Day 1.  My Journey to Helsinki

The start of our summer holidays and whilst most Britsh families head south to the Mediterranean we always head north to Finland.  You may find this somewhat strange but actually southern Finland generally enjoys warm sunny weather during the summer months, warm enough for trips to the beach and for swimming in the crystal clear lakes and sea.

My love affair with Finland began in 2006 when I had the privilege to go there for a few weeks as a visiting teacher.  Although I’d travelled widely over the years and had visited neighbouring Norway and Sweden,  I hadn’t been to Finland before but that first visit was to leave a lasting impression on me, so much so that I have visited for summer holidays every year since then and even taken two winter ski trips with my family to Saariselkä in Lapland situated in the very north of the country way above the arctic circle.

Heathrow Airport Terminal 3
Back to today,  I left home mid morning to make my way to London’s Heathrow airport by train.  In previous years I have either flown from Manchester or taken a connecting flight with BA down to Heathrow but this year it was much cheaper for me to travel down to London by train and take a direct flight from there.    My large suitcase,  approaching its weight limit of 23kg was difficult to manoeuvre but somehow I managed to get it on and off trains, often with the kind help of fellow passengers.   After arriving at London’s Kings Cross station there is step free access down to the Underground and trains run direct along the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow enabling me and my luggage to get there unscathed.

Despite the majority of BA flights departing from Terminal 5,  some flights including the one to Helsinki still depart from the not so attractive Terminal 3.    After checking in, I wandered round the terminal glancing in some of the shops and cafes before stopping for a sit down and a snack in one of them.

Leaving the English countryside
You might think from my post that I’m going on holiday all alone but this isn’t the case.  My husband and sons will be joining me to fit in with their work commitments at differing times as they are fervent lovers of all things Finnish just like me!   In fact, my older son is flying into Helsinki from Gatwick on a Norwegian flight today and our flights are due to arrive in Helsinki at exactly the same time so it will be interesting to see what happens and if both our flights arrive on time!  Norwegian offer free wi-fi but that’s not very helpful to me once I’m airborne as BA don’t offer such luxuries.

River Thames and O2 Arena from the air
It was a full flight taking less than three hours into Helsinki.  Sitting next to me were two gynaecologists travelling to Helsinki to attend a conference in the Finnish capital.  It was to be their first visit so we discussed how they might spend some of their free time.  Chatting to them, I discovered that the first hospital one of them had worked in was the one in which I was born – what a coincidence!

Tasty snack on board my BA flight
The snack on board was small but delicious, a sweet and savoury combination of a chicken and bacon roll followed by a salted caramel muffin, (there was a salad option available for vegetarians).  Then it seemed in no time at all that we were landing at Helsinki Vantaa Airport, 11.45 pm local time but still light – how I love the ‘white nights’ of Finland – they leave me so energised!

Just as I arrived in the Baggage Hall my suitcase appeared, how I wish other airports were as efficient as this one.  I walked out into the Arrivals Hall, looked round and about a minute later my son appeared, his flight touching down two minutes after mine, perfect timing!

Helsinki Airport Railway Station
After greeting each other, we walked along to the airport railway station which opened almost exactly one year ago and caught the train into the city centre from where we strolled across to the Kamppi bus station to take a night bus the short distance to our rented apartment where we’ve stayed several times before. After unpacking and a little supper it was time for bed,  feeling immensely happy to be back in Finland!

 

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Day 2.   Tapiola the Garden City

A leisurely start to the day after arriving here late last night.  Waking to warm sunshine after so many cold days at home was just what was needed.  Our holiday home overlooks a sheltered bay where the air is fresh and all around it’s so peaceful and green.  I call it my ‘summer paradise’ as I can be a nature lover one minute yet be a city girl whenever I feel like it too, as we are less than a 15 minutes drive away from the centre of Helsinki.  Setting out, we strolled along the waterfront into Tapiola, this stretch being part of the 40 km Espoo Waterfront Walkway (Espoo Rantaraitti).  The sign below marks the pathway which is part of the National Cycling Route which extends to the full length of the country and our gentle morning exercise took only 15 minutes to reach Tapiola’s shopping centre along an attractive coastal path.  Barnacle geese were resting on the grass and some of them were caring for their goslings which were lovely and fluffy.

