- There is a pub tram
- Visit Estonia & be home for dinner
- Loads of personal space
- These changing sheds
- Mushroom season
- Pop over to Russia
- Inspiring interiors
- Reindeer pate
- A new kind of hopscotch
- Forest sauna
- Beautiful tramways
- Really old festivals
- Rum bars
- Exotic creatures
- Picnics in summer
- Historical spaces
- Growing cafe scene
- Art nouveau suburbs
- Island pizza bars
- Beautiful sculptures
- Summer cabins in winter
- Nude public swimming
- Foggy nights
- Galleries for children
- Design pilgrimage
- Coffee and doughnuts are pretty much staple
- Oases of Silence
- Tropical landscapes
- Sand sculptures just two hours east
- Frozen harbours in winter
- Midsummer bonfires
- Modern Art
- Great public libraries
- Saunas for hire
- Fun at the fun park
- An old island fortress
- Death penalty themed cocktails
- Finding local treasures
- Huge indoor playgrounds
- Long summer evenings
- Pop over to Stockholm
- Find good falafel
- Walk over to islands
- Wooden bicycles
- Central Station
- Rye bread sandwiches
- Neo gothic architecture
- City sunsets
- Finnish products
- Views from great heights
- Seaside cafes
- Moomin & friends live just two hours west
- World class festivals
- These at every cafe
- Wild flowers in summer
- Iconic design
- Soviet bars
- Wild animals
- Long golden autumn
- An artist village only 2 hours away
- Dedicated cycle-ways
- A church carved from rock
- Summer kiosks
- Colourful festivals
- An island dedicated to sauna and hot tubs
- Days where the city becomes a restaurant
- Moomin at the library
- Summer cafes
- Cute locals
- Cavorting seals
- Danish sandwiches
- Wonderful book stores
- Less than an hour to Latvia
- New ways of commuting
- Santa Lucia
- Thousands of chocolates
- Forest walks in the city
- Boat shed cafes
- Oases of green
- Sauna boats
- Christmas shopping
- So many cakes
- A cafe named Fanny
- Loads of antique stores
- Sauna cosmetics
- A day trip to Porvoo
- Boat cafes
- Streets that are heated
- You can meet Santa
- Summer time cruises
- Blueberry pies
- Moss graffiti
- Meat in a can
- Beautiful islands
- Fish n’ chips by the water
- Boating canals
- Finnish cocktails
- The porridge truck
- Spring blossoms
- ..and it’s not Vegas
I met a lovely Finnish family today who were looking for some tips for their upcoming visit to NZ. While they admitted I am the first New Zealander they have ever met (I hope I did us proud) there is a small community of us here and there is a meet up planned for tomorrow afternoon.
With a high forecast of just five degrees, it got me thinking of the best cafes in Helsinki to meet at when you have kids & the weather is cool. These are my top three & I’d love to hear any other ideas (because we all know it ain’t getting warmer any time soon….)
This homewares store has a great cafe as well as one of the best roasters in the city housed out the back (Kaffa Roastery). There is a room you can reserve, as well as a playhouse, making it popular for baby showers.
Book Cafe at Annantalo
This grand old building is a children’s arts centre and the cafe is spacious and comfortable. As well as tables there is a curved couch and loads of children’s books in Finnish and Swedish. There are also exhibitions for children and art workshops.
This spacious cafe has a play area and you can reserve tables for groups. There’s Babies Brunch every Monday for parents with young kids and they serve a cake made out of cinnamon buns! See the website for details of their Father’s Day brunch.
Summer has arrived in Helsinki so it’s the perfect time to be out making the most of the city. Being a very seasonal place, what visitors may not realise is that many things will close for winter.
While there are many things to do here over winter, these are the ones you should be sure to do before summer ends….
I’m not sure when this beachside mecca will close but I can’t imagine it operating over winter. Part of the magic is you can arrive by boat, so get there before the water freezes. (What it is: beachside location offering a good range of food & drink, deck chairs, tables & dance floor)
Even if it’s years since you’ve been, you’ve got to go before it closes for winter. Helsinki’s amusement park has rides for everyone and the view from the Panorama is spectacular. Closing night is usually in October and is worth attending for live music and light shows. (What it is: amusement park with free entry & some free rides)
This cafe at Töölönlahti will stay open as long as the weather stays good, which they hope will be until the end of September. (Many places will close even if the weather is good, because they are bound by licensing restrictions and timetables). So grab a spot in the sun or a stand-up paddle board from the shed next door. (What it is: bayside cafe selling coffee, cold drinks, pastries and sandwiches).
