Helsinki’s secret is its compact size, in its nature and in the layers of the city. Cycle or walk along the shoreline or stroll along the streets, and you will always find new sides to even familiar places. The best moment in Helsinki is right before the rest of the city wakes up.
For a capital city Helsinki is quite small, which makes it unique. You can enjoy a picnic in the city centre in the Kaisaniemi or Esplanade parks. You can find unique nature experiences within walking distance (the tree on top of the Temppeliaukion kirkko church) or a short ferry ride away (Suokki and other islands). But just as in other big towns, something is always happening here somewhere, either in the centre of a tram ride away. You can always find some kind of cultural experience, flea market or sport happening. Not to mention Restaurant Day. Helsinki is unique – it probably won’t remain much of a secret.
Helsinki’s secret has to be its amazing light: nowhere else can you experience such fascinating moments in the sky and horizon than here. Each spring the light creates a new Helsinki; people and animals climb onto the rocks to marvel at the breathtaking phenomenon that makes everything seem possible. Blue moments, white nights. The ochre-coloured afternoons of autumn and the black hole of winter. In recent years the city’s light has been brilliantly “continued” with light installations and festivals. You have to experience Helsinki and Helsinki’s light for yourself.
The secret of my Helsinki is a secret weapon that takes the urban experience to a completely new level: a hammock that you can carry with you wherever you go! Helsinki is a superb mini-metropolis where you can find hundreds of great largely undiscovered locations. Exploring them is much nicer when you have a hammock with to relax and take a nap. What could be cooler than sleeping by the sea under a tree, gently rocking side to side? So if you already have a bicycle, I recommend everyone who loves exploring Helsinki and taking it easy to get a hammock too! Hammocks are also great in wintertime as long as you remember to bring with a thermos with something warm to drink and dress accordingly.
Helsinki’s secret is not any one place in particular but rather in the harmony between different places. Few cities can offer such diverse environments: In Helsinki you can spend the day “out of town” in the centre of the Keskuspuisto park or the nature of Viikki, head from there to a punk concert at the old Sompasaari docks, and then go swimming in the sea from the rug washing pier.
What makes Helsinki special is the clean air, the tastiest tap water in the water, the sea, the nature and the lovely people. Helsinki conceals within it urban culture, flea markets, luxurious and public saunas, new perspectives, market halls, different moods according to the four seasons, libraries, gardens, the atmosphere at the Yrjönkatu swimming hall, superb art events and an endless amount of stunning beauty from the city’s streets to its nature.
If you love Helsinki and view it through loving, interested and hopeful eyes, it too will love you and present all its loveliest buildings, small cafés smelling of cinnamon rolls, special boutiques, flea markets bursting with treasures, summer canopy kiosks, parks full of fragrant flower arrangements, rocky shorelines, adventure islands, lively block parties, free concerts. All that is beautiful, unique and interesting, so that everyone can find what is important to them. It will smile and smell differently to you than to someone who does not love it, who sees and thinks of Helsinki only as a big, scary concrete suburb with too many people and where you don’t dare or want to go anywhere. There are lots of these kinds of people living here, those who have not opened their eyes, hearts and souls to all that is unique surrounding them. What a loss for them.
The maritime appeal of Helsinki is something that other European capitals along rivers can’t offer. Each one of us, and visitors too, can experience the feel of the sea throughout the year, in any weather, at Suomenlinna and Kaivopuisto. The symbiosis of the maritime nature and urban life is the spirit of Helsinki. Locals flock to the shoreline in summertime to cool off and to experience the autumn storms. The highlight of the spring is when the ice leaves, the sound that the ice makes when it finally unwillingly breaks and provides space for a brilliant sparkle. That’s what we get from our creative force.
The best thing about Helsinki is its diversity, all those different spaces and milieus that can be reached on foot within a few minutes of each other: a small, tight package of multiculturalism, events, art, old and new, beauty and ugliness, a communal feeling but also privacy, trends and traditions, the archipelago and the bustling city life and much much more! My own secret is this: the forest, where all you can here is the chirping of birds and the humming of the wind between the branches, yet just ten minutes by metro from the city centre. That’s where I go to relax and meditate!