Along the National Cycling Route in Tapiola, Espoo
Tapiola, meaning garden city, is surrounded by parkland with many forest paths to walk and cycle along.  It’s the cultural centre of Espoo and is situated to the west of Helsinki by a series of bridges.
Our pathway to Tapiola
In Tapiola you will find a good selection of shops including the modern Aiona shopping mall which currently has around 30 shops but more are planned.  The focal point of Tapiola is the small lake and fountain beside the swimming pool and cultural centre.  There’s an outdoor diving pool which in previous years has been full of children but at the moment seems to be closed for maintenance work which must be a real shame when Finnish summers are so short.  In the photo below you can see the lake with the cranes behind. The metro is being extended to the west and should be opening next month but has been delayed until the end of the year.  Alongside Tapiola’s metro station will be new housing and commercial developments allowing commuters seamless travel into the city centre so there is a building frenzy taking place along the Lansimetro Line.

Tapioca, Espoo

After looking round awhile and loading season tickets onto our travel cards we strolled back to our apartment for some lunch.    Our afternoon was spent in the city centre which looked at its best bathed in sunshine.  On the Esplanade locals and visitors alike were relaxing in the gardens and listening to the live music at the bandstand.

Enjoying the sunshine on Helsinki’s Esplanade
We strolled around taking note of any changes since our last visit and felt very content to be enjoying life once again in this Nordic capital city.

Day 3.  A Day in Tallinn, Estonia

During the night we experienced a thunderstorm with heavy rain but thankfully it had passed by morning although it was a dull start to the day.  After an early breakfast we travelled into Helsinki in order to take the 8.30 am Eckerö Line ferry across to Tallinn in Estonia.  Over the years we’ve made many visits to Tallinn, sometimes for the day and at other times staying overnight in a hotel.   There are several ferry companies operating this route and although Eckerö are not the fastest they offer a comfortable service on the modern M/S Finlandia on which we are travelling this morning. The ferry leaves from Helsinki’s West Terminal which we accessed by tram and takes two and a half hours so there’s plenty of time to relax, wander round and enjoy a morning cup of coffee. Entertainment is provided and the duo pictured below performed a couple of sets on both the outward and return journeys, playing both Finnish and English melodies.

Musical entertainment on board the ferry
On leaving the ferry it’s about a 15 minute walk to the old town with its fairy tale like buildings and onion shaped domes.  The Hanseatic main square is picture perfect and has been a market place since the Middle Ages.  The delightful old buildings, many of them now cafes and restaurants have attractive wooden terraces adorned with flowers – petunias and geraniums being the most popular during our summer visit.

Tallinn’s main square

Often we’ve seen craft markets and medieval festivals taking place in the square but today it was only filled with tourists but that didn’t spoil our visit.  We found a place for a coffee and a chocolate croissant then wandered further round the historic city.  Our stroll took us up the cobbles and stone steps to Toompea the upper part of the old town.  Here we visited the Toompea Castle, now the home of the Estonian Parliament before walking along the city walls to several of the lookout points from which one can view the red tiled old town rooftops, church spires, onion shaped domes and the harbour beyond.  Blue sky appeared and the sun came out for a few minutes but shortly afterwards it clouded over again.

The rooftops of Tallinn

We continued our stroll to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Russian looking onion domed church which was established in 1223 but has been rebuilt several times since.  It’s possible to climb to the top of the Baroque Bell Tower but as we’d done this on a previous visit, we didn’t go up again today.

St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn
From here, we headed down to the marina for a walk round the harbour as its always interesting to take a look at some yachts but it then started raining so we continued on to the new town and took shelter awhile in the Viru shopping centre which has a varied assortment of stores with a Rimi supermarket in the basement.  There wasn’t really anything that we wanted to buy so after the rain had eased off a little we ventured outdoors again and returned to the old town passing the flower market on our way to the walled entrance gate.

Flower Market, Old Town Tallinn
Feeling ready to eat, we made our way to ‘Hell Hunt’ a craft micro brewery we’d eaten at on a previous visit and enjoyed.  Unfortunately it wasn’t nice enough to sit out on the terrace but we found a window table instead which was very pleasant.  We both chose duck fillet with a plum sauce and sweet potato purée and to drink, tankards of the light Helle beer.

