Three Helsinki Market Halls You’ll Want to Visit

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.

The temporary market hall in winter
The temporary market hall in winter

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!

 

5 of the Best Museums in Helsinki

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€

Closed Tuesday

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€

Closed Monday

Free day: first Friday of the month

Kiasma Museum

Inside Kiasma Museum

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€

Closed Monday

Free day: the last Friday of every month

5. Anteneum

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€

Closed Monday

Free day: seemingly random free days, see their website for details

Anteneum museum

Which is your favourite museum in Helsinki?

 

 

The Best Places for Book Lovers in Helsinki

Finland lays claim to the highest literacy rates world-wide. So it’s not surprising that Helsinki is a paradise for book lovers. Here’s 7 of my favourite places to visit when I want to get lost amidst pages of adventure.

Finland lays claim to being the nation with highest literacy rates in the world, so it’s no surprise that a love of books and libraries are an integral part of the country. As well as beautiful libraries, Helsinki is also home to many charming antique and international bookstores.

Here are 7 places in Helsinki that will spark the imagination of book lovers the world over

old world map

1. Oodi: Helsinki Central Library

The newest edition to Helsinki’s libraries, Oodi opened on Independence Day in December 2018. The state-of-the-art library was a centenary gift to the citizens of Finland from the government.

The building itself is unique and eye-catching, featuring a top level completely enclosed in glass. Not only does the library house an extensive literary collection but it also serves as a recreational melting pot. There are spaces for children to play, virtual reality gaming rooms, music recording studios, crafting and sewing areas and high tech media stations.

The result is a relaxing and stimulating meeting place, with indoor plants and amazing views to boot.

Location: Kansalaistori square

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm

More info here

2. The National Library

Located directly across from the Helsinki Cathedral, the National library is a truly amazing and humbling experience for any book-lover.

Shelves are stacked high with every type of book imaginable and the views from window-ined reading nooks are enchanting.

Location: Unioninkatu 36

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, except Wednesday 9am-8pm. Closed on weekends.

More info

3. The Kallio library

Housed in a huge old redbrick building at the top of Porthaninkatu, this three story library has sweeping staircases and huge widows looking out over Bear Park.

Location: Viides linja 11

Opening hours: Mon-Thur 8am-8pm, Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 12-6pm

More Info

4. Arkadia International Bookshop

This place is not only a fantastic international bookstore but a place for scientific talks, philosophical discussions, board games and generally relaxing in a cosy atmosphere.

Location: Nervanderinkatu 11

Opening hours: Tue-Fri 12-7pm, Sat 12-6pm, Sun-Mon closed

More Info

5. Hagelstam Antiques

This antique bookstore has shelf upon shelf overflowing with old and rare books, maps and prints. While most are in Finnish, it still feels like a treasure trove of hidden, long lost literally gems.

Location: Fredrikinkatu 35

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat 11am-4pm, Sun closed

More Info

 

 

6. Nide Bookstore

Just next door to Hagelstam Antiques you’ll find this charming bookstore. Full of bright modern books (and classics) that I couldn’t help but touch and flick through. I wanted to buy most of the store and could spend days here. The perfect spot to find a gift for a friend or a new read.

Location: Fredrikinkatu 35

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun closed

More Info

 

7. Sivukirjasto

There’s something about having a glass of wine amidst old books that soothes my soul. Even if most of the book-lined shelves contain Finnish titles. The drinks are also well priced for Helsinki standards.

Location: Fleminginkatu 5

Opening hours: Mon-Thur 2pm-2am, Fri-Sun 12-2am

More Info

 

5 unique off-the-beaten-track cafes in Helsinki

If you saw my post yesterday about quitting coffee, you’ll know that Finland holds the bragging rights to the nation that drinks the most coffee! So it’s not surprising that in Finland’s capital you’ll find a huge range of cafes, which (luckily for me) also offer many other delicious drinks and snacks aside from coffee. If you want to branch out a little from the mainstream downtown cafes then try one of my favourite 5 cafes below. All are located in neighbourhoods surrounding the city center, but also far enough away to feel like you’ve stumbled into a hidden haven. Oh, each cafe also has ridiculously cool decor & vibes.