Early in the morning, around the same time the trains wipe the sleep from their eyes, that is Helsinki’s moment. I got my motorcycle license and rode the streets of the city. I had film in my camera and I was only half the age I am now. I visited bakeries, took pictures of garbage men and drank coffees at Anja Snellman’s tent in the Market Square. The sun rose peacefully over Katajanokka and gave a soft light over the waking city. Helsinki – my city.
Helsinki’s secret is that it’s easy to feel at home here. There is plenty to do each day, but my Helsinki means admiring the streets and buildings. I walk my favourite streets many times, and I find new ones. I take a deep breath by the sea and in the market place, I smile at the small doggies in their woollen coats and at the old ladies in their fine outfits. Helsinki is colourful, beautiful and above all: it is alive.
What’s most beautiful about Helsinki is its timelessness. Here there is a light sense of time standing still at the same time that life goes on all around you. Like a small noise that could wake up a daydreamer from his own thoughts at any moment. In Helsinki you can live in many times and dimensions at the same time: in the past and in the future. If you want you can stop to breathe in the moment in which you live. In Helsinki it is possible, whereas in bigger cities time is lost in the commotion and in smaller ones time is too much present.
The secret of my Helsinki is its diverse cultural offerings that are offered in an easily accessible format and at sensible prices. I also love how, just a couple of blocks from the city centre, I can enjoy a coffee in nature watching the waves in my own peace and quiet. I believe that Helsinki currently has a fine balance between urban hustle and creativity on the one hand and a countryside atmosphere on the other.
The wild nature and the locals that you can bump into around the city. A person in a hurry can walk past just a few metres away without noticing the goat peaking through the trees or the bird of prey up on the branch. Everyone who stops for a moment and takes a closer look around them can become a part of this Helsinki secret, which was here already before the city.
A wonderful Helsinki secret is its great free events where anyone can go just as they are. The best thing about these events is the great people behind all the arrangements and the terrific Helsinki group spirit. New neighbourhood events, free concerts and others bring different kinds of people together to enjoy the city as their own private living room! <3
My Helsinki is history. It is history of a nation, it is my own history. Here grandfather stood as a small boy on the side of the street as Tsar Nicholas drove by. Here grand aunt Maiju hid Lenin when he was secretly visiting Finland. And there on the corner of Liisankatu we got engaged and in that church my daughter was married. And life goes on and new generations create their own histories in Helsinki, their own memories and their own love for this city, familiar and permanent yet alive and constantly changing. My Helsinki, all of our Helsinki.
Helsinki’s secret is in its people and moments. In the people that build the city and its culture, ways and happenings. In the person who invented the day when anyone can open their own restaurant. In the moment when a cyclist crosses the tram tracks on Porthaninkatu, and you know that he has rolled down that hill before. At the home of the person whose home is also his friends’ home. In the moment when you understand how small and unique Helsinki is, how easy it is to get from one place to the next; one island to the next, one sauna to the next, one restaurant to the next, one season to the next. Helsinki’s secret is in the person who seeks and finds new cafés, shops, flea markets, their own secret places where to have fun and relax throughout the year. Helsinki’s secret is in the moment when you realise that Helsinki has no secrets – that everything is within reach, just for you.
The best thing about Helsinki is its diversity. The city’s buzz and nature go hand in hand, and the shoreline is never far away. The island of Lammassaari is situated just a couple of kilometres from the Lahdenväylä highway, yet walking along the boards you might think you are much further away. And if you need to get into the city vibe, you can do so in less than half an hour on bike.
Helsinki’s secret is its laid-back and exciting appeal in summertime. On a summer’s day you can pack everything you need into a bag, cycle from one beach to the next and even hop from one island to another. In the evening you can go to a terrace or club, dance into the dawn and on the way home go for a morning swim from the rug washing pier in Tervasaari while admiring the sunrise in the silence. If you still have energy you can wait until the Ihana Café opens and enjoy a morning coffee while lounging in a hammock and even take a short nap.
