101 reasons to visit Helsinki

  1. There is a pub tram

    Helsinki's pub tram

    Helsinki’s pub tram

  2. Visit Estonia & be home for dinner

  3. Loads of personal space

  4. These changing sheds

  5. Mushroom season

    Market Square

    Market Square

  6. Pop over to Russia

    St Petersburg

    St Petersburg

  7. Inspiring interiors

    Helsingin Yliopisto Kirjasto

    Helsingin Yliopisto Kirjasto (Helsinki University Library)

  8. Reindeer pate

  9. A new kind of hopscotch

    Lauttasaari bridge

    Lauttasaari bridge

  10. Forest sauna

  11. Beautiful tramways



  12. Really old festivals


    Baltic Herring Festival – 270 years old

  13. Rum bars

     Navy Jerry's

    Navy Jerry’s

  14. Exotic creatures

  15. Picnics in summer



  16.  Historical spaces

  17. Growing cafe scene



  18. Art nouveau suburbs

  19. Island pizza bars

  20. Beautiful sculptures

  21. Summer cabins in winter

  22. Blini



  23. Nude public swimming

  24. Foggy nights



  25. Galleries for children

  26. Design pilgrimage

  27. Coffee and doughnuts are pretty much staple

    Kahvi ja munkki

    Kahvi ja munkki

  28. Oases of Silence

  29. Tropical landscapes

  30. Sand sculptures just two hours east

    Lappeenranta annual sand sculpture event

    Lappeenranta annual sand sculpture event

  31. Frozen harbours in winter

  32. Midsummer bonfires

  33. Modern Art

  34. Great public libraries

  35. Saunas for hire

  36. Fun at the fun park

  37. An old island fortress

  38. Death penalty themed cocktails


    Liberty or Death

  39. Finding local treasures

  40. Huge indoor playgrounds

  41. Long summer evenings

  42. Pop over to Stockholm

  43. Find good falafel

  44. Walk over to islands

  45. Wooden bicycles

    Helsinki bicycles

    Helsinki bicycles

  46. Central Station



  47. Rye bread sandwiches

  48. Neo gothic architecture

  49. City sunsets



  50. Finnish products

    Juuri Rye Whiskey

    Juuri Rye Whiskey

  51. Views from great heights

    Torni bar - on the 13th floor

    Torni bar – on the 13th floor

  52. Seaside cafes

  53. Moomin & friends live just two hours west

  54. World class festivals

    Flow Festival

    Flow Festival

  55. These at every cafe

  56. Wild flowers in summer

  57. Iconic design

    Design Museum

    Design Museum

  58. Soviet bars

  59. Wild animals

  60. Long golden autumn



  61. An artist village only 2 hours away

  62. Dedicated cycle-ways

  63. A church carved from rock

  64. Summer kiosks

    Seahorse kioski

    Seahorse kioski

  65. Colourful festivals

  66. An island dedicated to sauna and hot tubs

  67. Days where the city becomes a restaurant

  68. Moomin at the library

  69. Summer cafes

  70. Cute locals

  71. Cavorting seals

    Havis Amanda

    Havis Amanda

  72. Danish sandwiches

  73. Wonderful book stores

  74. Less than an hour to Latvia

  75. New ways of commuting

  76. Santa Lucia

  77. Thousands of chocolates

    Fazer Cafe

    Fazer Cafe

  78. Forest walks in the city

  79. Boat shed cafes

  80. Oases of green

  81. Sauna boats

    Sauna boats

    Sauna boats

  82. Christmas shopping



  83. So many cakes

  84. A cafe named Fanny

  85. Loads of antique stores

  86. Sauna cosmetics

  87. A day trip to Porvoo

  88. Boat cafes


    Relandersgrund – open in summer

  89. Streets that are heated

  90. You can meet Santa

  91. Summer time cruises

    The archipelago

    The archipelago

  92. Blueberry pies

  93. Moss graffiti

  94. Meat in a can

  95. Beautiful islands

  96. Fish n’ chips by the water

  97. Boating canals



  98. Finnish cocktails

    A21 Cocktails

    A21 Cocktails

  99. The porridge truck

    Porridge truck

    Porridge truck

  100. Spring blossoms



  101. ..and it’s not Vegas
    View from Cafe IPI

    View from Cafe IPI




Helsinki’s best cafes to meet with kids in autumn

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….)

Moko Market

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.


Children can leave their pacifier with this toucan when it’s time to give them up



Cafe Koket

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.


Baby Brunch on Mondays

Baby Brunch on Mondays

Things to do in Helsinki while the sun shines…

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….

Hernesaaren ranta

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)


On the ferris wheel

On the ferris wheel

Kahvila Tyyni

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).



Visit Pihlajasaari

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.



Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia

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.

Save it for a rainy day

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.

Miko can't understand why his grandmother keeps beating him at air hockey

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

Cafe Fanny


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.

Cafe Fanny

Bulevardi 40

Helsinki 00120

Linnanmäki Amusement Park

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.


This circular building (grass roof) houses an indoor rollercoaster that can be used all year round

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.

View from the Panorama

View from the Panorama

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.


The Kirnu (Churn)

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.

View of Linnanmäki and Vuoristorata from the Panorama

View of Linnanmäki and Vuoristorata from the Panorama

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.


View of Linnanmäki from Töölönlahti

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…


Where a dragon guards a ship near the sea

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.

Kaivopuisto playground is guarded by a large dragon

Kaivopuisto playground is guarded by a large dragon

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.

Miko atop the mighty dragon

Miko atop the mighty dragon

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.

Looking for pirates

Looking for pirates

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.

Tiring work this captaining

Tiring work this captaining

Kaivopuisto Playground

Puistokatu 4


Playing in the puisto (park)

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.