The Best Hidden Cafe in Helsinki

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.

 

 

Traditional Finnish Lakeside Camping: how to reach Nuuksio National Park by public transport

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.
Nuuksio-07312
Nuuksio-07096

Getting from Helsinki to Nuuksio bus stop

  1. 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.
  2. From the Central Railway Station catch the U, I or E train to Espoo. These run frequently and the journey is around 25 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. Take the bus to either ‘Haukkalammentie’ (third last stop) or ‘Katilla’ (last stop) depending on the route chosen below.
  5. 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.

Nuuksio-07069
Haukkalampi

1. Holma-Saarijärvi

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.

2. Iso-Holma

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
  • For more information visit the National Park website

 

 

Exploring Cornwall: 5 things to in England’s southwest

Cornwall has been on my must visit list for many years. As well as my general love for all things associated with the sea and coastlines, I was an avid reader of Rosamunde Pilcher’s novels- most of which are set in Cornwall.

When I finally visited the south western corner of England I was blown away by the natural beauty and character of the region. Here are the five things I loved exploring the most in Cornwall.

1. Explore Penzance

Penzance is the most westerly major town in Cornwall and is full of winding, hilly streets, Cornish pasty bakeries and picturesque views. The town also has a beautiful ocean swimming pool- The Jubilee Sea Pool.

2. Climb St. Michael’s Mount

Perched on the top of an island, the Castle of St. Michael’s Mount and offers superb views of the bay. Owned by the St Aubyn family since 1650, entrance fees (£16) go towards the upkeep of the castle and grounds.

At low tide you can walk across a stone causeway to the island, while at high tide there are frequent boats to ferry you across, for a small fee.

Marazion- the town at the base of St. Michael’s Mount is also worth spending time exploring.

3. Wander around tiny village of Gulval

This quaint little town is set back from the coast and only a short walk from Penzance. You’ll find charming streets, a beautiful old church with a garden full of towering trees and fields of wheat and chamomile.

 

4. Explore Newlyn and Mousehole

In the other direction to Gulval, are the coastal towns of Newlyn and further along the bay Mousehole. These are both really picturesque and full of little cafes and art galleries.

5. Relax at stunning Porthcurno

Porthcurno is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. A short walk from the bus stop, the sandy cove provides the perfect spot to relax and take a dip in the sea.

The stretch of coastline on either side of the beach is equally stunning and there’s a coastal walking track along the cliff top to nearby bays and towns. Local buses travel frequently between Porthcuno, Penzance and Land’s End.

Exploring Bratislava on foot: 5 things to do in Slovakia’s capital

I spent four days exploring the old town and surrounds of Bratislava and it was such a welcome shift of pace from nearby Vienna and Budapest. It’s quite a compact city so getting around by walking is perfect.

Here are five things I loved exploring on foot in Slovakia’s capital.

DSC03052

 

 

1. Climb up to the castle and have a drink overlooking the old town

After exploring the castle and gardens, head to the castle wall for unparalleled views, then grab a drink at the restaurant Reštaurácia Hrad where you can have a cocktail overlooking the old town. Drinks are similarly priced to elsewhere in the city but the food is relatively expensive.

2. Watch the sunset over the Danube and old town from above

For around 7€ you can go up the UFO Observation Deck where the views at sunset are worth every cent. There’s also a restaurant and bar at the top- you’ll need to book for the restaurant and prices are more than in the old town- but the view compensates!

3. Walk to the colorful Hotel Galeria Spirit and Blue Church

If you like unique tourist attractions then head to these colorful sites. The Hotel Galeria is a quirky colorful hotel of many angles and levels located 30 minutes walk from the castle. The Blue Church of St. Elizabeth is located on the far eastern side of the old town, around 25 minutes from the castle.

4. See the Slavin Monument

On the way back from the Hotel Galeria and up quite a hill, you’ll find this Slavic monument overlooking the city and river. It’s a memorial and burial ground for Soviet soldiers who died in WWII.

5. Wander the old town and try traditional Slovakian food

As is often the case when exploring, one of the best thing to do in an old town is to wander the maze like streets with no set plans and see what you find. There are plenty of restaurants to try traditional Slovakian food- my favorite was Segnerova Kúria.

 

DSC03237

Have you been to Bratislava? What was your favorite thing to explore on foot?

My favourite thing about Venice: Bacari

DSC04242-2

Venice is famed for being a city of water- of canals over streets. A place of romantic waterways lined with colorful buildings and gondolas flowing past- helmed by iconic blue and red striped gondoliers. A place serenely without cars. A place with beautiful and unique sights at every turn. Where pigeons flutter through the squares and artists make exquisite masks, glassware, lace and other art that is renowned throughout the world for it’s taste and near perfect craftsmanship.