I have many secrets in Helsinki. Private and shared. I believe that Helsinki’s most important secret is its locals. Those who make Helsinki Helsinki. You can’t help but be amazed at all those unbelievably creative people who make an impression here. Everyone should be proud of the new winds that originate here in Helsinki. Whether it’s a red-green bubble, the maritime nature, dark November nights or whatever else, everything works! You can enjoy all the secrets by being proud of the city that conceals them within itself.
The best thing about Helsinki is its fine urban and surrounding forests. You can get almost anywhere through the forests on bike, and if you choose a good route you won’t be bothered by any exhaust fumes. On your way to work you might see a forest hare, a city rabbit, a fox or even a goshawk or flying squirrel. Keskuspuisto and all the smaller city lungs combined with the urban vibe of the city centre make Helsinki a unique and wonderful place in which to reside, live and visit.
The northern light, the sky and the yellow colour of the Empire buildings. Together they create a spectrum of colours that changes from morning to evening, spring to winter. For walkers they reveal the sensitive nature of the city, how it lives in the moment and how it feels all in one breath. The unique light, which you will not find anywhere else in the world, makes Helsinki unique.
The secret of this Helsinki taxi driver is to enjoy the city’s vibe at the Mbar taxi stand and listen as the trams rattle on by. Getting out of the car I can look in all directions and feel the pulse of the city all around. That taxi stand is a sort of urban beach chair where you can sit for a long time sometimes in the seat of your car.
My own secret is definitely the proximity of nature. The forest in Keskuspuisto, the archipelago off the coast of Helsinki and the numerous parks. I haven’t come across anything like it anywhere else in the world. The proximity of nature is also the number one thing about Helsinki among my foreign friends and something that always manages to amaze them.
When I got a study place in Sweden I burst into tears for two reasons: joy and the fact that I would have to leave Helsinki at the end of summer. Helsinki has become my beloved hometown, which I didn’t imagine when I moved here. I fell in love with Helsinki when I was sitting in a tram, the sun warming up my face nicely. That’s when I realised how beautiful and wonderful Helsinki is. I have had these kinds of small falling in love moments over the course of three years, in all seasons every year; sometimes while walking in the city, waiting for a bus or just watching the people go by. Helsinki is simply beautiful thanks to its diversity. This summer I plan to sit on the Kivinokka rocks, swim in the sea, enjoy the beauty of the Töölönlahti bay, walk around Kallio, admire the beauty of the wooden district of Käpylä and eat sorbet under a canopy kiosk, and ride the number one tram the entire length of the route. Helsinki’s secret is Helsinki itself, that there is no other city like it anywhere else.
Not everyone knows how beautiful Helsinki is on summer nights. Last summer my husband and I fulfilled a long-time dream of staying up all night while sitting on the rocks in Lauttasaari. There we sat and ate our picnic, watching the sun rays descend towards the horizon and then the coming dawn. It’s not an obvious choice sitting up all night, middle-aged and tired. But that night I didn’t get tired.
Helsinki’s doesn’t have a very long history, but it’s all the more interesting because of it; if you pay attention, you can experience its history in many places. Helsinki is a mix of history, culture and art, and its a metropolis that combines a big city with peace and quiet. We have a lot of nature, parks, forests, sea and shorelines. My favourite place, in addition to Suomenlinna, is the Töölönlahti bay. Sometime I like to sit on the rocks by Linnanmäki and admire the bay from up high. Helsinki is the best city.
Personally, when visiting Helsinki I have enjoyed riding the trams, as they take you to all the right places. For example, Hakaniemi is an amazing place, especially if the vendors in the market place are there. Often when we’ve been there we’ve been able to experience a real taste of the old, authentic Helsinki atmosphere. The Old Market Hall is always worth visiting, diving in and enjoying delicious fresh local food! The market hall trend is really big around the world, so it’s great that Helsinki too is making the most of it. This is where a sense of history comes together with pure and Finnish food trends! Tourists too often find their way to Helsinki’s market halls and like to discover local delicacies.