Just a short boat ride from Helsinki, this island is beautiful to walk around. As well as 1950s changing sheds there are lovely old buildings that are great to photograph. The last ferry from Ruoholahti has run this season but the one from Merisatama goes for two more weeks. Check the JT Line website for details. (What it is: an island with swimming beaches, playgrounds, grills and sauna).
This island is one my favourite places in summer. The 30-second boat ride will cost you six euro but once on land, the pizza is delicious. It’s also a great place for a drink in the sun and great views back to Helsinki. (What it is: outdoor pizza bar on a small island. Open till mid-late September but they do have a city venue too).
Before the chairs are pulled in and the tables folded make the most of eating & drinking outdoors at the various terraces around the city. Some places, such as Matto Laituri, close entirely, as all their seating is outdoors. We love Cafe Birgitta to be near the water and if we are in the city, we like to go to M Bar. (What it is: cafes and bars made entirely of or including large areas of outdoor seating).
Picnic in Kaivopuisto
Kaivopuisto is beautiful in winter and a great place for sledding. Last year, we even saw a one-horse open sleigh. I couldn’t stop singing Jingle Bells all day. But a picnic last weekend reminded me how beautiful it is in summer. Just look out for squirrels trying to sneak your food. (What it is: a large parkland near the water not far from the city centre).
Although you can eat ice cream all year round in Finland, the little kiosks that sell coffee and ice cream in the parks will close for winter and it will be BYO. Take advantage of the chance to visit places like Karhupuisto (Bear Park) or Espalanadi for ice cream in the sun. There’s even one that only sells salmiakki (Finnish salty liquorice). (What it is: various kiosks open in summer selling ice cream, coffee, cold drinks).
Visit the Old Towns of Porvoo (Finland) or Tallinn (Estonia)
You can visit both these places in winter but they are especially lovely in the summer months. Porvoo is one-hour by bus from Helsinki, while Tallinn takes around two hours by ferry. Either way you can go for lunch and still be home for dinner.
There are so many more things to do in Helsinki and some great new opportunities will open up in winter. Just remember that anything to do with cycling, boating or eating outdoors however will soon become harder due to the change in season and opening hours. In the meantime, I feel like I could keep adding to this post but we are heading outdoors ourselves to make the most of summer in the city.
Sorry Helsinki – I seem to have made it rain. My parents are visiting and asked yesterday if it rains very often here. I laughed and said ‘No! Hardly at all,’ and it hasn’t stopped raining since. Luckily Helsinki is not only set up for outdoor fun but inside adventures too.
There are a few indoor playgrounds in the city but the one we’ve been to the most is Snadi Stadi. Based five floors underground in the suburb of Ruoholahti, it boasts 3000 square metres of games and activities for children.
There’s an area for children under 3 and the rest of the place is for kids of all ages to basically go nuts.
We first went with Miko’s paternal grandmother who kept accidentally beating him very convincingly at air hockey, no matter how hard she tried to lose.
As well as arcade games and floor hockey, there’s also a big bike path that runs around the centre of the arena. Some of the bikes have room for two kids, which is great for the little ones who want to hitch a ride.
Miko’s favourite thing is the skate ramp which has scooters and skateboards and basketballs to shoot hoops.
There are also these crazy horses that you ride by pushing down on the stirrups with your feet, which propels them around the room.
There’s even a place for children’s hair cuts, complete with distractions for the wriggliest child.
To be honest the worst thing about Snadi Stadi is that it’s a bit boring for adults as your child will just run off and play for four hours and leave you sitting to the side. Take a friend or take a book and take some money for coffee (although your first is free with entry).
Perhaps my favourite thing about the place is this crazy picture near the ball pit of a child, dressed as a bear, walking an inflatable whale on a lead.
Hopefully we won’t be seeing too much of it over the next few months as I have realised the power of my words and their direct impact on meteorological events….*
Snadi Stadi – summer tickets are now 32€, which will get you entry throughout June & July
* I don’t actually believe I made it rain **
** well, maybe a little bit
We met some friends for brunch on Saturday at Cafe Fanny in Sinebrychoff Park. Finns love a buffet and Fanny doesn’t disappoint! There were croissants, rye bread, eggs, bacon, sausages, filled tortilla, a delicious salad bar and of course, dessert.
The sweets section had cereals as well as lemon tart, cream, yoghurt, marshmallows and berries. Filter coffee, tea and juice were also included.
Cafe Fanny has a strong connection to the park and you can borrow games such as croquet to play on the grass. As the website says, ‘Fanny is park and park is Fanny’. In winter there are even sleds you can use for free to ride down the snow-covered hills.
