48 hours in Helsinki



After falling in love with Iceland (4 trips there in less than a year, writing a travel guide on the South and the East of the country for Hachette), I was in need of more Nordic adventures. I started wandering from a website to another. I needed it to be an easy but exciting city break. Helsinki was perfect – a taste of Finland and the possibility to take a ferry to Tallinn and be there in 2h30… 2 trips in one!


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I found in Helsinki’s architecture, a Haussmannian grandeur I had almost forgotten, mixed with an Art Deco vibe and an incredible colour palette. Oh, and amazing sculpted doors too. Walking, wandering, getting lost is a must. So much to admire, so little time! I put my bags down in the district area the first night. Lots of antiques and creative shops all around! And so many cafés (rather discreet so do look in) to choose from in the city – from healthy one (Try Kuuma and Healthinki‘s super breakfast bowls! The latter makes a proper turmeric latte too) to more traditional ones (Ekberg‘s cinnamon bun is a must but do try Fazer‘s apple meringue cake too). Many serve a “breakfast all you can eat buffet”, costing between 10 and 15€.

Foodies will equally love the Market Hall near the harbour – Vanha Kauppahalli, dating back to 1888, each boutique  beautifully framed in wood. Pastries, bear paté, crayfish, reindeer snacks, funky infusions by Nord-T (Like Polar Night cap – rooibos, sea buckthorn and birch leaf – or Afloat with folk boat – strawberry, birch leaf, nettle, liquorice root). Nearby is Kaupattori or the Market Square where you will find stalls too. Autumn is brilliant: lots of mushrooms, cranberries, lingonberries, sea buckthorn, apples for quite a small price… which comes in litre, by the way, not kilo. I got myself a litre of plums for 3€!


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The first week in October takes place the Baltic Herring Market which has been held here since 1743. The fishermen sell their produce from the boats directly – very picturesque! Fresh, salted, smoked, pickled, marinated fish together, even Tyrni (sea buckthorn) coulis, syrup, sauce and rye bread. You can also indulge in fishcakes to die for, cooked season fillets for a Euro or two. Such a cheerful atmosphere!


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There are a few lakes in the city too, framed by forests – an easy escape from everything. Locals cycle through, jog (even late at night). Autumn had painted the trees yellow, gold, orange, copper. Quite a contrast with the blue sky, the wind blowing through, swirling leaves all around me. In Finland, everyone has a right to go foraging – meaning picking mushrooms and berries in the parks too…

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Strolling back in to the centre, I decided to try Helsinki’s outdoors floating swimming pool by the harbour – Allas Sea Pool. It opens super early (06.30 most days), closes at 10pm – ideal to relax and meet locals. The water is a delightful 27 deg C and it comes with a sauna too… Imagine that in winter! Even better you have the perfect view on the Skywheel (more about this soon).


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I realised pretty quickly I would never have enough time in Helsinki. It’s a difficult balance – you want to take your time yet explore as much as possible, sit down to enjoy the view but capture it in a picture too. Instagram is a great tool for that – with the right #, you’ll find secret gems like the stairs of the local university (great view on the cathedral from the terrace on the last floor by the way) or those of the Stockmann department store

Time was running out already. I want to see it in winter. In spring. I want to take a ferry to all the little islands that surround Helsinki – some have restaurants, one a fortress. I want to take bike tours of the city (one is sauna themed!). See the picturesque wooden houses in the suburbs. Live there for a week or two. I will be back, Helsinki. Soon.


>> Travelling there: try Norwegian Airlines from London Gatwick

>> From the airport to the centre: there is a train linking to the main railway station in the centre. You will be there in 30 mn max.

>> Where to stay: I stayed in a couple of Airbnbs (great to live like the locals and explore neighbourhoods) but equally loved Hotel Katajanokka (a former prison and near the Viking Line boat if you’re planning to go to Tallinn – more about this soon!)

>> Useful: The Helsinki Card which covers museums, public transport, the hop on hop off bus, a canal boat trip and lots of reductions on other attractions

>> More about the city at Visit Helsinki


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  1. Jouni Hakkarainen
    October 13, 2016 / 17:58

    Awesome pictures and a fantastic blog! Living in Helsinki, it is sometimes hard to see it like a foreigner would.

    Do come back. We will be waiting. 🙂

  2. a n n a
    October 14, 2016 / 14:07

    Beautiful pictures from Helsinki! My home town <3

  3. Kuikka
    October 15, 2016 / 08:58

    Nice snapshot of Helsinki, my home town, thanks. One correction though: after taxi, the Finnair bus is the most expensive way from airport. The train is 4,50€ one way, 25 mins to centre.

  4. Eetu
    October 15, 2016 / 09:20

    Great post! Helsinki is quite something. I live in Finland in a city called Tampere, which is a nice place aswell, make sure to check that out if you have the time on your next visit. It’s only an hour and a half by train from Helsinki!

