Ihana Kahvila literally means wonderful coffee in Finnish, and a visit to the tucked-away seaside cafe definitely lives up to the name.
I’ve lived in Helsinki for a few years, yet somehow only recently ventured to Ihana Kahvila. The literal translation from Finnish is wonderful coffee, and a visit to the tucked-away seaside cafe definitely lives up to the name. Set off a winding path through construction sites, it’s a decent walk- but worth every step. You’ll find outdoor tables, deck chairs and hammocks, with a view over the water to the Helsinki Cathedral.
The easiest way to reach Ihana Kahvila from the city center is to take the metro to Kalasatama. From the metro walk along Arielinkatu until you reach the junction with Parrulaituri. Then you should see a sign pointing to the cafe. From here it’s around 1km, with further signposting along the way.
Construction along the way
Old ships form a nearby bar
The cafe is created with converted shipping containers
Finland is know as the land of a thousand lakes. In reality, there are over 187,000 lakes– one for every 29 Finns! Finnish lakes are not only numerous but incredibly beautiful, surrounded by pine forests and rocky outcrops, the water is often fresh, clear, and ideal for swimming. Blueberry bushes are never far away, providing a delicious foraged snack- not only legal throughout Finland, but highly encouraged!
With these allures it’s not surprising that escaping city life to recharge at a lakeside cottage or campsite is a favourite summer pastime in Finland. One of the most popular places to experience the Finnish nature close to Helsinki is Nuuksio National Park. In this post I describe how to use public transport to get from Helsinki to two stunning camp sites in Nuuksio.
Getting from Helsinki to Nuuksio bus stop
Download the HSL transport app. I’d also suggest getting the Maastokartta trail map app. After adding your credit card details to the HSL you can buy an ABC zone ticket which you’ll need to show to bus driver and any ticket inspectors on the train. The ticket is 4.80€ and valid for 90 minutes– so if you plan the connections correctly this is all you will need. You can also use the ticket to get to the Central Railway Station by tram, bus or metro.
From the Central Railway Station catch the U, I or E train to Espoo. These run frequently and the journey is around 25 minutes.
Almost immediately after exiting the train you should see a bus stop listing numerous services including the 245A bus. Google Maps gives a slightly incorrect location for the bus stop, if in doubt as a local. This bus runs every half hour and also takes around 25 minutes.
Take the bus to either ‘Haukkalammentie’ (third last stop) or ‘Katilla’ (last stop) depending on the route chosen below.
If getting off at Haukkalammentie you should take the first left hand turn down a dirt road. It’s roughly 2km (30 minutes) walk down the road to Haukkalampi. Here you’ll find a shop, free drinking water to refill bottles, rubbish bins and a lake with a little island that can be reached by a bridge. In summer you can rent row boats or paddle boards here. In itself it’s a beautiful spot for a day trip.
Getting from the bus stop to the camp site
Here I’ve listed two beautiful campsites with some photos to help you decide which to visit and directions to get there.
Saarijärvi translates to ‘island-lake‘ which is exactly what you find at this beautiful campsite. There are two campsites in the area, one on the island itself and another on the opposite bank of the lake. As with many Finnish campsites you will find long-drop toilets, a cooking fire with a grill and a store of firewood with an axe.
To reach Holma-Saarijärvi take the 245A bus to the ‘Haukkalammentie’ stop, walk to Haukkalampi and then follow the trail to the lake. Some parts of the trail are marked by signs, but others not, so make sure you have the app or a paper map to guide you. It should take around 40 minutes from Haukkalampi to reach the lake.
The camp sites here are slightly less picturesque than Holma-Saarijärvi but are more secluded, peaceful and calm. I preferred swimming in this lake as the water had less sediment and was deeper. There are many lily pads in the lake but on the northern side of the campsite you’ll find a perfect spot for swimming- a clearing of lily pads and a large waterside rock to dive in from. When I pointed out the rock to a Fin he said it must have been placed there by God.
To get to the campsite you have two options.
Firstly, to get off the 245A bus at Haukkalammentie, walk to Haukkalampi as above and then take a different trail to Iso-Holma. This walk is around 35 minutes, so combined with the walk from the bus stop, this option is roughly an hour in total. This is a good option if you need to stop for water or other supplies at Haukkalampi.
