German TV personality Tanja Bülter recently spent some time in Helsinki. Read on for her insider travel tips.
Finland’s capital, with its over 300 small islands and approximately 600,000 inhabitants, is not only a very lively city, but also an absolute highlight for all fans of unique design, relaxed rhythms, and architectural masterpieces.
My new favorite chauffeur is a Helsinki native, is named Sara, and really knows everything about her homeland. From the harbor she takes me to my first stop: a wonderful cafe where I can have a Cappuccino and look out at the sea while we talk about the great coffee culture and the Finns’ closeness to nature.
Speaking of nature, people in Finland love to be outdoors. Everywhere you can find free outdoor gyms for sports and saunas for relaxing afterwards. This is probably a contributing factor to the easy-going and pleasant atmosphere of the city, which takes the stress out of frequent travelers like me in just a few moments. And as the traffic in Helsinki is also stress-free and quick, I get to my next stop in no time.
After the relaxing Cappuccino with an ocean view, we head to the first landmark: the breathtaking Temppeliaukio Church. This church was built in the 60’s right into the 12-metre-high granite rock, and is therefore an outstanding example of the iconic Finnish architecture of the 60’s. As it not only looks extraordinary, but also has impressive acoustics, concerts often take place here in addition to church services.
While I am still completely fascinated by the Temppeliaukio Church, I find myself already standing in front of the next breathtaking building. The Cathedral of Helsinki is the impressive heart of the Finnish capital and a real eye-catcher, not only from the outside. The cathedral is a remnant of the time when Finland still belonged to Russia, which shows in the architecture of the impressive church.
Next stop is the Suomenlinna sea fortress. Well, actually only the opposing shore, where we have a good view of the impressive building. The fortress is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site and was originally built the 18th century. You can get there with the ferry in just 15 minutes. Since exploring makes you hungry, next we are heading to the city centre to have a nice meal.
Where to stay and what to eat
Until recently, the best hotel was undisputedly the Kämp. But since the St. George hotel opened, where Putin lived during his visit, there are now at least two top hotels in excellent locations which leave nothing to be desired.
I ask Sara what a typical Finnish meal is, and she says what I already suspect: fish, in all its varieties. By the way, in Finland everyone is allowed to fish with no need for a permit, but my plan that day was to eat, not fish.
Helsinki’s gourmet scene is truly innovative and diverse. Numerous pop-up restaurants and the world-renowned Restaurant Day are inventions of Helsinki’s trail-blazing gourmets and a whole new generation of chefs.
If you’d like to try some of Finland’s favourite foods, you should go to Juuri where you can taste traditional dishes as tapas – a complete culinary experience.
If you are close to nature, it is worth visiting the Regatta, a mini pub right by the water. There you can get small snacks and also rent kayaks for a relaxing tour. I fell in love with this enchanting place immediately. But if you prefer a more stylish dinner, I recommend the Savoy. On the rooftop terrace you can enjoy a breathtaking view over the city while you have a delicious meal.
Design and architecture
Helsinki’s art and design scene is quite modern and casual. In the cool north, the motto is: Everything goes.
“Form must have content, and this content must be linked to nature.”
Finland’s most famous architect and designer, Alvar Aalto, lived by this motto. One of the many buildings he designed in the city, the Finlandia Hall was completed in 1972 and is considered one of the most important concert halls in Finland. The sweeping building in the beautiful Töölanthi Bay is instantly recognizable.
Even for those who wouldn’t consider themselves art aficionados, the Kiasma museum for contemporary art, is an absolute must-see. The name Kiasma is Finnish for the biological process in which two chromosomes cross each other, and this is exactly what the impressive building resembles. Inside you’ll find breathtaking art that deserves a wider audience.
The end of a short trip in Helsinki
My five hour booking with Blacklane worked out great and brought me to the most important destinations in Helsinki. If you have a little time to explore on your next business trip, you should definitely discover the city this way — it couldn’t be more comfortable, fast, or relaxed. This fits the Finnish mentality perfectly!
Helsinki also made our like of the 9 best cities for modern architecture enthusiasts, so check out that post to find out the other eight cities you should add to your travel wishlist.