JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH SANNI KOSUNEN FROM HELSINKI, FINLAND!
Sanni Kosunen is a local travel blogger and student, who has seen the world but is lucky to call Helsinki her home. When she was 16 years old, she went abroad and everything changed for her. She started loving new places, meeting new people and strongly questions the norms that tell them how they are supposed to behave and what they can and cannot do with their lives. She created the blog SanniIsSomewhere in order to inspire and help people in their travel dreams no matter how big or small they may be. Her blog focuses on budget travel and how it’s like to travel while studying full time.
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is situated on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland. The city was founded on the mouth of river Vantaa and it’s coastline spans over 315 islands. It is also popularly called the Daughter of Baltic.
The population of Helsinki is over 650,000 making it the biggest city in the entire country. Though Finnish and Swedish are the official languages, more than eighty percent people speak English in the capital.With one of the highest urban standards of living in the world, the city is also known as one of the best ten liveable cities in the world.
What is the best time to visit Helsinki?
The best time to visit Helsinki is during December, or in June or July depending on what you’re looking for from your trip. If you want to get into the holiday spirit during December, Helsinki is the perfect place for that purpose. December is also the busiest month in the city, so if you’d rather stay away from the packs of tourists I’d recommend visiting during the summer.
Summer is also very lively time, but the weather warm and more predictable. The weather is also the reason why I wouldn’t recommend visiting during Spring or Fall. Even though these seasons can be very beautiful in Helsinki, if you’re not in luck it may rain during your whole vacation.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Helsinki?
Within Helsinki the most commonly used methods of transportation are buses, metro and tram cars. All of these are very easy to use even for tourists, because there’s an app with which you can buy a ticket which is valid for all of the methods of transportation within the city of Helsinki. The metro is extremely simple, and all of the online public transportation services are available in English.
Helsinki Airport is one of the best airports in the world as far as accessibility to other international destinations is concerned. The easiest way to get to city centre from Helsinki Vantaa Airport is by using trains or taxis. Taxis are more expensive than in most countries, so I’d recommend taking the train instead. The train leaves from a stop called “Lentoasema” or Airport and it’s less than a hundred meters away from the actual airport. The trip to the city centre takes about half an hour.
What are the top three must visit places in Helsinki?
The top three places to visit in Helsinki are the Cathedrals, Suomenlinna sea fortress and Allas Sea Pool.
Finland’s complex history is quite visible in its cathedrals. The most famous cathedrals of Helsinki that you must visit are Helsinki Cathedral and Uspenski Cathedral. While the former is a symbol of Sweden’s influence, latter shows it’s strong history with Russia. Helsinki Cathedral is located right in the centre of Helsinki and it’s considered one of the most important sights in the city. Beautiful architecture, the famous long stairs and breathtaking paintings and poles on the inside make it worth of your precious time in this city. To know more about this cathedral, click here.
Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. It’s red bricks and 13 golden onion domes situated on a hillside of the Katajanokka peninsula overlooking Helsinki is a sight to behold. The bricks used to make this structure came from the Bomarsund fortress in Aland which got destroyed during the Crimean War. The inside of this church is however a lot smaller than the Helsinki Cathedral which can accommodate around 1300 worshippers in it.
Suomenlinna sea fortress on the other hand is an island in the coast of Helsinki. It is located only a kilometre off the coast from Helsinki and can be reached by a ferry. The ferry ride in itself can be a fun experience, especially in the summertime. This sea fortress has a lot of history and you can avail guided tours in multiple languages. Built as a maritime fortress during the Swedish rule, this group of islands has witnessed and defended first the Swedish, then the Russians and lastly the Finnish. After which the fortress was named as Suomenlinna which means the ‘Fortress of Finland’. Today, Suomenlinna is Finland’s most significant tourist attraction with around a million visitors every year.
One sight that is not so well known is the Allas Sea Pool which has pools floating in the sea. It may not be as flamboyant as the other sights, but I think it’s the best way to get to know the Finnish culture while having fun at the same time. Allas Sea Pool has multiple traditional Finnish saunas, heated outdoor pools and during the winter time you can even go ice swimming. It’s located right in the heart of Helsinki, besides the Market Square.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Helsinki?
One of the best day trips from Helsinki is a visit to the city of Porvoo. Porvoo is a beautiful and historically important Finnish city known for its old town and unique architecture. This city is home to the cutest cafes and the famous old church. It’s proximity to Helsinki makes it easier to reach and explore as a day trip. The most easiest and cheapest way to reach Porvoo is taking a bus from Helsinki’s main bus station. Check out these ten reasons to know why you must visit Porvoo.