Option two is to take the bus to the end of the line and get off at Katilla. There is no water, toilets, rubbish bins or shop at the bus stop and the closest lake is a little walk off. However this route is much faster (30 minutes total) and more scenic as it’s predominantly a walk through the forest with no road walking. To find the trail head across the fields to the forest area and then follow your map.
Things to keep in mind
Be sure not to leave any rubbish behind and respect the natural flora and fauna
Blueberries are edible and delicious and completely legal to forage
In summer there can be a fire ban which means the only camp fires allowed are those covered by a roof and chimney. You can check the status of any bans here
Most camp sites have long drop toilets with sawdust (empty a scoop in the toilet after you use it) and camp fires with plenty of fire wood and an axe
Helsinki’s coast has an impossible number of inlets, peninsulas and small islands. Here are 10 you can explore from the city center.
It’s often joked that the coastline of Finland looks like someone has taken a shotgun to it- there’s such an impossible number of inlets, peninsulas and small islands scattered about. So it’s not surprising that a popular pastime in Helsinki is to visit and explore islands just off the coast of the capital.
In summer I’d recommend purchasing an island hopping ticket for 10€. This gives you access to three islands- Suomenlinna,Lonna and Vallisaari. In the cooler months it may be more pleasant and practical to visit one at a time. For example, Suomenlinna has a regular ferry service throughout the year. When the sea begins to freeze, some islands like Uunisaari can be reached by foot bridges.
Below I share what you can do on the 10 most popular islands
1. Suomenlinna: Helsinki’s Fortress Island
Literally translated as Castle of Finland, Suomenlinna was built in the 18th century, with construction lasting 40 years. At the time, the garrison population exceeded that of Helsinki. Now, less than one thousand people call the island home, however there are over a million visitors each year.
The vast history of this UNESCO world heritage listed island is best experienced with a guided tour. There’s also several cafes, a museum, library and a swimming beach to enjoy.
This island has a lovely restaurant and bar but not a lot else. It’s very small but it’s the perfect spot to stop for lunch after exploring Suomenlinna.
Previously a military base, Vallisaari has only recently been opened to the public. Best explored in summer, there are a few picture perfect cafes and Stand Up Paddle boards for rent.
4. Uunisaari, Liuskasaari & Liuskaluoto
These three connected islands can be reached by a bridge in winter. The rewards of a sauna, cafe and pizza restaurant- Skiffer awaits!
5. Harakka & Särkkä
These two neighbouring islands can be reached by ferry in summer. There’s an art gallery on Harakka and a restaurant on Särkkä.
A favourite with locals, especially in summer, Pihlajasaari can be reached by ferry (JT-Line) from the dock in Ruohosaari or Merisatama. Unfortunately the ferry only runs in summer, making the island inaccessible for half the year. On the island you’ll find a sauna, camp ground, nudist area, swimming beach and seaside terrace restaurant.
This popular island off the north east of the city can be accessed via bridges from Kalasatama or Kulosaari. Once there you’ll find a beach, picnic grounds, restaurant, free tennis courts, and even a high ropes course. Buses also run to and around the island.
8. Korkeasaari Zoo
Home to Helsinki’s Zoo, Korkeasaari houses 150 animal species and 1,000 pant species. Established in 1889, it’s one of the oldest zoos in the world. Access is via a bridge from Mustikkamaa throughout the year and in summer ferries run from the city.
This tiny island is located off the off the coast of the up market district of Kruununhaka. Access is by a bridge and while it’s small, there are some nice walking paths around the island’s foreshore with great views out to the district of Katajanokka. There’s also a restaurant on the island.
This larger island off the west coast of the city is a popular place for locals to go jogging and walking- especially on the weekend. There’s a large open air museum consisting of historical buildings which come alive during summer. On mid-summer’s eve Seurasaari plays host to one of the largest summer celebration bonfires in Helsinki. The island also has several cafes, a restaurant and sauna.
Have you visited any islands off the coast of Helsinki?