The secret of my Helsinki is the silence. Helsinki is at its most beautiful when the city is asleep. In Helsinki you can still enjoy such moments, unlike in some other big cities in the world. If you are up early on the morning of Midsummer Day, the sun rises, the day dawns, yet few people are about. That’s when I like to walk from the city centre towards Eira, past Stockmann, along Iso-Roobertinkatu… when there is nobody else around you can see completely new details in the city, look up and admire the beautiful facades of the old buildings. Helsinki is unbelievably beautiful, a paradise of silence just then.
In summertime the finest things about Helsinki are its many great islands and quays where you can catch small ferries to see the splendid sea and archipelago scenery. Uunisaari, Kaunissaari and Harakka and many other islands offer great recreational opportunities, cafés, restaurants and nature at reasonable costs. You can also combine the ferry crossing with other public transport and enjoy a nice summer’s day in the nation’s capital without the stress of parking.
Helsinki’s secret is the wellbeing of its locals and the lovely storm of activity after the dark winter. The sun, warmth and white nights are channelled in summertime into fascinating urban culture, joy, laughs, pleasure and spontaneity. During the summer months Helsinki offers the perfect combination of greenness and urban appeal. The key component for the feel of the city is nevertheless its locals. In summertime the best thing is sitting alongside a busy pedestrian street while enjoying a good coffee and losing yourself for hours as you watch the beautiful and happy locals strolling by.
The best thing about Helsinki is its secret parks, real gems that many people don’t know anything about. The first is Strömberg Park in Pitäjänmäki. Not many people know about it even though thousands of commuters drive past, since the park is lower than the surrounding land. If you find yourself in the park, you’ll find Helsinki’s highest natural waterfall and a mystical pond surrounded by tall plants. You’ll also find a stylish villa where one could even write poetry. Here you’ll find peace and quiet. Another is the Japanese garden in Roihuvuori. It looks easy to find on the map, but it’s cunningly hidden between two roads. It’s at its most beautiful in May when the cherry trees are in blossom, but it’s worth visiting at other times too. Here you can find your own Zen by following your own paths through the different sections of the park or even by drawing your own patterns in the sand. The third is Alppiruusupuisto, the rhododendron park in Etelä-Haaga. Many locals have never been there since it’s not located along a main road. Here you’ll find over 3000 rhododendrons and 1500 azaleas. Come and experience all the colours in June or close your eyes and smell the scent of thousands of flowers while listening to the buzz of the bumble bees and other pollinators…
Helsinki’s secret is the wonderful nature hidden within the city that can be found in lots of different forms. The city is full of beaches where you can swim in the sea, as well as forests where you can explore and climb in the trees. From the highest rocky outcrops you can see most of the city, while in the fields you can sense the true countryside atmosphere! From the heart of the city you can get to other parts of the city fast, and what’s best, you don’t need your own car to get around; all you need is public transport and a bike!
The old rug washing piers. On summer evenings they are full of familiar and unfamiliar faces, rocking on the waves. On summer days they are the perfect place for an ice cream, a small, wooden, temporary island for those without boats. Rug washing piers are Helsinki’s own, sympathetic, soap smelling specialty.
Helsinki is always very interesting and terrific. The old architecture intrigues me: the buildings are inspiring and mysterious. And I can’t deny that Kallio is still a very interesting and mysterious place to me. It is tidy but still suitably shabby, which suits me. There is always the chance there to create art.
Suomenlinna is one of the best places in Helsinki, summer or winter. You can’t find a similar atmosphere anywhere. Suomenlinna is full of romanticism, fun hiding places and sea views. The best thing about the island of Seurasaari is the nature, and you can often run into friendly squirrels there, for example. Seurasaari is a wonderful, peaceful destination on a warm summer’s day with foreign guests from big cities!
One of Helsinki’s secrets is the surrounding archipelago, which is unfamiliar to many. There are sauna clubs, summer cottages, exclusive corporate cottages, recreational opportunities, restaurants, the zoo, swimming beaches and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My personal summer resolution is to explore them, although perhaps only the bigger ones as there are over 300 islands.
