Töölönlahti or Töölö Bay in English, is possibly my favourite place in Helsinki .
Pronounced Tur-Lur, Töölö is a common (but not official) name for two neighbourhoods, Etu-Töölö and Taka-Töölö, to the north-west of the city centre of Helsinki. The area was built in the 1920s and ’30s to accommodate rapid population growth, and is now a sought after residential area as well as a cultural and sporting hub. In these neighbourhoods you’ll find the Finnish National Opera, the National Museum of Finland and sporting venues such as the Olympic Stadium and Sonera Stadium, home to the Football Club of Helsinki, HJK. But my favourite aspect of the area, is the bay to the east- Töölönlahti.
It’s calm blue waters are surrounded by parklands and a walking circuit, dotted with several cafes. In the warmer months there are several spots where paddle boards can be rented and pontoons anchored in the middle of the bay make the perfect destination for some afternoon sunbaking.
Riding, walking or jogging around this route is a perfect way to spend an afternoon, and when you need a break for coffee and cake, Café Taideterassi on the eastern side of the bay is the perfect place to stop. Located in one of the beautiful old wooden villas perched above the bay, a sweeping veranda overlooks the water amid a tangle of colourful flowers. The café serves Finnish coffee (now my favourite way to have coffee), espresso style coffee and a range of delicious savoury and sweet snacks. Slightly further up the hill is an outdoor café, Sinisen Huvilan Kahvila, again with stunning views but slightly less food options, although there is icecream!
Heading back down the hill away from the city centre is intriguing villa no. 9. Set upon the bank towards the railway tracks at Linnunlauluntie 8, this four storey, disheveld looking villa is a fleamarket of sorts, crammed full of old books, toys, furniture and kitchenware. There’s always classical music streaming out the never locked door and rarely is there anyone else around, including the owner, Aulis Junes. I’ve read that he was an activist in the 1960s, and gave addicts a place to live at a time when few others were interested in helping these people in Helsinki.
Leaving the fleamarket and continuing down the tree lined road, you’ll soon come to a busy street, Helsinginkatu.
Across this, about 100m to the left is the winter garden, Rakennusvirasto. This beautiful park houses several indoor gardens, including one full of various cacti, and a café out on the terrace overlooking the roses and the bay beyond. The opening hours can seem a little erratic, so check ahead of time.
The best way to end a hot summer’s day (if such a thing exists in Helsinki) would be to head up to the open aired pool behind the wintergarden. It has waterslides!