12hrs in Helsinki


Get inspired and experience the best of Scandinavia in the Finnish capital.

1.00pm // Sandro

Sandro's menu takes you on a whirlwind trip through
the world's most colorful cuisines – from the Balkan to Beirut,
taking inspiration from Marrakesh and Jerusalem on the way.

Sandro
Sandro
Sandro
Sandro
 

Kallio feels much more like a local neighborhood than the busy city center. It's where the cool kids of Helsinki live, go out at night, and where they meet for brunch on Sundays. In fact Sandro, our lunch destination, serves what many describe as the best brunch in town every weekend. But today, we're here for lunch. Because really, who can resist a duck confit burger? (Except, of course, the vegetarians among you. In which case you'll still have plenty of dishes to choose from here.)

The restaurants calls itself the 'neighborhood oasis of Kallio', and that relaxed vibe definitely comes across as soon as you enter the building. There's a hustle and bustle and a very pleasant mix of people from all walks of life enjoying their meal here.

The menu takes you on a whirlwind trip through the world's most colorful cuisines – from the Balkan to Beirut, taking inspiration from Marrakesh and Jerusalem on the way. We really enjoyed their Batbout Burger with duck confit, served with a massive selection of middle-eastern sides like homemade hummus, pomegranate and carrot yoghurt and harissa mayonnaise.

Peruse the menu and have your pick, and if there is any way, leave a tiny bit of room for a dessert. Sandro's homemade Baklava hits the perfect spot between sweet and satisfying.

After lunch, continue walking up the hill until you reach the tram number 8. Right next to the restaurant is a good café called 'Good Life Coffee', but if you can, resist. We'll have an afternoon coffee break soon!

Sandro // Tredje linjen 17 // Mon-Thu 7.30am-12am, Fri 7.30am-2am, Sat 10am-2am, Sun 10am-12am // website

 

 

2.30pm // Temppeliaukion Kirkko

Helsinki's famous Rock Church
was built
into solid stones.

Temppeliaukio
Temppeliaukio
Temppeliaukio
Temppeliaukio

GETTING AROUND

Helsinki's Metro is small, but the tram system is effective and vast. You can buy tickets from your phone, but we had some problems with that during our stay. Enter the tram at the front and purchase your ticket from the driver instead.

WHAT TO ORDER

Food: Fresh fish and seafood, local veggies from the woods outside the city.

Drinks: Anything with plenty of alcohol to warm you up at night.

THREE SOUVENIRS

Home accessories from one of the many Finnish design shops.
Moomin toys.
Licorice.

 

Exit the tram at the stop Caloniuksenkatu right in the middle of Töölö. This pretty area consist of big, old houses and rather grand streets. Still, it somehow feels cozy here. One of the main attractions of the city is very close, let's have a look.

The Rock Church ('Temppeliaukion Kirkko') is aptly named. It has been excavated into solid rock and fits into its surroundings perfectly. In summer, people are sunbathing on the warm stones on top and children are playing hide and seek right on top of the building. The church hall is covered with a dome, lined with shiny copper, and the interior walls are made out of rugged rocks.

Temppeliaukio // Lutherinkatu 3 // opening hours vary, check website // website

 

 

2.45pm // Arkadia

A charming second hand bookstore
that counts a pool table, a chapel
and a snake among its attractions.

Arkadia
Arkadia
Arkadia
 

Just a few minutes walk away from the rock church, you'll find Arkadia International Bookshop. This charming second hand bookstore was founded by Ian and Liisa Bourgeot in 2008, and it's one of these places you'll remember for a long time after returning home.

The mood inside is just so welcoming, relaxing and friendly, with the owner himself pointing you to the best spots. There's space to read and write, a pool table, and a friendly pet snake in a terrarium. If you are looking for something specific, you might find it here, since the selection is just so vast. And if you just want to browse, you're in luck! Most books are stored in labeled boxes and you'll stumble upon some you didn't even know you found interesting. Just their selection of National Geographic magazines would take you weeks to sift through.

Arkadia International Bookshop // Nervanderinkatu 11 // Tue-Fri 12pm-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm // website

 

 

3.15pm // Freese Coffee Co.

Kalle Freese serves the best coffee In Helsinki.

Fresse Coffee Co.
Fresse Coffee Co.
Fresse Coffee Co.
Fresse Coffee Co.
Fresse Coffee Co.
Fresse Coffee Co.
Fresse Coffee Co.
Fresse Coffee Co.
 