Helsinki’s secret is that the city is like the whole of Finland in miniature, compressed at the end of a single peninsula. This city encompasses the wooden houses of Käpylä, the stone houses of Töölö, the glass office buildings of Ruoholahti and the fields of Viikki. On the island of Lammassaari there are tiny wooden cottages and dances at the old workers’ house, while in Vallila you can listen to trendy techno music in disused factories. Kontula is a neighbourhood with long traditions and roots, whereas in Eira people live it up on the fringes of urban culture. Helsinki includes Turku and Tampere just as much as Rovaniemi and even Kuusamo. You can ride the tram from a village atmosphere to the feel of a big city, insofar as that’s possible in Finland. Here you have an archipelago, forests, fields and parks. Here you have a city. All of Finland in one go.
For me Helsinki’s key secret is the sea and archipelago. Even if the sea makes the city windy, which many people hate, for me the proximity of the sea makes it homely – both in summertime and wintertime. The sea gives Helsinki its character. There are many islands off the coast of Helsinki, each with its own wonderful atmosphere. Some you can get to across a bridge or by ferry and others only by boat. I recommend visiting each and every one of them.
Hop off the tram or bus by Lasipalatsi. Do this on a summer morning between 6:30 and 7:30. Walk along Mannerheimintie towards Esplanade Park. Continue through the park past the Havis Amanda fountain to the Market Square. This is just one example of an enjoyable walk in Helsinki. Thanks to its nice size and carefully maintained buildings representing different cultural periods, Helsinki is a great miniature city for walkers. The archipelago off the coast of Helsinki with all its islands is quite unique in the world. The archipelago has not really been utilised as a tourist attraction, even though there are already quite many places you can visit among the islands. Helsinki’s archipelago easily beats Stockholm’s archipelago, for example, in terms of its diversity and openness, even though our Swedish cousins have known how to benefit from the market value of their own archipelago at least a hundred-fold. Compare for yourself!
Helsinki’s secret lies in all its different neighbourhoods. It’s wonderful how each district has a unique atmosphere, how different kinds of businesses group together in certain areas, how they all have different architecture and their own purpose as part of Helsinki. It’s great that you can choose your place to live and spend time according to the general feeling: the maritime appeal of Herttoniemenranta, the peace and quiet of Töölö, the pub life in Kallio, the luxury of Eira or the park-like beauty of Kulosaari.
What a source of energy – Keskuspuisto [Central Park] in any season. Space for everyone. One of my most wonderful moments was a spring day when I myself was on skis. In one glance I saw joggers, mountain bikers, people walking dogs, children sitting in sleds and police riding on their fine horses. Everyone had a smile on their face.
The city’s secret lies in the contrasts it offers and how everyone has the chance to experience them. It is easy for locals and visitors alike to enjoy them. Helsinki has a certain unpredictability and diversity that come out exactly when you don’t expect anything. Helsinki knows how to surprise and make you smile. Within the Kallio district you might experience a sauna, the sea, sunshine, the smell of grilling, a fresh gust of wind, a surprised animal, a beautiful flower, the ripple of the waves or even a traditional “canopy kiosk” that is still open. Bright spots in life.
Helsinki has the world’s best cafes and more are coming. The best include Cafe Birgitta, which has the best view to the sea and a fine building. Then there is Cafe Regatta, the most special cafe in the world with a great view to the sea. And then Sininen huvila, which has the world’s best view to the Töölönlahti bay. An interesting new container cafe will open in May, so I’ll have to go and check it out.
Helsinki’s secret can be found on the shores of East Helsinki. We have an old beat-up Buster motorboat that we use to get from the centre of Helsinki out to the archipelago in no time. Along the way you can see everything possible, from old and new neighbourhoods to dream villas, and public beaches to luxurious private seaside saunas. Helsinki’s maritime nature is equal – the see belongs to everyone. Even if you can’t see the sea from your own window, you can always walk or bike to the shore and take an inexpensive ferry to an island. I often think that, whatever happens, life in Helsinki will always be good in some way. Even if I lost all my material belongings, I would always have these shores and this sea.