DISCOVER A STYLISH CAPITAL CITY OF FINLAND
Helsinki is the capital city of Finland, home to about one in every five Fins. Small, compact and full of style, this waterfront city opens up to the Baltic Sea and bridges Scandinavia to the west and Russia to the east. In fact, forgetting independence a hundred years ago, Finland was caught between the empires of Sweden and Russia. And Helsinki is a product of the push and pull of empire growing up around the floating fortress of Soumenlinna, fifteen minutes by ferry from downtown Helsinki.
“So-one-milena” as it’s pronounced is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built by the Swedish, captured by the Russians and finally taken back by the Fins who opened it up to the public. But we didn’t come here just to float around on an Island; We came here to visit Helsinki one of the most stylish cities in Europe.
STREET STYLE OF HELSINKI
Fins are known for their design legacy, which is rooted in simplicity and puts function over form. It’s something you see just walking down the street: from the renovated historical buildings of the Tori Quarter, to the modernist buildings from nineteen thirties, and more recent additions like the Chapel of Silence. These days Finnish design translates into sustainable street style: something that Visit Helsinki showed us right when we arrived by hooking us up with a grab-bag of local apparel, including Costo backpacks made from recycled denim and wooden sunglasses from Pollot. So we headed over to Tori Quarters in Helsinki’s design strict to meet with Hannes Bengs [Hello] founder of Costo who spoke to us about Helsinki’s style in general and his project in particular.
Hannes Bengs says:
“Growing up in Finland, it’s always been a big thing actually, ecological environment nature and everything about it, so it’s a normal thing for me. But you can’t be too hip, too trendy because otherwise it won’t last. The trend goes, you know, it lasts for half a year. You have to have the classic design too. We produce all of our caps and other accessories, all of our industrial and raw materials, like the fabrics is from sofa factories, small pieces that they can’t use in the industry.”
That emphasis of quality over quantity is also shaping another aspect of Helsinki’s culture: Cuisine! where a new generation of young chefs is shaking up Finnish food by focusing on local, organic produce, the best of which is found in the recently renovated Old Market Hall where we shopped around for some cured salmon and spoke with some of the local fish mongers. I love that word.
“The traditional cured salmon is just a fresh salmon fillet, and on top you’ve got sugar, sea salt and dill. And then you leave it. The next day it will be ready to be sliced and eaten.”
Before leaving the market we stopped for a light bite at Story where we ordered traditional dishes like cabbage casserole and salmon soup before speaking with the head chef Teemu Aura:
“The food is quite simple, a lot of natural ingredients: less on the blade and more in to the flavor, and more in the story of the ingredients.”
But that just whetted our appetite for more. So we ordered takeaway lunches from Sun Restaurant and had a gorgeous picnic in the park.
After lunch we treated ourselves to another Finnish specialty: Chocolate. Before heading over to Cocoa Coffee Shop to experience Helsinki’s famous cafe culture over coffee and cakes. Serbuk, Lingonberry in chocolate and in blueberry with liqourice rum. We had heard that Finns drank more coffee than anyone else in the world, so we asked the owner why Finns were so obsessed with coffee.
“Wherever you go they always offer you coffee, so it’s coffee all over. Well I think what also we are trying to do is drink less but high quality. But of course we still want to have more and more high quality coffee shops in town.”
We caught one more coffee at the iconic Cafe Regatta, which overlooks the Baltic Sea and some of Helsinki’s beaches.
Yes, they have beaches.
It was so hot we even did some supping, stand up paddling on the Baltic Sea. In summer it never really gets dark here, which means most of the drinking is done in daylight, which made it pretty easy to find our friend Eva and local drinks blogger who took us on a pub crawl through the Bohemian neighborhood of Kallio.
“So Kallio was this sort of a working-class district in Helsinki, but nowadays, it’s a very sort of a young, hipster kind of a neighborhood with a lot of cool restaurants opening up here, a lot of good clubs. The younger generation travels all the time and I think with that and with the food and then comes obviously with drinks as well. So they learn it and when they come back here, they really sort of try to make it happen as well. If you like great cocktails or great wine, great beer, there’s definitely a bar for you in Helsinki. In past years I think the demand also for good quality beer.” It was a late night with our blogger friend and after a week running around Finland and a couple days in Helsinki, we were in desperate need of some relaxation. So we went to lakeside cottage in nearby Nooksio National Park. We spent our last day in this beautiful park. W e liked Helsinki a lot and we are planning this heaven city again and again. It is absolutely one of the most stylish and peaceful city. Everyone must visit this city once before die.