9.30 am // Anton & Anton
Anton & Anton also sells fresh bread and pastries in the morning
– perfect for our mini picnic outside.
We searched long and hard for a hotel in Helsinki that fits our usual 12hrs bill: well designed, but not too fancy, reasonably priced, good location, and fast Internet. In the end, we came up with: Nothing. Of course there are tons of hotels to book in the city, so feel free to have a look on the booking page of your choice (Momondo compares hotel prices, too, for example). We found that most 'design hotels' in the city looked a little drab, and decided to rent an apartment during our stay instead. Like we mentioned above, the Finnish have great taste and are very friendly, so finding a place that's nice and cozy should only take you a few attempts.
Since private apartments don't serve breakfast, let's head out and grab something on the go. Find your way into the city center and head over to the Kruununhaka branch (brace yourself for many more strange Finnish words) of Anton & Anton.
This small organic supermarket chain has three stores in the city, and all are equally good. Apart from selling high quality organic produce and products sourced from farms around the city, Anton & Anton also sells fresh bread and pastries from the counter. Have your choice of baked goods from Patisserie Markus & Teemu, Cupcakes by Frida, Frambois, Kannisto and many more, but don't bite in it just yet.
We'll have a mini picnic with a great view, so pack your pastries and walk over to Senaatintori.
Anton & Anton // Mariankatu 18 // Mon-Fri 9am-8pm, Sat 9am-6pm // website
9.45am // Senate Square
Home to some of Helsinki's most famous landmarks,
the Senate Square houses the university,
the old senate building and the Helsinki cathedral.
The Senate Square ('Senaatintori') is located right in the middle of the city center and is home to some of Helsinki's most famous landmarks. Most buildings here have been designed by Carl Ludwig Engel, among them the main building of the university of Helsinki and the old senate building.
Arguably his most famous building and Helsinki's most famous landmark is the Helsinki Cathedral, though. The bright white church with its green dome looks quite majestic against the blue Finnish sky, so make sure to take some pictures. But don't forget your breakfast! Sit down on the big stairs leading up to the church and enjoy your meal with the statue of Alexander II. in sight.
10.15am // Minna Parikka
"My designs are almost like love letters
from one high heel shoe lover to another",
says Minna Parikka. Seeing her store, we agree.
Time for a first round of shopping. Shops in Helsinki close quite early, it's good to get a head start. One of the city's busiest shopping streets starts right at the Senate Square. So after you're done eating, start walking down Aleksanterinkatu to our next destination.
Welcome to the universe of Minna Parikka. The shoe designer's aptly calls her flagship store her 'Universum', and you immediately see what she means once you step in. This one is only for the girls, so feel free to skip this part if you don't feel for looking at ladies' shoes for a while. But then again, you would miss out on something!
Minna loves shoes and sees them as more than just a piece of clothing. She's known for designs full of humor, putting cat faces or bunny ears on candy colored footwear. The selection in her beautiful store is quite extensive, and the staff was super friendly when we talked to them. Have a look around, maybe even enjoy the mirrored 'kissing-booth', and off we go.
Minna Parikka Universum – The Store // Aleksanterinkatu 36 // Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm // website
10.45am // Marimekko
All those flowers!
The most famous brand that represents Finland's urge for color
in the world is Marimekko.
Maybe it's Finland's long, dark winters and the need to brighten up your day that goes along with them. Or maybe the fresh sea breeze that frees you of some inhibitions. Whatever the reason, the Finnish have developed quite a unique sense of personal style, something that is evident as soon as you look around on the street.
While other Scandinavian countries value understatement and minimalism in their clothing, Finns seem to be drawn to bold colors and wild cuts. You'll see middle-aged women wearing three different, colorful prints on top of each other, tons of dresses-over-pants, and some interesting color choices.
The most famous brand that represents Finland's urge for color in the world is probably Marimekko. You find their stores all across town (and the whole country), and the brand even designs the paper cups used to serve you drinks on every Finnair flight.
Today, we'll stop by their flagship store. From Minna Parikka's shop, take the short walk to Pohjoisesplanadi, Helsinki's big, tree-lined promenade. There, Marimekko's flagship store sells clothes with their signature prints, but also gorgeous home ware and their own fabrics by the meter. Explore the big store, and then cross the street.
Marimekko // Pohjoisesplanadi 33 // Mon-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-5pm // website
11.00am // Artek
Founded by design legends Alvar and Aino Aalto,
Artek is an institution of Nordic design.
Walking through Artek feels like walking through a museum that showcases the very best and the biggest of Finnish design. The company was founded in 1935 by Finnish architect and design legends Alvar and Aino Aalto together with Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl and it is still the go-to place for current yet classic pieces.
Naturally, the store sells classics by Alvar Aalto, Muurame and other big names in the furniture world, most of them Scandinavian. They also have a great selection of design-related books and magazine to peruse.
Artek // Eteläesplanadi 18 // Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm // website
11.30am // Akateeminen Kirjakauppa
Scandinavia's biggest bookstore
has more than 450.000 books in stock.
Hello // Hei
Thank you // Kiitos
Yes // Kyllä
No // Ei
Maybe // Ehkä
DO & DONT'S
Do: Bring a sleeping mask. Summer nights are short and light.
Don't: Try to read out street signs. You'll fail.
Head back over on the other side of the promenade again to discover one of Helsinki's best and most beautiful bookstores, the Akateeminen Kirjakauppa ('Academic Bookstore'). From the outside, it's quite ordinary looking, but don't get fooled. The spectacular interior was designed by Alvar Aalto, and you can see his touches in the impressive marble structures all through the building.
This is the biggest bookstore in Scandinavia, stocking something around 450.000 copies, among them an extensive international section. Take your time to browse, but don't get stuck on the comfortable couches. We have a much better place to rest coming right up.
Akateeminen Kirjakauppa // Pohjoisesplanadi 39 // Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 12pm-6pm // website
12.00pm // Kampin kappeli
The breathtaking Chapel of Silence
is a quiet refuge in the middle of hectic city life.
Exit the Academic Bookshop and turn right twice onto Mannerheimintie. This big street leads you to the area around the main station, Kamppi. When you see the station on your right, turn right onto Simonkatu until you spot the Kampin kappeli in front of you.
The Kampin kappeli, also called 'Chapel of Silence', is a chapel right in the busiest area of downtown Helsinki. Its oval wooden shape stands out from its surroundings, yet it's hidden well enough for you to only spot it once you stand almost right before it.
While this is an active chapel, it is also just a wonderful place to get some peace and quiet while also soaking in some pretty spectacular architecture. The way the light enters the building is stunning, and sitting down on one of the benches or next to the cozy fake stones made out of felt has an amazing effect. It's just so quiet!
Take your time, take a breath, and enjoy this beautiful building that was constructed as part of the World Design Capital program in 2012.
Once you're ready to move on, walk back to the station and find the tram stop in front of it. Jump on the 3 or 9 that will take you to Kallio, it's time for lunch! Leave the train at the stop called Kallion virastotalo.
Kampin kappeli // Simonkatu 7 // Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat/Sun 10am-6pm // website