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
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.