Tampere is physically shaped by two lakes and culturally by the hydro power they brought to the city. Here’s 5 things you’ll want to do in modern Tampere.
Tampere is not only physically shaped by two lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi but also by the hydro power the rapids between them enabled. The ability to generate electricity drove Tampere to become the industrial center of Finland, and the large number of factories and working class propelled the city to the center of Finland’s bloody civil war in 1918.
In modern times, Tampere is famous for it’s cultural and historical activities- theatre, museums and music. Here are five things you’ll want to do if you visit this city.
There’s also a bunch of museums to visit, with many showcasing the rich history of the region. I loved the Museum Milavida – a restored 19th century mansion and the Vapriikki Museum which is housed in a huge old factory building and actually contains many smaller museums. There’s one on natural history, minerals, the best nature photographs of the year, Tampere through the ages, computer games, Finnish sports, and even Dracula/Vampires.
3. Try Local Food
The old market hall is the perfect spot to stop for a coffee and pulla (Finnish pastry) at a traditional cafe, and sample some of the local specialties like black pudding sausage. One of the most delicious things I tasted in Tampere translates to “Poor Knights”. It’s basically French Toast made out of day old pulla and served with whipped cream and homemade jam- yum!
4. The Stable Yards: handicraft & chocolate stores
There are so many beautiful places to skate and ski around Helsinki in winter- here are five of my favourites.
Ice-skating is one of the most beloved winter activities. Helsinki has no shortage of beautiful places to skate and ski outdoors in winter- there’s even a huge circular track on the frozen sea!
Many rinks have skates for hire and change room and toilet facilities. For an interactive map listing winter ski, skate and swimming locations, as well as their conditions in and around Helsinki, take a look at this site.
Below I’ve listed the best five of these places to ice-skate outdoors in Helsinki
Vibe:There’s nothing quite like ice-skating on the sea! The track is so expansive that you can really enjoy the flow of skating, however the size and fact that the ice isn’t regularly maintained makes it a difficult place for beginners to skate.
Cost: Free but there are no skate rentals
Size:A huge circular track
2. Eläintarha Athletic Field
Vibe:This track is easily reachable from the center by tram yet often deserted. A great place to practice in peace.
Cost: Free but no skate rentals
Size:The whole running track has been converted to a large circular ice rink
3. Jääpuisto: Ice Park Helsinki
Vibe:This is probably the most well known and central ice rink in Helsinki. It’s right next to the railway station and often crowded. While it’s one of the smaller ice rinks I’ve been to, it does have a great jovial atmosphere- music blasts out across the rink and there are beautiful buildings surrounding it.
Cost: Around 6€ for skating and another 6€ for skate rental
Size:Small and practically always crowded- don’t let the above image fool you!
Vibe: This little rink is next to the new Redi shopping center at Kalasatama. This creates the perfect opportunity to warm up afterwards with a hot drink at one of the many cafes inside Redi. There is also a metro stop at Redi, allowing very easy access to the rink in winter.
Cost: Free but there are no skate rentals
Size:Relatively small but rarely crowded
5. Brahe Field in Kallio
Vibe:This field is a soccer field in summer and an ice rink in winter. The smooth, large surface is rarely crowded making it the perfect place for beginners. While half the field is used for ice hockey practice, there is still plenty of room for skating. At times ice hockey games are played on the field and it is then closed for skating. It can be hard to spot in winter as the snow piles high around the outskirts- the entrance is off Helsinginkatu.
Cost: 3.5€ for the day and reasonable prices for skate rental. Entrance is mainly an honour system and there’s also a little cafe inside.
Indoor market halls are an institution in Helsinki. Not only can you buy delicious fresh produce but there are plenty of cafes with a mouthwatering selection of sweet and savoury snacks and hot meals.
Market halls are an institution in Helsinki. Dating back to the 19th century, they’re often housed in beautiful old buildings with a range of delicious, fresh and often organic produce, fish and meat. You’ll also find many traditional cafes and shops selling Finnish homewares, books and souvenirs. Most market halls in Helsinki are open every day of the week except Sunday.
