The Exhibitionists – What we saw in Fiskars

We balanced out all the eating and drinking we did in Fiskars Village by going to see some art (because art – (eating + drinking) = balance). Science.

First we visited ONOMA, the cooperative of artisans, designers and artists in Fiskars.  All members live or work in the village and the co-op organises exhibitions as well as running a store.

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The buildings in Fiskars are so grand and old, they really provide a wonderful backdrop for all that’s on display.

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In this case it was locally-produced homewares, jewellery, glassware and furniture.

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They also had answers to problems you didn’t know you had – like how to store your eggs in a fittingly stylish manner.

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There’s a cafe connected to the store and rooms out the back where you can sit and read.

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Next up, we visited We Love Wood(s)!, ONOMA’s summer exhibition at the Copper Smithy.

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Here, master woodcrafters such as cabinet makers and carpenters, teamed up with designers to create beautiful and practical objects for everyday use.

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Bowls by Matti Söderkultalahti

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Storage dishes by Susan Elo & Rudi Merz 

Some used traditional word-working methods, while others used modern technology such as laser cutting.

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Bench by Antrei Hartikainen & Sakari Hartikainen

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Omkring (space divider) by Mia Cullin & Petri Koivusipilä

We moved through to an adjoining warehouse, where there were larger pieces and an installation consisting of a circle of speakers, each broadcasting a different forest sound.

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Boat of pine, oak and tar by Jussi Nordberg

The next morning we rose early & explored the area around The Granary.

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We then went inside to visit their exhibition, Minun Kalevalani (My Kalevala).

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The Kalevala is Finland’s national epic, based on oral folklore and mythology. It is considered one of the nation’s most significant literature works and is said to have played an important part in the development of the Finnish national identity.

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In this show, 28 craftsmen from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia used iron to present different parts or interpretations of the stories.

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We had a lovely time in Fiskars and strongly recommend a visit next time you are in Finland.

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I particularly liked these guys, who managed to combine all the elements of the shows (wood + art + Kalevala + iron), putting us back in credit, just in time for lunch.

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Fiskars Village

Upcoming event: Fire and Light  24.10.- 21.11.15

ONOMA

Kalevala 

Special thanks to Kaisa at Fiskars Info who provided tips on where to visit and liaised with the galleries, who gave us free entry to the exhibitions.

The Finnish icon in every home

Recently we visited Fiskars Village. You may not recognise the name but I’m pretty confident there’s something of theirs in your home right now.

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Just an hour west of Helsinki, Fiskars was established in 1649  around an ironworks factory. Other industrial buildings, such as a granary and cutlery factory were built and are now home to accommodation, stores and galleries.

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The town was built around a river that acted as a means of transport as well as a source of power. The village is now home to a community of artists and artisans who live and work locally.

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Walking around we felt as though we had landed inside a scene from a Finnish calendar. Part of its beauty also lies in the fact that unlike some Finnish towns, Fiskars is open all year round (days & hours change in winter).

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The old fire station is still standing and is now a theatre, with a tower that was once used to hang hoses out to dry.

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There’s an excellent modern playground as well as relics from the town’s past.

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We visited a candle shop housed in a former dairy, where we bought candles scented for Christmas.

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We also stopped by a brewery, housed in a former knife factory. We were interested to learn that some of their beers are made with New Zealand hops, as well as Finnish tar and spruce tips.

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Fiskars Village is very walkable – you don’t need a car – and there are places such as Petri’s Chocolate Room where you can stop to refuel.

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There are also lots of stores, selling jewellery, homewares, clothing and glass – most of which is handmade locally.

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After a wonderful afternoon we headed back to our accommodation for dinner in Finland’s longest continuously running hotel.

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And what is this Finnish icon you have in your home? Well Fiskars is also the name of the resultant company that still manufactures items for gardening, cooking and craft today.

In 1967 they designed the world’s first pair of plastic handled scissors, selling over a billion pairs since – was one of them to you?

Photo: Fiskars

Photo: Fiskars

Next week: The Exhibitionists (what we saw in Fiskars)

Fiskars Village

Fiskars (the company)

 

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Baby Brunch on Mondays

Baby Brunch on Mondays

A new island home

Not content to be winter’s plainer cousin, autumn was showing her beauty in Helsinki today with blue skies and earthy colours.

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We enjoyed her show on the island of Seurasaari.  Connected to the mainland by a footbridge, this open-air museum is home to buildings from around Finland from across the ages.

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We’ve been at Christmas and at Midsummer but hadn’t yet visited at this time of year.

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Even though most the buildings are now closed for winter it is still worth a visit for a walk and a picnic and the trails are popular with joggers.

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We enjoyed walking around and choosing which house we would live in (as long as it has good insulation).

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Despite having been before, we found new things to enjoy, including signs of Finnish ingenuity from time gone by.