Meal in a Hell Hunt, Tallinn, Estonia

There was still plenty of time before our return ferry was due to depart so we wandered slowly back towards the terminal, stopping in one of the many drinks supermarkets for some bottles of wine to take back to Helsinki with us as its much cheaper here in Estonia.

Leaving through the City Gateway back to the port
Back on the ferry we sat in the main lounge and although we felt quite sleepy, we enjoyed the entertainment again, watching people dance and the magician enthralling children and adults alike performing his tricks.   The boat docked on time and we returned to our apartment by tram and bus after an enjoyable day trip to Tallinn despite mixed weather.

Day 4.  A Nature Trail from Oulunkylä to Arabianranta

After taking the bus into Helsinki this morning we walked across to the Central Railway Station and travelled the short distance to Oulunkylä from where we started our nature trail (local trains are included in the regional travel pass).  The gravel path passes the ornate pink Oulunkylä Seurahuone (a cafe, but currently closed for renovation) before turning left and heading uphill over a rocky outcrop and then steeply downhill towards the Vaanta River.

Vaanta River
It was quite a dull start to the day but at least it was not raining.  It’s a very peaceful walk alongside the Vantaa River and as you can see from the above photo, there is a small beach for when the weather is warm and sunny.  The first section of today’s walk from Oulunkylä Station to Vanhankaupunginlahti (Old Town Rapids) is about two miles.

Vantaa River Old Town Rapids
Our reward for this gentle stroll was to stop for lunch at Koskenranta Restaurant which overlooks the river rapids.  There’s an attractive terrace overlooking the water but today we decided to eat lunch indoors as it wasn’t so very warm.  After tucking in to a tasty buffet of sausage soup, rye bread, Thai chicken curry, salad,  coffee and cookies we relaxed awhile before continuing on our walk.
The path then took us to the start of the Pornaistenniemi nature walk which veers off to the left.  You will see numerous wheelbarrows leaning against tree trunks and may wonder why they are there.  The reason is that there are numerous summer cottages hidden in the forest in this nature reserve and as there isn’t any road access, luggage and food supplies need to be transported quite a distance, hence the use of wheelbarrows.  The path passes over a small wooden bridge crossing a stream where waterlilies were in full bloom.  The gravelled path then changes to a narrow boardwalk which cuts through the tall reeds.  It’s very peaceful along here and there are many birds and butterflies to be seen.  We felt our legs getting bitten by insects and we had left our repellent back in the apartment which wasn’t much use.   The boardwalks continue along to Lammasaari Island where the majority of the little summer cottages are to be found.

Boardwalk at Pornaistenniem
Below you will see the small jetty on the island which looks across towards Herttoniemi.  Boats are another means of approaching the summer cottages and alongside the jetty more wheelbarrows are available for moving supplies.

Lammassari Island
From here we followed a narrow coastal path that led us to the Lammassaren Lintutorni (Bird Watching Tower) which we climbed to the top of and were rewarded with far reaching views over the reed beds below.  We spotted numerous birds including several herons and some waterfowl.

Bird Watching Tower, Lammasdari
After spending awhile here we continued onto a further viewing platform and a low level wooden bird hide built right out into the water.  This latter bird hide was filled with ornithologists using large spotting scopes so we only stayed here a short time in order not to disturb them.

Bird hide built out over the watet
We retraced our steps back to our starting point at the Old Town Rapids but then turned left along the waterfront of Arabiaranta where you will find a pleasing promenade with modern apartments built further back facing the sea.

Before returning to the city centre we looked in the large Arabia Outlet which stocks a wide range of Finnish brands including those by Finlayson, Fiskars, Arabia, Ittala and Pentik.  We then returned into the city centre by tram (both numbers 6 and 8).

View from the top of one of the birdwatching towers

Day 5. Exploring Helsinki

A brighter start to the day so after breakfast we took a bus into Kamppi and our first stop this morning was to the Laituri museum just across the square from the bus station.  This museum houses Helsinki City Planning Department’s exhibitions and on display at the moment is an exhibition on cycling in the city so we decided to take a look.