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1. Regatta: a nautical themed cafe open 365 days a year

This place is an institution and it’s not hard to see why. With an incredibly cute (but tiny) interior, complete with all sorts of vintage nautical decor, outdoor seating with post-card worthy water views, and an open fire where you can cook sausages, this place has it all. They have delicious (and very well priced) sweet and savoury snacks and a great range of hot drinks including coffee, several types of hot chocolate, warm juice and glogi. But possibly the thing I love most about this cafe is that it’s open every day of the year. This is particularly noteworthy in Helsinki where many cafes open late on weekends and often not at all on Sundays.

Hours: 8am-9pm daily

Location: Merikannontie 8

 

 

 

2. Relove: cakes, coffee & second hand shopping

This is one of my favourite cafes in Helsinki, not only because they serve beautiful cakes and one whole wall is dedicated to plants, but also because most of the space is a second-hand store. The racks are divided into slots for people to sell their no longer wanted clothes and shoes, and you can often find great bargains. A section of the store is also dedicated to beautiful homewares and body products.

Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm

Location: Sandelsinkatu 6

 

 

 

3. Bon Temps: French vibes in Meilahti

This cafe is the perfect place to relax with a hot drink and freshly baked pulla, amidst good music and chic decor. As well as their delicious home-made pastries, there’s also hot and cold daily lunches (with vegetarian options) for around 10€.

Hours:  Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 9am-4.30pm

Location: Mannerheimintie 132

 

 

 

4. Roots: environmentally friendly food & decor

This vegan cafe does a perfect sized, delicious and healthy breakfast set and also serves pretty cakes, smoothies and hot drinks. But it’s the upcycled decor that I love most about the place. There’s also a yoga studio attached to the cafe.

Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 10am-7pm

Location: Vaasankatu 14

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5. Helsinki Coffee roasters (Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo): the best coffee in a creative setting

If you’re looking for excellent coffee with inspiring upcycled decor you can’t go past this place. Love, love, love!

Hours: Mon-Fri 7.30am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm

Location: Päijänteentie 29

 

 

 

The 5 Best Places for Hot Chocolate in Downtown Helsinki

Coffee brewer
There’s nothing like a hot drink to warm you up in winter

Winters in Helsinki are magical- white snowy landscapes, frozen seas, skiing, skating, Christmas trees, cosy interiors and delicious hot chocolate!

However before the snow arrives, October and November can be quite dreary and a little depressing. Drizzly rain, grey clouds and ever darkening days seem to be in endless supply.

I’ve found one of the best ways to ward of the gloomy November feeling has been to take some indulgent time to myself, snuggled in a cosy cafe with a good book and delicious hot drink. If that sounds like your kind of scene then this post is for you!

Here are five of the best places to get a hot chocolate in downtown Helsinki

Winter in Helsinki
Winter in Helsinki

1. Ihana Kahvia Baari

Ihana in Finnish means lovely or wonderful, and this place definitely lives up to it’s name! Located in the Kluuvi area of town, this cafe provides a cosy vintage atmosphere, a huge variety of music nights and the most delicious thick Italian hot chocolate.

They also have a few other variations- white hot chocolate, original and chili hot chocolate. Then there’s their range of mouth watering cakes, savoury treats, wine, beer and glogi in winter. By far my number one spot in central Helsinki to brighten up a gloomy November day!

Cost: at 4.50€ for a huge cup of any of their hot chocolates

Opening Hours:  variable, but generally 10.00-19.00 Mon-Sat and Sundays take your luck

More Info: here

2. Cafe Neuhaus

This specialty chocolate shop definitely delivers the goods in terms of chocolates and hot drinks. Unfortunately the atmosphere is a little lacking. The price is also relatively high but worth it as the hot chocolate is velvety thick, delicious and served in a huge bucket cup.

If chai latte is more your type of hot drink they have a bargain deal for a croissant and chai for 4.50€.

Cost: 5.50€ for a bucket size

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10.00-19.00, Sat-Sun 10.00-18.00

More Info: here

3. Paulig Kulma

This cafe has a modern, cosy, fun vibe, especially with the swinging chairs upstairs! There are two types of hot chocolate, a regular one and a vegan raw chocolate option. They also have a tempting selection of sweet snack and serve a great, mainly vegetarian brunch on weekends.

Cost: 4.20€ regular or 4.90€ raw option

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 7.30-20.00, Sat 9.00-20.00, Sun 10.00-20.00

More Info: here

4. Kappeli

Housed in one of my favourite buildings in Helsinki, visiting this cafe is a magical experience- there are huge chandeliers, floor to ceiling windows and even turreted corner seats. The cafe is especially inviting on a gloomy evening, when the windows are lit up in creamy peach tones.