Here are three of the most famous market halls in Finland’s capital
1. Hakaniemen Kauppahalli
The Hakaniemi market hall has recently moved to a newly built “temporary” market hall next to the old building. You’ll find this market between the city center and the trendy neighborhood of Kallio (see this post for things to do in Kallio). In summer there are many stalls outside, selling fresh produce and hot food. Once a month there’s also flea market with second hand clothes and antiques. In winter the indoor cafes provide a welcome refuge from the snow.
2. Vanha Kauppahalli (Old Market hall)
This gorgeous old building dates back to 1888 and was the first indoor market hall in Helsinki. If you only get the chance to visit one market hall, I’d recommend this one. It’s right in the tourist area, next to Market Square and has a range of produce and cafes on offer. For further information see this site.
3. Hietalahti Kauppahalli
Unlike the other two market halls above, the Hietalahti hall has no fresh produce. Instead, the two story building contains a plethora of mouth watering eateries. From burgers and kebabs to Filipino, Japanese and Italian cuisine, there’s sure to be something for everyone. There are also a few stalls selling hand-crafted wares.
In summer the car park outside the hall becomes a monthly flea market- the perfect spot to bag a bargain!
Reflecting on Finland’s 101 years of independence, I asked 5 Finnish friends what they love about their home country. I then added a list of 15 of my favourite things that I love about living in Finland.
Last week was Finland’s 101st anniversary of independence. The capital celebrated by gifting it’s citizens a brand new state of the art library and I decided to reflect on the things I love about my adopted home. I also asked some of my Finnish friends what they loved about their country. Here are some of their thoughts and some of my favourite things.
I love the nature and the way the seasons change, I think all seasons have their moments: the light in summer, the way the leaves sound when you walk through a pile of them in autumn, the snow in winter and the sound of melting ice and the first flowers in the spring.
I love that we value honesty and modesty, as well as that when someone asks you how you are doing you are expected and allowed to answer honestly. And sauna in all seasons of course! ~ Nicole
I love the vast, untouched and unique nature of Finland with all it’s four varying seasons and seasonal celebrations, thousands of lakes, forests in South and wilderness in Lapland. I love the great transport opportunities to get out there, as well as the whole welfare state taking care of everyone. It feels secure and privileged to live in Finland.
My favorite place is our summer cottage on a warm evening at sunset, with a pink and blue sky, calm lake, nothing other than bird sounds and the relaxed feeling after sauna. ~Sara
I love how much nature there is in Finland, even in cities like Helsinki. And the fact that you can walk, pitch a tent, and pick berries and mushrooms for free due to Everyman’s Rights. And I love snow, the extremely beautiful and light evenings in the summer, and sauna! And of course the free education.
I absolutely love cross-country skiing and going to a wood burning sauna after that. In the summertime going to a summer cottage by a lake and swimming and rowing there is the best. ~ Oona
I love the nature, especially the awesome rock climbing at Kustavi in the Archipelago. Warm and light summer nights, and sauna followed by swimming in clear lakes. ~ Suvi
I love the nature! Forests, lakes, summer cottage and the archipelago. Sailing, camping, cross country skiing and the clean air and water.
I love that Finnish people are renowned for their honesty, trust, reliability, modesty and sisu- a determination to overcome adversity. Everything in the country works so well, and our social service system looks after us. ~ Jade
A few of my favourite things
Tradition: Midsummer bonfires during Juhannus
Food: Karelian pie- traditional pastries made with rice pudding
Drink: Finnish gin (of which there are many delicious varieties) and glögi- Finnish mulled wine
Activity: cross country skiing- I tried this for the first time when I visited Lapland and fell in love with it!
Past-time: Sauna! It didn’t take me long to see why Fins are crazy about sauna. It’s such a relaxing activity, that I now try and enjoy one a few times a week.
Natural aspect: lakes surrounded by thick wild forests. When it comes to bodies of water I’m normally an ocean person, but there’s something about lakes in Finland that is enchanting.
City aspect: the stunning architecture in Helsinki. I adore the variety of colours, detailed designs and turrets embellishing many city buildings.
Daily life: the public transport network in Helsinki astounds me. It. is. So. Good. And cheap. In winter I use a combination of buses, trams, trains and metro, and in summer the city is smaller enough and flat enough to bike or walk.