City Planning Exhibition Centre, Kamppi, Helsinki

The gallery covers everything you might need to know about bicycle traffic in Helsinki and we learnt that average cycle traffic along the Baana cycle route is 10,000 a month in the icy cold winter months but this rises to 100,000 a month in the summer, the Baana being a disused railway cutting which slices through the city centre now transformed into an urban cycle and pedestrian route. There was a floor to ceiling visual graph to which visitors are invited to add a  colour coded sticker representing their age and average time spent cycling in the city which provided a visual analysis.  We also came across a cycle simulator which lets people try out and explore new cycling routes in the inner city that cyclists might not have been aware of, introducing you to the type of terrain and landscape in a matter of minutes.

Cycle simulator
I liked having a try on the Bike Traffic Games which test how well cyclists understand traffic rules, cycling safely and avoiding accidents, it then analyses what kind of a cyclist you are – it was all very interesting and good fun.  We picked up new cycling maps which will be useful as ours are a few years old.  If you are local to Helsinki and you might like to take a look for yourselves the exhibition runs until the end of September.
Art displays on tree trunks in Esplanade Park

From Kamppi we walked through Esplanadi Park towards the harbour where we were intrigued to see these polka dot covered tree trunks.  Reading the signs we discovered they are a temporary installation by Yayoi Kusama a world renowned contemporary Japanese artist who is famous for her polka dots which are adding a splash of colour to the Esplanade until 9th October.

Cafe Carusel
We then enjoyed a long walk along the waterfront passing the Old Market Hall and the harbour.  It’s a scenic walk passing many elegant embassies and Jugend style homes. We stopped for coffee at Cafe Carusel which has an attractive outdoor terrace and this was a good place to sit and watch some of the racing action from the European Windsurfing Championships which are taking place in Helsinki this week.
European Windsurfing Championships

If you look carefully at the photo you will see that one of the competitors is actually from Thailand!  We thought this very strange as Thailand is obviously not part of Europe but apparently competitors from outside Europe are welcome to participate in the races but cannot win medals which actually seems a nice idea.

Helsinki Central Railway Station
Next, we had a look round Helsinki Central Railway Station.  Recently, the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper listed this station as being one of the 20 most beautiful stations in the world and it’s easy to see why it received this accolade, you can read the article here.
Helsinki Central Railway Station

The station is built of granite and features a clock tower and two pairs of statues holding spherical lamps which are illuminated at night.  The station was designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1919 in the National Romantic style.  The internal concourse and booking hall are elegant and spacious and provide direct access to the city’s underground metro system.

Central concourse, Helsinki Central Railway Station
We returned via Kamppi as we wished to do some food shopping and passing through the concourse we paused awhile to watch some folk dancing that was taking place, a cheery end to another fun filled day in Helsinki.

Folk Dancing in Kamppi

Day 6.  Lauttasaari – Ferry Island

Back to sunshine this morning so we decided to take a walk around Lauttaasaari Island which lies between Espoo and Helsinki.  Lauttasaari means ‘ferry island’ but nowadays the island is connected to the mainland by a series of bridges and causeways.

Finnish Flag flying for National Poets Day, Lauttasaari
Today is National Poet’s Day, and whenever it’s a National Day in Finland, Finnish flags are hoisted on flag poles everywhere not only on official buildings but also in private gardens and outside apartment buildings.  I often wonder who is responsible for hoisting these flags and whether someone is in charge of an entire neighbourhood as all the flags seem to be flying in the breeze when we get up and mysteriously disappear late in the evening – whoever is responsible, it doesn’t really matter as the flags are a cheerful, patriotic sight but maybe some of my Finnish readers might have an answer!!

Cafe Mutteri, Lauttasaari

Leaving our apartment we took a T bus to Lauttasaari as buses with this added letter take a detour through the island.  We started our walk by Cafe Mutteri, a delightful old wooden circular cabin perched on the side of the road.  From here we turned right to begin our tour of the island and after a short walk along the road we were able to access the coastal path which leads onto one of the island’s several marinas and yacht clubs.  We passed several yacht chandlers and looked in an outlet store to see what they had on offer.  We were tempted to buy a few things but decided to do this on a separate visit as we didn’t really want to be walking all the way round the island with heavy shopping bags.

