While I love to travel and explore new places, there’s nothing quite like a relaxing weekend at home! These days I’m pretty damn lucky to call the Helsinki district of Kallio home, and after living here for a year I thought I’d share some things I love about this beautiful, vibrant suburb.
Only 1 km 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 is now home to many artists, students and other young adults. There’s a definite bohemian feel to the area and a bunch of perfect little cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and parks to enjoy. Here’s my top ten things to do around Kallio.
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.
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 as well as enjoying the many events in the park, including clothes markets where you can sell your clothes during the ‘spring clean’ days without needing to pay any fee. There’s also food markets like restaurant day when anyone can sell food they cook. At Christmas time you can buy perfect little Christmas trees from the park and there is a large Christmas tree light up for the festive season.
I love brunch. And coffee… hot chocolates… sweet treats… savoury treats. So living in Kallio is wonderfully convenient and somewhat bad for the budget and waistline as brunches are normally all you can eat and relatively expensive (eating out in Finland in general is very expensive). But the brunches are so good I love to indulge every fortnight or so. Some favourites include Bergga (opposite Bear Park) for brunch, Good Life for coffee and breakfast, and Rupla or Sandros for slightly more expensive yet extensive brunches and dinners. There’s also a new place Vaino Kallio which I’m excited to try.
Be warned that on Sundays many cafes in Helsinki don’t open at all, and those that do rarely open their doors before 11am. Thus, brunch is much more a Saturday activity.
4. Browse gorgeous vintage & homeware shops
Kallio is full of perfect little shops with ever so tempting wares. My favourite vintage store is Frida Marina, located on the corner of Castreninkatu and Kaarlenkatu this store includes gorgeous vintage dresses spanning many decades, as well as a more modern flea market section and giftware section. Another favourite ‘things’ shop is Hood, where I got this beautiful necklace that was once a spoon. Both these stores are open Saturday but not Sunday- as with many stores in Helsinki that are outside the main tourist areas.
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. If you’re a Helsinki resident you can get a free library card for the many Helsinki Metropolitan Area Libraries (Helmet) located throughout the city. The Kallio library is open every day through spring (opening hours here) and you can easily reserve items online or in person. I’ve so far found several gems amongst the welcoming shelves of this building- like some Ursula Le Guin books I’d somehow never read. For a unique read by a Finnish author, I highly recommend The City of Woven Streets by Emmi Itäranta, who wrote the fantasy novel simultaneously in Finnish and English.
6. Stroll down to Hakaniemi market
A quick 5 minute walk down the hill from the Kallio Church is the famous Hakaniemi market. Built in 1914, the original market hall is now closed as it’s undergoing renovations. I assume the market will move back inside the original building once this is completed, but for now the market is located next door in a much more modern temporary hall in the Hakaniemi market square. The market has everything from traditional Finnish gifts, to fresh flowers and food (organic, so expect high prices) and little cafes. I love it! It’s open every day except Sunday. During the week from 8am-8pm and on Saturday from 8am-6pm. During the warmer months there is also an outdoor market in the square next to the market hall. Here you’ll find fresh produce including vegetables, many types of berries, cheese, salami, fish and little cafes in tents serving traditional Finnish food. In summer there’s also a flea market on the first Sunday of the month.
7. Go Ice skating
In winter my favourite place to skate is the Brahe sports field (Brahenkenttä). In summer it’s an artificial soccer pitch and in winter an ice rink. 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 much less busy than the smaller tourist rink next to the train station in town. Usually, half the rink is dedicated for casual ice hockey games and the other for skating. There’s change rooms, skate rental and a kiosk to refuel after skating.
8. Visit Linnanmäki
Whether you’re a big kid yourself or have kids to entertain, this amusement park will provide hours of entertainment. It’s the oldest and most popular amusement park in Finland and has over 40 rides, including a wooden rollercoaster built in 1951. Located on top of a hill at the border of Kallio and Alppila the park is has impressive views amidst a leafy green setting. 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.
9. Learn to make pottery with Finnish wild clay
Last year I took a one day pottery course from Eva at Udumbara Helsinki. Eva runs regular workshops at her studio in the heart of Kallio at Kaarlenkatu. It was an amazingly fun hands on experience to use Finnish ‘wild clay’ to make my own pot plants- I wrote a separate blog about it here. Eva also makes beautiful bowls, wine coolers, tea cups and tea pots which can be purchased at her studio and various boutiques around Helsinki.
10. Have a Sauna
Possibly my favouite Finnish tradition is the love of steaming in a sauna. Apparently there’s over 3 million saunas in Finland- pretty impressive for a country of 5 million people. Like most buildings, our apartment has a sauna which we can use once a week and I also love having a sauna after a gym workout. Saunas are found at pretty much any place where there are change rooms and showers in Finland. There’s also a heap of public saunas including several in Kallio, like Kotiharjun Sauna and Sauna Arla, which is right next to Eva’s pottery studio.
Often the public saunas have separate designated times for men and women as Finns sauna naked.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight to my neighbourhood- I’d love to hear about your favourite thing to do in Kallio!