Are you planning on moving to Helsinki, or have you already taken the big plunge? While you’re in the Finnish capital, the worst possible thing would be to fall into all of the tourist traps and miss out on some of the best things to see in the city. Wouldn’t it be phenomenal to experience this exciting destination, just like a local?
Well, this is the perfect article for you! After spending 10 of the best months of my life in Finland for a university exchange programme, I discovered a lot of must-experience places along the way. Here are some of my favorite, lesser-known spots to break up the boredom of an everyday routine.
Helsinki is very well-known for its bustling spirit and its abundant nightlife, but it also plays home to a myriad of quiet, out-of-the-way places to really relax and unwind after a long afternoon at the university or a hard shift at work. If you want to really immerse yourself in what the city has to offer, or just enjoy a peaceful sunset, the islands of Lauttasari and Seurassari or the “Ghost Town” in Kruunvuori should definitely be at the top of your list.
Lauttasari is a lovely island, even though it is inhabited by quite a large population. However, even though there are more congested areas with plenty of shopping and dining, there are several places to get away and experience some real peace and quiet.
One of those such places lies at the southern tip of the island, where you will find a small, unspoiled forest that reaches right up to the edge of the sea. This is a wonderful place to watch the sunset, as you sit on the rocks, with the water gently lapping at the shore.
But beware of the slippery stones! You wouldn’t want to take an accidental swim here, as that the water is typically quite cold! Instead, opt for a BBQ with friends!
Seurassari is a special location that’s known by both tourists and locals alike. This island plays home to an open-air history museum with a myriad of 19th-century buildings to explore. You can find tradespeople displaying their crafts and giving demonstrations of the simplicity of life during this period of Finland’s past. There’s also a popular restaurant with gorgeous views of the water.
However, if you truly want to experience all that Seurassari has to offer, you must really explore the natural side of the island.
On this peaceful island, you can find many quiet places to commune with nature. Try taking a reflective walk along the coastline, or you can also just sit on the rocks along the shore and watch the world float by. This is the perfect place for a much-needed escape!
If you are looking for a different type of peace and quiet, then get ready for an exciting adventure like no other! Kruunuvuori has its very own abandoned town, just beckoning to you for exploration.
This “Ghost Town”, while located in Kruunuvuori, is a bit of a distance from the city center, but it is definitely worth the trip. Be sure to bring your camera or have your smartphone charged!
Feel free to wander about the abandoned villas, viewing the former residences that have now been overgrown with weeds and vines, sporting colorful graffiti. As you explore, you can also catch a refreshing breeze from Helsinki’s bay, adding to the relaxing feel.
This is definitely the type of escapade that would be ideal for a group of friends. Plus, it is a completely different experience in the summer and in the winter, so be sure to plan a visit for both seasons to benefit from the entire experience.
If you’re a student, I’d say that it’s almost a prerequisite to know all of the best places to get a coffee. While I’m sure that you’ll need the caffeine, coffee houses are also great places to study off campus, or even meet some of the locals!
Café Regatta is definitely a great place to get your next cup! Situated right on the shore of the sea and close to the Sibelius monument, Regatta is a little café where you can enjoy a piping hot cup of cocoa and a delicious locally made pastry, along with stunning water views.
In the winter, you can feel a cosy charm that is quite unique to this delightful little café. Expect a roaring fire and piles of warm blankets!
Located in the famous neighbourhood of Töölö, Café Regatta can be easily reached from just about anywhere in Helsinki. It’s only 15 minutes from the city center, and it can be easily accessed via public transportation as well.
Nestled on Helsinki’s south shore, Mattolaituri also has alluring water vistas. While it may be a bit pricier than Café Regatta, it is a really nice alternative when you feel like splurging a little.
It's located in the famous Kaivopuisto, one of the oldest and most well-known parks in all of Helsinki. This wonderful spot meets the water, with beautiful views of passing boats. Mattolaituri is a great place to have drinks with friends, or even to study in this serene environment.
Even though most university campuses have some really good dining options, you should really get out and explore what Helsinki has to offer! Finding a few nice places for lunch or dinner would also be a wonderful group activity with new friends.
Helsinki is well-known for its amazing food halls, but Hietalahti Market Hall is by far the best! A visit will show plenty of other diners and shoppers, so this is a great place to mingle with the Helsinki locals.
You can dine on a multitude of cuisines outside the hall, or if you want to shop inside for all of the ingredients for your next meal at your apartment, then this is the place!
If you are fond of markets, you may also want to visit the old market near Kauppatori, or you’ll find most of the locals at the popular open-air market. These are great places to try the local foods and really immerse yourself in the Finnish culture!
Vapiano is one of the most affordable restaurants in Helsinki, offering a myriad of tasty local dishes. Plus, it’s located right in front of the Central Railway Station. Talk about convenience!
As you begin to explore Helsinki, you’ll find that there are so many places to go and so many things to experience! When you are studying abroad, you will feel right at home in no time. If you know of any other hidden gems around Helsinki, feel free to share in the comments section down below.