Iitala, timeless and elegant glassware, tableware and cookware, Kalevala Koru, which is a manufacturer of high quality Finnish jewellery, and Design Forum where you can see products from up-and-coming Finnish designers. Helsinki Design Museum is an excellent way to get an introduction to the Finnish design, its history and how it has influenced the culture of this Nordic country.
My final tip for a short visit to Helsinki is Cafe Regatta. I love this little red quirky cottage by the sea in Meilahti with a little garden patio outside and delicious cinnamon bun smell inside. It is best reached during a bike ride as it’s a few kilometres away from the city centre. It is definitely worth the trek though as it’s the closest you can get to summer cottage life inside the city. Besides it is so refreshing to be somewhere so unpretentious in comparison to the trendy clones and Starbuck’s jungles you find in most cities.
Klaus K Hotel
Bulevardi 2-4, 00120 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +358 20 770 4700
Ehrenströmintie 3 A, 00140 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +00 45 119 6631
Helsinki Market Square
South Harbour, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
Opening times: Mon-Fri 6.30-18, Sat 6.30-16, during summer also Sun 10-17
Pohjoisesplanadi 17, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +358 9 6128 5250
Opening times: Mon-Sat 18:00 – 23:00
Pohjoisesplanadi 25, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +358 (0)204 39 3501
Email: email email@example.com
Pohjoisesplanadi 25 – 27, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +358 207 611 390
Erottajankatu 7, 00130 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +358 9 6220 8130
Helsinki Design Museum
Korkeavuorenkatu 23, 00130 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +358 9 622 0540
Tel: +358 40 076 0049
Opening times: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 23:00
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