While the hot chocolate itself is nothing special, the fact that it’s served in a tall elegant glass, amidst such a charming atmosphere more than compensates. It was also the cheapest hot chocolate I found in Helsinki.

Cost: 3.80€

Opening Hours: 10.00 – midnight daily

More Info: here

Kappeli

5. Cafe Engel

This rather fancy cafe is somewhat of an institution in Helsinki. Their hot chocolate is delicious and just sweet enough without being overpowering.

But the main draw-card is the view of senate square and the Helsinki Cathedral. If you get a seat by the window the unparalleled view is worth the hefty cost of their drinks.

Cost: 5.90€ with whipped cream

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 8:00-21:00, Sat 9:00-21:00, Sun 10:00-19:00

More Info: here

What is your favourite place for hot chocolate in Helsinki?

 

Five reasons to visit Finland

By far the most common question I get asked when I meet people these days is “why Finland?”  For me, Finland represented something completely foreign and unknown, at the extreme opposite end of the world from my home town. So beside the unique medical research opportunities available in Helsinki, the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone into the ‘scary unknown’ was the main reason I chose to move here.

A year later the county was voted as #1 place to live in the world and I’m not at all surprised. Finland has a lot going for it- immense natural beauty, enviable equality, excellent infrastructure, job opportunities and a great standard of living. But if you’re more interested in a passing visit then permanent relocation there’s still a bunch of reasons to put Finland at the top of your bucket list. Here’s five.

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1. The Architecture in Helsinki is truly amazing

Those boys weren’t lying (non-Aussies see this). A year and a half later and I still can’t get over the shear beauty and ornate details of the buildings of Finland’s capital. There’s a huge range of beautiful colors, shapes and styles, with many buildings sporting turrets, painted details or other decorative flair. Helsinki is quite a compact city, so exploring on foot is ideal in the warmer months. In winter, the extensive tram network makes for a great way to explore slightly further afield.

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2. Finnish Traditions are quirky and unique (as are the people)

The Finnish personality type is quite an acquired taste and while it can be hard to meet new people in a land full of introverts, I’ve also enjoyed the personal space and general acceptance Finnish people emanate. Then there is sisu. An innate characteristic of all Finns, best described as suffering on in silence no matter what, or as Wikipedia generously puts it “stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience and hardiness”.

And the traditions. From their love affair with saunas (and the subsequent ice swims/snow frolics), to mid-summer (Juhannus) bonfires and midnight sun, Vappu celebrations- where everyone barbecues and drinks in the city park whilst wearing white school caps (even the statue of Havis Amanda is ceremoniously adorned with one) and crazy coloured overalls, to the dark rye dessert of Mämmi and dressing up as witches at Easter, Finland has some damn fun traditions!

3. The Nature is beautiful and ever so peaceful

Forests, lakes, islands, large rocky outcrops, immense peace and quite. Finland has the best of all these things and the Finns really know how to make the most of nature, particularly during the month-long summer holiday of July when the country practically shuts down and everyone escapes to their summer cottages.

4. Lapland: Finland’s far north

Finland’s beautiful northern region is an amazing experience during both the cold winter months and summer- when a single day lasts for two months! For some ideas on what to do in Lapland check out this post.

5. Christmas is magical

Rovaniemi in southern Lapland is touted as the home of Santa- and there’s definitely a strong spirit of Christmas cheer and festive experiences to be enjoyed in the town- especially the reindeer parks and Santa Claus Village. In Helsinki and other cities around the country, Christmas markets, twinkling lights and decorations make December feel bright and alive, despite the darkness and cold.

If you want to hear more about why you should visit Finland then keep an eye on my blog over the next 4 months, as I share a post every Friday post about my experiences and tips for exploring Finland!

Top 10 Things To Do In Helsinki’s Kallio District

On the northern side of Helsinki, Kallio is one of the edgier districts of Finland’s capital. Less than one kilometer from the city center, Kallio, which means ‘the rock’ in Finnish, was originally a working-class district and home to many factory workers.

It’s since undergone a degree of gentrification and the lively social scene and relatively cheap rent make the area an attractive home for students, new immigrants, artists and other creatives. There’s a definite bohemian feel to the district and no shortage of cosy cafes, trendy restaurants, lively bars, vintage shops and parks to enjoy.