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Autumn was all around us and as always, nature was left untamed and free to grow.

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We were soon joined by the island’s residents, who I assume are starting to squirrel away stores for the Nordic winter.

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Autumn showed us that she is no shrinking violet – and her display will only get stronger between now and November.

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And we finally found the house we might like to live in – or at least have as our summer home.

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How to look good naked (or at least use the time trying)

While Finnish sauna culture can conjure up images of large bearded men, drinking and beating each other with bunches of birch, sauna is also a wonderful way to introduce a ritual of cleansing and quietness to the end of a busy week.

Wood-heated sauna

Wood-heated sauna

In fact, the sauna is considered the cleanest room in the house, making it the preferred place to give birth and lay out the dead in years gone by.

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Most homes will have one, or at least a common one in the building that tenants can book for use each week. Accordingly, most department stores in Finland have a dedicated section where they sell a range of sauna accoutrements.

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I recently discovered this included felt hats to protect your hair and ears from getting too hot and to protect colour-treated hair. (For the record, I do not wear one).

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With bath tubs uncommon in Finland I’ve learnt to enjoy the ritual of sauna and take the time to use all the masks and treatments I buy and otherwise forget to use.

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While I’m no expert on what real Finnish people do, here’s my sauna routine that I recommend as the Nordic winter draws near:

  • Shower first – always shower before you go into sauna to wash off dirt, make-up and any perfume
  • Sauna naked – imagine if you were doing a facial steam bath and someone added a few drops of chlorine – this is partly why swimsuits are not generally welcome (unless you’re in a mixed gender sauna or have agreed beforehand)

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  • Stay until you are comfortably hot and sweaty – even if this is only ten minutes – remembering the higher you sit, the hotter you’ll get
  • Come out and shower. This is when I like to use a face scrub, followed by a face mask.
  • I might also put on a honey body mask and put coconut oil in my hair (or an expensive hair treatment I promised my hairdresser I’d use weekly and only remember the night before my next appointment).

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  • Have a glass of water and return to the sauna
  • Come out and shower again. For men, this is a good time to shave as your pores will be open and your skin relaxed.
  • Repeat until done. During your final shower wash and condition your hair.
  • Drink more water, moisturise and get ready for the best sleep of your life.
  • Wake up feeling relaxed and ready for the week ahead.
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Feeling very relaxed, well into Monday at least

*Results may vary but you will smell good & possibly attractive to bears.

Ten Sauna Tips for Beginners – Visit Finland

Day Two: Into the woods

Following the deep sleep that comes after sauna and swimming, we woke to Day Two at Hirvijärvi (Moose Lake) and a new range of activities.

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After breakfast, Heikki took us out on the lake in his row boat, something I have not done for years.

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It was a wonderful chance to have a peek at the other houses and cabins that circle the water’s edge.

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A chimney is a sign of a wood-fired sauna, down near the shore.

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Heikki rowed us across to Lemmenkallio (Love Rock) where we climbed for great views of the lake.

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On the way back he told us how he used to row with his grandfather to a nearby farm to buy fresh milk, which they would carry home in aluminium cans.

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Once back at the cabin we decided to venture into the woods, looking for signs of Moose Lake’s namesake.

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It wasn’t long before we came across moose droppings and further on in the soft moss, fresh moose tracks.

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Moose footprint

Moose footprint

The moss was amazing and I still marvel at how the ground cover regenerates each year after the long cold winters.

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The landscape is so different it somehow feels like being on the moon – if the moon was covered in moss – and is spongy to walk on.

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Although we didn’t spot any moose, we were soon joined by the local moose-flies, something that until then we had only ever heard about.

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Like a brown flat house-fly, they are parasitic insects that live on the blood of moose, elk and other bovine animals. Once landed, they shed their wings and burrow into the skin of their host. For humans this means they can be really difficult to remove from your hair and Miko and Jonathan soon donned hair nets to keep them away.

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I had to laugh because as much as I say I love nature, it did become a bit much for this city girl. Although you can take the girl out of the forest, would we be able to take the forest (& its inhabitants) out of us?

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As we left Hirvijärvi to head back to Helsinki, the rain started to fall and we were sorry to leave such an idyllic setting. However we left grateful for such an amazing weekend and the feeling of experiencing something of real Finnish life, flies and all.

Secrets of the summer cottage

Helsinki empties over June and July as Finns escape the city and head to their summer cottages. While we could rent one ourselves, we were really pleased last weekend to spend time with Finnish friends at theirs and get an inside look at this part of Finnish life.

Photo: Heikki Puomilla

Early morning at Hirvijärvi      Photo: Heikki Puomila

About an hour out of Helsinki, we joined Heikki and Anu and their young daughter on the shores of Hirvijärvi (Moose Lake). Heikki has been holidaying here since he was a child as his grandfather built a house in the same spot.