Practicality as a tourist: As mentioned above- Helsinki is very walk-able so you can see a lot of the city in a short time. Also, pretty much EVERYONE in Helsinki speaks near perfect English.
Finnish personality trait: Sisu. This video perfectly explains the concept. “Life is hard, but so am I.”
There are over 50 museums in Finland’s capital! These are 5 of my favourites.
Fins love museums. So much so, that there are over 50 museums in Helsinki alone!
If you are visiting Finland for an extended period of time then is it well worth purchasing a 1 year museum pass for 69€. This will give you entrance to 34 museums in Helsinki and whooping 280 across the country. This is great value when you consider many of the museums charge upwards of 15€ for a single visit. For more information on this pass visit the official site here.
Alternatively, if you’re only visiting for a short stay or can’t afford an annual pass, there are regular free museum days, which I’ve listed below. Additionally, many museums are free on certain days throughout the year. These include International Museum Day (18 May), Helsinki Day(12 June) and Night of the Arts (late August).
A final tip is that many of the museums in Helsinki are closed on Mondays.
Here are my favourite 5 museums in Helsinki
1. Amos Rex
This is by far my favourite museum in Finland! Colourful, interactive and captivating, the museum is a must for anyone interested in any form of visual art. As it’s so popular, lines can be very long when a new exhibit is showing. As its best experienced without crowds try and pick a quiet time to visit, such as early afternoon on a week day.
Single Visit Cost: 18€
2. The National museum
Close to the center of town by Töölöö Bay, this museum building itself is very grand, and forms a prominent component of Helsinki’s skyline. The collection centers around Finland’s history from medieval times to the 19th century and is both a fascinating insight to the national identity and intriguing window to the past.
Single Visit Cost: 12€
Open 7 days a week; 11am-6pm and Wednesday until 8pm
Free day: Fridays between 4 pm – 6 pm
3. Kiasma: Contemporary Art Museum
Centrally located near the railway station, the collection at this museum is diverse and thought provoking. There are several levels with different temporary exhibitions in each, with the top floor offering stunning views out the city amid different coloured strobe lights.
Single Visit Cost: 14€
Free day: first Friday of the month
4. HAM: Helsinki Art Museum
You’ll find this museum in Tennispalatsi – an old tennis stadium next to the Kamppi shopping mall. The exhibits are modern and contemporary in style and entirely not my thing. I just didn’t get it. I’m sure others feel differently.
Single Visit Cost: 12€
Free day: the last Friday of every month
This is a ‘classic museum with a twist’. Housing the largest collection of classical art in all of Finland, including the odd Van Gogh, this was more my style of museum. The building itself, just across from the train station is also imposingly elegant.
Single Visit Cost: 17€
Free day: seemingly random free days, see their website for details
Helsinki’s Kallio district is one of the trendiest areas of Finland’s capital, with a bunch of ridiculously cool cafes, bars and vintage stores. Here’s 10 brunch spots you’ll want to try for yourself.
Saturday brunch or brunssi in Finnish is a tradition I’ve all too happily embraced in my new home. Brunch buffets are very popular in Helsinki, featuring an extensive and decadent array of savoury and sweet treats. While the buffets can be quite expensive (20€-30€), many cafes also serve smaller “breakfast sets” that may interest you if you’re looking to save money or have eaten in the past 24 hours!
Helsinki’s Kallio district is one of the trendiest areas of Finland’s capital, boasting a stack of ridiculously cool cafes, bars, vintage stores and saunas. This makes the district the perfect place to spend a lazy Saturday, indulging in brunch and exploring the neighbourhood. If you’re looking for something to do in Kallio, have a look at this post.
Here are 10 brunch spots in Kallio you’ll want to try for yourself.
Breakfast at The Way
Delicious Finnish pastries
Hard boiled eggs with a smile
1. The Way
With hearty slabs of freshly baked bread, thick slices of ham and cheese, hard boiled eggs with cute faces, excellent coffee and a delicious selection of sweet options, this place is a must visit. If you come for a late breakfast it’s pretty tempting to stay for a few hours and trade your coffee for wine as the bakery becomes a wine bar in the afternoon.
