Helsinki is without a doubt the liveliest city in Finland. With a striking amount of people from all nationalities roaming the streets, you will never feel far away from home. In every other corner, you will spot some sort of “exotic” market, such as Asian or oriental food stores. Not to mention, the food scene is so colorful and vibrant that it really is difficult to just pick a place to eat. The night life is roaring, the people are friendly, the streets are safe… I could go on and on about all the pros of spending your college years in Helsinki.
Since I’m clearly a foodie, I will talk first about the food scene. There’s such a big range of options to choose from, that every time I want to eat out in Helsinki, it literally takes me about 45 minutes just to pick a place. The options vary from delicious, cheap street food to Nordic fine dining, which has been a trend on the rise recently. You’ll find places of all sizes for all tastes, but as always, it’s best to ask the locals for the hidden gems, as those places are usually the best ones! For a quicker solution, I strongly recommend that you visit one of the many market halls in Helsinki (my personal favorite: Old Market Hall). Indoors, not only will you have a warm place to enjoy your lunch break, but you will have many options in choosing your food, as the halls are usually packed with unique local delicacies that you won’t be able to find elsewhere.
Speaking of things that you won’t find elsewhere, you will spot Helsinki’s observation wheel, also known as SkyWheel, in the center of the city. The wheel is your ordinary run-of-the-mill wheel: you hop on it and you’ll have a really nice view from the top. However, what makes the one in Helsinki special is that it offers the possibility to book a sauna while on it. Yes, you read that right, a sauna on a 40-meter tall observation wheel. There is only one sauna-gondola though, so book in advance!
Next up, my favorite monument, probably ever: The Sibelius Monument… there are no words. For some reason, the sight of that monument really stuck with me after seeing it the first time. It’s a monument that was created in the 60s by Eila Hiltunen, and it’s made of over 600 steel pipes which form a shape that resembles a wave. The partially abstract monument was created in dedication to the renown Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, from which it also got its name. There’s truly aren’t words to describe its magnificence, you have to go and see for yourself.
Not to be cliché, but you absolutely have to visit some of Helsinki’s museums. There are a few boring ones, of course, but Helsinki is home to some of the most unique museums. Art museums are very big in Finland, especially contemporary ones. Personally, I would recommend that you check out Kiasma. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through all the beautiful pieces of Finnish contemporary art. Another museum you have to see is the Design Museum. Let’s face it, Finns are known for their minimalist design, so going to Helsinki and not visiting their Design Museum would be like… like going to Hawaii and not going to the beach! Unheard of.
As somewhat of a side note, I also have to mention the lovely Suomenlinna, which is technically not in Helsinki because it’s on an island just off the coast. It’s a 15-minute boat ride from Helsinki’s shore, and totally worth the visit. Suomenlinna island, literally translates to Finnish Fortress, named after the old fortress sitting atop it. In fact, the fortress spreads out through 6 small islands. The fortress was built in the 18th century, and is nowadays in UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Other than the fortress, the island is quite lively with people, either residents or tourists, and there are some fantastic views that deserve endless Instagram pictures! Let’s just say, there’s a reason Suomenlinna is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
Obviously, there are many, many, many more things to do and see in Helsinki (there is even an Olympic Stadium!). But I simply cannot condense all of that information into one simple blog post. When you do visit Helsinki though, make sure to walk around on your own a bit and explore the wonderful city. You will, without a doubt, discover many of the secrets it holds.
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Best of Finland is a series of blog posts that Edunation has created in order to familiarize our readers with the main attractions to be found in Finland. The blogs will be all about the Finnish destinations in which you can study through Edunation, both the big cities and small towns.