Marina, Lauttasaari
Continuing slightly further along the road, a leafy path near some newly built apartments leads down to the water’s edge.   From here, the path follows the coast all the way round the island, slightly undulating in places and with a few rocky sections.  Small summer cottages lie secluded between the trees where families can enjoy weekends or even holidays away in the peace and quiet of the forest yet only minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city.

Sheltered cove, Lauttasaari
In recent years numerous swish apartment blocks have been constructed most with spacious glass balconies looking out across the bay.  Despite this increase in housing, Lauttasaari remains a very peaceful island with its protected forests and walking trails. There are several attractive beaches in sheltered coves, most of which have changing rooms and showers.  We stopped for lunch at the largest beach where there is a pleasant cafe, children’s playground and exercise gym.

Beach cafe at Lauttasaari, Helsinki

Since our visit last year the cafe has been refurbished and now offers more tasty lunch options.  There’s a small indoor seating area with a large outdoor terrace overlooking the sea.

Enjoying a coffee at the Lauttasaari Cafe
We lingered here awhile relaxing and enjoying the views before continuing on our way to complete the circuit of the island, the length of our walk being 5.6 miles.

Day 7.  Helsinki Rocks !

A sunny day in the capital so our first stop this morning was to the Helsinki University Botanical Garden in Kaisaniemi not far from the city’s Central Railway Station.   Since our last visit two years ago the gardens have been undergoing a large rebuilding programme which is yet to be completed.  I was surprised how different the garden layout is but I’m confident it will look beautiful when it’s finished.  In the meantime some flowerbeds are covered with black polythene so we will need to make a return visit next year to view it at its best.

The Palm House
The large tropical palm house with its ornate glass roof was built in 1889 and contains specimen plants from around the world.  It’s free to visit the gardens but if you wish to view the glass houses an admission is payable except for the first Friday of each month.  The gardens have an attractive cafe with some seats out on a sheltered patio in the garden.

Russian folk dancing
Leaving the gardens we returned to the railway station to visit the Russian Tourist Festival promoting holidays which was taking place in the Central Railway Station Square.  It was a huge event with stands from each province of Russia, a large stage with singing and folk dancing, demonstrations of local handicrafts and some regional food and drinks.  From Helsinki one can travel to St. Petersburg by train or ferry.  If you are travelling by train, passengers require a visa but if you take the St. Peter Line overnight ferry you are permitted to stay for up to 72 hours visa free.  A few years ago we took this mini cruise and although the boat was old and lacked facilities we enjoyed our visit.

Russian Tourist Festival
The building behind the stage on the above photograph is the splendid Finnish National Theatre which was completed in 1902 in the National Romantic Style.  I just love this building and others in this style such as the National Museum of Finland which is currently undergoing maintenance.

Helsinki Cathedral
Leaving the square we made our way to  Helsinki Cathedral rising high on the north side of  Senate Square, this Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral was designed in the Neo Classical Style by Carl Ludvig Engel.  The central dome rises to a height of 80 metres and is visible from most parts of the city and is a magnificent sight as you approach Helsinki harbour from out at sea.

Interior of Helsinki Cathedral
When we arrived at 12.00 noon an organ recital was taking place so we stopped to listen for awhile.  Below the cathedral  and accessed from the rear, visitors can explore the crypt and enjoy refreshments in Cafe Krypta.  Art exhibitions are also held in the crypt which is free to visit.

Cafe Krypta, Helsinki Cathedral
After lunch we headed to the Espa Stage bandstand in Esplanade Park to attend a concert by the Conscript Band of the Finnish Defence Forces who we had seen on previous occasions.  Their hour long set was extremely good and included popular Finnish songs plus some international hits including tracks by Michael Jackson and Abba.  As it was such a sunny afternoon there was a large audience stretching from the terrace of Cafe Kappeli to the foot of the stage.  It was lovely to see so many people enjoying themselves singing and dancing along to the music, the Conscript Band are so talented!  There is a varied programme of artists appearing here throughout the summer months and we like to sometimes sit on the terrace opposite and relax with a drink whilst enjoying the live entertainment.  To find out what’s happening on the Espa Stage you can take a look here.