Here are 10 of the best thing to do in Kallio

 

Kallio Pink Building frosted with snow
One of the beautiful buildings in Kallio on a winter’s day

 

 

 

1. Visit Kallio Church

By far the most iconic building in Kallio is the beautiful church perched atop Siltasaarenkatu. As this is one of the bigger hills of Helsinki the church is visible in all directions and always lets me know which way is home! Built between 1908-1912 by Lars Sonck the church is a sunning example of Art Noveau and National Romanticism. There’s also a nice cafe at the base of the church bearing Sonck’s name and frequently there are classical music concerts in the church.

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2. Enjoy Bear Park (Karhupuisto) and it’s Activities

A stone’s throw from the church, this park is at the heart of Kallio. In summer and spring it’s a perfect place to relax and soak up the sunshine. There are many events in the park, such as clothing markets, food festivals like restaurant day when anyone can sell food they cook and at Christmas time you can buy perfect little Christmas trees from the park.

 

3. Indulge in Brunch!

Brunch is an institution in Helsinki and there are are no shortage of cafes serving up delicious weekend brunches in Kallio. Check out this post for my favourite 10 brunch spots in Kallio. Just be aware that brunch is mainly a Saturday activity and many cafes don’t open on Sundays.

Brunch in Kallio
For 10 of the best brunch spots in Kallio see this post

4. Browse Vintage Stores

Kallio is full of second hand shops and vintage stores filled with hidden treasures. My favourite is Frida Marina on the corner of Castreninkatu and Kaarlenkatu. This store includes a selection of gorgeous vintage dresses, a more modern flea market section and a selection of unique gift-wares.

5. Fall in Love with the Library

I absolutely love books and old, beautiful buildings- so of course I’m very enchanted by the Kallio library – the perfect combination of the two. The library is open every day through spring (opening hours here). For a unique read by a Finnish author, I recommend The City of Woven Streets by Emmi Itäranta. She wrote the fantasy novel simultaneously in Finnish and English!

 

6. Stroll Down to Hakaniemi Market

A quick five minute walk down the hill from the Kallio Church is the famous Hakaniemi Market Hall. Built in 1914, the original market hall is currently closed as it’s undergoing renovations. While lacking the charm of the old hall, the new modern hall has a range of inviting cafes serving local dishes and a large selection of fresh organic produce, meat and fish. There’s also traditional Finnish gifts, homewares and flowers on offer.

The market hall is open every day except Sunday and during the warmer months there is also an outdoor market in the square next to the hall.

The outdoor Hakaniemi market in summer
The outdoor Hakaniemi market in summer

7. Go Ice skating

Brahe sports field (Brahenkenttä) is a soccer pitch in summer and an ice rink in winter! Compared to all other rinks I’ve tried in Helsinki, this rink is huge and costs only a few euro to use for the day. It’s also less crowded than other rinks and there are change rooms, skate rental and a kiosk.

 

8. Visit Linnanmäki

Whether you’re a big kid yourself or have kids to entertain, this amusement park will provide hours of fun.  It’s the oldest and most popular amusement park in Finland and has over 40 rides, including a wooden roller coaster built in 1951.

Owned by the Children’s Day Foundation, the amusement park raises funds for Finnish child welfare work, with the 2018 donation goal set at 4.5 million euros! The park is open daily in the warmer months and closes down for winter in October, which is marked by an amazing light show at the end of the season.

Linnanmäki covered in snow
Linnanmäki

9. Make Pottery with Finnish Wild Clay

Eva, the owner of Udumbara Helsinki runs regular workshops at her studio in the heart of Kallio on Kaarlenkatu. It’s an amazingly fun, hands on experience to use Finnish ‘wild clay’ to make your own pot plants or tea cups. Eva also makes beautiful bowls, wine coolers and tea pots which can be purchased at her studio and various boutiques around Helsinki.

Free form pots
Free form pots
Handmade Terracotta Pot
The end result

 

 

10. Have a Sauna

One of the most popular Finnish past-times is to relax in a steaming sauna. There are over three million saunas in Finland- pretty impressive for a country of only 5 million people! There are several public saunas in Kallio, including Kotiharjun Sauna and Sauna Arla.

Kallio Sauna
One of the famous Kallio saunas