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.


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.”


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Arkadia International Bookshop

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

A day by the book

Tuesday was a drizzly day so Miko and I went to find Helsinki’s main public library. We caught the tram from Kamppi and travelled 20 minutes north to Pasila. The trams are free for us as anyone travelling with a child in a stroller doesn’t need to pay for themselves or the child. This applies on buses, trains and most ferries too.

Save money - find a small child to travel with

Save money – find a small child to travel with

The library was easy to find and joining was really quick and simple. It was a great feeling as there are still a few steps to go until we can gain most benefits available to residents. Getting our new library cards took only a matter of minutes after we showed our residency permits.

Kirjasto = Bibliotek = Library

Kirjasto = Bibliotek = Library

This library was really lovely and full of light. There was a large pond in the middle with study tables set up around it. A woman was absorbed in the task of doing a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle set up on a large table. I saw her move on after a while and someone else soon took her place.


The woman who set up my library card told me they have books in over 60 languages. It was great to find the English section and a pile of books by one of my favourite authors. I’ve been needing something  to read and was really happy to find a local paper written in English too.

The children's computers

The children’s computers

There was also a section of books for children written in English – really good books too, each one feeling like a real find. Or maybe it was just that there were only a select few and they all seemed a treat being in our native language! The children’s part of the library was also really nice, with lovely furniture and posters, reading alcoves and play areas.

Miko & Moomin

Miko & Moomin

I saw so many familiar books and titles from home, translated into Finnish. Books about Babar, Richard Scarry books, picture books for young children with exactly the same pictures as our ones at home – even a Little Golden Book about visiting the doctor printed in the 1960’s.


We finished our visit with a trip to the library cafe on the second floor. This is also the floor that holds the magazine collection. There are really lovely areas set out for reading, all with lovely Scandinavian furniture. There are plenty of services at the library we’ll be able to make use of including Finnish language groups, the online film library IndieFlix and even 3D printing! A drizzly day is not looking so grey now.