The island you never leave

There’s a joke in Helsinki that the residents of Katajanokka are so content with life they never leave the island. Which is particularly funny because this island is connected to the city by a short bridge and is two minutes walk from bustling Market Square.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s a great place to walk around because you really do feel as though you are away from the city, despite the proximity. Your tour begins once you find yourself looking up at the Orthodox church of Uspenski Cathedral.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s some beautiful housing to see on your walk. Katajanokka is described as one of the ‘most distinguished’ suburbs of Helsinki and used to be home to Finland’s former president.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s also home to wonderful examples of Art Noveau architecture, or Jugendstil as it is known here. (Kataja means juniper).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The details on the window frames and arches are incredible. (I had a bizarre experience this day, in that every time I photographed a door to a building, it would open and someone would walk out).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not being too tall can be an asset on this island. I had to crouch quite low to get into this store, where entry is only available through the window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Any hobbits visiting from New Zealand would feel quite at home, I’m sure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As well as being home to a major port for cruise ships, Katajanokka is also home to the huge ice breaker ships that churn up the Baltic Sea during the colder months.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The red-brick style of architecture is more evident on this side of the island too and some official maritime offices are housed here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Katajanokka is also home to one of Helsinki’s best cafes: Johan & Nyström. It was in their Stockholm branch that current Finnish Barista Champion Kalle Freese honed his craft, after discovering coffee culture while living in New Zealand. You can read my interview for Creating Helsinki with him here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just outside you can often watch hardy Finns walking from the sauna to the frozen water for avanto (ice swimming). From the cafe it’s just a short walk back to the base of Uspenski Cathedral and over the bridge to the city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unless of course, like the residents, you also decide that you never want to leave. In that case, the island’s former prison has been converted into a hotel where you can sleep in a renovated cell.

Which brings to mind the Eagles song Hotel California every time I think of it. ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave….”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Katajanokka

Uspenski Cathedral

Johan & Nystrom Cafe

Creating Helsinki: Kalle Freese Interview

19 thoughts on “The island you never leave

  1. My husband and I nearly stayed in the prison-hotel on our wedding night, but staying in a prison for your first night as a married couple somehow felt like jinxing it (and so we stayed elsewhere).

    Like

  2. Considering access is via three bridges (or boat) I don’t know that peninsula really cuts it either. You might have to put your energy into rewording the Wikipedia page if it really bothers you.

    Like

  3. Trivia bit #1: It is a small miracle that the canal still exists. In 1964, The City Council was in final stage of approving the new city plan which doomed the canal area to be filled and transformed to a four-lane road — which was to be continued below the Market Square towards Tehtaankatu. Rather unexpectedly, a group of young architects and city planners managed to convince the council to kill the plan.

    Trivia bit #2: The canal is a perfect example of municipal corruption. The driving force behind it was the [then — in the 1830s] chairman of the Town Council, Carl Wilhelm Sundman, a wealthy ship-owner. He owned a summer residence on Sompasaari island (now part of the mainland in Kalasatama area), and the canal drastically shortened the rowing distance between his townhouse (by the market hall, nowadays a restaurant named after his father, G[ustaf] W[ilhelm] Sundman) and his summer digs.

    Like

  4. Pingback: The island you never leave | The Diary of a Taxi Driver in Finland

  5. Pingback: An Insider’s Guide to Helsinki | Hey Helsinki

  6. Pingback: 101 reasons to visit Helsinki | Hey Helsinki

  7. Pingback: Up, up & around! | Hey Helsinki

  8. Pingback: Helsinki-Tallinn | iconochromatics

Your thoughts..

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s