Finland, and especially the northern parts of it (known as Lapland) is often visioned as the winter wonderland. The Christmas dream, the land of snow. This year has been especially successful with snow pretty much all over Finland. One city is lacking in snow and that is Helsinki. The debated global warming has made Helsinki warmer and warmer which is why snow does not set there so easily anymore.
Last year (or three weeks ago if we are correct) we headed to Helsinki for a few days of Christmas joy. Even though there was no snow is Helsinki still filled with people and action in levels that other cities in Finland just cannot compare.
Choosing an AirBnB in Helsinki
We chose to stay in an AirBnB as it was the cheaper option for us. Helsinki has a variety of AirBnBs to choose from, which is why we opted for that option. In the past we had stayed in an old large apartment and a tiny but adorable flat in Helsinki. The struggle with AirBnB like any site that lives on photographs is that photographs can lie, especially if you are a good photographer. This happened to us this time. We chose an apartment which based on photographs looked beautiful and big, but in reality was a small one room apartment with a tiny bathroom. It was in a good location though which made the experience better. We stayed next to the Hietalahti Market Hall and there were a good selection of restaurants around the airbnb.
Lebanese food to die for
The first night we ventured into a beautiful Lebanese plaze called Mezame. The food was amazing! Why we chose the restaurant was that it provided an evening dinner buffet which included a range of salads, hummus, olives and more. It also included a warm meal which during our visit was filled peppers and roasted vegetables. The restaurant itself was beautifully laid out. What spoke volumes of the place was the single men who came to eat there. In Finland it is not common to see single men in restaurants during dinner time. The food and the atmosphere must have done it.
Hietalahti Market Hall for breakfast
The next morning we ventured into the Hietalahti Market Hall for breakfast. I love market halls and the feeling that you have stepped into a separate world of it’s own. The Market hall has everything from cafes to restaurants and souvenir shops. You can people watch, follow the business men huddled together creating deals, the new couple snuggled in the quiet corner, the tourists admiring the small moomin items on the shelves and the locals enjoying their cup of coffee in their favourite spot in town.
We chose a japanese restaurant, as it was the one with space. Tokyo Street provided us with dumplings, ramen and flavour. As we arrived later in the afternoon it made sense eating lunch and breakfast in one go. If you do not like crowded places you might want to take away as the Market Hall was busy with people.
Walking around Helsinki
Helsinki is an easy city to walk around in. We stayed a kilometre from the main centre so we walked to the city to check out some Christmas Markets. I wanted to see some Christmas lights so we walked down Esplanadi to the harbour where there was a small market filled with touristy items. From there we went into Helsinki City Museum.
It is one of my personal favourites to visit whenever I visit our capital. One of the greatest aspects about Helsinki
City Museum is that it is free. Unfortunately, unlike some countries, Finland’s museums are not free entry. You can pay somewhere between 8-30 euros to visit a museum depending on what you wish to see. This is why I love to check out Helsinki City Museum always, as it also has amazing exhibitions. In one floor you can visit an interactive history of Helsinki, where video wall painting people at times follow you around (creepy, I know). This time the museum had a Helsexinki exhibition, which exhibited the various kinds of sexualities and experiences of sex people have. In a room that centres a giant nipple one could watch people kissing one another on a recording. The space was charming and interesting at the same time.
The real market one has to check out during Christmas is Tuomaan Markkinat, or Helsinki Christmas Market. Outside the Helsinki Cathedral there is a market filled with handcrafts, glögi (a warm christmas drink) and many tiny items one can buy for christmas. Whilst shopping can one also admire the grandiosity of the cathedral. From there you can walk to the shopping street towards Stockmann, then window shop in Forum and Kamppi after which you can head home as the day is over.