 

Day 8.  Waffles and Frisbees at Keilaniemi 

A short walk from our holiday apartment lies Keilaniemi.  Located here overlooking the bay are the headquarters of some large companies including Kone and Neste Oil.  There is a pleasant promenade to walk or cycle along and towards the far end you will find a lunch restaurant with an outside terrace called Keilalahden Ranta where we sometimes like to eat.

Waffle preparation.table
Weekly menus are posted on the restaurant’s website each Monday and we try to pick a day when waffles are on the menu for dessert!  After enjoying soup, salad and a main course we went to the waffle table to prepare our own desserts.  Three electric waffle irons are ready for use together with large bowls of prepared batter so all diners need to do is to pour in one ladle of batter, close the lid and wait until the light turns green when the waffle should be ready to be lifted onto a plate – we then piled on some apple purée and a dollop of whipped cream.  It tasted so good that we had to go back and make ourselves a second one !!

Waffle number two
To work of the excesses of our lunch we wandered further around the bay where there is a Frisbee Golf Course.  We bought a set of 3 frisbees to play this game when we were here last summer as there are several courses located in the Helsinki area.  The rules of the game are essentially the same as for golf, players select a frisbee and aim for the basket taking as few shots as possible.  The course we were playing on had some baskets located near the water so we missed those out as our aim wasn’t too good and we didn’t want to risk losing our frisbees in the sea!

Our frisbee golf set
It was quite a windy day so it wasn’t easy to hit the target,  but as the saying goes ‘practice makes perfect’.  The only place I have seen a Frisbee Golf Course in England was in Harrogate but we didn’t have our set with us that day.

Here I am aiming for the basket!
Have you ever tried Frisbee Golf and if so is it a popular game where you live?

Kamppi Chapel, Helsinki
Later in the afternoon we went into the city centre and took a look in the Kamppi Chapel (Chapel of Silence) which is a wooden structure in a busy part of the city where one can go for a moment of solitude.   The chapel is ecumenical, welcoming people of all faiths.  The interior is created without windows and is of natural, light wood.  It was designed in 2012 as part of the World Design Programme which was hosted in that year by Finland.  
Interior of Kamppi Chapel, Helsinki

Day 9.  Beside the sea at Vuosaari

Another sunny day so we planned a trip  to Helsinki’s eastern suburb of Vuosaari.  To get there we caught a bus into Kamppi from where we connected to the metro for our journey, Vuosaari being the final stop on the line taking just 20 minutes.

Vuosaari Beach
Leaving the metro station we glanced in the Columbus shopping mall before walking down the tree lined avenue towards the sea approximately 1 km away.  Arriving at the coast there’s a large marina with some inviting cafe bars with seating overlooking the water.  This seaside area of Vuosaari is known as Aurinkolahti (Sunny Bay) and here you will find a lovely wide sandy beach stretching for 700 metres, making it a perfect spot for a dip in the sea on a warm, sunny day like this.  As you can see from the above photo the beach is very inviting, it’s patrolled by lifeguards and there are plenty of changing rooms and shower blocks to use.

Kahvila Kampela, Vuosaari
You will find several cafes and ice cream kiosks along the promenade but our favourite lies at the far end of the bay and is called is called  Kahvila Kampela.  This delightful little cafe has a large outdoor terrace overlooking the marina and the beach beyond.   In the photo below you can see me relaxing on one of the comfortable sun loungers overlooking the marina.

Relaxing at Kahvila Kampela, Vuosaari
I can definitely recommend their huge cinnamon buns which we always select to eat with our cups of coffee.  One word of warning though, beware of the seagulls which perch on the roof of the cafe ready to swoop down on unguarded cakes and pastries.  Even today we noticed a lady leave her cinnamon bun unattended for a few seconds to look at her phone and almost immediately a seagull swooped down and carried the whole bun away in its beak!

Greedy seagull waiting to pounce
After leaving the cafe we followed one of the nature trails through the forest.  There are several trails available and we decided to follow the longest one along gravel paths through the trees.  There are a few steep sections but the walk is relatively easy and could also be used by cyclists.   We came across two covered barbecue areas where you can cook your own sausages or other food on the grill and enjoy a picnic sitting at one of the tables.  Wood is usually available for the grill but if you are planning on cooking you will need to provide your own matches and utensils (tongs, etc) and you must ensure that the fire is extinguished before you leave if no-one else is waiting to use the barbecue.

