November in ancient Finnish literally translates to ‘death month’. And it’s really not hard to see why. The beautiful autumn leaves have disappeared, it becomes darker, wetter and colder by the day, and you start to forget what the sun looks like. To ward of the inevitable gloomy feelings of this time of year, I decided to spend some afternoons trying a bunch of hot chocolates around Helsinki. Here are five places downtown that I absolutely loved… and one that I was pretty darn disappointed with!
1. Ihana Kahvia Baari
Another little Finnish lesson- Ihana 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 on hot chocolate; a regular one, a white hot chocolate and a 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, these are a bargain.
Opening Hours: variable, but generally 10.00-19.00 Mon-Sat and Sundays take your luck
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. At 5.50€ the price is relatively high but worth it as the hot chocolate is velvety thick, tastes like real chocolate and is served in a huge bucket cup. I also got 2 little chocolates from their extensive cabinet selection for 1.5€ each, again, pretty expensive but this is Helsinki! If chai latte is more your type of hot drink they had a pretty great 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
3. Paulig Kulma
I love the modern yet cosy vibe of this place, especially the fun swinging seats upstairs! They have two types of hot chocolate, a regular one and a vegan raw chocolate option with oat milk, raw cacao, coconut oil and sugar, matcha and other yummy goodness. It was deliciously thick and smooth, with just the right amount of coconut taste! They also serve a great, mainly vegetarian brunch on weekends and a plethora of tempting sweet snacks.
Cost: 4.20€ regular or 4.90€ raw
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 7.30-20.00, Sat 9.00-20.00, Sun 10.00-20.00
This was one of the first buildings I fell in love with when I moved to Helsinki. It’s just so damn pretty! It’s especially lovely on a gloomy evening when the endless glass windows are lit up in creamy peach tones. With huge chandeliers and turreted corner seats, it feels a little magical and like a treat special from childhood. While the hot chocolate itself is nothing special, the fact that it’s served in a tall glass, in an ever so elegant atmosphere of grand pianos and floor to ceiling windows, makes it a must stop for warding off winter blues. It’s also the cheapest hot chocolate I’ve found in Helsinki.
Opening Hours: 10.00 – midnight daily
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 Helsinki cathedral. If you get a seat by the window then the unparalleled view is worth the hefty cost of their hot 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
And finally… where NOT to go:
I was quite disappointed about this because aside from salted licorice (salmiakki- seriously acquired taste!), Fazer chocolate is a Finnish favourite and rightly so, it’s delicious! While the cafe has a huge selection of beautifully wrapped chocolates and sweets, and a delicious range of pastries, the hot chocolate was pretty terrible. First off, there were no variations- I was hoping for some variety or novelty or something a bit special from a chocolate maker. But alas, just regular and then one with whipped cream. Next, my hot chocolate came in a mug with a chipped saucer, and finally the taste was average at best and I actually felt a little ill after it. There was nothing I’d come back for and I was particularly disappointed as I’d read online that there were 6 different hot chocolate options. I guess the place has changed in the last few years. What a shame!
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 7.30-22.00, Saturday 9.00-22.00, Sunday 10.00- 18.00