I had the chance to visit Helsinki for a day before boarding the ferry bound for Tallinn, Estonia. That’s a very limited time to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus’ homeland famed for Northern Lights and Lapland wilderness. Finland is also known for its excellent education system, Angry Birds and the once mighty Nokia. I do hope to be back here to uncover more of this beautiful country.
I took Finnair City Bus from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to the city centre. And right next to the bus terminal is Helsinki Central Railway Station which has some resemblances to the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. A quick search on Google and it’s said that the architect for Tanjong Pagar Railway Station drew his inspiration from Helsinki Railway Station. Ok, now that explains.
Right next to the station is Finnish National Theatre.
Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square
My first place of visit in Helsinki is none other than the Senate Square where the iconic Helsinki Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko) stands proudly. The imposing cathedral towers above its surroundings and can be seen from many places around the city. But I am more impressed with how the Finns managed to upkeep the chalk-white exterior. It is perched above a flight of stairs where the Finns sit around and watch the world goes by. So I did the same and have a nice chat with the locals before entering the Cathedral.
The Cathedral has a simple, low key and spacious interior. And its super high ceiling is a sight to behold.
Senate Square is one of the oldest parts of Helsinki is surrounded by buildings like the Government Palace and University of Helsinki. A nice-looking statue of Alexander II is at the square’s centre. The square looks to be quiet on a bright and lazy afternoon.
The Square and Helsinki Cathedral make such good looking pair, that they never fail to impress all day long.
Splendid lunch at Savotta
Savotta restaurant is known to serve delicious Finnish food. The restaurant’s building is located just across from Senate Square and along the cobblestone street of Aleksanterinkatu. The plain exterior looks to be a cover-up for its homely atmosphere with friendly staffs. The keyword in here is definitely rustic. I love the woody décor and tableware of Savotta. But most importantly is the food and it did not disappoint!
Bridge of Love and Uspenski Cathedral
I made my way to Uspenski Cathedral after the satisfying lunch. There are a few bridges connecting the downtown area to Katajanokka district. The Bridge of Love is one of them and I can see various types of ‘named’ padlocks being attached to the bridge. It’s very similar to Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris. But unlike cities that banned this love locks craze, Helsinki actually welcomes this popular trend.
Uspenski Cathedral has a very different look as compared to the whitish Helsinki Cathedral. The red Orthodox cathedral has more Russian influence with its golden onion dome. But I couldn’t get to see the interior as it was closed on that day. I probably should have check Uspenski Cathedral opening hours beforehand.
Market Square and Esplanadi Park
Market Square (Kauppatori) is an open-air market where the stalls here sell traditional Finnish food, clothing, handicrafts and souvenirs. I tried the reindeer meat from and it tasted very much like beef. The waterfront market is one of Helsinki tourist attractions but it wasn’t crowded during my visit. Here is also the place to board the ferry for Suomenlinna fortress.
Esplanadi is a nice green park in the heart of the city right next to the market. I see people soaking the sun, reading, catching up or just chillax with a drink in hand. It seems like a popular hangout place for the locals.
Perhaps the park is a good resting spot after retail therapy since the shopping district is just right across. The shops around have a good mix of international brands and those with ‘Made in Finland’ products. There is also the flagship Stockmann Department Store which it’s like Helsinki’s version of Harrods.
The quiet street in the late evening is a nice change from the bustling ones in other European cities. And that’s when I realized how clean the streets are, kudos to the Finns.
My late dinner was at Chilli Fast Food known for Kebabs.
STAY: Hotel Arthur Helsinki review
Hotel Arthur has a good central location which is near to Helsinki Cathedral and Helsinki Central Railway Station. Hence, it’s a great base for visiting the city centre since most places are within walking distance. In addition, the people at the reception are nice and friendly which is a plus. However, Hotel Arthur looks really old and dated. It is definitely in need of some upgrading. The basic room is good enough for a night stay but I probably will not return.