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Tuesday, 22 February 2022

72 Hours in Helsinki: Where to Sleep, Eat and Play in the Finnish Capital


Having recently spent 72 hours in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, I would like to bring this incredible Nordic city onto your travel radar.


All places listed on this post have been handpicked by @MyHelsinki (the City’s official Tourism Board) who hosted us on a 3-day visit, and are some of the BEST places to sleep, eat and play in the Finnish capital. So *SAVE* this post for your next visit to Helsinki and make sure to visit them.


Helsinki has been getting a lot of good press recently, and rightly so as it is fascinating city. I was intrigued to read in The Observer that Finland has been named by the UN as the happiest nation in the world in April 2021 and while this up for discussion, there are many things British travellers should be excited about the country, some interesting facts about Finland:

👍 English is very widely spoken, English is spoken by everyone, everywhere;

👍 Finland has the youngest ever world leader, Sanna Marin who became Prime Minister in 2019 at the age of 34;

👍 Marin is the 3rd female Prime Minister of Finland leading a five-party coalition government, all headed by female leaders;

👍 From a low-income family, Marin strives to make Finland a more egalitarian society with a strong welfare system and equal opportunities in education and work for all its citizens;

👍 Education is compulsory until the age of 18;

👍 Finland has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2035, 15 years ahead of the EU target;

👍 Finland is green - 14.74% of the land is forested and the country has over 187k lakes larger than 500 sqm;

👍 With a population of 5.5m people, Finland had one of the world’s lowest Covid mortality rates at about 1,300 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic;

Getting Around Helsinki

Helsinki is an elegant city with wide, tree-lined roads and beautiful buildings. Transport is easily accessible via the underground system and an enviable tram network that can get you anywhere in the city in less than 15 minutes. All signage is in Finnish, Swedish and English so it is incredibly easy to get about.


The city’s HSL App (available to download free of charge) is a great tool to plot your route from A to B and to purchase the tickets, which can be a combination of single or day(s) tickets. CityMapper which also works in Helsinki.


We used the tram system to go everywhere, it is super fast, frequent and clean, I would highly recommend it.

Where to Stay in Helsinki


The area of Sörnäinen, Helsinki's reputedly most hipster neighbourhood, is an old industrial part of town blending red-brick buildings and early 20th century architecture.


A mecca of Helsinki's urban arts community, the area is alive with galleries, cafés and bars. With easy access to public transportation, the metro station (as well as various tram stops) is just a few minutes away from Noli Sörnäinen.


Noli Studios occupy a large building with views of the sea as well as of Helsinki’s sprawling city centre. There are 197 studios, a modern gym, sauna area, co-working and communal spaces with comfy sofas and chairs, snooker tables and coffee machines.


Noli Studios has a mix of overnight guests and other residents who rent their studios on longer terms.


My studio was small but perfectly formed and ideal for my 72 hours in the city. It was immaculately cleaned, with a little fitted-kitchen featuring a dishwasher, fridge-freezer and washing machine.


The shower was hot and blissfully strong and the studio warm as toast, I could hardly tell it was -8C outside.



Breakfast is not provided at Noli Studios, so you will need to make your own arrangements, or simply make your own at the studio apartment. There is a Lidl Supermarket on the ground floor for all your snacking and breakfast needs.


My studio was a ‘compact fully furnished studio with a view for up to 2 people, 18sqm’, and the rate for this room is currently €90/night.

Where to Eat in Helsinki


One of the most celebrated restaurants in Helsinki right now and specially since being awarded its first-Michelin star in September 2021, Finnjävel Salonki is the brainchild of Chef Tommi Tuominen who heads the busy kitchen here bringing a menu inspired by Finnish home cooking, traditional methods, and Finnish ingredients at its fore.


Finnjävel is made up of two restaurants occupying the same building – Finnjävel Sali (The Hall) a more casual, bistro-like dining experience and Finnjävel Salonki (The Salon) where a set, fine-dining menu is offered. We tried the latter.


The 8-course menu was exceptionally good and beautifully presented:

A selection of exquisitely presented small bites including a fine tartlet filled with smoked reindeer mousse.


Head Cheese – glazed white deer (head meat), horseradish mayo served with thin slices of pickled veg (carrots, mooli, radish and edible flowers).



Finnish Archipelago bread – molasses, unctuously chewy bread, one of the highlights of our meal.