When you're done browsing through the books at Arkadia, head a few streets down to Freesenkatu.

There, on a street named after his 17th century forefather, the poet Jacob Freese, Kalle Freese opened his small coffee shop in 2013. Freese Coffee Co. is one of the most beautiful cafés we've ever been in, and luckily, the coffee Kalle serves here is just as nice.

He was the Finnish Barista Champion in 2013 and takes coffee very seriously, leaving you with the perfect brew in beautiful, custom-made cups. If you 're not sure what to get, just ask! Freese Coffee Co. works with different coffee roasteries from around the world, let the staff point you to their favorites. On the weekends, Kalle serves a small breakfast that is absolutely worth trying. So if you're in town longer (or on a weekend), put that on your to-do list. The yoghurt he serves then is some of the best we ever had.

Freese Coffee Co. // Freesenkatu 5 // Tue-Fri 12pm-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm // website

 

 

Bonus: Kiasma

If you have some extra time to spare,
make sure to visit the Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art.

Credit: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Credit: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Credit: Finnish National Gallery / Central Art Archives / Joel Rosenberg

Credit: Finnish National Gallery / Central Art Archives / Joel Rosenberg

Credit: Finnish National Gallery / Central Art Archives / Joel Rosenberg

Credit: Finnish National Gallery / Central Art Archives / Joel Rosenberg

 

12hrs is a rather short time to discover any city. So some locations that are well worth a visit don't make it into our guide. If you're in town longer, though, make sure to schedule in a visit to Kiasma, Helsinki's Museum of Contemporary Art.

You'll pass it on your way from Kalle to the Design District, and it's also just a stone-throw away from the main station.

Like in many places in Helsinki, the architecture alone would make Kiasma worth a visit. But it's not only the building by Steven Holl that we loved. The permanent collection of the museum is mostly made up of works from Finnish artists and artists living in neighboring countries. Among the highlights are works by Kalervo Palsa, Jakob Dahlgren and Christo.

Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art // Mannerheiminaukio 2 // Sun & Tue 10am-5pm, Wed-Fri 10am-8.30pm, Sat 10am-6pm // website

 

 

4pm // Design District Helsinki

More than 200 shops on 25 streets
are part of the Design District Helsinki.

Street Style Helsinki
Street Style in Helsinki
Street Style in Helsinki
Street Style in Helsinki
 

After coffee, walk (or take the tram) back towards the city center. Continue past the main station, and you'll inevitably end up in the Design District Helsinki. This cluster of 25 streets hosts 200 or so shops, galleries and design studios that are showcasing the variety in Finnish design today.

We have picked out a few of our favorite shops and put them in an order that makes sense as you're walking, but of course feel free to roam around and visit as many or as little of them as you please.

Website

 

Lokal

72% art and 28% coffee.

Lokal
 

Part exhibition space, part café, Lokal hosts changing exhibitions during the year. They also sell beautiful home ware and accessories. Some cups at Freese Coffee Co. were made here.

Lokal // Annankatu 19 // Tue-Fri 12pm-6pm, Sat/Sun 12pm-4pm // website

 

 

Pino

Glasses, cups and boxes, and so much more.

Pino
 

At Pino, you'll find even more items for your home, they sell anything from super practical little inventions to tableware and glasses. In the back of the shop there are sunglasses, bags and beautiful storage solutions.

Pino // Fredrikinkatu 22 // Mon-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat 11am-3pm //

 

 

Paper shop

An analog lover's dream shop.

Paper Shop
Paper Shop

DRESSING THE PART

The Finnish have a love for color, so go crazy if you want to. If you don't feel too adventurous, casual basics work well for both women and men. And there's always the Death Metal look…

THREE SONGS

Flexible Heart – Jaakko Eino Kalevi
Annankadun Kulmassa – Heli Kajo
Hard Rock Hallelujah – Lordi

THREE MOVIES

Steam of Life
Punk Syndrome
Mother of Mine

 

You won't have to guess twice what Paper Shop sells. Correct, anything made out of paper! That includes beautifully screen-printed cards and posters by local artist, wrapping paper and useful knick-knacks like notebooks and pens. We stocked up on birthday cards for the next few years here.

Paper Shop // Fredrikinkatu 18 // Mon-Fri 11am-5pm, Sat 11am-3pm // website

 

 

R/H Store

Bold prints for bold girls.

