I’m so excited to share with another Scandinavia post and this is a long one – get ready! Helsinki was a last minute addition to my trip last month and I’m so glad I decided to add it in. This charming little city was filled with so many adorable quirks and even though it felt like in the blink of the eye I was off to the next place I’m happy I was able to squeeze it in. Now I wasn’t alive in 1952 but I believed it when the tour guide told me that it was thanks to the city hosting the Summer Olympics that year to make people realize the city actually existed. I only planned 26 hours in the city, arriving mid afternoon on Monday and departing late afternoon on Tuesday but managed see so much – here is how I spent 24 hours in Helsinki
As soon as I got off the plane I headed straight for the HSL train which €3 and 28 minutes later left me at the central station. From there I dropped my bags at my hotel and took a short 10 minute walk away and then headed to the place I was most excited about – the Allas Sea Pool. I wont go on too much about my time at the Finnish sauna as I wrote a whole post about it here but at the new the Allas Sea Pool I purchased a day pass to the pool gaining me access to the changing rooms, a locker, the sauna, and all three pools via my nifty tech enabled wrist band. My research had shown you sauna, then swim, and end with a sauna so that is exactly what I did and then enjoyed a glass of wine on the roof before heading to dinner.
After my swim I had worked up quite an appetite – believe it or not, dinner in Helsinki was the most expensive of my entire Scandinavia trip (even more than Michelin star 108 in Copenhagen) but as I was spending such a short amount of of time in the country I opted to go for a three course meal at hotspot Restaurant Savotta located in Senate Square, just across the street from the Helsinki Cathedral. I started wither the Finnish sampler platter called the Supreme Savotta which was the assortment of the best Finnish appetizers from land and water, according to the menu, including green salad with wine garden cheese, mushroom mousse, Patti toe lamb pate, bear salami, reindeer tongue (the only one I didn’t touch), karelian pie, traditional pastry, picked herring, tar tar dill mayonnaise, and beet rooted flavored salted salmon with cranberry.
For the main course I had something which made me quite nervous – the Juniper marinated rump of reindeer fawn with organic carrots fried in spruce syrup served with smoked swede purée and sea buckthorn salt but it was incredible – a cross between veal and a really tender and flavorful filet mignon. The dessert for me was the only disappointment and only because I don’t like licorice, those around me were essentially licking the bowl. Due to its close proximity to the Helsinki Cathedral I headed across the street after dinner as the sun was starting to set (post 10pm!) and got some great shots.
Deciding to make the most out of my short visit I got up early the next day and enjoyed a delicious early morning breakfast at Carl Fazer and then headed to visit to the Old Market Hall and the Market Square with the orange tents for food and the white tents for souvenirs which included fur hats even in July. Even though by mid-afternoon I was a bit upset that I had picked up chocolates at Carl Fazer and had to carry them around all day I am glad my friends and coworkers appreciated them when I got home!
That was all pre 10:30am and I got another cup of coffee as I met my Happy Helsinki tour guide in his funny hat for an extensive walking tour of the city. The highlights included the Senate square and Helsinki Cathedral which I learned was Lutheran, as is 74% of country, and learned all about Finland’s history which developed in a very interesting way due to it’s location between Sweden and Russia. My favorite parts of the three hour tour, along with the great stories, was the Uspenski Russian Cathedral, Kamppi Chapel, the Chapel of Silence, and the Temppeliaukio Rock Church. With our small group and the extended time of this paid tour we were able to go in the cathedrals which was amazing as I would not have time to come back. I thought the non denominational Chapel of Silence made entirely out of Finnish wood with no metal involved, was particularly unique and for being located between the bus station and the train station it really was pretty quiet inside. My favorite might have been the last stop though, the Rock Church, which built in a bomb crater with an enormous copper roof might be the only church I have ever been to with a “no climbing” sign.
After the walking tour I decided to take another stroll – a two mile walk from the Rock Church back down to the harbor a and an afternoon at the Sea Fortress of Suomenlinna. (Also a contibuting factor to the day with my most steps ever – 32,000+!) Even though Suomenlinna was outside of the center of the city I ended my 24 Hours in Helsinki with a quick 20 minute ferry ride to get the 18th century UNESCO WorlD Heritage Site where I spent two hours exploring the paths, old buildings, canons, and admiring the coastline of the pretty little islands before heading back to the mainland.
After Suomenlinna and enjoyed and early evening cocktail before heading back to the airport and my trip ended where it had started, at the rail station which is the #6 Top attraction in the city. I was impressed to learn that more than 200,000 people go through every day quite a feat since there are only 5 million people in the whole country! And there are less than 24 hours left to enter the Sparkles and Shoes 5th Birthday giveaway for an $100 Shopbop gift card or a pair of BaubleBar Criselda Ball Drop Earrings!
Would you ever spend 24 Hours in Helsinki?