Location: Agricolankatu 9
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 7.30-midnight, Sun 9am-3pm
Cost: starting at 5€ for soft-boiled eggs with sourdough bread and churned butter, this place is budget friendly
One of the few places that serves poached eggs in Helsinki, don’t let the name put you off! This place is cute and cosy with indoor plants hanging from the ceiling and upcycled jar light fittings. The coffee and glogi is also spot on.
Location: Flemingkatu 7
Opening Hours:Mon-Tue 8am-2pm, Wed-Fri 8am-2pm and 5pm-10pm, Sat 10am-3pm, 5pm-11pm, Sun 10am-3pm
Tucked away in a corner just off the main street, Helsinginkatu, this cafe is super cosy and serves one of the best brunches in Kallio. This is particularly a favourite in winter as most of their dishes are hot. There’s also a great dessert table and at 20€ it’s very good value for Helsinki.
Location: Kaarlenkatu 15
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 7.30am-5pm, Sat 10am-3pm, Sun closed
An absolute Helsinki institution. There are now a bunch of these restaurants around the capital but the one in Kallio was the first and in my opinion the best. The food is heavily influence by Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African cuisines, particularly Moroccan. There’s a huge array of salads and warm dishes and a whole table dedicated to dessert. There’s also many vegan and vegetarian options and weekend brunch comes with a mimosa!
Tip: on weekdays the brunch is around a third of the price as on weekends and while there is no dessert table the savoury food is nearly identical.
Location: Kolmas Linja 17
Opening Hours: Brunch is served 12-4pm Saturday and Sunday and you often need a reservation. They also do amazing a la carte dinners.
Cost: at 30€ for weekend brunch this is the most expensive brunch I’ve had in Helsinki
This beautiful cafe is described by the owners as “a shared living room in the neighbourhood, a cosy place for starting the day or stopping for lunch“ and it definitely feels that way. Split over two levels, with huge glass windows and a large indoor plant vine extending up the stairwell and draped around the top floor balcony, the cafe feels like the open plan living space of my dreams. It’s famous for its slow cooked porridge, freshly baked bread and delicious coffee. On Saturdays they serve “a hefty brunch” from 11-3pm.
Location: Porthaninkatu 13
Opening Hours:Mon-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat 11am-4pm, Sun closed
This is such a vegetarian institution in Kallio that my landlord made a point of mentioning it when I moved into district. As well an extensive daily brunch they also have a large range of coffee alternatives, including matcha, chai, turmeric and even spruce lattes!
Brunch is served from 11am daily and unlike most places in Helsinki, you pay by the weight of food on your plate instead of all you can eat.
Location: Toinen Linja 7
Opening Hours:Mon-Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 11am-6pm, Sun closed
Buying second-hand is a great way to help the environment and your finances. As such, three years ago I decided to only buy second-hand clothing. You can read more about why here.
In Finland there is a wonderful mindset of re-using and recycling, so it’s not surprising that there is a flourishing second-hand economy. This includes numerous second-hand shops and chains, vintage stores, active social media marketplace groups and outdoor flea markets.
Here are 5 of the best second-hand stores in Helsinki
1. The Recycle Centre- Kierrätyskeskus
Located in the Kyläsaari area of the Hermanni district, this huge two story center has amazing bargains. From books to glassware and kitchen utensils, clothing, craft supplies, electronics and furniture, there’s something for everyone. The prices are cheaper than you’ll find elsewhere in Helsinki and the range is extensive. Additionally, there are two large sheds at the front of the building with free items.
In the popular street Iso Roobertinkatuof Helsinki’s design district Punavuori you’ll find this enticing store. They stock a range of unique and well priced vintage clothes, shoes, books and glassware.
Another chain with many stores throughout Helsinki. Similar to Recci, there are regular sales, with slightly different deals each day during sale week. The store with the best range of clothing, especially vintage, is on Fredrikinkatu in Punavuori.
This gorgeous cafe also houses a beautiful second-hand market. In contrast to the chain stores above, booth spaces are rented out in a flea-market type setup. The first store is in Toolo, with a newer shop opening in Punavuori.