    It never fails to amaze me how beautiful the architecture is in Helsinki. Too bad they have also destroyed alot of the old building stock – as is the case in all of the cities in Finland and everywhere else!

    Another beautiful market hall in Helsinki can be found from Hakaniemi plaza, which is around 1-2 kilometres from the main railway station.

    As you said, there’s always too much to see in those short visits. One should truly live in the beautiful cities of the world to truly understand the whole concept!

  5. Just Me
    October 15, 2016 / 09:51

    Next time you visit, don’t forget to try Lappi restaurant!


    Quite pricey for my taste, BUT the atmosphere is great and you won’t get reindeer dishes like that anywhere else. Also, many of the dishes are for two, so either take a friend with you or make a new one and share the meal (and the bill) with them.

  6. Niclas
    October 15, 2016 / 12:44

    A single ticket from the airport to The center of Helsinki costs 5,50 € with the train. That is a cheaper option than The Finnair Bus. The train ride to The center takes 30 minutes.

  7. Ivy
    October 16, 2016 / 11:06


    Great article. Just a little note, those oval stairs belong to the Main Library of the University of Helsinki. Easier for people to find, the university has many many buildings in the city centre.

  8. Frank Wallace
    October 16, 2016 / 11:54

    Stunningly beautiful images of Helsinki. This wonderful city and its equally engaging citizens have been bypassed for too long by tourists from so many other European countries who seek to find solace instead in the mind-numbingly boring surroundings of the Spanish costas. They don’t know what they’re missing. Finland and its magnificent capital are a must for all persons who wish to experience culture, art and music along with a huge variety of places of interest and things to see.

  9. Chantal Vlaminck
    October 16, 2016 / 12:38

    Ce reportage est sublime ! Moi qui suis allée en Finlande à deux reprises, je suis une inconditionnelle ! J’aime tout : le mode de vie, la mentalité, l’architecture, l’art, la cuisine, les Moomin’s (!) . Mais bon, bien entendu que je n’y suis jamais allée à partir d’Octobre… (oups le froid et l’obscurité, ça je n’aime pas).
    Merci pour ce moment magique, j’ai revécu tout ce que j’ai vu et rencontré.

  10. caroline
    October 16, 2016 / 17:13

    yes ive been to helsinki and observed a lot of the things you photographed . its a strange mix of russian swedish and finnish influences . lovely place great design in whatever era .

  11. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:42

    @Caroline Indeed, it has a soviet feel to it – both countries have a linked history and a love-hate relationship!

  12. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:44

    @Chantal J’y retourne en décembre (La gaieté de Noel compense le manque de luminosité!). Je comprends que tu sois tombée sous le charme du pays…

  13. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:45

    @Frank Wallace I fully agree! I was surprised at the lack of guides on Helsinki. Mostly books covering the whole of Finland with only a few pages on the capital… when there is so much to see and do!

  14. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:47

    @Ivy You are right to precise it. Helsinki seems to have incredible stairs, by the way…

  15. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:48

    @Niclas Ah? The Tourism Office desk at the airport told me the bus was cheaper! Good to know, thank you!

  16. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:49

    @Just Me Thank you – I am going back in December and can’t wait to try it!!

  17. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:51

    @Eetu Tampere, the Moomin city? I am planning to go back in June with the kids, rent a car and see more of the country, so definitely on my list. I agree – I wish I could live in Helsinki a couple of weeks to fully absorb the atmosphere. I will check the market in December! Thank you, thank you 🙂

  18. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:52

    @Kuikka Thank you for letting me know – The Tourism Office desk at the airport told me the bus was cheaper! I will try it in December 🙂

  19. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:52

    @Anna Thank you – that really touches me!

  20. Chocoralie
    October 18, 2016 / 06:54

    @Jouni Hakkarainen Thank you for yor very kind words. It’s a magical city indeed and I have already booked tickets to come back in December. I could not resist!

  21. Paula Tuvanen
    October 21, 2016 / 21:46

    Thank you for a great article and beautiful pictures

  22. markowashere
    October 23, 2016 / 14:30

    What a great post with great pictures. As a local I too often fail to see my city with the eyes of a visitor. Welcome back in December, can’t wait to read your experiences on that trip as December can be very surprising 😉

  23. January 13, 2017 / 09:51

    @Chocoralie Here comes a tip for your next trip to Helsinki! In case you are interested in seeing and hearing great stories from the suburbs of Helsinki or Vantaa or Espoo – check out our guided tours https://eventsi.fi/suburb-safari/ #SuburbSafariHEL 🙂

  24. Chocoralie
    January 17, 2017 / 13:59

    @Petra Vairima Oh, thank you so much! I got your email and will get in touch next time I come to Helsinki, would love to try your tour!

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