The park itself was once owned by Nikolai Sinebrychoff, a Russian merchant, who founded one of Finland’s largest breweries in 1819. They are now part of the Carlsberg brand and produce Koff and Karhu beer as well as owning the license to produce Coca-Cola products in Finland.
Nikolai Sinebrychoff built a house and stables in the park as well as an observation tower and beautiful gardens. Lucky for us his foresight has created an oasis in the city, as well as being the birthplace of Fanny.
There are some things in life you don’t really want to hear. Your doctor saying, “Hmm, I’ve never seen that before,” or your tattooist saying, “Actually, that spelling doesn’t look quite right.” So I was very glad no one told me that the man standing at the back of the rollercoaster we went on at Linnanmäki was there to ensure it didn’t derail.
Linnanmaki (literally: Castle Hill) is an amusement park in Helsinki that was opened in 1950 and is owned by non-profit organisation, Lasten Päivän Säätiö (Children’s Day Foundation). We visited in May, and the sun shone brightly on the crowds as they swooped and screamed through the air enjoying the 40+ rides on offer.
Entry to the park is free and you can pay per ride or buy an all-day pass for unlimited access. There are also many rides available at no cost, which is especially good when you have young children. Miko and I went on the Panorama together, a circular ride that rose high in the air and turned slowly, giving us unlimited views over the park and city beyond.
Jonny and the guys went on the Raketti (Rocket), a free fall tower where you are launched from the ground high up in the air before being dropped back down towards earth. My favourite ride was the Salama (Lightning), a spinning rollercoaster set over another river ride far below.
I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to rides but was quite happy to have a go on the wooden Vuoristorata (vuoristo = mountain range, rata = track) as it is the most popular ride at Linnanmäki every year. Built in 1951 in time for the tourists arriving for the 1952 Summer Olympics, it was one of the tallest rollercoasters in Europe at the time.
Vuoristorata is the last built rollercoaster in the world to use side friction technology. Unlike modern rides that have an extra set of wheels that keep the cars from becoming airborne, side friction rides could derail if they take a corner too fast and require a brakeman to ride on the train to slow it down when necessary.
I’m so glad no one told me that, as I thought the man standing behind us as we flew around the track was just there to add to the park’s old world charm. Had I known I might have just suggested that Miko and I just take another slow safe spin on the Panorama…
According to Helsinki’s official tourism website, “Kaivopuisto is one of the oldest, most beautiful and popular parks in Helsinki.” So far it’s definitely been one of our faves and like most things in Helsinki, very easy to get to.
Miko and I were in the city and caught the number 3 tram from Aleksanterinkatu to the park. A short walk later and we spotted the dragon we had been told would identify the playground. Wooden seats and tables were spread out under the trees and not far away was another play area for younger children.
The dragon is great fun for climbing on and there are crocodiles set in the ground too which are great accessories for pirate adventures on the large ship-like fortress.
The ship-fort has lots of fun accessories like binoculars and a steering wheel as well as slides and ladders. Nearby is a crows nest which Miko used as a look-out spot for sharks.
Kaivopuisto (Kaivo park) itself is very large and a very popular place in summer. It is the favourite spot for May Day picnics and where we spent Vappu. It’s a short walk to the sea as the park borders the Gulf of Finland and the surrounding streets are home to many of the international ambassadors to Finland. Apparently the largest hill in the park is a very popular place for tobogganing in winter which will make this a park we can use all year round.
Living in an apartment is a good incentive to get out and try the many playgrounds that Helsinki has to offer.
The first thing that stands out is how big they are – Topeliuksenpuisto is about the size of half a rugby field – and dusty. Of course this will change with the weather but it makes kicking a ball around very easy.
And the great thing is you don’t have to take a ball. At first I thought someone had left their scooter behind when we went to Lastenlehtopuisto and kept half an eye on it to see who would claim it. And then it dawned on me that these toys are for everyone.
There a toys at every park that get packed up at night, either by the adjoining kindergarten or by the public at the end of the day. They go into large plastic tubs that are sometimes locked and include a huge range of trucks, spades, buckets and ride on toys likes scooters and bikes. Today Miko got kitted up and shot goals with the hockey gear we found at Tehtaanpuisto.
Each park has slightly different features and although familiar (a slide is a slide after all) each is slightly different to what we have at home in New Zealand. The swing seats are different; the slides may have a big hill to climb to get to the top, instead of a ladder; and today we saw some awesome tandem trikes.
I have a feeling we are going to become very familiar with these features of Helsinki and this won’t be my last post on puistot.