We were never intending to visit Finland on our final European trip, but after realising that the cheapest way to get into Russia involved us flying into Helsinki and taking an overnight bus to St Petersburg, we were more than happy to spend a few hours here. After landing at 1pm, we were on the move straight away. We took the 30 minute train to Helsinki Staion, placed our bags in a large storage locker (€8) and set fourth on our journey to cover as much as we could before our journey to Russia that very evening. So what did we manage to squeeze in this short time?
1. Rock Church
Only about a 15 minute walk from the central station lies one of Helsinki’s greatest attractions, the ‘Rock Church’. Upon arriving we quickly realised why it was named that as a large proportion of the building was made of rocks. It was unusual in that the building was circular unlike most churches which are rectangular or ‘cross-shaped’. Entrance was free which was great but the best thing was the incredible music being played by a woman on a harp-like instrument.
2. Chapel of Silence
We stumbled upon this weird looking building as we were making our way to the Eastern side of the city. From the outside it looks lie an upside down wooden come without the tip. It is located in a very busy square but the moment you walk into the Chapel all the sounds from the outside are completely blocked and any noises you make whilst in the chapel are amplified 10-fold. Entry is free and well worth a quick visit.
3. Market Square
This is an outdoor market located alongside the main port. It is full of stalls selling ridiculously overpriced fruit but reasonably priced wooden and arty souvenirs. Needless to say we didn’t buy anything but were happy to have a bit of a ponder.
4. Suomenlinna Island
Only a 30 minute ferry journey (€7 round-trip) from market square lies this island known for its historical fortress which has been on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1991. It was built in the mid 1700’s (when Finland was still part of the Kingdom of Sweden) as a naval base during the Russo-Swedish war. Unfortunately they were defeated by the Russians who took over the base for the next 110 years! The site itself is very well preserved and as long as you follow the ‘Blue Trail’ you will be able to see all the major sites and the best vantage points for incredible sea views. Entrance to the island is free. Something we didn’t expect to see were the hundreds of children and adults walking around in packs attempting to catch Pokemon!
5. Uspenski Cathedral
This is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral located atop a hill a few hundred metres from Market Square. It welcomes more than 500,000 visitors a year!
6. Helsinki Cathedral
Located in ‘Senate Square’, this Cathedral which greatly mirrors St Peters Basicllica in the Vatican City, stands high above the city and is probably the most iconic landmark that can be see on almost all the postcards.
7. Finnish Cuisine
Having never tried their cuisine before we were keen to give it a go but knew we definitely did not want to eat Reindeer (one of their specialities). We opted for a restaurant popular with locals and away from the tourist district called Ravintola. Whilst the meals were delicious with a very home-cooked feel, they were both very potato heavy leaving us both with food babies.
So whilst it was a whirlwind visit, we are glad we got to see a snippet of what Finland has to offer. The city itself is very similar to Tallin in Estonia but a lot bigger and more expensive. It is a beautifully colourful city and unexpectedly the ‘punk rock’ look is very much in fashion.
Til next time
Ann & Jason xo