Carrot Casserole – carrots in many ways, this was creamy and delicious and by general consensus, the STAR dish of our meal.


Baltic Herring Cutlet – poshest Finnish fish fingers one will ever try, with pickled onions and mustard sauce.


Reindeer Roast – tender and perfectly cooked, with a very light gameness to the meat and paired with earthy beetroot and Chanterelle mushrooms.


Frozen Cranberry and Rice Porridge – pre- and dessert proper, these were light and a perfect ending to my introduction to Finnish flavours.


Since earning its 1st Michelin-star in September 2020, Finnjävel Salonki has become rather tricky to make a reservation, so advance booking is highly recommended.

Basbas & Kulma is an American-style bistro with a comprehensive wine list and a huge charcoal grill where most of its meats, seafood and vegetables are cooked and served as small plates to share.


The restaurant is large, with low-lighting, exposed bricks and wooden tables. It was manically busy with a great atmosphere on the night we visited. Food is surprisingly affordable with starters priced at €10, mains €12-€15 and sides €6, though entry level wines start at around €60/bottle mainly due to Scandinavia’s high sin taxes.

There is a great value set menu of 2 starters + 2 from the grill + 1 side + 1 dessert for €50/person. We loved the food here – highlights were:

White fish carpaccio, scallop crème & chives (€10).


Beef tartare, daikon & gochujang mayo (€10). 


Brioche bun, mortadella & truffle mayo (€10).


Baltic Herring, Jerusalem artichoke, dill and horseradish butter (€12).


Baby gem, pak choy, lime, garlic and herbs (€6) & Endive, apple & walnut salad (€6).

 

Grilled sea bass with Antiboise sauce (€12) (a tomato based sauce with olives, capers, shallots, garlic, olive oil & balsamic vinegar) plus shavings of fennel, Antiboise is a great pairing with grilled fish and seafood.


Lemon Financier and pistachio ice cream (€9).


I will definitely return to Basbas & Kulma on my next visit to Helsinki.


Yes Yes Yes is a fabulous vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the heart of Helsinki. 


The decor is light and quirky with a central, long bar that dominate the main room plus an open plan kitchen with a large tandoor oven.

 

The food here is fresh and bursting with umami flavour – think za’atar, yuzu, lemon yoghurt, vegetarian garum, miso, blue cheese… And the cocktails are also great!


 
 
As with other Helsinki eateries, the food is surprisingly well priced however alcohol is much less so. Dishes are priced around €10-€13, cocktails €14 but wine starts at €60. We went for their ‘Complete Comfort’ set menu priced at €49/person for 7 dishes to share as follows:

 

Halloumi Chips, lemon yoghurt, pomegranate, dill and honey.


Shishito pepper (similar to Padron peppers), fermented chilli, yuzu and garum.


Grilled Hokkaido pumpkin, saffron hollandaise, blood orange, pumpkin seeds, sage.


Lemon tahini, spiced fig, pomegranate za’atar, beetroot chips.


Heart of palm, Alberg greens, broccoli, ginger, chili, miso, truffle, Parmesan.


Risotto of local beetroot, Sanit Agur cheese, pickled red kale.


We really loved the food at Yes Yes Yes, portions were incredibly generous, but most importantly, every dish had tons of flavour. Staff only spoke in English surprisingly even to Finish customers. I highly recommend this restaurant in Helsinki.

In the heart of Kallio in Central Helsinki, Flat 14 is a cozy restaurant and bar serving a day-time menu available from breakfast and throughout the day. An evening menu is also available.

 

From the 11 items on the day menu, you can build your own set - €12 for 3 dishes, €19 and €25 for 5 and 7 dishes respectively, each set comes with thick slices of freshly baked sourdough bread.


Among us all, we managed to order the entire menu – my highlights were the cold smoked reindeer mousse (a must-have in Finland), the kale, beets and chervil salad which was crunchy and refreshing, and the lingonberry pancake & Nutella.

 

The coffees were well made and strong, the sofas big and comfy, and the food spot on – all in all Café Flät No.14 is a great breakfast place and start to our day in Helsinki!


Relove Freda is a lovely second-hand clothing shop with a Café serving breakfast and light lunches. Breakfast sets are priced at €19.90 while lunch ones are €13.90.

 

I went for their Otsamo Breakfast Set which included a croissant filled with avocado & egg, a green smoothie, banana bread with whipped cream & granola and organic coffee (or tea).