R/H Store
R/H Store
 

Bold prints are the trademark of local label R/H, and jackets and dresses with these make up big parts of their collection. Founded by Hanna Riiheläinen and Emilia Hernesniemi, both graduates from the University of Art & Design in Helsinki, R/H designs playfully shift between hard and soft, often using menswear details in their womenswear collection.

R/H Store // Fredrikinkatu 18 // Mon-Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 11am-4pm // website


Design Forum Shop

 

The next generation and the old guard
of designers all under one roof.

Design Forum Shop
Design Forum Shop
 

You've seen plenty of Alvar Aalto's work all over the city, so if you feel for supporting some young up-and-comers instead, make sure to visit the Design Forum Shop. Here, young Finnish designer showcase and sell their works, leaving you with tons of great souvenir options and beautiful furniture pieces for your home.

If you prefer to play it a bit safer, don't worry. This is the world's largest focused on contemporary Finnish design, so of course they also stock all the big names in the business.

Design Forum Shop // Errotajankatu 7 // Mon-Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 11am-6pm // website

 

 

6.30pm // Kulttuurisauna

There is a reason 'Sauna' is the only Finnish word
that was adopted into the English language.

Kulttuurisauna
Kulttuurisauna
Kulttuurisauna
 

Most of the shops are closed now, and we're sure you're quite exhausted. So before it's dinnertime, either head to your apartment and hotel and get some rest, or join us for a little Finnish adventure.

Saunas are almost synonymous with Finland, and there was no way we'd let you spend 12hrs in Helsinki without breaking a healthy sweat. Almost every house in the city has a private sauna for its inhabitants, but sadly, only a few public saunas remain in the city.

One of them is the Kulttuurisauna, that was opened during Helsinki's time as World Design Capital in 2012. The project was conceived by Japanese Designer Nene Tsuboi and Finnish architect Tuomas Toivonen, and this beautiful mix of Northern and Eastern influences becomes apparent as soon as you see the building.

Located on the edge of Merihaka right at the water, the sauna is housed in a building made entirely out of wood. Every day, wood burners heat up the rooms, and it takes them until four in the afternoon to build up that heat.

Reach the sauna by tram, cab or on foot, and enjoy a few hours of serenity. You only need a bathing suit if you're planning on jumping in the sea behind the building, and the staff rents out fluffy towels for the duration of your stay.

Take in the views of the harbor through the giant window, think about all the great things you've seen today, and take your time. Afterwards, we'll have dinner.

Kulttuurisauna // Hagnäskajen 17 // admission: adults15, students and seniors 12 Euro, towel 4 Euro // Wed-Sun 4pm-8.30pm // website

 

 

9pm // Spis

Nordic food at its very best.

Spis
Spis
Spis
Spis
Box
 

Our last stop for the day is also one of the nicest: dinner at Spis. This small restaurant is dedicated to all things Nordic, and we can't think of a better way to end a day spent in Helsinki.

You choose between two menu options – a short and a long tasting menu – and the staff will take care of the rest. Chefs Antero Aurivuo and Perttu Jokinen are preparing their menu with whatever is freshest at the market, always showcasing local and Nordic ingredients. All of the courses include vegetables, and if you eat meat, you'll get a fish and meat course as well.

Jani Kinanen the head waiter will ask you about any dietary restrictions beforehand, so don't worry if your diet is gluten free, vegetarian, or if you have an allergy.

When the 12hrs team had dinner at Spis, we got served one of the most delicious meals we had in a long time. Some dishes included the very Nordic Knäckebröt, there was birch tree foam and licorice, scallop with a rich lobster sauce and pork belly. Dining here takes time, and it's a joy listening to Jani as he explains what's on your beautiful plate.

If you can, get the wine pairing, Spis offers some fantastic artisanal wines and also some great Nordic beers. The restaurant only has a few tables and 18 seats, so make sure to book a table in advance online.

Enjoy the Nordic cuisine, sip some wine, and relax. Kippis and skål, you just spent 12hrs in Helsinki!

Spis // Kasarmikatu 26 // Tue-Sat 5pm-12am // website

 

Thank you to travel search engine Momondo for sending us to Helsinki!

 

Map

 

Still curious?

These were 12hrs in Helsinki. To discover more locations and stories from here, head over to the Helsinki category of our blog! Just click here.

 


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