DSC04226DSC04148

While I love all these aspects of Venice, there’s one thing that I love even more- the ubiquitous Bacari.

 

Bacari are the Venetian version of Tapas bars– places where locals and tourists alike take a small afterwork or post sightseeing drink and snack to recharge. Spritz and wine are the drinks of choice and are accompanied by small cicchetti– bite sized nibbles which are usually toasted baguette slices topped with delicious fish, cheese or cured meats.

There’s a range of bacari in Venice, with my favourite being the tiny traditional type that don’t look overly appealing from the outside but are full of delicious cheap eats that you enjoy standing. During my stay in Venice, my favourite thing was to explore as many bacari as possible.

Here are seven that I loved.

DSC04216

 

Bacareto da Lele & Arcicchetti Bakaro

Bacareto da Lele is the cheapest, most traditional and probably the most popular bacaro in Venice. A small wine is .70€ and a plate of traditional cicchetti of salami, cheese and bread sticks will set you back a whooping 1.6€.

But it’s actually the bar next door that’s my favorite. Arcicchetti Bakaro has a wide range of delicious toastie cicchetti for 1€ and wine for the same price. There’s often a line during the evening so try and get there in the afternoon.

On sunny evenings students take their drinks and snacks from both bars to sit on the steps of the Tolentini church or the banks of the canal.

Cantine del Vino già Schiavi  & Osteria al Squero

The location of these bars sets them apart from all the others I tried. Nested by the Rio de S. Trovaso canal in the Dorsoduro sestieri (district), these bacari offer the tempting option of taking your drinks and cicchetti out in the evening sun where you can perch on the walls overlooking the canal. At 1.2€ the cicchetti is slightly cheaper at the Cantine than Osteria and they also have an extensive range of wine on offer.

 

Bacarando

This was the first bacaro I visited and my initial awe of the place held up. They have a range of yum toasties for 1.8€, fried mozzarella blackened with squid ink (amazing!) and spritz for 3.5€. There’s also a nice courtyard and plenty of room inside to sit.

 

Bar All’Arco

Touted as the best bacaro in Venice, but lacking in comparison to the above options in my opinion. Cicchetti are 2€ and wine is 3€. It’s not bad and the two or three seats outside provide a nice vantage for people watching.

 

Bacaro Risorto

This place has a few seats inside with picturesque windows opening out to an intersection of lane-ways outside. There are also a few seats outside and lively music playing. Loo. Cicchetti are 1.5€ but spritz is a little expensive at 4€.

 

Enjoy! And if you’ve been to Venice- what’s your favourite bacaro?

The 10 Best Places For Brunch In Helsinki’s Kallio District

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.

This post has moved here.

Visit my new site at cazalye.com

rafting_cinematic-1

Helsingør: a Perfect Day Trip from Copenhagen

Possibly my favourite experience in Denmark was a day trip to Helsingør. The picturesque coastal town is home to Kronberg castle- Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet, and a beautiful old town which feels remarkably peaceful after Copenhagen’s busy streets.

One my favourite experiences in Denmark was a day trip to Helsingør, or Elsinore in English. A train from Copenhagen to Helsingør takes around 40 minutes and will set you back 15€ (100 Danish Krone) each way.

This picturesque coastal town is home to Kronberg Castle– Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet. Helsingør also boasts a beautiful old town, which feels remarkably peaceful after Copenhagen’s busy streets. Large green-topped churches provide a pretty backdrop for the skyline.

A relatively new addition to the town is the Culture Yard which houses a superb library, cafes, communal spaces, a rooftop lookout and many events both. The center is located next to the restored harbour area. At the back of the Yard you’ll find an indoor/outdoor food market with a large range of delicious food and drink.

Here are some of my photos from this wonderful day trip

 

The Old Town

Old town HelsingørHelsingørHelsingørHelsingør

 

 

 

The Harbour

Helsingør HabourHelsingør Habour

Helsingør Habour
My kind of place
My kind of place

 

 

 

The Culture Yard

Culture Yard HelsingorCulture Yard HelsingorCulture Yard Helsingor\Culture Yard Helsingor

 

 

 

Kronberg Castle

Kronberg CastleKronberg CastleKronberg Castle

 

If you’re looking for other day trips from Copenhagen, why not visit the beautiful town of Odense- famed as the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen. Find out more here.