The food was fresh and well-made, the service attentive and friendly. I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast here and would recommend Relove Freda in Helsinki.


Where to Play


The Allas Sea Pool complex is right in the heart of the city centre by the Market Square and next to the SkyWheel. It consists of three separate saunas (women’s, men’s and mixed) which are opened from morning to night as well as two open-air swimming pools, one heated at 27C and another with fresh Baltic Sea water.



You might think it is insane to swim outdoors when December temperatures were about -6C to -8C, but Allas Sea Pool was one of the most exciting things we did whilst in Helsinki. After 5-10 minutes in the super hot sauna, our bodies were just warm enough for us to rush from the sauna room and through the icy walkway to the heated pool before plunging in!


The adult ticket is priced at €15 which gives access to a locker in the changing room, the pools and sauna. Towel hire is extra at €8.50. I would highly recommend bringing your own rubber slippers and perhaps a bathrobe.


There are three eateries at Allas, a café, a bistro and a bar, serving food and drinks from breakfast through to dinner. Unfortunately these were not opened on the evening we visited.

The views from the pool are stunning overlooking the City skyline and the Baltic Sea. Swimming at Allas Sea Pool was one of those experiences I will never forget and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Helsinki.


If you happen to be in Helsinki in December as we were, a visit to the Helsinki Christmas Market (Tuomaan Markkinat) is simply a must. 



This is a great place to soak up the Christmas atmosphere and try out some of the local specialties like glögi, the Finnish take on mulled wine with added brandy. Served hot, glögi was truly delicious and deceptively strong.



There is also a Food Yard which features some of the city’s leading restaurants, seasonal treats and a programme of events. 


There is a vast number of traders selling everything from woolly hats to scented candles and every other possible trinket one might think of.


The wind was bitingly cold though, so do come wearing plenty of layers, a thick hat that covers your ears (I didn’t bring mine from London as I look hideous in it, big mistake!), gloves, and very warm socks.


You can turn Helsinki into your own ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ moment by taking a 1-hour guided tour of the exhibition at the Fazer Experience Visitor Centre.

 

The exhibition takes you through Fazer’s extensive product range, its history from the start of the family-owned company to its present day activities, ending with a well-deserved product tasting. Single tickets are priced at €13 and a generous goodie bag is gifted at the end of the tour.


There is a gorgeous café (Fazer Café Fazerila) open to visitors and a very well stocked Fazer Experience Shop with the full range of chocolate boxes, liquorice bars and more.

 

Booking is essential for all group tour visits, tours are offered both in Finnish and English.


Disclaimer: This press trip was created and sponsored by The PC Agency in partnership with My Helsinki. The London Foodie maintains full editorial control over all content published on this site as always.

Huge thanks to My Helsinki and the The PC Agency for hosting and showing us the very best of Helsinki!

Travel Essentials

My Helsinki
https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/your-local-guide-to-helsinki

Noli Studios Sörnäinen
www.nolistudios.com/en/noli-sornainen-helsinki
Hämeentie 33, 00500
Helsinki
Tel. +358 20 144 1050
sornainen@nolistudios.com

Restaurant Finnjävel Salonki
www.finnjavel.fi/en
Ainonkatu 3, 00100
Helsinki
Tel. +358 300 472 340
salonki@finnjavel.fi

Basbas & Kulma
www.basbas.fi/bistro/en
Address: Tehtaankatu 27–29
00150 Helsinki
Tel: +358 50 467 3400
ryhmat@basbas.fi

Vegetarian Restaurant Yes, Yes, Yes
www.yesyesyes.fi
Address: Iso Roobertinkatu 1
00120 Helsinki
Tel. +358 9 6128 5130
bookings@yesyesyes.fi

Viides linja 14
00530 Helsinki
Te: + 358 44 9783067

Relove Freda
https://www.relove.fi/
Address: Fredrikinkatu 25,
00150 Helsinki
Tel: +358 50 462 5151
info@relove.fi

Allas Sea Pool
https://allasseapool.fi/allas-restaurants/?lang=en
Katajanokanlaituri 2 A
00160 Helsinki
Finland
Tel: +358 40 565 6582
info@allasseapool.fi

Helsinki Christmas Market (Tuomann Markkinat)
https://tuomaanmarkkinat.fi/en/

Fazer Experience Visitor Centre
visitfazer@fazer.com
Fazerintie 6
01230 Vantaa
Finland
Tel: +3589 876 2040

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