Good things come to those who wait – and Helsinki had been on my list for a good couple of years! Why? Well, everyone knows it is quite a pretty city, but also, it has a special place in my heart, thanks to the Quality Hunters project, of which I was almost an “honorary founding member“. This project is led by Finnair and Helsinki Airport, and aims to help improve air travel at all levels, which is something that means a lot to me. It was thanks to that project that this blog exists today.
The time difference (2h) and flight time (2.30h) between London and Helsinki means that a 7.30am departure gets you to Helsinki just before 1pm. Worth noting that Helsinki is a 160 Tier Point destination.
And with a weekend ahead of workshops (see what we got up to on Saturday and Sunday), I needed to explore Helsinki as much as I could on that very same day. Mrs. O loves a challenge.
The first thing I did was drop the bags at our hotel, the stylish Klaus K hotel, very centrally located. I love Design Hotels and was happy with the choice. Sadly, the rooms allocated were tiny (seriously tiny), but there is nothing that an upgrade request didn’t solve (and great value at €50). My new room was fabulous, and I adored the shower (and toiletries).
From the hotel, we (that means me and the lovely Henriette from tinyitchyfeet.com) decided to explore as much as we could. That included a walk down the Etelaesplanadi, which was heaving as the sun was out.
This wide road, with fab shops on each side (was very hard for me to resist the sales, but I was a good girl for once!), leads to the seafront and port area, which is known as Kauppatori. I was told by a lovely friend (who may have played a little practical joke on me), to head there and search for buckets of prawns. This, with a nice glass of sauvignon blanc seemed like perfection, but after asking pretty much everyone we saw (and who thought we were completely mad), we gave up. For future reference, no prawns in buckets in Helsinki. But not one to give up easily, we found a fabulously looking restaurant which provided us with the wine and the prawns, albeit in a more traditional Scandinavian style: toast skaagen, one of my favourite things in the world.
After we wandered around the market for a bit (I will never forget the smell of strawberries), we headed on a ferry towards Suomenlinna, which is a maritime fortress located off the coast of Helsinki. I love boats and water and I think these really add to the way one experiences a city. We were very lucky with the weather and seriously enjoyed just walking around.
There seemed to be a wedding taking place on the island, which made it quite interesting – you had people sunbathing, children playing, and some very smartly dressed ones waiting for the big event. But in true Finnish style, it obviously wasn’t a problem!
No rest for the wicked, and before we knew it, it was almost 6pm, which obviously meant cocktail time. At this stage, we were met by the lovely Veera (a Finnish native, also part of QH), who very kindly took us out for the evening. Evening? There wasn’t much of that and I will tell you in a second.
We had a bit of champagne, as it seemed to be the drink of choice pretty much everywhere we went. It is interesting how some European cultures really like bubbles.. or not! I must confess I was expecting vodka on tap, but it was bubbles all the way, I am afraid… NOT!
After a nice dinner at Loiste (we also tried Pure the following day, which I really liked), it was time for a quick after dinner drink at this rooftop bar. And this photo, was taken at 11pm, which is completely unreal. It felt like 7pm and way to early to head back to the hotel – but we had to as a busy two days awaited us…
My visit to Helsinki, Finland, was short but sweet – which means I need to go back and explore this city (a favourite of Mr. O, who must have been more than 20 times for work).
And what I will always remember? This photo as it looked even better in real life than in postcards.
PS. If you are looking for nearby stops, Tallinn did not disappoint. For a more Nordic experience, I would recommend Oslo and Copenhagen.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Quality Hunters on this trip. I would also like to thank Klaus K for the complimentary room upgrade.