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Although the house has been rebuilt and modern features such as electricity and running water added, the composting toilet is still outside. While I did scare myself with the thought of bears during a midnight visit, it was a huge relief not to have to check for large Australian spiders.

Composting loo

Composting loo

Part of the joy of the weekend was the chance to experience Finnish life outside of the city. After lunch we met with the local community committee, many of whom have been holidaying for generations around the shores of the same lake.

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We were warmly greeted and joined in a game where we tossed 2 euro coins at bottles of wine, with the one landing closest being the winner. In spite of my focus and good technique, I was narrowly beaten by a 12-year old boy.

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On returning to our cottage, the men and kids went fishing off the jetty, catching three small fish with bait made from flour and water.

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Heikki also showed Miko how they identify local butterflies, something his family have an avid and professional interest in.

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After a dinner of hamburgers grilled on the fire, we cooked pancakes down by the outside sauna.

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We each had a turn at flipping the pancakes, which were delicious and served with jam.

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After dinner, it was time for a huge bonfire, a tradition lit to mark the end of summer and the end of the cottage season. Heikki also let off a few fireworks he had leftover from the year before.

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As the sun dropped low in the sky the most incredible full moon rose to take its place. People lit candles out on their jetties as a way to farewell summer, with a small house on an island soon surrounded by flickering lights.

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After the children went to bed, Heikki, Jonathan and I hit the sauna, which is heated by a wood-burning fireplace inside.

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Heikki made a couple of vihta (bunches of birch leaves) and taught us how to beat ourselves and each other with them to really get the blood flowing (we have been doing it far too softly and slowly apparently).

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Each time we got too hot we headed outside to the lake, where we swam by the light of the full moon. At one point there were also huge fireworks going off overhead.

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I really can’t describe just how incredible it was to be swimming at midnight in a lake lit by candles and the moon, with fireworks bursting into bloom above us. While we all know we have another long winter ahead of us, instead of being a sad occasion it was the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.

To follow: Day Two at the summer cottage, where we head onto the lake and into the forest, finding evidence of moose and something to rival Australian spiders..

Of reading and sleeping and boa constrictors

The first time I went to Arkadia International Bookshop I was greeted warmly by the owner, Ian. “Come in, look around, lie down, take a nap,” he said.

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He encouraged me to explore the whole store, starting downstairs, which is below street level. “You’ll find couches with Swiss Army blankets on them,” he said. “Feel free to stretch out and take a nap.”

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With that in mind I did explore the shop, which just got better and better as it went on.

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There’s a huge array of second-hand books, in many different languages.

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Downstairs there are rooms that lead to rooms that lead to other rooms and finally to what Ian calls ‘The Chapel.’

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Here there is a table, set in an alcove and laid with water and glasses for customers to enjoy.

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The rooms are full of boxes of books, which you are encouraged to rifle through.

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If they don’t have it, it probably doesn’t exist, with books apparently available on every subject.

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Upstairs, customers gather and chat, drinking tea from a samovar. Regular events are held that include poetry readings and musical performances.

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I didn’t take that nap but it sure was tempting.

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Until I peeked inside the terrarium and realised I couldn’t see Zefiro anywhere….

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Arkadia International Bookshop

Address:
Nervanderinkatu 11 (view map)
00100 Helsinki, Finland

Opening hours:
Tuesday–Friday 12.00–19.00
Saturday 10.00–18.00
Closed on Mondays and Sundays

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)

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Linnanmaäki

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)

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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).

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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).

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Skiffer

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).

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Terraces

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).

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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).

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Kiosks

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).

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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.

Porvoo

Porvoo

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.

Winter love in late summer

On a recent trip to Malta I felt so happy seeing the wildly spilling bougainvillea and rows of prickly pears.  I had forgotten how much I love being around plants and I had the same feeling yesterday at Helsinki’s Winter Garden.

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It’s funny to visit the Winter Gardens when we are having a lovely late summer, but it was well worth a visit to the stunning glasshouses.

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Built in 1893, the gardens were recently renovated and are home to over 200 plants.

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To my delight there is a room dedicated to succulents and cacti, many of which are currently in bloom.

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I just love these plants, they really make my heart sing. I felt so happy wandering around and would love to have some of them growing at home.

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There is also a display of puppets on at the moment, which gives the place a really magical feel.

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In another wing there are beautiful palms and tables set out where you can sit and read or enjoy a picnic with friends.

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Outside there is a beautiful rose garden with views across Töölönlahti.

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I look forward to returning in winter when Helsinki is no longer so green and keeping warm amongst the plants. There’s enough there to warm even the prickliest of hearts.

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Helsinki’s Winter Gardens (Talvipuutarha) are at Hammarskjöldintie 1 & entry is free.