Barbecue at Vuosaari, Helsinki
The nature trail leads to some rocky outcrops and climbing over them we were rewarded with some fine views back along the coast to the centre of Vuosaari.   A group of children were using kayaks and a few people were swimming whilst others sunbathed on the rocks.   Several people were berry picking managing to spot some delicious cloudberries partially hidden in the swampy reed beds.  Continuing, the path passes some allotments brimming with vegetables and flowers before returning to its starting point near Kahvila Kampela.
Vuosaari, Helsinki

We returned to the metro station by an alternative route along the side of the canal where there is a waterfall that you can walk behind which is fun to do so that you have a curtain of water in front of you and, best of all, you don’t get wet!

Waterfall feature at Vuosaari, Helsinki

Day 10.  A Walk to Katajanokka

The day began with a farewell to my older son who was leaving on a Finnair flight to Rome this morning  to meet up with his friends and embark on a sailing holiday along the Italian coast.  This meant I had most of the day to myself before my husband was due to arrive later.

Helsinki Kauppatori / Market Place
I’ve spent so much time in Helsinki and can find my way around with ease so a day on my own isn’t a problem.  How should I spend my time?  As it was a glorious day I decided to take a walk by the sea in the centre of town so I boarded a bus into Kamppi and wandered through the delightful Esplanade Park to the market place.  In summer, this area is always bursting with life and crowded as it’s so beautiful and attracts day trippers taking Baltic cruises as well as visitors off the ferries from Stockholm and Tallinn.

Helsinki harbour /new floating pool &sauna zone
After browsing around the market stalls and buying some strawberries, I continued along the waterfront passing the tour boats and ferries to neighbouring islands and heading towards the Finnair Skywheel (Ferris wheel) when I noticed something new from last year.  Nearing completion is the Helsinki Pool (Helsinki Allas) a sea spa on a giant floating terrace which will feature large swimming pools, a sauna, restaurant and cafe.

View of Upper Sundeck with Uspenski Cathedral behind
It’s due to open next month and looks impressive, the above photo shows one of its sun decks which has recently opened.  The wooden design and use of steps means that you wil be able to sit on the steps admiring the breathtaking views of the market place and harbour. With a hot, sunny day like this and stunning views across Helsinki harbour, who could wish for more!

View from the upper sundeck of the Helsinki Pool / Helsinki Allas
Here you can see a view of the Finnair Skywheel with the new Helsinki Pool upper sun deck and bar on the left of the photo.  Just look at those inviting bean bags ready and waiting for your afternoon snooze in the sun!  Moving on, I crossed the small bridge by the Uspenski Russian Orthodox Cathedral with its gold plated onion domes gleaming in the sunshine.   Tucked in the corner you will  see this cafe/bar on a boat where you can enjoy a drink whilst taking in the views.
Cafe boat on the Helsinki waterfront

It’s a pleasant walk to then follow the path round to the right, passing the old former warehouses which have been transformed into upscale bars and cafes.  There are stunning views looking back from here showcasing some of the city’s beautiful waterfront Jugend / Art Nouveau architecture with castle like features and strong use of granite and sandstone.

Icebreakers, Helsinki
My walk continued past Helsinki Casino which was hosting a wedding reception on its outdoor terrace as I passed.  Considering I’m just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the market place it’s so tranquil here and so lovely to be able to view the small islands across the bay, one of which, Korkeasaari is the home of Helsinki Zoo.  My walk then took me along the northern shore of Katajanokka, the summer home of the Finnish ice breaking fleet which help to keep the ports open and functioning normally during the winter months when the sea is frozen.   Katajanokka is also home to a hotel converted from a former prison – the prison closed its doors in 2002 and re-opened as a hotel five years later.

Strolling along a little further I then turned inland to catch a No.4 tram from its terminus back into the city centre.

Helsinki Tram
There was then time to enjoy a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun (korvapuusti) before taking the train to the airport to meet my husband whose flight arrived ahead of schedule which was pleasing.