Another great city to visit is Hanko, which is the southernmost city in the entire Finland. It’s known for its lovely beaches and it’s the perfect day trip from Helsinki, especially in the summertime. Apart from the beautiful summer villas of wealthy Russians, Hanko’s most popular tourist attractions are Hanko Church and the red Water Tower. The view of the church from the tower is spectacular but do remember the tower is only open for a few hours a day in summer.
If you have some time in hand take a ferry ride to Tallinn in Estonia. The city is so close to Helsinki that you won’t realize it’s in a different country. Helsinki and Tallinn are called twin cities. Travel time from Helsinki to Tallinn takes a mere two hours and there are around 18 departures a day. So you have plenty of options to choose from. Read this travel interview to know more about the city of Tallinn.
Which is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Helsinki?
Christmas is the most noticeable holiday of the year and it may also be the biggest. One less known holiday is the Midsummer celebrations. This event takes place in June, and it’s connected to the shortest day of the year, where in some places the sun doesn’t set at all. There are a lot of concerts happening during midsummer and there’s a tradition to burn a midsummer pyre.
The Helsinki Festival is an annual arts and culture festival, which takes place every August.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Helsinki?
One must try food in Helsinki is salmon. Salmon is a very common food for Finns and Finnish style salmon is one of the best options for a meal. If you’re looking for traditional street food, the most Finnish food item that you can get are grilled sausages (or “grillimakkara”). It has become a finnish tradition to eat these sausages simply with mustard or ketchup.
If you’re craving for dessert, Helsinki has a loads of delicious pastries you can choose from. One must try item is the Finnish take on the cinnamon bun, called “Pulla”. They can be found in almost every cafe in town, and there are multiple variations including butter, jam and quard.
Even though some of the most traditional foods include meat, Helsinki is in fact a very vegetarian friendly city, since most places offer multiple vegetarian options.
Are there any popular markets in Helsinki which tourists must visit?
The most popular place to shop in Helsinki is in Aleksanterinkatu. This street has many of the most popular clothing brands as well as one of the most well known department stores Stockmann, which offers a large selection of high-end clothes, makeup and bags.
Many outdoor flea markets pop up during the summer, for example in Hietalahti and Töölö.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Helsinki?
For souvenirs I’d recommend Iittala glasses, Kalevala Jewelry or Fazer candies, since they’re all made in Finland and are very unique and distinct to this country.
Fazer is the most famous Finnish sweets brand, and it’s most well known for its unique chocolates. These chocolates can include tastes of different Finnish berries, such as blueberries or lingonberries.
Which are the best streets of Helsinki worthy of taking a stroll on?
As I already mentioned this street as the best shopping street, Aleksanterinkatu is also a nice street to check out even if you’re not in the mood for shopping. During the Christmas time the whole street is lit with beautiful lights, and it’s an iconic place for Helsinki. Other iconic streets in the heart of Helsinki are Pohjoisesplanadi and Eteläesplanadi, or Northern and Southern Esplanade. Huvilakatu is often deemed the most picturesque street in Helsinki due to its colourful and architecturally impressive villas.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
If you want to see the whole city at once, I suggest you to go to Sokos Hotel Torni located in the city centre. If you climb to the top of this building, there’s an atelier and an outdoor bar from where you can enjoy the best view of the city.
Would you suggest any shows in Helsinki to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in Helsinki?
One of the most versatile places to see art in Helsinki is the Cable Factory, or “Kaapelitehdas”. Cable Factory has 3 museums and 12 galleries, and it hosts varying events throughout the year, including concerts, exhibitions and flea markets.
Street art can be found all over Helsinki, but in recent years a lot of big murals and ceramic art has been made in the Pasila area by both Finnish and international artists. Therefore this place is usually called the Pasila Street Art District.
Pasila is just five minutes by train from the main railway station and the guys at HelsinkiUrbanArt organize street art tours in English. In this two and a half hour tour they tell you about the story behind the graffiti, the techniques used and other interesting facts.
How hard is it to travel in Helsinki without knowing the local language?
It’s really easy to get around Helsinki without even a word of Finnish. A lot of the Finnish apps used to navigate the city are also available in English and the majority of the locals speak English really well. So if you’re not sure which way you’re supposed to go, just ask someone around you and they’ll most likely be happy to help you.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Helsinki?
The one transportation app locals use all the time is Reittiopas or in English Journey Planner. You can search your current location and where you’re headed, and this app shows you the quickest way public transportation can get you there. It covers busses, trams, trains, metro and even ferry. Since the same ticket is valid for all of these methods of transportation, it’s really convenient to plan your route with Reittiopas and switch between different transportation options.
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